Shelter Enrichment

Cotter students came to the rescue…literally.

“Shelter enrichment” is today’s topic. This terminology could cover a number of aspects of rescue shelters, but this time we’re referring to ways to improve the shelter animals’ mental state while in the shelter. Furbabies that are bored or stressed from being in the shelter will often start exhibiting negative behavior, which, in turn, can make it more difficult to be adopted. It’s no fault of the animals…they are just unsure of what has happened. It’s no fault of the shelter volunteers…they do everything they can to ease the fears of shelter animals. But there are only so many hours in the day and, please remember, Have a Heart is a completely volunteer-operated shelter.

Last week, Cotter teacher Jenny Burns brought six fifth and sixth graders to observe the day-to-day work of an animal shelter. They had a wonderful time meeting all the cats, kittens, dogs, and puppies. And they learned about animal enrichment.

Enrichment activities can improve an animal’s mental state through activities that challenge and exercise their brains. They encourage the animals to problem solve, learn new skills, and become more confident. Such activities include things like hiding items for the animal to find, using their senses of smell, sound, and/or sight. Also activities as simple as playing fetch, chasing bubbles, pupsicle frozen treats and kongs stuffed with goodies to be dug out are all fun things for dogs to do.

Cats like chasing the beam from a light pen, playing with cat toys (especially if stuffed with catnip), exploring in cardboard boxes, fishing pole toys and treats hidden in snuffle mats.

While at HAH, the Cotter students were also introduced to a local animal control officer and learned how stray animals are caught, housed at animal control for a “stray hold” period, and then transferred to the shelter to be rehomed.

Students also observed a kitten being vaccinated, wormed, and microchipped by Shelter volunteers. Finally, each student loaded a lick mat and a Kong with treats and then chose animals to share it with.

We are so appreciative to these students and their teacher, Ms. Burns, for visiting the Shelter and helping us educate folks about what we do. If you have a group of students or an organization that would be interested in participating in shelter enrichment activities, please give the shelter a call at 870-449-7387 to discuss the possibilities. Or stop by and see our current furbabies looking for their new homes. We are located at 657 Highway 202 West in Yellville.