A number of studies have shown that extended and repeated exposure to a toy depletes its enrichment value over time, as the animal becomes bored with it. Even when a toy is coupled with social housing, boredom sets in over time.
When an enrichment item is first placed in the cage, the animal is curious and explores it. However, over time, items begin to function less as enrichment and more as furniture in the enclosure. They still have a function but that function is more utilitarian than enriching. The same is true of enrichments that present food; these become “feed bowls” over time.
How do you prevent boredom and keep the enrichment device fresh and interesting to the animal? There are several things you can do:
Think presentation – an item first presented on the floor of the cage or in bedding looks very different when suspended from the top or the side of the cage.
Think rotation – select a second type of enrichment and rotate the items on a regular basis. This allows proper sanitation of the toys and the animals enjoy a “new” object every two weeks or so. By doing a simple rotation between two different enrichment types, for example foraging and climbing, or hiding, you can prolong the functional life of all the items you purchase. Rotation, variety and randomness will keep enrichment devices fresh and interesting and your enrichment program effective.