Boredom in Animals Can be Reduced With Behavioral Enrichment

Environmental Enrichment Provides Improved Welfare for Captive Mink. Photo Credit: US National Park Service

A 2012 study from the University of Guelph found that mink kept in simple housing units were more likely to respond to all types of stimuli than were mink housed in units with more variation.

While not surprising, it is the first time a study has proven that animals placed in barren environments are bored and that some simple forms of enrichment can reduce that boredom.

Dr. Rebecca Meagher, lead author on the study, talked to Decoded Science about the implications of this study and the potential for further work to answer other questions about boredom in captive animals and to determine whether chronically bored animals might be at risk for negative health issues.

Boredom in Humans Linked to Potential Behavioral and Health Problems

Several studies of boredom in people have shown higher rates of clinical depression, which in turn has been linked to increased risk of heart problems. The connections are, however, largely suspected to be a result of the behaviors bored people may engage in. From being more likely to drink alcohol and eat junk food to being less likely to exercise, these lifestyle issues certainly play a role. But there is also a suspicion that potentially dangerous hormones may be released when people are bored.

It may be possible in the near future, using these proven methods of evaluating boredom in pets, to assess whether bored animals suffer any significant health impacts. For the present, according to Dr. Meagher, the results of the study have significant welfare implications for animals, both pets in the home and animals held in captivity for other reasons.

Click to Read Page Two: Separating Boredom from Apathy and Anhedonia

© Copyright 2012 Dawn M. Smith, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Science

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  1. Dawn says

    Thank you, Daniel. Moving the cage around my help but you can also try new toys or changing toys around. “Novel” stimuli seem to be the most helpful. Puzzle type toys often work well with birds-having to get a treat out of a container by performing several steps and also giving her things to chew on (other than herself).
    LadyBird is not unusual, as many of the parrot group have complex social behaviors within a flock and often do not adapt well to other parrots if they have been hand-reared by people in the absence of other parrots.

  2. says

    Nice article. We have a pet lovebird called Ladybird who plucks her own feathers when she’s bored.

    We try to let her out of her cage and play with her, but we need to be more creative so she doesn’t continue these self-harming behaviours. As for getting her a replacement mate, she is too aggressive.

    She definitely responds to stimulus, so we’ll try moving her cage around the condo and letting her out more.

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