Top 10 free DIY enrichment activities for pets

close up of tennis ball in pup's mouth

Sometimes spending an entire day lounging on the couch, finding ways to be as unproductive as possible is acceptable. But after a while, that gets boring and the urge to go out and be active returns. Dogs and cats are the same way, but sometimes pet owners don’t realize that because it’s not something they can clearly communicate.

Both species need lots of diverse enrichment activities not only to keep them from getting bored, but also because it improves their physical and mental well-being. Enrichment doesn’t always have to cost you much time or money either, which is why we’ve put together this list of 10 free (yes, free!) activities you can do with your pet at home in honor of National Anti-Boredom Month. 

When pets don’t have any form of enrichment in their lives, they will create their own, which oftentimes results in unwanted behaviors like chewing, scratching, digging or barking/meowing. But it could also lead to worse conditions like depression or obesity.

We know all pets have different interests, so we tried to make the list as diverse as possible. And, as always, it’s more fun to do something with someone else, so make sure you are partaking in these activities. We challenge you to try all of them to see what works best for your pet, so let’s check them out!

Scruffy but cute Shih Tzu

DOGS

  1. Challenge them by learning new tricks

What you’ll need:

  • Just some tasty treats

Learning new tricks is a great enrichment activity you can do with your pet. Not only does it give them a challenge and improve their overall obedience skills, but it also helps strengthen the bond you two share and eliminate some of those unwanted behaviors dogs develop when they’re bored. Challenge yourself, as well! Go beyond the basics and try to teach them something more fun or intricate.

  1. Discover the muffin pan’s hidden purpose

What you’ll need:

  • A muffin tin
  • Treats or kibble
  • Tennis balls or other small toys

OR

  • A muffin tin
  • Fresh fruits or veggies
  • Water or chicken broth
  • Freezer

So there are a couple of different activities you can do with just a single muffin pan. The first is drop a couple of treats or pieces of kibble into each muffin pan and cover them up with a tennis ball or another small toy. It teaches your dog to work for a reward, but have fun while doing so.

The second is to take fairly solid fruits or vegetables (blueberries, apples or carrots are dog-friendly options; the ones you want to stay away from are avocado, chocolate and citrus for example) and freeze them in water or chicken broth, making this a perfect activity for the hot summer months. However, don’t overdo either of these because they still need to eat a proper, full meal. 

  1. Play a good old fashioned game of Hide ‘N Seek

What you’ll need:

  • A treat, a toy or yourself (or a combination of all three)

Hide N’ Seek (or Find It) is an activity that works for both indoors and outdoors. You can hide your pet’s favorite toy or treats around the house and ask them to find it. But my personal favorite is when I hide and give my dogs a chance to find me. Not only is this game exciting for everyone involved, but it forces your dog to use all of their senses in order to find what they’re searching for. And don’t forget to reward them when they’ve done a good job; that’s how they’ll learn and get better.

  1. Bring the adventure to your backyard

What you’ll need:

  • Dirt or sand
  • Toys
  • Water hose or kiddie pool

If your dog especially loves the outdoors, these activities will be perfect for your pooch. All you do is pick a part of your yard to turn into a dig box (or sand box if you have a few extra bucks). Loosen up the dirt or fill the designated area with sand and bury a few toys that you know will hold up when exposed to the elements. You can line it with some edging if you’d like, and if you want to turn it into a real adventure, fill a kiddie pool or bust out the hose for some fun in the water. This is a great way to get them out of the house and enjoy some outdoor activities.

  1. Build your own agility course

What you’ll need:

  • Whatever items you have at hand and that work for the size of your pet

This may be the hardest of activities for you both to master, but the more difficult the better! You can use any items you have laying around the house or in the yard to make an agility course for your pet. Whether that be an ottoman for a pause table or a hula hoop for a tire jump, you can create a course that will keep them physically and mentally active. The best thing about this is that you can switch it up or add more to it if your pet catches on pretty quickly. If you don’t have the items to make it yourself, you can always visit your local dog park; most of them have agility courses open to the public.

grey and white kitty

CATS

  1. Create your own cat toy

What you’ll need:

  • Recycled paper or corks
  • Cloth or ribbon

Cats are notoriously known for making anything and everything into a toy. However, you can make your own by crumpling up recycled paper into balls or repurposing corks so your feline has something to swat at, chase and then proudly flaunt around the house for hours. Another way you can craft them a new toy is by turning used cloth or ribbon into a wand. You don’t necessarily even need something to tie it to; you can just twirl it in your hand and they’ll be happy. We all know the majority of felines aren’t picky.

  1. Go fishin’

What you’ll need:

  • A smartphone that can download apps

OR

  • A bowl
  • Toys

There’s a couple different ways you can take your cat fishing without leaving the comfort of your own home. The first is to download any free games from the app store that are specifically designed for cats. My kitten’s personal favorite is called Cat Fishing (created by Purina), but there are others where they can catch mice or birds, as well, through the touchscreen. 

The second is to fill a glass bowl with water and drop some of their favorite (preferably plastic) toys in it. You could also use other items like water bottle caps or even ice cubes if you don’t want to ruin their toys. This, no doubt, will keep them entertained for quite some time, but it’s also a great mental exercise for them even if you don’t realize it.
 

  1. Take hunting to another level

What you’ll need:

  • A window or a tv

Your little hunter would love a spot or ledge in the window so that they could watch all of the birds and squirrels roam the yard. Even if they can’t act on their instinct, they are still highly focused on the subject, which requires a lot of mental discipline. If that doesn’t work, try turning on pet tv or playing nature videos on Youtube. Anything to keep their minds active.

  1. The easiest food puzzle ever

What you’ll need:

  • A piece of cardboard
  • Recycled toilet paper or paper towel rolls
  • Glue or tape
  • Treats or kibble

These simple items can make for a low maintenance, fun food puzzle for your cat or kitten. All you have to do is glue or tape the toilet paper rolls to the piece of cardboard, and then drop a few treats or pieces of kibble into each tube. Some might not think of cats as big sniffers, but that’s not true because they’ll do anything for a tasty treat. They’ll be forced to use their senses and work for their reward, putting them one step ahead of the game.

  1. Tired of tracking down all their toys?

What you’ll need:

  • Used tupperware container you no longer need
  • Scissors
  • Toys

If you have a piece of tupperware that can no longer serve its purpose, don’t throw it away! Turn it into a puzzle toy box for your pet. Just cut a few holes in the lid and maybe a few on the sides (making sure there are no sharp edges that could cut them) and then fill it with a variety of cat toys. It will be hard for them to keep their paws out of there, so it’s a great way to meet their daily activity hours.

There you have it, folks. Let us know your feedback by commenting below. Be sure to keep those fur babies mentally and physically active!

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