Written by Samantha Junker
Most of us have experienced that feeling when we get home and walk through the front door. Something’s wrong. Our eyes dart around the room trying to pinpoint what is different and then we see it. The couch. The pillow. The brand new lithium battery for my laptop (THANKS BENNIE!). Whatever it was, our pet has destroyed it.
After going through the stages of grief for my lost battery, (and making sure Bennie was ok!) I sat down and came up with a game plan of how to prevent it from happening again. Apparently, my dog was in need for something to occupy her time with. I started with her food and its presentation; fed her in toys, teasers, or hollow bones sealed with frozen peanut butter. What once took her 30 seconds now took the better part of an hour and I noticed an immediate decrease in the destruction of my property!
Looking back, it was so simple! I am a zookeeper! Enrichment is something I do every single day here at the Houston Zoo! It’s only natural I should be doing it at home as well!
If you have ever walked by any of our carnivores and noticed a toy, a hanging log, paper, or a box on exhibit, you are looking at enrichment. Enrichment is anything that encourages a natural behavior, and our zoo animals need it just like our pets at home for all of the same reasons. To change it up. To do something different. To be active and engaged.
Zookeepers have found that if we provide something to tear, like paper, our cats get to exhibit a natural behavior, but not necessarily at the expense of our exhibit plants. If we present their food in a new or unique way, they spend more time eating. If we offer them new scents such as perfume and spices, they spend more time exploring and marking. We are offering them more choices throughout their day.
Join us for Enrichment Day on September 19 to see all of the different ways the animals at the Houston Zoo are enriched! Maybe you will find some new and exciting ideas to try at home!