What is enrichment?

Last Sunday I took a trip out to the RSPCA shelter at Kingaroy - about 2/12 hrs drive out of Brisbane and very cold!!
I visited the shelter to judge an enrichment competition they had been running for their staff and volunteers which I have to say was an amazing experience.
Regional shelters usually run on very low staff numbers and resources and are creative by nature (in my experience visiting the regions) in using the little resources they do have extremely well.
Running this enrichment comp was a way to bring the staff and vollies together and start real conversations around enrichment and it's role in shelter.
So what is enrichment?
Well one of the definitions in the dictionary is:
"The action of improving or enhancing the quality or value of something".
So when we talk about enrichment for animals we are talking about anything that makes their experience in a situation or their life better.
Dogs are social beings so company can be very enriching for them-by adding quality of life.
My birds love a spray shower-this improves their quality of life by keeping them in good physical and mental health.
Cats like cardboard boxes...weirdos.. but this improves the quality of their lives by having an area they feel comfortable in.
Mostly when we talk about enrichment for animals we are usually talking about toys and activities to make their days more rounded by keeping their minds busy with an activity or challenge.
As we have as a society moved into a culture of heavy workloads and little downtime, attention has been drawn to the animals sitting at home waiting for us.. day after day..patiently..until they decide to make their own enrichment.
This is when we see problem behaviours arise such as barking, digging, chewing and escaping to name a few.
So the rise of enrichment to keep our furry and feathered friends busy has often been centered around toys.
The use of food in toys gives a great way for animals to have their meals at a slower pace and use their problem solving skills during their meal-thereby leaving a happier calmer animal satisfied with a meal and a challenge all in one!
One enrichment toy only lasts so long though I hear you say?
This is where we can use our animals' senses to provide different types of enrichment such as:
Calming music
Scents sprayed around the house or yard-your favourite perfume or their favourite human's shirt, herbs or lavender flowers rubbed on walls, treats hidden around the house/yard.
Water- a clamshell pool with a little water to splash in in summer.
Birds love branches to chew and dirt foraging pits to find treats in.
And as I already said company sometimes can be the best enrichment of all!
Any of these can help take the edge off a long day home alone.
But remember when you get home excitement levels will be high because they have been waiting to see you all day.
All day we may be working but working in many ways enriches our lives- we see friends and colleagues, we drive or take public transport and take in the scenery, we drink coffee from our favourite coffee shops and take some me time at lunch either eating with friends or alone or taking a walk etc. Perhaps there is even a quick drink or dinner before going home...this is all enriching to our lives and often we forget how patient our animals have been sitting in the same house/yard/aviary waiting for us to come home!
Then if we look at the lives of shelter animals we see a greater need for enrichment than if they were in a home..
Shelters are very stressful places for animals - even the best run shelters place animals under stress- their neighbour barks or meows all the time,they can smell so many animals and not all that they see are friendly or relaxed which in turn stresses them even more.
Staff are only there spending time with them during the day and their workloads are usually jam packed.
It's busy, noisy, stinky and no-one really gets quality sleep so adrenaline and cortisol levels are usually high!
This is just shelter life - Shelters are not homes for animals, they are meant to be the stop off point while they wait for a new home.
Giving Shelter animals something to do during the day to help them cope can actually help keep them sane.
All forms of enrichment are important here and one of the entries in the Kingaroy enrichment comp was one of the volunteers spending time with his favourite dog in the yard. He submitted photos of the dog standing on some of the agility equipment and this in itself was quite a feat for the dog and showed the trust he had built with the dog- That's just awesome...you can't buy that kind of love, dedication and trust in any store.
It's important in a shelter environment to have easy to source items and easy to make items.
When using recycled materials milk containers, toilet rolls and egg cartons are a great go to as you can usually do a whip around with your neighbours when you run short.
For enrichment toys it is important that they are durable and easy to clean and sterilize.
By keeping it simple and getting creative with the basics it makes it easy to have enrichment strategies stay as part of shelter life long term.
Some of the entries in the Kingaroy comp were just so simple and brilliant!
One of the entries had a rolled up towel with kibble and another has silicone ice trays and lick mats zip tied to a side of a crate!
One of my favourites was a big dish of water in a cat room with rubber ducks floating in it!
You should have heard the cats in the video chatting about it!!!
I think my all time favourite was the simple snuffle boxes- but what was special about this was the way they were being used.
Kingaroy has a very unique luxury of having a lot of yards. They utilise these yards during cleaning- all the dogs get their own yard and they have been setting them up with multiple snuffle boxes to keep them busy!!
I love this!
This switches on the SEEKING system we have spoken about in previous blogs.
The dogs get something really cool to do first thing in the morning which really helps their mind body and soul!

So going forward the Shelter Manager Bonny has been sending me wonderful photos of the new enrichment strategies being implemented each day.
Kingaroy has a really cool dog park with agility equipment and this has become the yard for the ultimate treasure hunt!!
There are maps on the fences now for staff and vollies to mark where they have hidden things. Paper bags are the jackpot for them to find filled with kibble and treats and these are hidden with other items such as toys and soccer balls!
What a way to start the day!.
Not all the yards are this exciting though as most are just a square yard on cement others a bit larger on dirt and grass.

We thought it would be really cool to run a campaign to get enough Twist and Treat toys so that every yard will have one and this is the jackpot the dogs search for in amongst the boxes.
We love the twist and treat for it's versatility- you can fill it with kibble, higher value treats, wet food or a mix of both.
Twist and Treats are really easy to clean and sterilize and will stand up to shelter life. They are easy to load and won't take staff long to set up the yards with the boxes and a Twist and Treat.
So if you head to our Welfare section you will find the Kingaroy Twist and Treat pack- we have paired the Large Twist and Treat with a large bag and chewy yummy high value treats.
As with all our welfare items you choose and pay and leave a message for everyone out at Kingaroy and we will pay the postage to get it there!

SHOP >> https://www.crazycritterztoybox.com.au/welfare-boxes/kingaroy-campaign-twist-n-treat-combo-pack
Don’t forget to stay tuned on our socials as we will be posting photos of the toys in use and the dogs having a great time searching for their goodies!

As I sign off I want to say a massive well done to the staff and vollies out at Kingaroy.
They are doing amazingly well with the limited resources that they have!
Lets share this far and wide and get as many goodies to them as we can.
Stay Crazy

Jessica MooreComment