CAPE GIRARDEAU — The dogs and cats at the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri aren't just sitting around in their pens while waiting to be adopted.
The society in Cape Girardeau has begun a kennel enrichment program to reduce the stress for animals. The program includes playing music, using oils to stimulate the animals' sense of smell and providing them with different toys and activities to keep them moving. As an added bonus, potential owners can see the animals being playful.
The Southeast Missourian reports the games include "Cheerios from Heaven," a game for dogs in which a staffer throws cereal in the air and lets the dogs find it. Other ideas include freezing cheese into ice or putting kibble and peanut butter into rubber toys for the dogs to get to after they chase the toy around the pen. Treats are sometimes also placed in paper bags for the dogs to tear apart.
For cats, brushes are attached to cage doors so they have something to rub on and toys made of feathers and other items are hung in the kennels.
The program gives the animals something to do while they wait for their new homes, said director Kelly Goff.
"It calms them," Goff said. "Well, maybe not right at the moment, but throughout the day it decreases levels of barking."
Kennel enrichment activities apparently are becoming popular across the country. The Cape Girardeau staff learned about the program at an animal care expo they attended earlier this year in Nashville, Tenn.
Most of the toys used in the program are donated, but they go fast because the shelter takes in an average of 10 animals a day, Goff said.
The shelter took in 3,378 animals last year and is on track to meet or exceed that this year. About 60 percent of the animals it accepts are adopted or sent to rescue shelters, but the others must be euthanized.