The Importance Of Enrichment
We all know that dogs and cats love to play with toys that they can chew and chase, but our small animal companions such as the rabbit, guinea pig, ferret and rat often get overlooked when it comes to mentally and physically stimulating activities. Environmental and behavioural enrichment is essential for any captive animal; whether that be in a zoo, aquarium, backyard, sanctuary, coop, cage or living room! Providing safe and engaging toys and items for all types of pets is important so they can meet their psychological and physiological needs.
Rabbits are one of the most popular domestic pets. They naturally enjoy tunnelling, digging and chewing, so it is great to encourage this behaviour in the correct ways. Chew toys are absolutely essential, as that is one of their favourite things to do! There are many home D.I.Y toys that you can make for your rabbit with no hassle. For example, take a cardboard toilet roll (unscented), and fill it with grasses, hays, fruits and vegetables so they can spend time pulling it out. Cardboard boxes are also fantastic for hiding and playing in – just make sure that it is big enough for the rabbit to move freely. You can even cut some windows and doors into the box! It’s important to remember that rabbits love to dig, so you can fill a box with shredded paper for them to dig through as well.
Although these sneaky little creatures love to spend 16 to 20 hours a day sleeping they are bouncy, energetic and entertaining when they are awake! A fantastic and easy home-made toy for your ferret is an old t-shirt or jumper. Ferrets absolutely love to explore throughout the garment, and tunnel through the sleeves. There are also some dog toys, such as a Kong that you can fill with some Vetafarm Ferret Origins so they can roll it around and try to get the food out. It is important to remember to only buy or make toys that are an appropriate size for your ferret, so that they can’t swallow small pieces.
Anybody with a guinea pig would know how much they love to hide away and chew things! A lot of toys that are safe for rabbits can also double up for a guinea pig. Making sure they have boxes or houses with adequate space to hide and stretch within their cages or play pens is essential for your pig. They also need plenty of time outside of their cage to run around and eat food to ensure your pig is happy and healthy.
Rats & Mice
Naturally, rats and mice need to work hard and forage for their food, so any sort of foraging toy is essential to help enrich the lives of our little pocket pets. Many of the bird foraging toys on the market are actually safe for use with rodents – just make sure they can’t swallow small parts. You can suspend a foraging toy from a low point in their cage (in case they fall), which is great at giving your rodent the chance to climb and work for their food, as they would in nature.
It is important to ensure that you are selecting or creating safe toys for your pet, as they can easily swallow something that isn’t digestible! This includes things such as plastic, towelling and blanket fibres. Ferrets may need a little more supervision when out to play, as they are very prone to swallowing foreign bodies!