A crucial element of pet wellness that is just as important as your pet’s physical health is ensuring their emotional wellbeing, too. As a pet parent, it’s your responsibility to help your pet feel happy and content with you.
Dr. Marty Becker, “America’s Veterinarian,” was inspired to found the Fear Free initiative to promote safer companion animal practices that alleviate, rather than exacerbate, pet anxiety. From introducing pets to their carriers a week before the actual vet visit to using pheromones to help alleviate anxiety, Dr. Becker shows us that there are countless ways to help our pets feel even happier and safer with us, and that we can do even more to have our pets’ best interests at heart.
More importantly, when we are looking at the bigger picture of pet health, pet care is not just about reducing fear and stress, it’s about letting pets “express their genetic exuberance…through enrichment activities.”
Enrichment activities allow your pet to engage in their natural animal behaviors, such as digging, sniffing, and playing—something that helps keep them happy and healthy. Here, we’ll share some more ideas on various enrichment activities you can implement at home. In addition, check out our Mella Moment podcast episode “What Does it Mean to be Fear Free?" with Dr. Marty Becker to learn even more about the origins and mission of the Fear Free initiative and certification.
Games and puzzles are great ways to mentally stimulate your pet and keep their minds active and sharp. For example, food puzzles that make pets work to get their food, snuffle mats that challenge their sense of smell, or games of hide-and-seek are all great options for cognitive enrichment. Lots of cognitive enrichment will ensure that your pet isn’t bored at home, while also reducing the likelihood of any abnormal or destructive behaviors occurring.
Spending time with other animals and humans is also an important part of a pet’s emotional wellbeing. These kinds of positive interactions can be achieved through long walks, trips to the dog park, or participating in play groups. Simply sitting down with your pet provides social enrichment for both you and them. It’s clear that developing a strong human-animal bond helps reduce stress and fear. Moreover, well-socialized pets are able to react calmly and adjust more easily to unfamiliar environments, because they’ve had the chance to interact safely and positively with others before.
Changing up your pet’s environment and adding new physical features in their space for them to engage with is also helpful for keeping your pet healthy by encouraging physical activity. A variety of toys can be introduced to keep things interesting—something that has also been seen to help pets relax in new environments. Other ways to provide physical enrichment include sandboxes, digging pits, and tunnels. Ultimately, daily exercise is helpful in both helping work out extra energy and improving their overall psychological wellbeing.
These are just some of the ways you can help your pet be at their happiest, and we encourage you to look into even more ways you can engage with your pet and help keep them active!
References and related reading