THE IMPORTANCE AND PURPOSE OF ENRICHMENT
“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.
The goals of the enrichment program are to provide the cats with; a natural habitat, choices (such as when/what/where to eat/drink/sleep/etc.), control (it’s their habitat), and stimuli (something to do). Different species have different natural behaviors and respond best to enrichment suited to their instincts and preferences. Some cats may like to shred things, others prefer scents or spices spread on the ground to roll in, and some cats require additional hydration and are enriched with cicles. 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 our permanent residents the best life possible in captivity. This includes striving for optimal mental and physical states.
ENRICHMENT PROGRAM PARTICPANTS
All volunteers are encouraged to participate in the enrichment program. Keepers hand out physical enrichment to the cats while Partners provide verbal enrichment through reading.
Yellow Level Keepers and Level 1 Interns (mid-way through internship) are eligible to take the Enrichment Class and begin the certification process for handing out enrichment. Keepers and Interns are only permitted to hand out enrichment to the level of cat they are certified to clean.
Yellow Level Partners are eligible to take the Enrichment Class and begin the certification process for reading enrichment.
Certification in Yellow Level Enrichment is required for promotion to Green Level Senior Keeper, Level 2 Intern and Green Level Senior Partner.
WHEN TO ENRICH THE CATS
Enrichment sessions are scheduled daily most often occurring in the afternoon. Enrichment can also be done nearly any time during the day with the exception of just prior to and during feeding.
Handing out enrichment before a tour time is a great way to encourage the cats to be active and to showcase to the guests the importance of providing enrichment for captive animals.
PREPARING FOR AN ENRICHMENT SESSION
Let the Coordinator know you would like to hand out enrichment at the beginning of your volunteer day so they can plan accordingly.
Always double check with a Coordinator immediately prior to handing out enrichment. There may be events such as deworming, flea treatment or veterinary care that would prohibit enrichment with particular cats or in specific areas of the sanctuary.
When you are ready to hand out enrichment please notify Partners and encourage them to tag along and observe from the tour path. This is a great way to reward the Partners for their service as they do not get many opportunities to observe the cats.
All of the enrichment supplies are stored in the Tiger Tail Barn and the Enrichment Cabin including; enrichment making instructions, approved enrichment forms, books, articles, supplies, and cicles.
Approved enrichment supplies and instructions for making enrichment can be found in the Tiger Tail Barn. Approved Enrichment items include; paper bags, tubes, blood-cicles, scented sprays, paper mache’, approved spices, catnip, catnip bubbles, sugar free plain gelatin, cardboard boxes (staples and tape removed), non-toxic finger paints and markers, craft wrapping paper (must be paper texture, not foil or glossy), and tissue paper (type of paper used for gift bags, no gloss or glitter), grass, fresh herbs, and feathers.
If using food items for enrichment, please check with your Coordinator prior to taking them from Food Prep (some food items are needed for medications and supplies may be low). Do not use food items such as chicks, mice, or meat with paper or cardboard product enrichment. The smell of the meat may cause the cat to consume the paper or cardboard which can cause an obstruction.
Trainees and Partners may assist certified keepers with making enrichment.
Enrichment should be stored in the enrichment freezer, properly labeled with type of enrichment.
An enrichment team meets every Wednesday night at the Tiger Tail Barn to make enrichment for the cats. Volunteers of all levels as well as interns are welcome to join in the fun. This team makes regular daily enrichment as well as elaborate holiday and special occasion enrichment.
Trainees must observe enrichment being handed out from the tour path. Partners and Senior Partners may observe enrichment at any time, Trainees must have a Keeper or higher or Partner or higher with them on the tour path while observing.
HANDING OUT ENRICHMENT
Inform your Coordinator that you wish to hand out enrichment. Make sure you adhere to any special instructions given by the Coordinator.
Invite Trainees and Partners on property and encourage them to tag along and observe enrichment being handed out from the tour path.
Choose one or more colored coded clipboards (depending on your level of certification). You must be certified to and regularly clean the cats at the level or higher that corresponds with the color. Yellow Level Keepers and Level 1 Interns who are certified and regularly clean Yellow Level cats can enrich cats on the yellow clipboards. Green Level Keepers and Level 3 Interns who are certified and regularly clean Green Level cats can enrich cats on the green clipboards. Some Green Level cats are considered Advanced Level and may only receive enrichment from Coordinators, Master Keepers and approved Staff Members. These cats are Manny jaguar and Kimba tiger.
Log all enrichment handed out on the Enrichment Tracking and Evaluation Form. Details entered on the form next to each cat’s name should include; your name, date, type of enrichment. Once the top page on the clipboard is completed, move that page to the back. If there are no columns left on a page, put it in the brown folder labeled “filled sheets” and replace it with a blank page. You should enrich every cat on a page. If there is a valid reason for not giving enrichment to a cat, please note it on the form. Running out of enrichment is not a valid reason. Either make more, or stop at a filled page and put away your leftovers. This process helps to ensure that no cats miss out on receiving enrichment.
If there are multiple cats in the enclosure, be sure you have the same number of keepers to hand out the enrichment simultaneously, or separate the cats before handing out the enrichment. This avoids fights over the enrichment between enclosure mates. You may reopen the separating doors once the item has been given.
The cats should have control/choice of the situation. Do not “make” the cat use an enrichment item. Some cats may ignore the enrichment until everyone has left the area.
Enrichment time is a great time to quietly observe the cat’s reaction to and interaction with the enrichment. Try to avoid distracting the cat by calling to it or making other noises.
In order to save time and enrich as many cats as possible please use the pre-made enrichment for afternoon handouts.
When switching from cicles to paper or cardboard enrichment, take off or change your gloves to avoid getting blood or meat juice on the enrichment item. Meat juice on the paper or cardboard products will entice the cat to ingest these non-digestible materials.
If you notice the cicle supply is low, budget your time to make more. This helps ensure that there is always an abundant and fresh supply of cicles for the cats.
It is very important to maintain a clean environment for the cats as well as a clean organized area to create amazing enrichment. After making enrichment please take some time to put everything away and wipe down any surfaces of scents or spices (these smells can attract pests).
If you find the enrichment supplies disorganized or the prep tables dirty take a few minutes to tidy things up. Whomever was using this space last may have been called away before they could clean up. We are all here for the cats so keeping buildings such as the Tiger Tail Barn and the Enrichment Cabin clean and organized is a group effort.
When cleaning enclosures, please treat enrichment remnants that have been used by the cats 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. If the items are just a little too big to fit through the wire with your cleaning tongs, you can lock the cat away in the other side of their enclosure and request assistance from the Coordinator in order to retrieve these items. Used enrichment scattered around the enclosures looks messy to tour guests and we want the cats to have a clean and tidy home.
Disposable enrichment items such as bags, boxes, and tubes should not be removed and given to another cat. This can spread infection or parasites between cats. Disposable enrichment should be discarded once it is removed from the enclosure. Non-disposable items such as the toys must be disinfected prior to being given to another cat.
ENRICHMENT READING SESSIONS
Reading sessions are a form of enrichment provided to the cats by Partner volunteers. Reading to more timid cats can help them get more comfortable with the presence and sounds of humans.
Request a cat assignment from the Operations Manager. This assigned cat will be the same cat you read to for the duration of the certification process. After certification is complete additional cats may be requested.
Bring reading materials of your choosing with you on your volunteer day.
Inform your Coordinator that you wish to do a reading session with your assigned cat. Make sure you adhere to any special instructions given by the Coordinator.
Stand, utilize a nearby bench, or take a chair out to the tour path near your assigned cat. If you take a chair out on the tour path, be sure to put it back when finished.
Read to your assigned cat aloud in a calm and soothing tone for a minimum of 15 minutes. The cat may not come over or may stay in their den, but this is ok. They know you are their and can hear your voice. After you are done reading to your assigned cat feel free to spend an additional few minutes just talking to them. Over time you may find that your cat begins to respond to your presence and looks forward to your visits.
Ensure the safety of volunteers and animals at all times while handing out enrichment.
Remember no part of your person should pass through the bars of the enclosure or come within reach of a cat. The cats can get excited when given enrichment so another keeper may be required to distract the cat so you can safely pitch the enrichment into the enclosures.
Be aware of the cat’s level of excitement and ensure that they do not harm themselves in anticipation of receiving the enrichment. If you are reading to your assigned cat ensure that the cat is calm and not engaging in stressed behavior that could cause harm to the cat.
Enrichment can be very stimulating and often produces instinctual reactions that you may not be prepared for. If the cat is extremely interested in the enrichment item, stay with the cat and observe them for a few minutes to ensure they do not ingest the enrichment. Ripping and shredding the enrichment is fine, concern should be if the cat is chewing and swallowing. This is especially important when giving enrichment to newly rescued cats as we do not know their behaviors or how they will react to the enrichment item.
If you give a cat paper or tube enrichment that does not have enrichment limitations and you observe them consuming the paper item, remove it immediately, check for missing pieces, notify your Coordinator, log it on the cat’s observation chart, and report the incident to the Enrichment Committee email@example.com. The Enrichment Committee will update the list of cats with enrichment limitations.
Please be aware of ALL cats with enrichment limitations. Giving these cats unapproved enrichment can be harmful to their health and should be taken VERY seriously. You can find a list of these cats on the back of the keeper tour sheet, keeper tour log sheet, online enrichment site, in the Tiger Tail Barn, and on the clipboards used for logging enrichment handouts.
If you accidentally give a cat an unapproved enrichment item please notify your Coordinator immediately, if possible remove the enrichment item using a scraper, or lure the cat to another section or their lock out and shut them away from the enrichment. If the cat is actively ingesting the unapproved enrichment item a hose can be used to deter them from it until help arrives. Once the enrichment has been removed check it for missing pieces and log the incident on the cat’s observation chart so the Coordinators and vet team are aware and can take proper steps with regards to treatment or monitoring of the cat. Some cats in the past have had serious complications with certain types of enrichment that required surgical intervention. Do not be afraid that you will get in trouble. Everyone makes mistakes and it is important to notify the Coordinator when something like this happens. Keeping the incident to yourself could result in the death of the cat.
If you find unapproved enrichment that has been given to a cat please remove the enrichment from the enclosure, examine it for missing pieces, notify your Coordinator and log it on the cats observation chart.
There are three forms to document the success of the Enrichment Program. These forms are utilized to track the physical enrichment given to the cats. Reading session do not need to be recorded, other than on the Certification Form during the certification process.
Enrichment Tracking and Evaluation Form: ALWAYS write down when you have given enrichment to a cat. This is very important should the cat have an adverse reaction to the enrichment as well as to document the success of a particular enrichment item. Enrichment Tracking Forms are kept on the yellow and green enrichment clipboards in the Enrichment Cabin. Extra forms and completed forms are kept in the brown folders. A scale of 1 to 4 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.
Online Enrichment Evaluation Log: This is the same as the Tracking and Evaluation Form but recorded online on our enrichment site. The Enrichment Tracking and Evaluation Form should be filled out in the field, then the information transferred to the online Enrichment Evaluation Log once your enrichment session is completed. This online database allows us to easily search for trends and inputting the information here is a valuable contribution to our ongoing research.
New Enrichment Approval Form: This form is used to submit new ideas for enrichment to the Enrichment Committee. New Enrichment Approval Forms require the approval of both the veterinarian and the president. Once a form has been approved, the form should be emailed to the Volunteer Committee and Coordinators, posted to the Important Updates and included on the Approved Enrichment List. These forms can be found in the Enrichment Library on the BigCat.me site.
There are two levels of certification for enrichment; Yellow Level (Keepers, Level 1 Interns and Partners) and Green Level (Senior Keepers, Level 3 Interns and Partners)
Certification Process for Keepers and Interns
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 making enrichment on 1 occasion.
Step 3: Be observed by a Certified Trainer handing out enrichment to 6 cats, no more than 3 signs offs per occasion.
Step 4: Be observed by an Enrichment Committee Member or Staff Member handing out enrichment to 3 cats on at least 1 occasion.
Certification Process for Partners
Step 1: Observe a Certified Keeper handing out enrichment to the cats on one occasion.
Step 2: Request a yellow level cat assignment from the Operations Manager.
Step 3: Bring reading material with you on your normally scheduled volunteer day.
Step 4: Schedule a time with your Coordinator on your normal volunteer day to do an enrichment reading session.
Step 5: Spend a minimum of 15 minutes reading to your assigned cat. You may take a chair out to the tour path near your assigned cat, or utilize one of the benches if nearby.
Step 6: Acquire 6 signs offs, 1 per visit reading to your assigned cat.
A keeper or intern who has completed certification and is experienced at handing out enrichment may train and sign off on other volunteers within the levels they are certified. A keeper certified to give enrichment to Yellow Level cats may train and sign off on Yellow Level cats only, a keeper certified to give enrichment to Yellow and Green Level cats may train and sign off on both levels. Coordinators assign trainers to sign off on enrichment certifications.
QUALIFIED TEACHERS FOR THIS CLASS ARE:
Any Coordinator or these keepers; Brittany.Mira@BigCatRescue.org, Karma.Hurworth@BigCatRescue.org, Maureen.Calderon@BigCatRescue.org
Print out Enrichment Certification Yellow Keeper form.
Print out Enrichment Certification Green Keeper form.
Print out Enrichment Certification Yellow Partner form.
QUIZ AT LINK