B01: Enrichment

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WHAT: “Environmental enrichment is an animal husbandry principle that seeks to enhance the quality of captive animal care by identifying and providing the environmental stimuli necessary for optimal psychological and physiological well-being.” – Second Nature – Environmental Enrichment of Captive Animals.

Ways to enrich the animals: Provide animal with natural habitat, with choices (such as when/what/where to eat/sleep/etc.), with control (it’s their habitat), and with stimuli (something to do).

WHY: Wild animals cannot fully exhibit their natural behaviors in captivity. This can lead to unwanted psychological states such as boredom and aggression. It is our mission to give the animals the best life possible in captivity. This includes striving for optimal mental and physical states.

WHO: The Animals—All animals need enrichment. Different species need different enrichment. See the Approved Enrichment & Instruction List for what is approved by species.

The Volunteers—All volunteers are encouraged to participate in enrichment. Trainees and Partners may assist with making enrichment and observe enrichment being handed out. Keeper Trainees may observe from behind the barricade in sections they are permitted to clean. Partners must observe enrichment being handed out from the tour path.

Partners and Senior Partners may observe enrichment at any time, Partner Trainees must have a Partner or higher with them while observing. Yellow Level Keepers are eligible to take the Basic Enrichment Class and begin the certification process for handing out enrichment. Yellow Level Keepers are only permitted to hand out enrichment to the level of cat they are certified to clean. There are two separate certification sheets for Basic Enrichment; Red Level Cats and Yellow Level Cats. A Yellow Level Keeper who has completed the Enrichment Trainer Class is certified to lead enrichment and sign off on observations and should participate in coordinating enrichment sessions.

WHEN: Enrichment can be done at any time during the day with the exception of just prior to and during feeding time. Please keep in mind a Coordinator must be notified before enrichment starts. Keepers should also notify Partners and encourage them to tag along and observe from the tour path. There may be events such as worming or veterinary care that would prohibit enrichment. Duties including; cleaning and education (tours) are a priority. Remember to use appropriate enrichment for not only the species, but also the individual animal, the time of day, time of year, etc. Handing out enrichment during tour times is a great way to get animals active for the guests and to showcase to guests the importance of providing enrichment for captive animals.

WHERE: Enrichment materials can be found in the E-center, the cooler in Food Prep, and the enrichment cabinet in the rat room. Pre-made enrichment can be found in the whole prey freezer and the refrigerator in the E-center. Articles and books are available for loan in the E-center, by the sink.

Record Keeping and Forms: There are three forms to document the success of the Enrichment Program.

Enrichment Tracking Form: Always write down when you have given enrichment to an animal. Enrichment Tracking Forms are kept on the red, yellow, and green Enrichment clipboards in Food Prep. Extras and filled out pages are kept in the brown folders under the computer in Food Prep.

Enrichment Evaluation Form: 1 to 5 scale that is used to evaluate how well an enrichment item worked. These should be used when implementing new ideas, but may be used at any point someone feels a reaction to an item should be documented.

New Enrichment Approval Form: Use this form to submit new ideas for enrichment to the Enrichment Committee. New Enrichment Approval Forms require the approval of both a veterinarian and the President. Once a form has been approved, the form should be copied to the Volunteer Committee as well as included on the Approved Enrichment List. These forms can be found in the Enrichment Library in the E-Center by the sink.

Enrichment Observation Certification: Once a Yellow Level Keeper has completed the Enrichment Class, they will be given a Red Level Enrichment Observation Certification form to complete.

– Step 1: Observe a Certified Trainer hand out enrichment to 9 cats, no more than 3 sign offs per occasion.

– Step 2: Be observed by a Certified Trainer handing out enrichment to 6 cats, no more than 3 signs offs per occasion.

– Step 3: Be observed by a Certified Trainer making enrichment on 1 occasion.

– Step 4: Be observed by an Enrichment Committee member handing out enrichment to 3 cats on at least 1 occasion.

Making Enrichment

– Instructions on all approved enrichment items are found in the E-Center and here.

– Request food items such as mice, chicks, or produce from your Coordinator before taking them.

– Enrichment should be stored in the whole prey freezer, properly labeled with type and date, either in plastic bags or on a tray.

– Approved Enrichment items include; spice bags or tubes, blood-cicles, scented sprays, paper mache’, spices, catnip, catnip bubbles, cardboard boxes (staples and tape removed), pizza boxes, non-toxic finger paints, wrapping paper (must be paper texture, not foil or glossy), and tissue paper (type of paper used for gift bags), grass, and feathers.

Handing Out Enrichment

– Inform your Coordinator that you wish to do enrichment. Make sure you adhere to any special instructions given.

– Inform any Partner volunteers in the Main Office or Gift Shop or Keeper Trainees and encourage them to tag along and observe from the tour path.

– Choose one or more colored coded clipboards. You must regularly clean the animals at the level or higher that corresponds with the color. Example: Yellow Level Keepers regularly cleaning cougars may enrich animals on the yellow or red clipboards. However the Yellow Level Keeper must first be certified to give enrichment to Red Level cats before advancing to Yellow Level Cats.

– You must enrich every cat on a page. If there is a valid reason for not giving enrichment to a cat, please note it. Running out of enrichment is not a valid reason. Either make more, or stop at a filled page and put away your leftovers.

– Record who received enrichment on list. The list asks for your name, the date, and what type of enrichment was given next to each animal’s name. This is for the safety of the animal (in case they should be adversely affected) as well as record keeping (to record which enrichments are successful). Once you are finished with the top page on the clipboard, move that page to the back. If there are no columns left on a page, put it in the brown folder under the computer labeled “filled sheets” and replace it with a blank page.  Your hand written notes should then be entered into the dot.me site observation area that looks like this:

Enrichment Log DotMe

– Please do not use all of the pre-made enrichment. If you notice the supply is low, budget your time to make more.

Some considerations you must keep in mind while implementing enrichment:

– Animals should have control/choice of the situation. Do not “make” the animal use an enrichment item.

– Purpose of enrichment is to occupy the animal—do not divert interest to yourself.

– Ensure the safety of volunteers and animals.

– Safety is stressed because enrichment can be very stimulating and often produces instinctual reactions that you are not prepared for. Also remember the safety of the animal. We inform a Coordinator about enrichment because they have knowledge of the animals that volunteers might not.

– When cleaning, please treat enrichment remnants the same as feces or other undesirable objects and remove them. The cats receive enrichment regularly and items should not be left for the animal to interact with at a later time.

– Enrichment items that are disposable such as bags, boxes, and tubes should not be removed and reused on another cat. This can spread infection between two cats. Disposable enrichment should be discarded once it is removed from the enclosure.

Print out Enrichment Certification Red Level form.

Print out Enrichment Certification Yellow Level form.

Print out Enrichment Certification Green Level form.

Additional Resource: Tools to use for determining enrichment goals.