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Animal Welfare and Toys

January 8, 2024 Corrine Trevino, MS

Enriching the lives of animals extends far beyond providing the necessities of food, water, and shelter. Recognizing the cognitive, emotional, and physical needs of animals and taking steps toward satisfying those needs plays a pivotal role in enhancing their overall well-being.

It is a fundamental scientific truth that animals are sentient beings and thus have the capacity for emotions that were historically reserved as being unique to humans. The sentience of animals has even yielded the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare: Freedom from hunger and thirst, Freedom from discomfort, Freedom from pain, injury, or disease, Freedom to express normal behavior, and lastly, Freedom from fear and distress.1 The pet industry plays in multiple freedoms. Whether it is food to prevent hunger, prescription diets to help treat disease, or veterinary medicine to treat pain, injury, and diseases that cannot be resolved with a diet change, the pet industry’s mission should be to elevate and deliver the highest standard of animal care. However, if looking for the most playful and happy area of the pet market, look no further than pet toys.

The global market for pet toys clocked in at 8 billion USD last year in 2022. From 2023 to 2030, the market is forecasted to exhibit a 6.5% CAGR, reaching up to 13 billion USD by 2030.2 Additionally, this market was positively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily due to increased pet ownership. Not only is the market growth promising, but toys play an important role in one of the Five Freedoms – the freedom to express normal behavior.

Toys contribute to the natural development and healthy outlet of natural animal behaviors. For example, scratching posts for cats fulfill their instinctive need to sharpen claws, preventing destructive scratching on furniture, and chasing wand toys helps to satisfy the desire to chase prey. Chew toys satisfy dog’s natural desire to chew and tug toys provide an opportunity to interact with owners.

Just as humans benefit from mental stimulation and engagement, animals also require cognitive challenges to lead fulfilling lives. Toys and enrichment activities designed to stimulate their brains contribute significantly to their overall mental health. Puzzle feeders engage animals in problem-solving, and foraging behavior, and help promote mental agility. Physical activity is another factor that is integral to the health and well-being of animals. Toys that encourage movement and exercise help maintain the overall fitness of animals, preventing obesity and promoting cardiovascular health. Toys like fetch balls and frisbees for dogs and wand toys for cats engage pets in physical activity which helps maintain healthy weight and a strong musculoskeletal system.

Consider choosing a variety of different toys for pets, including different textures, shapes, and sounds to provide variety. Rotating toys can help to keep them exciting, prevent monotony, and encourage engagement for pets without having to continually purchase new toys. For the holidays, consider wrapping some stuffed toys in paper for dogs to open – not only is this a healthy outlet for natural behavior, but it also allows them to engage with the rest of the family during festivities!

The impact of toys and enrichment on overall animal well-being cannot be overstated. From fostering cognitive stimulation to promoting physical health and natural behaviors, thoughtful enrichment initiatives are vital for improving the overall quality of life for our pets.


  1. The Five Freedoms for Animals. Animal Humane Society. https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/health/five-freedoms-animals
  2. October 2023. Pet Toys Market Size, Share, Industry, Forecast and Outlook (2023-2030). Data M Intelligence. https://www.datamintelligence.com/research-report/pet-toys-market

About the Author: Corrine Trevino, M.S. works at BSM Partners as a Product Innovation Manager. She can generally be found outside of work walking, training, and playing with her dogs or wrangling her flock of sheep after a daring escape.

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