Imagine what it’s like for them…
- An ongoing process, not a single object or event
- Specific to the animal based on its assessment (See Animal Assessment)
- Delivered on a routine schedule
Before planning your enrichment schedule, the animal must be assessed for personality to determine what types of enrichment, activities, or games will benefit the individual animal.
If a particular toy has been provided that is of no interest to the animal, or the cage is too small for the animal to engage in play behaviour, then this strategy cannot be considered enriching.
A planned, somewhat repetitive schedule of enrichment activities will be more beneficial to the animal than random acts of interaction.
- Improving the quality of life for the small animal
- Increasing the animals’ ability to successfully cope with daily stressors
- Encourage natural behaviour such as foraging, climbing, and hiding
- Improving sociability for potential adopters
- Making efficient use of a tight budget
Before planning your enrichment program, use the Make a Plan process to assess the animal for safety, skills and personality. This will help you determine what types of enrichment items and activities will benefit each individual.
Ultimately, using the Make a Plan process to create and maintain an enrichment schedule will provide structure and save time and effort.
A complete daily enrichment program includes all opportunities for enriching the animal’s life. It would incorporate a combination of sensory, physical, environmental, cognitive and social activities. To plan activities see Sample Small Animal Enrichment Schedule.
Variety is the key to successful enrichment in order to keep things interesting. Modest but pleasant changes in the animal’s environment help prevent them from becoming at-risk behaviourally during their stay at the animal centre. Since small animals and birds are confined in a cage for the majority of their time, enrichment plays a very important part in keeping them happy, healthy and promoting adoption success.
Keep in mind what natural behaviours these small animals exhibit. Most of them enjoy activities such as hiding, climbing, constructing and chewing, and would find the most enrichment value if these sorts of activities were incorporated into their daily schedule. It is not possible to use every single enrichment activity listed in this section. However, choosing one or two enrichment activities from each category will ensure that the animals in your care are stimulated in a variety of ways.
For a sample selection of activities see Small Animal Activity Selection Chart.