Enrichment for Senior Dogs and Cats


When senior dogs enter shelters, their future is uncertain. The adoption rate for senior dogs (7 years or older) is lower than that of all other ages combined and only about half find new homes. The nonprofit Grey Muzzle Organization is uniquely dedicated specifically to advancing life saving efforts on behalf of senior dogs. On  September 21, 1 p.m., I am presenting a free webinar,  Enrichment for Senior Dogs and Cats. Register HERE.

Increasingly, enrichment isn’t understood to be a good idea but rather a necessary one to support mental and physical well-being of our dogs and cats. Enrichment may defined as “Manipulating the environment to suit animals’ (normal) behavior or encouraging the animals’ behavior to match the environment. Providing ‘natural’ species-specific (even breed-specific) outlets.”

For aging pets, here are some benefits of enrichichment:

  • Cognitive decline slowed or even prevented – lifelong learning and dealing with unexpected
  • Brain exercise (if you don’t use it, you lose it)
  • Some physical exercise
  • Animals’ hard-wired skills
  • Alleviates boredom
  • Can help prevent or treat some behavior problems
  • Outlet for anxiety
  • FLUTD/Pandora’s Syndrome (cats)
  • Attention in multi pet homes (knowing they are loved)/Human Animal Bond
  • Fun and can enhance human/animal bond

This topic should have been discussed 25 years ago, but now more important than ever as our dogs and cats (for various reasons) are living longer than ever.

In this talk, I explain a phenomenon called contra-freeloading and how our pets may benefit.

Another benefit is that it turns out that cognitive enrichment early in life appears to protect against development of cognitive decline and dementia in humans and in dogs (and presumably in cats).  More examples and benefits may include:

– Swimming (dogs)  — if there’s a pool, adult supervision

– Walking (dogs)

– Leaving out favorite toys for self play (cats/dogs) play when they like

– Encouraging movement (cats/dogs)

– Stretching (rehab/at home)

In this talk, I offer many additional specific examples regarding how  to implement enrichment for senior dogs and cats.