Enrichment activities are a great way to keep small pets entertained, while also allowing them to satisfy their inquisitive natures. But it’s important to remember that not all small animals are the same, and a toy that’s okay for a hamster won’t necessarily be safe for a gerbil. Because of this, you should always read up on toys or activities to make sure they’re safe before offering them to your pet.
Making enrichment activities at home
One easy way you can make an enrichment toy for your pet at home is by stuffing items such as toilet rolls with a mixture of hay and treats. These toys will encourage your pet to have a good old forage, and can also help to increase the amount of hay they eat – which helps to keep both their dental and digestive systems healthy.
And you don’t have to stop at toilet rolls! There are plenty of other materials you can use to create homemade tunnels and hidey-holes, including:
- Kitchen towel rolls
- Brown paper bags (plain and unprinted)
- Brown envelopes (with the sticky part removed)
- Egg boxes/trays (plain and unprinted)
- Unbleached sisal, hemp, or paper twines
- Cardboard boxes (plain and unprinted)
Always make sure any cardboard used is brown, unbleached and made without any dyes to ensure it is as safe as possible for your pet.
And, if DIY isn’t your thing, there are also plenty of ready-made nesting boxes and tunnel options – just make sure they’re safe for your small animal.
You can also get really creative with the toys you make! Below is an example of a washing line treat hanger, where a bunny (or other small pet) can seek out treats that have been clipped to a miniature washing line with tiny pegs. This activity is great for keeping your pet’s mind busy, and you can also hang the washing line up high to get your pet moving about – just make sure your pet is able to reach the treats!
Image credit @thesecretlifeofw00andpee
Chinchillas are natural chewers and very much enjoy having a good old chomp! Not only do chinchillas enjoy chewing, it’s also good for their teeth, which constantly grow and so need to be worn down with fibrous food and treats to prevent spur formation and overgrowth.
Wood is a great material for your chinchilla to gnaw on, and small wood sticks are ideal for these little creatures, as they’re small enough for your chinchilla to pick up and hold while they chew. However, it’s important to make sure any wood you give your pet is chinchilla-safe (with some examples of safe woods including apple or pear wood), and also make sure the wood hasn’t been treated, glued or painted.
As well as chinchillas, there are also lots of other small pets that love to chew, so it’s worth considering sticks for other animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, degus and hamsters – but always make sure any sticks you offer your pet are safe for them!
The hamster wheel is one of the most well-known enrichment toys for small furries. The wheel helps to encourage exercise and it’s also great for preventing boredom. And it’s not just hamsters who like these wheels – gerbils, degus and chinchillas will also often enjoy having a run around.
When purchasing a wheel for your pet, it’s important to remember to:
- Select a solid-sided wheel as – if there are any gaps or slats in the sides of the wheel – toes and tails can easily get caught causing injury.
- Make sure your wheel is big enough for your pet, as small wheels will cause your pet’s spine to arch which can result in back problems.
- Never select a plastic wheel for gerbils, chinchillas and degus, as these animals have a tendency to chew through this material!
Relatively new to the pet market, snuffle mats are great for stimulating natural foraging behaviours. These mats are covered in lots of soft felt strands or “leaves”, which are perfect for hiding food pellets and small treats, so your pet can enjoy nosing and “snuffling” around to seek them out, making these mats a great boredom buster activity!
Image credit @nibbit.and.nova
As we’ve already mentioned, treats are a great way to stimulate your small pet mentally and physically. Some examples of different ways to use treats to create enrichment activities for your small pet include:
- Using treats to encourage gnawing and chewing Some slightly larger treats can be used to encourage small pets to nibble and chew – instinctive behaviours that also help to protect the dental health of these animals. One example of this is Tiny Friends Farm Stickles with Timothy Hay and Herbs which are treats made from delicious ingredients that are naturally high in fibre and perfect for gnawing. Suitable for rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and hamsters, the Stickles can be hung around a pet’s enclosure, promoting movement by encouraging pets to stand on their back legs to reach the treats for a nibble.
- Handfeeding treats. Bite-sized treats are great for feeding by hand, which can help to strengthen the all-important pet-owner bond. Selective Naturals Berry and Orchard Loops are tasty loop-shaped nuggets that are suitable for several different small pets including rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and degus. Like the stickle treats, these loops are high in fibre.
- Using treats to promote foraging. Finally, as we’ve discussed, smaller treats can also be hidden in bedding, toys, tunnels and nesting boxes to encourage sniffing and searching behaviours, keeping pets entertained and mentally stimulated. Tiny Friends Farm Russel Rabbit Fruities are crunchy baked bites that are a great example of treats that stimulate foraging, and the Fruities also contain cherry and apricot, which bunnies will love!
Although treats are great for enrichment, it’s always important to bear in mind that you should only ever feed them in moderation, as too many treats can lead to obesity, as well as several other health problems. Treats with no added sugar are best for your pet’s health.
These are another great way to encourage your small pets to get up and about. These hollow balls have multiple holes in their surface, meaning they can be filled with finely chopped veg or treats, and pets will have to push the ball around to receive their edible reward when it drops through the holes as the ball rolls. Some treat balls are also large enough for rabbits, and other small furries, to have to stand on their hind legs to roll the ball around, promoting further movement.
You can also stuff the holes in the treat balls with leaves and herbs, meaning small pets will have to work out how to pull them out – yet another activity to keep them entertained!
So, that concludes our guide to enrichment toys in small furries! We’ve listed just a few of our favourite toys and activities, but there are so many other options out there. Make sure you do your research to work out which forms of enrichment are suitable for your animal, and interchange your pet’s toys, as this will help to prevent boredom by keeping their mind busy and their bodies active!