Animal Enrichment at the High Desert Museum

Caring for animals at the High Desert Museum involves more than just cleaning, feeding and watering; like the rest of us, bobcats thrive if given numerous opportunities to express their species-specific play behavior. Termed “enrichment,” this regular stimulation is a vital part of keeping them well and happy.

We offer them activities that they’d be drawn to in the wild. We know our beautiful bobcat Vivi would stalk prey so we toss scented balls and other toys for her to chase and catch. She plays like a kitten but at age 14, Vivi is one of our senior citizens. She can get stiff with arthritis, so exercise helps improve her circulation and keeps her joints moving. We hide food inside toys and boxes to get those paws working.

Besides physical activity, the animals need mental stimulation. We strive to stimulate all of the animals’ senses. Vivi, it turns out, is a music lover, and (based on purr volume!) seems to prefer Mozart and other classical pieces over other genres we’ve tried. We sometimes also place different scents around her enclosure, such as cinnamon, cloves, and catnip to stimulate her sense of smell. Enrichment improves the lives of the animals in our care, and it’s also one of the most enjoyable parts of our job here at the High Desert Museum.

Louise Shirley, Assistant Curator of Wildlife