Boredom in Animals Can be Reduced With Behavioral Enrichment

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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.

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