What Is Enrichment?
According to the Smithsonian National Zoo, enrichment gives animals a creative outlet for physical activity and mental exercise, as well as choice and control over how they spend their time.
Some small things we can do to provide enrichment to our pets include puzzle feeders that encourage animals to forage for food, climbing structures that enhance habitats, and training sessions where animals can interact with their owners.
Inside Your Snake’s Enclosure:
Providing enrichment within your snake’s enclosure is a form of enrichment called environmental enrichment. Environmental enrichment is defined as changing a captive animal's environment in a way that improves the animal's quality of life.
Promoting Natural Behaviors In The Wild
We can provide enrichment methods that promote natural behaviors such as digging by providing species appropriate loose substrates. Most snakes have the ability to burrow as that is typically how most eggs are laid, obviously there are some exceptions to this (live bearing snakes). Providing a nice digging area within your enclosure is a great way to encourage your pet to exhibit some of their natural digging behaviors.
Try Different Substrates For Your Snake
In our latest video, we went over how to create a snake dig box. This is a great way to provide some extra enrichment for your snake, by giving them a new environment to explore.Lori Torrini from Behavior Education LLC provided some great tips to ensure your snake dig box is safe for your snake. “The important thing is to make sure whatever it is not toxic to the snake, if it is absorbed, inhaled, or ingested. So do your research there. And the other thing is that you're not forcing the interaction. The snake can choose to interact with it, whether that is something that's dry or wet or mud or, you know, different thicknesses of substrate, but like things like dried rice, and I'm also thinking fall like autumn things, you see, like Indian corn and all of the dried things that people use as fall type decorations, you know, things like that, as long as it's something that isn't toxic or harmful to the snake, you can throw in there and see if they interact.”
For our snake dig box, we provided our Kenyan Sand Boa, Mr. Cheese with a substrate bin filled with dried rice. He immediately began digging and burrowing himself in the substrate as soon as we placed him in it. This was such a fun exercise that we did for enrichment purposes, and we highly recommend you create this at home!
Providing Mental Stimulation
Providing mental stimulation to your pet is probably one of the most important forms of enrichment and is called either behavioral or cognitive enrichment. Animals have the ability to become bored and when that happens you can sometimes see negative effects, like behavioral changes or even illness. Some things you can do within your snake’s enclosure is provide foraging opportunities, puzzle feeders and even moving all the enclosure décor around.
Providing Physical Exercise
For physical exercise, we go back to the term of environmental enrichment. If you have an arboreal species, you are probably already providing lots of climbing opportunities, but providing ample climbing options to semi-arboreal and terrestrial animals is a great way to help them build up muscle mass for a healthier animal. If you have a more terrestrial or fossorial species, providing a loose substrate that they can tunnel in is another amazing option!
Snake DIY Board
At Zen Habitats we wanted to create a snake tactile board, sometimes referred to as a snake jungle gym. We are hoping to provide some environmental enrichment for our ambassador snake species by giving them time outside of their terrarium, providing different textures to explore, and climbing opportunities to build muscle mass. To read the full article and how to create your very own snake DIY board at home, click here.
Outside Your Reptiles Enclosure:
We can also provide both environmental and behavioral enrichment outside of our snake’s enclosure. By working with your pet hands on, hopefully you will become enriched too! Here are some ways in which you can enrich your reptile’s life, outside of their habitat.
Introducing Various Types of Smells
If your snake is a picky eater we do not recommend this as it may throw off their eating habits. However, if you would like to try this at home, it is super easy to do so!
Our Animal Care Manager, Kasey, is here to tell us a bit more about how we introduced various smells to our corn snakes’ diet for enrichment purposes. “We tried this out with our corn snake, Phoenix. What I did was I took two of her prey items which are frozen thawed mice. I soaked one in water and I soaked one in frog juice from Reptilinks. And I wanted to do this to see her scent response to show her something that wasn't her typical scent and see if she was interested in it. And she went right for the frog juice mouse. So that made me really excited to see that she's totally open for variation.”
Reptile toys provide incredible behavioral enrichment. Some of our favorite options are puzzle feeders and treat dispensers. Only in recent years have we seen commercially made reptile toys, but you can use toys that are made for other species like dogs, cats, birds and small mammals.
Complete Snake Care Guides
At Zen Habitats, one of our missions is to provide the best possible care for your reptiles. Below is a list of snake care guides, which provides everything from the basics to advanced tips for taking care of your snake.