A wolf catches a whiff of an unfamiliar scent and prowls the exhibit tracking down faint traces of cinnamon. Steps away, a tiger pounces on a freshly cut tree branch and uses her sharp claws to shred the bark off the trunk. Turns out, wolves and tigers have plenty in common with dogs and cats. So it's not much of a stretch to apply some of the Zoo's enrichment principles to pets.
A commitment to animal welfare is behind the Zoo's new initiative to promote pet enrichment. The Zoo encourages pet owners to carefully consider the individual needs of their animals and customize their own "pet-richment" plan, just like the zookeepers do.
Responsible pet ownership starts with choosing the right pet. How about a python, a piranha or a tiger? Exotic animals usually aren't the best choice. For starters, it's difficult to provide a safe and enriched environment for the animal. The animal could pose a physical threat to the owners' safety. Purchasing an exotic animal could contribute to the illegal international pet trade or even lead to the extinction of that species in the wild. Sticking with domestic breeds supports animal conservation.
Make a Plan
Sound science is at the heart of the Zoo's enrichment process. Zookeepers draw up careful plans for each animal, identifying which behaviors to encourage or discourage. The Zoo's enrichment committee brings animal care, veterinary, and research staff together to approve, implement and evaluate each plan. Enrichment sounds complicated but visitors don't need to be scientists to better their pet's life. Pets can benefit from methods already put into practice at the Zoo.
Here's Your Guide
Pick up a Creature Comforts -Enrichment Tips for Pets brochure at the Zoo or download a copy here to help you customize a pet-richment plan for your pet. Pet enrichment materials are made possible by a grant from the Kenneth A. Scott Charitable Trust, a KeyBank Trust.