Let’s Talk Enrichment!

Enrichment for animals can look different depending on the age and the species of animal. Enrichment activities provide animals with mental and physical stimulation. As a result, these activities improve the mental and physical well-being of the animal, resulting in a happy and healthy animal.

Here at Harbor Humane, happy and healthy animals are our number one priority, so we provide the animals in our care daily enrichment activities. We have a schedule of approved enrichment activities for our animals that we rotate throughout the week.

Cats have opportunities for taste, scent, touch and sound enrichment. Dogs have taste, scent, sound and social interaction activities. Let’s dive deeper into the enrichment activities we have for the animals in our care at Harbor.


When performing enrichment activities with the cats at Harbor, we try to observe the cat’s behavior and response to the activity so we can assess how successful each activity is and pass it along to future adopters!

Some questions we try to answer are:

Was the item generally liked/disliked by the cats?
Were you able to get a shy kitty to open up?
Did any of the long term cats seem particularly enriched by a certain object?

These are some of the cat approved enrichment activities we rotate through for our cats here at Harbor.

  • Some scent approved cat enrichment activities include:

    • Herbs
      • Basil
      • Dill
      • Cilantro
      • Rosemary
    • Crinkled tissue paper with scent spray
      • Lavender
      • Banana
      • Chamomile
      • Cat nip
    • Silver vine
    • Cat nip
    • Cat grass

Taste enrichment should only be given in 1-2 bite portions, these are not designed to be meals.

  • Some approved taste cat enrichment activities include:

    • Canned seafood
    • Canned chicken
    • Olives (not stuffed)
    • Squeeze cheese
    • Unsalted rice cakes
    • Mini marshmallows
    • Meat baby food (no onion or garlic)
    • Fruit/veggie baby food (no lemon/citric acid added) banana, apple, sweet potato, green bean and carrot are okay!
    • Freeze dried treats or liver
  • Some approved touch cat enrichment activities include:

    • Feathers
    • *Pet* with a toothbrush (great for shy kitties!)
    • Various brushes
    • Paint roller


Dog enrichment activities can fluctuate a bit for our longer-term residents (over 30 days in our care). We provide our dogs with daily in-kennel enrichment, but some of our long-termers may need some extra enrichment.

Just as we do with the cats, we also want to take note of the behaviors and responses each dog exhibits towards a particular enrichment activity so we know what they like and dislike.

Some of our daily In-Kennel enrichment activities include:

Scents: For our scent enrichment activities, we have a few small spray bottles labeled with the different scents. If a dog is able to have soft toys, we spray it on a soft toy and put it in the dog’s kennel. If a dog may only have hard toys, we then spray it on a small piece of cardboard and put it into the kennel.

Pupsicles: The pupsicles are a mixture of broth, water, and treats. Wet food can also be used in place of brother. The pupsicles are mixed then frozen and placed into their kennel so they can lick away at the pupsicle.

Puzzles: There are a variety of options for puzzles for dogs. Popular puzzle options we utilize in our shelter are snuffle mats, PVC feeder, treat puzzle, towel with treats rolled inside and toilet paper tube folded with treats inside.

Paper bags: Another fun puzzle-related enrichment activity is filling brown paper bags with goodies such as treats, peanut butter, dental sticks, etc.

Frozen kong: Kongs stuffed with goodies and frozen.

Frisbee: Peanut butter, wet food or pumpkin smeared on a frisbee and clipped to the outside of the kennel. You can also freeze these as well!

As you can imagine, we go through so many treats and jars of peanut butter! We are constantly in need of items such as creamy peanut butter, mini milk bones, training treats, wet dog food, and dehydrated broth. You can make a donation of one of these items or any other items we are in need of through our wish list!

Some of our daily enrichment activities for our long-termer dogs in our care include:

Quiet time: Time spent outside or a room away from the kennel. This is meant for relaxation and low-key activity, no high impact play.

Decompression walk: Walk on the trail outside. These walks are done at the pace of the dog with ample time for sniffing or stopping.

Scent game: Sniffing greatly decreases a dog’s stress levels. Scent games can be done by hiding treats around, tossing treats in the grass, hiding treats under cups, or using a snuffle mat.

Trick day: Teach the dog something new or work on established training cues.

Buddy walk: Pair walking with another dog. These walks are done at a distance where the dogs are not hyper focused on each other. 

Bubbles: Blow bubbles near the dog and let the watch and play with the bubbles.

Playtime: Cooperative play with toys or whatever the specific dog enjoys.

Audio Enrichment: Audio enrichment includes a playlist of Classical and Nature music/sounds and a library of audiobooks.

So, why do enrichment activities?

Overall, enrichment reduces stress levels in animals and lets them have control over their environment to an extent. It lets the animal act in their natural behavior and reinforces important socialization practices while giving them mental and physical stimulation they need to be happy and healthy.

The quality of our care is the quality of their life! We’re so grateful to the donors helping ensure these critical enrichment initiatives can happen here at Harbor!

Try some enrichment activities with your fur baby today and see how they respond!