What is environmental enrichment?

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What is environmental enrichment?

It is the set of measures that, as its name suggests, involves enriching an environment, adding elements that can serve to improve the physical and emotional well-being of the animals that live in it (Newberry, 1995; Adams, 2007). It is applicable to all animals that live in captivity, from those found in farms and zoos to those we have in our homes.

The objective that environmental enrichment seeks is that the environment where the animal lives contains the elements and stimuli that will allow it to express its nature. The reason for taking environmental enrichment into account is that each animal species has a series of natural behaviors, the expression of which is essential for the animal to be well. So, for example, a climbing animal needs structures to climb and a social animal needs a group.

Tips. A good environmental enrichment plan should promote the behavior typical of its species in the animal, improve its well-being and ability to adapt to changes and life challenges, improve the use of the environment and also reduce some abnormal behaviors that animals that have not adapted well to the environment where they live (Young, 2003).

Enrichment measures include from the organization of the physical environment such as, for example, space, toys and food, to the organization of the animal’s social structure and its handling by people. But before setting up an environmental enrichment plan it is essential to know the characteristics and needs of the animal.

This knowledge will help you choose the most useful enrichment to create an environment that allows you to behave in the most similar way possible to how you would in your natural environment.

Taking this premise into account, the fact that an owner loves his cat does not necessarily imply that he knows what needs to be done so that the cat lives well. Furthermore, simply modifying the cat’s living environment and increasing its complexity by looking at things from our human perspective rather than “putting ourselves in the cat’s shoes” is not necessarily a form of environmental enrichment (Bradshaw and Casey, 2007). .

Therefore, it is essential to find out about the needs of the species and about the possible measures to improve the living environment of our cats. In addition, although they belong to the same species, not all cats are the same and the characteristics of each animal must be taken into account for environmental enrichment to be effective (Bradshaw et al., 2012).

For example, for a cat well socialized with people, pampering and social contact with people can be very enriching, while the same measures can cause stress in a cat that has not been properly socialized or is afraid of people. .

Bibliographic references:

  • Adams, KM, 2007. Refinement in the literature: Searching for environmental enrichment. AATEX 14, Special Issue, 307-312.

  • Bradshaw, JW, Casey, RA, Brown, SL, 2012. Cat welfare. In: Bradshaw, Casey, Brown, (eds.). The behavior of the domestic cat. 2nd edition. Cabi International, Wallingford, pp. 175-189.

  • Newberry, RC, (1995). Environmental enrichment: increasing the biological relevance of captive environments. Applied Animal Behavior Science 44, 229-243.

  • Young, RJ, 2003. Environmental enrichment for captive animals. Blackwell Science Ltd., Oxford.


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