Environmental Enrichment: The Needs of our Animals

What do our animals need? Every good pet owner wants to provide a home where their pet is happy, but every individual pet is different and various species benefit from different environmental considerations.

When we talk about the “needs” of a particular species, we can break those needs into two distinct categories:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUltimate needs are the environmental requirements necessary for an animal to survive, such as water, food and shelter. When pertaining to wild species and evolution, the availability for reproduction is also an ultimate need for that species. In general, the ultimate needs of pets are food, water and shelter, and most pet owners can provide for ultimate needs without difficulty.

Freddy scratch

Proximate needs on the other hand are the environmental requirements for an animal to be comfortable, feel safe, and ideally, to be happy. Without them, an animal may be suffering. Proximate needs are quite species specific. For example, while we humans are comfortable in a house with an oven for cooking food, a horse will feel more comfortable in a paddock that provides a good view of potential predators and access to various types of forage.

When we think about enriching an animal’s environment, we try to do so from the perspective of the individual animal. What would that individual prefer? Are there things we can offer that help the pet feel more comfortable, safe, and more stimulated socially, mentally and physically?

I will be writing a series of posts on things we can do to enrich out pets’ lives.


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