Dogs and cats need enrichment opportunities to stimulate their minds and remain physically healthy, but keeping them engaged with novel toys and games can be challenging. Fortunately, you can repurpose everyday household items into exciting and enriching toys your pet will love. Do-it-yourself (DIY) enrichment toys not only help to reduce waste but also allow you to add a personal touch to your pet’s playtime. Our team at Haskell Valley Veterinary Clinic

 shares four simple and fun DIY enrichment toys you can easily make for your pet. 

The importance of enrichment for pets

Pets require more than food, water, and shelter for a quality life. They need social activities, new experiences, jobs to do, and the opportunity to engage in instinctive behaviors.

Without adequate enrichment opportunities, your pet can become bored, frustrated, anxious, and depressed. Many behavioral issues are caused by a lack of mental stimulation. Enrichment for pets provides the following benefits:

  • Improves mental health and cognitive function
  • Builds confidence
  • Releases stress
  • Promotes physical health
  • Strengthens the human-animal bond
  • Enhances quality of life 

The following DIY toys can be made with items found around the house and provide mental and physical enrichment for your pet:

#1: Tennis ball treat dispenser for dogs

A tennis ball is an incredibly versatile pet toy, and if you have a dog who enjoys playing fetch, you probably have quite a few of these around your house and yard. While throwing a tennis ball for your pup to retrieve is a great physical exercise, you also can use a tennis ball to exercise their mind by turning it into a challenging treat dispenser. Cut a small slit along the tennis ball and fill it with your dog’s favorite treats, and watch them put their problem-solving skills to work to figure out how to extract the rewards inside.

#2. Iceberg treats for dogs

On a hot day, there’s nothing better than a frozen treat, and this DIY toy couldn’t be easier—or more satisfying—for a hot pup. Place your dog’s favorite small toy in a container, such as a bowl or Tupperware. Pour water and a small amount of broth into the container, and fill it to the top. Freeze the container overnight. When the contents are fully frozen, slide them out as you would an ice cube. This can get messy, so it’s best to do it outside. Freezing your pet’s toy lets them play with it in a whole new way while enjoying the tasty frozen broth. 

#3: Plastic bottle puzzle feeder for cats

Your cat’s wild ancestors had to hunt, and while today’s feline companions are domesticated, they still enjoy hunting for food. This simple puzzle feeder requires your cat to work for their meal. Cut multiple holes in a plastic water bottle, ensuring that the holes are larger than your cat’s kibble or treats. Pour the food through the bottle’s opening and replace the cap, and watch as your cat bats the bottle around and triumphantly gobbles up the treats that fall from the holes. You can add an extra challenge by cutting fewer and smaller holes, making your cat work harder to get their treats.

#4: Feather wand toy for cats 

Cats love to stalk and pounce on prey, and this toy taps into their inner hunter. Tie a long string to a dowel rod, attach some feathers to the end of the string, and watch your cat show off their jumping skills. Drag the feathers along the ground or flick them in the air to encourage your cat to use their natural quickness and agility to stalk their prey, but monitor them to ensure they don’t bite off any feathers. 

Safety tips for creating enrichment toys for pets

When making DIY enrichment toys for your pet, consider these safety tips:

  • If using materials like string, ribbon, and other embellishments, ensure they are securely attached and cannot be easily pulled off and ingested. If your pet has a history of swallowing inappropriate items, do not give DIY toys to them. 
  • Always supervise your pet when they are playing with the toys.
  • Regularly inspect your pet’s DIY toys for wear and tear. Look for loose parts, fraying, and other signs of damage that could become a safety hazard. 

DIY enrichment toys are a sustainable, cost-effective way to ensure your pet receives the stimulation they need to remain happy and healthy. Regular preventive care is also necessary for your pet to thrive. If your furry friend is due for their annual wellness exam, contact our Haskell Valley Veterinary Clinic team to schedule an appointment.