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Playgroups, Puzzles, and Games, Oh My!: Enrichment at SICSA

On any given day at SICSA, dog treats can be found scattered throughout the back office. This isn’t a result of poor housekeeping, but rather a sign of the effort being put in by the Animal Care Staff and volunteers. This scavenger hunt of sorts was recently implemented by Animal Care Manager Maria Ochs as an opportunitiy for the dogs of SICSA to do nose work. With the treat trail going through the office, it also gives the pups an additional opportunity to engage with new people in a non-kennel setting. This socialization and brain exercise has already begun yeilding great results for long-term residents who need the additional stimulation, like Groot.

The trail is just one of many enrichment opportunities the Animal Care staff and volunteers are providing. The “muffin tin game” seems to be another favorite for many dogs, including Frannie. To play, a muffin tin has treats placed in random cups and hidden with tennis balls placed over the top. The dogs use their sense of smell to sniff out the treats and move the tennis balls out of the way to retrieve them. This seemingly simple activity stimulates the minds of pups as they get faster and faster at solving the puzzle. After multiple trials, Frannie is a pro.

For dogs that enjoy company, playgroups are another great source of enrichment. The Animal Care staff choose dogs based on play styles and behavior, then introduce them in a controlled manner. Once everyone is comfortable, the pups are allowed off leash to play with their new friends in the yard. This play time is wonderful for socialization and confidence building, not to mention exercise! With additional elements added, such as kiddie pools and tennis balls, there is plenty to keep the dogs engaged during these group sessions. The kiddie pools are also great for bobbing for treats for dogs like Dane!

Dogs aren’t the only ones enjoying these enrichment opportunities. Cats have are having their fun too! To give curious cats a chance to explore their surroundings, Animal Care Technicians will take them on leashed walks throughout Kitty City. For felines that aren’t fans of being on leash, volunteers offer extra attention with wand and laser toys. Cats that are able to live with one another also enjoy staying in open rooms with scratching posts, hiding holes, and plenty of places to climb. Even in their Kitty Condos, cats and kittens have various toys to play with.

While the best place for these pets would be a stable forever home, the staff and volunteers of SICSA are committed to going the extra mile for them until they make it there. From scavenger hunts to puzzle toys, enrichment is a vital element of keeping pets happy and healthy. The Animal Care team hopes to expand enrichment opportunities for pets in SICSA’s care, and to do that they’ll need your help. If you would like to help SICSA continue to provide new forms of enrichment, you can donate toward that here. You can also bring in donations of enrichment toys and tools, such as puzzle toys for cats and dogs, pvc pipe toys, snuffle mats, flirt poles, canned pumpkin, canned yams, canned green beans, apple sauce, dog treats, and muffin tins. The pets and people of SICSA will appreciate it!

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