Adjusting to the shelter environment can be hard for dogs and cats. While MARL’s staff and volunteers make every effort to make their temporary home welcoming, the shelter is still often a place where dogs and cats find themselves confined in an unfamiliar environment, separated from their previous families, and exposed to much more noise than they’re used to. These stressors can cause them to suffer from anxiety and exhibit behavioral issues. The stress not only impacts behavior, but has also been associated with reduced immunity and increased susceptibility to disease. This dangerous cycle can affect even the most socialized and well-adjusted dogs and cats, increasing their wait time for adoption.
THIS IS WHERE MARL’S ENRICHMENT PROGRAM COMES IN.
Enrichment is a term that describes how shelter environments can be adjusted and enhanced to better benefit each animal. The goal of enrichment is to minimize stress levels by adding different kinds of stimulation and activities to each animal’s daily routine. In a typical day, dogs and cats should have mental, physical, environmental, and social stimulation, just as they would if they were in their forever home.
MENTAL: KEEPING THE MIND ACTIVE IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS EXERCISING THE BODY
- Auditory stimulation: playing classical music or books on tape, reading to a dog or cat
- Olfactory stimulation: spraying different scents in kennels and cat housing, sprinkling spices on bedding, hiding treats in boxes
- Oral stimulation: filled Kongs, frozen treats, straws for cats, giving dogs and cats meals in a paper bag or a puzzle feeder
- Mental stimulation: rotating different toys into dog and cat housing, filling a ball pit with treats, engaging in daily training to work on commands and any behavioral issues
PHYSICAL: ENERGY LEVELS PLAY A LARGE PART IN THE PERSONALITY AND BEHAVIOR OF A DOG OR CAT
- Exercise with a staff member or volunteer
- Playing fetch or tug of war
- Swimming in a kiddie pool
- Working on commands
- Learning how to go through our agility course
- Taking a dog on a walk or a run – this helps keep their minds stimulated, too!
- Using a laser for a cat to chase
ENVIRONMENTAL: MAKING THE ANIMAL’S LIVING SPACE MORE INTERESTING CAN DECREASE BOREDOM
- Placing puzzle toys in dog and cat living spaces to create an interactive environment
- Placing cat scratchers and boxes and bags around for cats to interact with
- Giving dogs and cats different types of spaces, such as a raised bed or a place to retreat when scared
- Rotating dogs and cats into different rooms to provide new environments for exploring
- Adding intrigue to their housing by incorporating different scents
- Playing soothing music to alleviate stress
SOCIAL: DOGS TEND TO BE SOCIAL ANIMALS, SO IT’S IMPORTANT TO FACILITATE SOCIAL CONTACT WITH OTHER ANIMALS AND HUMANS
- Walking two dogs together
- Reading to dogs and cats in MARL’s reading room
- Taking dogs home for an overnight sleepover, or out to an event, park, store, or just a car ride
- Letting cat-friendly cats have playtime together
- Giving dogs and cats time in the MARL office for the chance to be around new people
- Putting compatible dogs together in playgroups several times a week
Enrichment Wish List:
Here’s how you can help! Below are items that we use for every day enrichment.
All donations can be brought to our shelter located at 790 Featherstone in Pontiac, MI.
- New or gently used Kongs or other fillable toys | All sizes/types
- Peanut Butter, Cheese Wiz, Applesauce, Chicken Broth, Pumpkin Puree, Tuna
- New or gently used dog/cat puzzles | All sizes/types
- Clean Egg cartons, clean plastic containers (empty sour cream containers/cottage cheese containers)
- Clean Drinking Straws
- Pipe Cleaners
- New or gently used books
- New or gently used slow feeders | All sizes/types
- Dog and Cat treats| All types