Filling a shopping cart with brand new toys for an animal shelter feels incredible. Things that animals can chew, toss, squeak, or cuddle provide invaluable relief from the monotony of life in a kennel. Products from pet stores make wonderful donations but can be expensive when purchased in bulk. Fortunately, shelters with great enrichment programs utilize all kinds of supplies to entertain their residents. I can't walk into a Dollar Store anymore without leaving with something for the shelter! If your budget is holding you back, here are some of the most inexpensive supplies with the biggest impact.
Cats are born hunters, naturally curious. They love investigating new objects, making just about everything a toy. Pompoms, Popsicle Sticks, plastic straws, and pipe cleaners in a cat's kennel inspire them to play. Stick-on hooks, string, and yarn can also be used to secure toys or cardboard scratching posts to kennel doors. Plastic Easter eggs make fun wobbly toys for cats and can be bought in large quantities. Feathers and bells are also useful supplies for DIY enrichment crafts. The crinkle of paper lunch bags makes them engaging for felines to explore, and they can also make a dog's meal more enriching when kibble is hidden inside. Tinfoil can be crumpled up to make shiny balls. Low-cost toys usually aren't durable and won't last long. Look for hard plastic cat toys and ping pong balls, which are easy to sanitize, and tennis balls and stuffies that may last for dogs who aren't chewers. Bubbles and wand toys are also a great way for staff and visitors to engage with playful felines. Additionally, a shelter can never have enough catnip, xylitol-free peanut butter, and treats! Plastic cups can present cat treats in a more challenging way or be filled with water and peanut butter and frozen to make "pupsicles!" Balloons, muffin tins, and ice trays can also be filled with water to make frozen treats. You may even have enrichment supplies lying around at home. Empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls are great for filling with treats, as well as empty cardboard food boxes! Pets should always be supervised and should not be given materials that pose a choking hazard.
Things that animals can chew, toss, squeak, or cuddle provide invaluable relief from the monotony of life in a kennel.
When we think about enrichment, we often picture things an animal can play with or eat. But sight, sound, and smell are also stimulating sources of enrichment. Pinwheels, hanging party décor, and wind chimes can be placed in, above, or outside a kennel to provide visual entertainment. Many cooking spices are appealing to pets and can be sprinkled on bedding or kennel floors.
These are just some of the many creative ways to support an enrichment program. Enrichment is crucial for relieving stress, providing solace, and engaging the minds of shelter pets while they wait for their forever homes. You might not think a dollar can do a lot, but watching an orphaned kitten battle a Popsicle Stick just might change your mind.
Breonna Loxley is an animal care technician at an animal shelter. She is an avid artist, writer, and animal-lover. She lives with her parents, a younger brother, two cats, and one dog.
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