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The Shelter Voice: Simple Cat Kennel Enrichment Ideas

By: Darlene Duggan

When people find out I work in a shelter, many ask what ways they can help. My mind immediately turns to cat kennel enrichment. Shelters with traditional kennel housing for their feline population are always looking for ways to keep the cats entertained and stimulated while in their kennel. Nothing beats regular interaction with people, but for times when staff and volunteers are tending to other shelter duties, the cats need other sources of entertainment.

And that is how you can help: regular, everyday, household items make fantastic cat kennel enrichment tools. Items that all of us use on a regular basis around our home can be re-purposed and used by the cats. Here are a few suggestions of items to consider collecting for your local humane society.

  • Old Shoe Boxes: These make great hiding spots for shy cats, beds for tired cats, and even a sturdy box turned upside down can be a perch for alert cats. If you cut one of the short sides out of the same sturdy box, you can even create a hide and perch for the cat.
  • Tissue Paper (or Newspaper): Anyone who has lived with a cat for even half a day knows that they will sit on any piece of paper on the floor, and it seems the crinklier, the better. Staff can wad up the tissue paper into a loose ball and throw it in their cage for maximum efficiency. Now you know what to do with the wrapping paper left over after holidays and birthday parties!
  • Wine corks and various bottle caps: These make wonderful roll and swat toys. The first time I tried this at a shelter I was working for, I had a volunteer distribute a few to each kennel, and she reported that the room electrified with cats romping and playing!

  • Straws: These also make fantastic roll and swat toys. Even better if the straws bend!
  • Plastic Easter Eggs: This enrichment item can double as a roll and swat toy or, unscrew one half, smear a small amount of wet food on the inside rim, and they toy is also a treat!
  • Pipe Cleaners: Can be tied to the front of the kennel for the cat to use as a swat toy.
  • Toilet and Paper Towel Rolls: These can be cut into smaller sections (2-3 inches) and again, make great roll and swat toys for the cats.

These are such simple items—most are pre-used or found in our daily life, and it’s always great to give a second life to items we would probably just throw away otherwise. These are also great collection items for groups (corporate offices, apartment buildings, school groups) to gather on behalf of the shelter. These types of “toys” are easy for the shelter to distribute, and since they are disposable, there is no extra cleaning work for the shelter staff between each use.

Have any other ideas for simple kennel enrichment items for cats?  Please share with the rest of us in the comments section.

For many years, Darlene worked behind the scenes at The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago–overseeing volunteer programs, problem solving shelter issues, and laboring tirelessly for the welfare of animals. Her bi-weekly column, The Shelter Voice, will explore the complex concepts surrounding animal rescue and welfare usually reserved for discussions amongst those at the very front lines of the industry. She hopes to broaden the understanding and education of shelter supporters so they can act as well-informed advocates for the cause and help spread the adoption and rescue message throughout their community.

To read more from Darlene, check out her Blog–Shelter Report.

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