When you think about it, life for most pets can be pretty boring. They kind of just hang out at home all day, not having much to do. So this is why toys are great to entertain them, the more the better! You can always provide an assortment, while putting away extras so you can keep up a rotation so that when the current toys are put away and the others come out, they’re novel and exciting in your pet’s eyes! The good news is that you can make many of your pet’s toys for cheap.
And sure, toys are fun but what if I told you that you could cheaply combine toys and food so your pet can play with his food?! Instead of food being served in a boring dish and getting gobbled down or picked at, your pet can forage for his food. He can learn to focus, practice impulse control, and use his noggin to figure out how to get at the food. I’m sure you’ve heard that a tired dog is a good dog. That’s not entirely true. A dog that’s tired, BOTH mentally and physically is a good dog. But this applies to any pet, dog or not!
While it may feel odd at first, not just handing over food in a dish and instead having your pet forage for their meals, you can rest assured that animals in the wild spend the vast majority of their time on their quest to obtain food. There’s no one there to serve dinner in a dish. If they want to eat, they have to work for it. And for some species more than others, it can take up to 90% of their waking day. This is a whole lot of enrichment. These animals aren’t bored if they’re focused on finding food. While many of our pets are domesticated, trust me, they’ll appreciate the opportunity to show their wild side and work for their meals.
In this blog, I’ll be posting instructions for cheap, DIY pet toys and enrichment ideas. Some toys involve food, others don’t. Please supervise your pet with any toy as there’s always going to be an individual who will find any way to get into trouble. I do not assume responsibility for your pet’s well being as a result of trying these ideas. I had to write it, although these ideas are meant to be safe!
This toy is great for scrubbing your pet’s teeth, or if you have a parrot, it’s just lots of fun to shred and tear.
1. Take an untreated, UNCUT, natural loofah (also spelled loofah or luffa) gourd. You can grow your own or buy these from various places really cheap. If the gourd still has it’s shell on, let it dry a bit and then flake it off so you only have the spongy, mesh “skeleton” left. Then let it dry completely.
2. Look at an end of your gourd and you’ll see channels where the seeds are located. Using your finger, clear a passage to about your finger’s width to the channels. ONLY do this one one side. There should be three or four channels, depending on your gourd.
3. Stuff these channels with treats that really get your pet going. Using your finger, make sure they’re jammed down in the channels so they don’t just shake loose. You can also try making slits in the outside of the gourd with a sharp knife or scissor (be careful) and insert more treats.
4. Give it to your pet and enjoy. While your pet rips into the gourd to get the treats, the mesh scrubs their teeth and the gourd has a satisfying crunch. This is a fruit and your pet should be able to pass small bits of the mesh if consumed. If your pet thinks the gourd it’s self is for eating, not tearing apart, trade your pet for it so you can safely take it away. By trade, I mean offer something better or of equal value in trade so your pet doesn’t feel like he’s losing out.
Angel really mangled her gourd a bit later trying to get to pieces of low fat string cheese.
Can you think of more gourd-errific (sorry, I promise to stop using words like these) ideas? You can string a whole gourd on a rope for an awesome, teeth cleaning tug toy, cut the gourd into slices and string them on pet safe rope, you can flatten them and shape them, tear it up and scatter it over a bowl of food for your pet to dig through, you can dye them with food safe coloring (but be careful because of staining floors, clothes and furniture). The ideas are endless and the gourds are easy to grow in your garden: In full sun, insert seeds like a penny about 1/2″ deep in soil, water well until the first true set of leaves appear.