Enrichment toys are a great way to keep your small pet entertained while also allowing them to satisfy their naturally inquisitive behaviours. But it’s important to remember that not all small pets 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 a toy to make sure it’s safe before offering it to your pet – whether you’re making it at home or buying it.
Making enrichment toys 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 for herbivores it can also help to increase the amount of hay they eat – which helps to keep both their teeth and digestive system healthy.
And you don’t have to stop at toilet rolls! Other materials that can be used to make these kinds of toys are:
- 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.
You can 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 toy 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 can reach it!
Image credit @thesecretlifeofw00andpee
Chinchillas are natural chewers and very much enjoy having a good old chomp! Not only do chinchillas like to chew, this is also good for their teeth, as they are constantly growing and so chewing helps to wear them down and prevent overgrowth and the formation of spurs.
Wood is a great material for your chinchilla to chew on, and small wood sticks are ideal 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 (examples of safe woods include apple or pear wood), and also make sure the wood hasn’t been treated, glued or painted.
Other small pets also love chew toys too, and these are great for wearing down their constantly growing teeth.
The hamster wheel is one of the most well-known enrichment toys for small furries. The wheel helps to encourage exercise and is also great for preventing boredom. And it’s not just hamsters who like these wheels – gerbils, degus and chinchillas will also 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 side of the wheel, toes and tails could 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 they will often chew through this!
Snuffle mats are mats covered in lots of soft felt strands. You can hide food pellets and treats within these strands to encourage their small pet to nose and ‘snuffle’ around to find them. As with the stuffed toilet rolls mentioned earlier, these mats also encourage foraging behaviours and are a great boredom buster!
Image credit @nibbit.and.nova
Treats can be used to stimulate your small pet mentally and physically. Examples of these are:
- Stickles with Timothy Hay and Herbs which are tasty treats made from natural ingredients including Timothy hay – which helps to increase your pet’s daily fibre intake and helps to support dental and digestive wellbeing. These treats are suitable for rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and chinchillas, and they can be hung around your pet’s enclosure to encourage them to move, search and gnaw.
- Selective Naturals Berry or Orchard Loops which are delicious loop-shaped nuggets that are suitable for several different small pets including guinea pigs, rabbits, chinchillas and degus. Like the stickle treats, these loops are also high in fibre and their small size means they’re perfect for hiding around your small pet’s enclosure. They’re also ideal for handfeeding which can help to increase your bond with your pet.
Although treats are great for enrichment, it’s always important to bear in mind that you should only feed these 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.
So that concludes our guide to enrichment toys in small furries. We’ve listed just a few of our favourite toys, 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 pet, and interchange your pet’s toys as this will help to prevent boredom by keeping their mind busy!