Many of our small animal patients spend a lot of their time in cages or hutches inside or outside. These pets need boredom busters too. There are many things that you can do to help enrich their lives. Many of these ideas can come from recycled materials while others can be purchased at your local pet store! It is also important to get your small animal/pocket pet out daily for grooming, attention and exercise. Many can benefit from play time outside as well. One can purchase small animal play pens so that your small animal can enjoy the grass and catch some rays on a sunny day. They also make small harnesses that can be fitted on a rabbit, ferret or cavy so that they can be supervised outside. We advise that pets are always supervised while outside and never left unattended. Just like other animals it is best if you rotate your pet’s toys frequently so that they have the excitement of playing with new things. Small animals who are not active also suffer from obesity just like their dog and cat counterparts. Some animals that experience boredom can also have behavior problems and can become destructive to themselves and their environment. Enrichment can appeal to any of the senses.
Some caged animals such as birds and sugar gliders like to play with toys that make noise. So purchasing toys that include bells can provide hours of entertainment. Birds, sugar gliders, chinchillas and ferrets are a few examples of critters that like their toys placed at different heights in the cage. Making them move around and be active is a great way to keep them happy and healthy. Make sure that any toys that you choose are safe and are not choking hazards, if pets chew on the toys and break off small pieces be sure to remove them immediately. Birds also enjoy looking at themselves in mirrors so providing different mirrors or toys that include them can provide a lot of entertainment.
A great way to go green and save money is to give pets items that are all ready around the house. You will begin to see trash as treasure for your pets. Rabbits love old phone books, they will shred them and be very proud of their accomplishments. Toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls are typically enjoyed by hamsters, rats, rabbits, cavies and animals alike. You can also stuff these rolls with hay or other treats and make them work to get them out. Small animals enjoy hiding in and digging in old boxes. The Kleenex box or empty pop tart box can provide shelter and enrichment to your small furry friends.
Create your own puzzle toys! If you save your empty plastic water bottles you can drill holes in them, place treats inside and allow the pets to knock them around in order to receive the reward. Many small animals enjoy hay feeders. These are feeders that attach to the side of the cage and they have to pull the hay from the holes. Some small animals will enjoy pushing plastic whiffle balls around their cage or play space. You can also place treats in the whiffle balls and have the pet work to retrieve the prizes inside. Plastic shower curtain rings can be attached to one another and be hung in cages to give the animals things to play with. Shower rings can be purchased at the dollar store.
Some small animals will also enjoy small dog toys. For example, you can fill a Kong toy with special treats for your small animals. A Kong filled with greens and carrots can be a rabbits dream. Other puzzle toys suited for dogs and cats can also be used in your small animals. Make sure that you first check with your veterinarian or find a reliable resource on which treats are appropriate to feed your particular species.
We hope that you find these as helpful hints to keep your small animals lives active! If you ever have questions about what is appropriate for your pet feel free to contact our office any time.
Amanda Siciliano, Vet Assistant/Supervisor/Social Media Team
Stow Kent Animal Hospital
For more information on enrichment and types of enrichment visit https://www.aza.org/enrichment/