Cat in a paper bag

Everyone needs appropriate opportunities to release stress, expend energy and give boredom the boot. That includes people, dogs, cats and, yes, even rabbits and ferrets. Such actions offer physical and mental enrichment while helping to keep unwanted behaviors at bay.

Here are some ways you can enrich your pet’s life and help prevent him from acting destructive because he’s bored.

Bring on the Food Hunt

Home in on that natural hunter in your dog or cat by placing a portion of his daily kibble in a food puzzle toy or hiding it in a couple of locations in your house for him to sniff and find. You may need to assist your pet the first few times to show him how to play this food game. Call out his name and point to the food. Praise him each time he finds another tasty nugget.

Give Common Household Items a New Purpose

A paper bag — with the handles cut off — placed open on the floor can become a neat hiding place for an indoor cat, especially if you sprinkle some organic catnip inside. A small piece of drainage pipe (clean and dry, of course) left over from a plumbing job can convert into an exploratory tunnel for your ferret or pet mouse. A twig from a nonpoisonous tree makes for an ideal chew stick for a rabbit or bird. 

Rotate Toys

Instead of having all of your pet’s toys scattered throughout the house, purposely stash two-thirds of them in a toy chest or location inaccessible to him. Each week, rotate toys from the chest. Watch your pet’s eyes light up when he gets reacquainted with a favorite toy that "disappeared" a couple of weeks ago.

Mix It Up on Daily Walks

Don’t get into a rut when it comes to walking your dog. Vary the time of day, the location and the pace. Bring some treats and reward your dog for acing a variety of cues and tricks during the walk.

Think Bigger

Instead of using a small ball that your dog can grab in his mouth during a game of fetch, introduce him to a large ball that he must learn to nose and paw to move.

When providing environmental enrichment, always inspect items for safety. Make sure that the toy or object does not contain any small parts that can be swallowed. And remember to have fun interacting with your pet — it will put both of you in a good mood.

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