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Senior Pets and the Importance of Enrichment

Our pets are living longer and longer, and we couldn’t be happier about it. But with this increased lifespan, we are seeing an increase in cognitive dysfunction in our older cats and dogs. Some signs of dysfunction can include; disorientation, disturbances in their sleep/wake cycle, house soiling, activity changes and increased anxiety. Thankfully, by providing our pets enrichment, we can reduce age related changes in the brain of our furry friends.

Enrichment to our pets can come in many forms including exercise, social interaction, mental and sensory. Before providing any type of enrichment, we need to consider your pet’s physical state. For pets that have decreased exercise tolerance or stamina, focus more on mental and sensory stimulation. You can take them for a ride in a car or pet stroller to introduce new odors and sites. Try providing visual stimulation with a bird feeder outside a window, a fish tank in the house or an app or video that can entertain them. Puzzle toys can be used to hide treats or food, supplying your cat or dog with much needed mental stimulation.

For pets that do not have physical limitations, try walking on a leash in the neighborhood. Not only will this provide exercise, but it will also provide sensory enrichment. It is never too late to teach them new tricks! Learning new commands has been proven to slow age related cognitive dysfunction. Rotating your pet’s toys weekly can also provide some mental stimulation.

For all pets, social enrichment is very important. Some animals with physical limitations may not be able to reach out to their owners like they once did. Be sure to provide your pets with daily positive attention whether it be some quiet time sitting and petting, playing a favorite game or training, take some time to shower your pet with some much needed attention.