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Sunday, July 17th, 2016 @ 3:00pm

Nicole Nicassio-Hiskey and Cinthia Alia Mitchell, authors of 'Beyond Squeaky Toys – Innovative Ideas for Eliminating Problem Behaviors and Enriching the Lives of Dogs and Cats' discuss ways to keep our furry friends entertained and happy.


Enviromental Enrichment from Animal Community Talks on Vimeo.




 Cinthias Picture  

 There’s that old saying, “idle hands are the Devil’s plaything.” It’s a sinister way of saying that boredom leads to mischief, and usually not the good kind.

And then there's, “time flies when you’re having fun!” When our bodies and minds are engaged in challenging and interesting activity, the hours slip by unnoticed, and we usually wind up feeling happy and fulfilled.

This is all very well and good, but sometimes the application of obvious principles is more vexing and difficult than they should be. This is most especially true of children and pets.

But, where there are probably countless helpful resources for parents to better engage their children in productive and thoughtful playtime, there isn’t a whole lot of organized information for pet owners. Consulting with a veterinarian, or an animal behavior specialist, like Dr. Chris Pachel or Dr. Marci Koski, is often the result of long-standing behavior problems – destructive habits, separation anxiety, hostility or aggressiveness, howling, barking, and scratching.

By understanding our pets’ needs, and allowing their unique natural drive for mental and physical activity to flourish, we can create happy, safe, and entertaining environments. This goes for all manner of pets - dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, even reptiles and fish.

Building a more stimulating environment and routine for pets can help avoid the development of bad behavior, and reduce incidences of sudden aggression or destruction.

Last Sunday, our ACT audience heard from Nicole Nicassio-Hiskey and Cinthia Alia Mitchell, both belonging to the master class for environmental enrichment techniques – zoo and marine animal habitats. They share a passion for helping humans better engage with their non-human companions.

In their book, 'Beyond Squeaky Toys – Innovative Ideas for Eliminating Problem Behaviors and Enriching the Lives of Dogs and Cats', Cinthia and Nicole provide ideas and strategies for engaging our pets’ natural curiosity, prey and play drive.

Some activities are recommended under supervision, others are intended to keep dogs and cats entertained while their humans are away. Behavior-specific activities are also discussed, including ways to satisfy a dog’s desire to dig and sniff, without destroying your flower beds.

After the presentation, the audience had a chance to ask specific questions about their own pets, and discussed applying some of these methods to animals with restrictions, such as disabled pets or those in shelters.  Ultimately, everyone came away with fun ideas and new strategies for expanding their pets’ world beyond squeaky toys.


"I have always known I wanted to work with animals.  When I was a young girl, I remember telling everyone I was going to be just like Jacques Cousteau!  Then one day I watched a movie called "The Day of the Dolphin".  I thought it would be so cool to work with dolphins, and develop a relationship with them, just like in the movie!  Several years after watching the movie my parents took us to Sea World and that clinched it for me.  I knew one day I would work with dolphins and whales.  Well, my dream came true and even better because not only did I get to work with marine mammals, but I also got to work with a wide variety of exotic and domestic animals.   I know l am doing what I was meant to do and I feel very blessed." -Cinthia


"Ever since I can remember, I have been interested in biology and all things "animal". If it swam, ran, hopped or flew, I tried to catch it so I could study it more closely. I remember catching caterpillars, frogs, lizards, butterflies and bees all the time when I was a kid growing up in Santa Barbara, California. Being this close to the beach, I fell in love with the ocean and all the animals that lived in it. I was one of those kids that felt more comfortable with my shoes off. I enjoyed being outside barefoot in the dirt, grass and water watching and following nature. Later on, my family moved to Eastern Oregon and even though ocean beaches (my favorite place) were far away, my interest in animals and nature never wavered. I continued to pester my parents for any pet and had cats, dogs, a turtle, newts, rats and a rabbit. In these later years, I started training my pets too. I loved the human-animal relationship and couldn't get enough of it. After graduating from college, I was fortunate enough to obtain my dream job, a career working with exotic and domesticated animals. Twenty three years later, I continue to cherish the opportunities I have working and training fascinating animals and their caretakers." ~Nicole