March, 2021

March 26, 2021

Breaking Down Bunny Bonding: 6 Tips and Tricks

Breaking Down Bunny Bonding: 6 Tips and Tricks

Bonding bunnies can seem like a Herculean task, but with patience, understanding, and the proper guidance it can be a great experience for both pets and pet parents alike. The House Rabbit Society’s Executive Director, Dr. Anne Martin, joins veterinarian and Oxbow’s Vice President of Technical Services, Dr. Micah Kohles, to tackle interested bunny parents’ most pressing bonding rabbit bonding questions.

1. There are so many different theories and ways to bond rabbits. What is your standard method and what is your standard process?

So, it really is an art and it's not a science. The two rules are:

1) Do everything you can to not let the rabbits get hurt. Right? We don't want anybody to get hurt. And…
2) Have a lot of patience and creativity because really sometimes the rabbits can be smarter than we are about some things.

And some of us have tried to, you know, cover all your electrical cords in the house. Sometimes we discover that the rabbits are a little smarter than we are the first time around and it takes a couple of iterations to figure it out. So the same goes with bonding. The first thing that we might try with bonding might not be the technique that works for our particular rabbits or this particular species. Try different ideas and different ways of trying to get the rabbits together. And, have patience about it.

We usually tell our adopters that we expect the average bonding is going to take about two and a half weeks.  Everybody's heard of someone whose rabbits... you just put them together and they fell in love and it was love at first sight and you never have to separate them. And that is super, super rare. We don't want anybody to expect that even if their first bond was like that.

Maybe they have a bunny who lost their friend and the first bond was super easy and they're expecting that the second time around it's going to be super easy. But, every relationship with rabbits is different and you just can't expect that the second time around you're going to have that same experience.

We want everybody to be thinking that it's going to take at least two and a half weeks of doing supervised sessions with the rabbits in your home before there's the possibility that they're going to be living together full-time. This means that you want to set up a separate enclosure for your rabbit, your new rabbit at home, and be ready for them to be living separately.

Tips For Success: Utilize Exercise Pens  

What we recommend in that time period is to have them set up in enclosures like exercise pens. We really like exercise pens. And have them set up side-by-side so they can see each other and smell each other. And sometimes they do a little bit of passive bonding, even when we're not working with them because they can see and smell and do things together. So one rabbit goes in the litter box and the other rabbit goes in their litter box.

Even though they're separate, they're still spending that time together and building a relationship. So, you know, getting set up for it to be a little bit of a long haul.

Common Mistakes: Too Much Space, Too Quickly

One mistake that we see people make all the time is they will let their bunny at home (who's maybe used to being free roaming in the house, or maybe they just have a lot of out of pen time) and they set up those two pens side by side. And then they let out their bunny to run around and the bunny's running around the ex-pen of the new bunny. And it just sets the bunny off because they're confined in that space and the bunny is kind of teasing them a little bit like "This is my house. This is my space." And the bunny who's in the enclosure can get resentful of that.

We see that it actually takes them longer for the rabbits to bond if you're letting them out to exercise where the new bunny can see it. So what we recommend is having the two ex-pens side-by-side. But during that two and a half weeks, you know, that's an average. It could be a month or more. It could be two months or more. But during the period of time where you're doing active bonding sessions with the rabbits, not letting them run around each other's enclosures and taking them to a location where they can't see each other when they're going to be out, you know, exercising.

The Importance of Neutral Space

And then doing bonding sessions where you're taking them together in the most neutral space that you have. For some people, that's in their bathroom. You know, maybe their bunny likes to run around the whole house. It can be really hard to find neutral space. Maybe you have a patio that the rabbit doesn't go on. And if you live in an area without RHDV, you can set that up to be safe and bunny-proof where you could do introductions in a neutral space. I think in a worst-case scenario, you don't have any space in your house that's neutral. If you have a friend - and of course, with COVID, it makes it more difficult - but if you have a friend that doesn't have rabbits then that's going to be a neutral space. And you could even borrow their garage or if they're going to be away from the house, maybe there's some period of time where you could borrow a room and have all the windows open and clean up before they leave, you know before they come home. Just so you have something totally neutral where you're introducing the rabbits.

2. Does gender matter when it comes to bonding rabbits?  

I think the personalities of the rabbit honestly makes more of a difference than the sex of the rabbit. A lot of people who try to bond male and female pairs to try that out, you know, at the time have dates with different rabbits. But I know a lot of rabbits that are same-sex pairs that love each other and enjoy each other's company, whether it's male/male pairs or female/female pairs.

I will say that some people feel that female/female pairs can be a little bit more challenging but again, it really depends on the individual rabbits. I had a female and she's now passed on, but I took her to House Rabbits Society to take her on a bunch of speed dates with different rabbits. And I tried several different rabbits and she instantly was chasing after the rabbits and trying to bite them. And on number eight, it was a female and she really liked her. And it was just one of those that the difference was noticeable. I tried eight rabbits. I couldn't have guessed which one she would've liked.

3. Does a difference in size matter when it comes to pairing bunnies?

I personally have had a pair who is a two-and-a-half-pound dwarf and an eight-pound rabbit. And they completely loved each other. We never had any issues with the size difference. I know a couple of rescues that have had some mixes that were even bigger size differences than that, where they had a little dwarf bunny and a Flemish giant type of rabbit. I certainly know of pairs like that. And there's something kind of adorable about that, too. So I would say try to be super open-minded and see if the rabbits like each other.

4.What are the easiest rabbits to bond?

  • The easiest rabbits to bond tend to be rabbits with special needs. For whatever reason, even if it's one rabbit with special needs with a healthy, able-bodied rabbit it tends to be easier.  Two rabbits with special needs tend to be pretty easy as well.
  • Senior rabbits tend to be easier to bond.
  • Rabbits that have had a friend before also tend to be easier. Those rabbits are better at body language. They know how to understand the other rabbit.

The rabbits that might have a harder time are the ones that have been a single bunny for many years. And the last time they spent time with other rabbits was probably when they were a baby. And so they don't have the body language vocabulary that other rabbits have who had a friend before to know what body language is threatening or what body language is friendly. And it just takes them a minute to learn the cues and the signals. To have had a friend before that tends to go faster.

Thinking about bonding a male and female pair? Learn more about spaying and neutering your rabbits.

5. Can I bond my rabbit to another animal?

Rabbits have a pretty unique language with each other. It's a non-verbal one. And guinea pigs and dogs and people for that matter, we don't really speak their language as much as we might try to. And so I think rabbits really enjoy having a companion that's also a rabbit that speaks their language and understands their life experience and what they're going through. And it's adorable to see them cuddle together and groom each other.

When they're with other animals of different species, they can still have a relationship. We always want to make sure that it's a safe relationship - especially with dogs. You want to make sure it's very closely supervised, especially in the beginning. But the dog is not going to speak the rabbit's language in the same way that another rabbit will.

Dogs may have a different kind of having pattern during their day of behavior and what time, whereas rabbits are crepuscular and they're going follow the scene daily routine together. They [rabbits] often will go in the litter box together and nap together enjoy dinner together. These are all things that bring them enjoyment, being able to do it together with another rabbit. Even [guinea] pigs who are similar in terms of their diet and similar in some ways in terms of their health - they still don't speak the same language. There's some risk there also of respiratory disease.

Did you know that rabbits can be litter trained

6. How do I know if my rabbits have successfully bonded?

My basic kind of metric when you're doing a bonding process is once they've spent the first like overnight together, at that point forward I don't separate them.

So, let's say I've done nice, long supervised bonding sessions with the rabbits. And they've been in the pen all day long and I've been able to pop out of the pen - still in earshot. Maybe I go into the kitchen and grab a glass of water and come back and go the bathroom and come back. And the rabbits have been good for hours in the pen together during the bonding session. At that point, I would have them go overnight together in the pen and I would sleep next to the pen. So either have the pen next to the sofa or next to my bed. So that, you know, if they were chasing each other, having a tornado in the middle of the night, I would wake up and help them with the situation.

But if they make it through that overnight (and some nights, you know, I spent most of the night awake working on a bonding situation) but if they stay together through the night, then I will usually leave them together from that point forward. It's important not to expand their space too quickly once they've had that first overnight. I think that's a mistake a lot of people make as well. It's that they're like, "Okay, great. They're sharing the same pen together and it's been a day or two." And then they want to let them out to free-roam the whole house. It gives them too much space too soon. And they go to opposite sides of the room or opposite sides of the house. And then when they see each other, again, we don't necessarily recognize that it's the same bunny that they'd been spending time with up close, and then they can get into a fight.

Watch the Entire Q&A with Dr. Kohles and Dr. Martin

 

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March 23, 2021

All About Chinchillas

All About Chinchillas
by Dianne Cook, LVT
 
                                

March 23rd is National Chinchilla Day! As any chinchilla parent will quickly point out, it’s no surprise these enamoring little herbivores have their own holiday. Intelligent, social, and oh-so-soft, chinchillas are fun, endearing companions. To ensure they live the happiest, healthiest life possible, however, it’s essential to address the species’ unique quirks and specialized needs. Keep reading to learn all about these amazing animals.

Humble Heritage

The domesticated chinchillas we know and love as companions are not that far removed from their wild ancestors. Though endangered, there are still a few colonies of wild chinchillas who make their homes in the cracks and crevices of the rocky, arid peaks of the Andes Mountains in South America. Th+ey live in familial herds that can consist of a few chinchillas upwards of 100 individuals.

To combat the often-frigid temps of life at such a high elevation, chins’ characteristically silky coat is amongst the densest in the animal planet, boasting an average of 60-70 hairs from each follicle (as opposed to one hair per follicle for humans). Agile and athletic, chinchillas use their powerful hind legs to leap up to 6 feet in the air to help navigate the rocky terrain and evade predators. Crepuscular by nature, they are most active at dawn and dusk when they emerge to feed on the scarce alpine vegetation.

Winning Personalities

Chinchillas may boast the softest fur of any mammal, but these extraordinary rodents are so much more than the adorable little puff balls they appear at first glance. Chinchillas are known for being incredibly intelligent, inquisitive creatures with a propensity for mischievousness. Their sweet faces and charming antics can bring an unparalleled sense of joy and levity to any home, but just like humans, each chinchilla is unique in the way they express themselves. If pet parents take the time to “listen” they will find their furry friends display clear preferences and experience an array of thoughts and emotions.

Social Beings

Despite generations of domestication, chinchillas remain highly social animals who need meaningful companionship to live their best lives. Despite our best intentions, chinchilla pet parents are rarely able to provide the level of companionship their little ones need, especially during the times of day they are most active. Sharing your home with a bonded pair (or group) of chinchillas is often preferable as it ensures they are never alone, and the comfort of constant companionship will make them feel more secure and increase their ability to cope with stressful situations.

Enough Love to Go Around

Even if bonded to a buddy (or two) of the same species, chinchillas have plenty of love to share. As prey species, chins are often fearful and dismissive when they’re first introduced to a new environment, but with gentle, consistent handling (and plenty of patience) most chinchillas will develop a deep, meaningful bond with their favorite humans.

Set realistic expectations, take time to learn your chinchilla’s unique mannerisms, and be consistent. Though it likely won’t happen overnight, developing a pleasant, positive routine will ensure your sweet chin will learn to view you as friend instead of foe.

Food for Thought

With appropriate care, chinchillas can live well into their teens, with some reaching ages of 20+! A huge component of a long, healthy life requires feeding a high-quality, species-appropriate diet.

As hindgut fermenters, chinchillas require significant fiber intake to keep their specialized digestive tracts running smoothly. As with other small herbivores, like rabbits and guinea pigs, 70 - 75% of a healthy chinchilla diet should consist of a variety of grass hays. In addition to an always-available source of hay, chinchillas should be fed a measured quantity of a high-quality, uniform, species-specific pelleted diet free from added fruits, nuts, or seeds.

Providing species-appropriate fresh greens and veggies is a wonderful way to maximize nutritional enrichment, but it is essential to remember that chinchillas tend to be more sensitive to sugars than other small mammals, so moderation is essential. Speak with a chin-savvy veterinarian to determine which varieties of produce are most appropriate for your specific chinchilla's needs.

A Safe and Happy Home

Just like their wild cousins, domesticated chins are incredibly athletic and love to display their acrobatic agility through impressive leaps and bounds. As a result, it is important to provide them with a tall, multi-level enclosure that provides ample space for climbing, jumping, and exploring. The more space they have, both horizontally and vertically, the happier your chinchilla will be.

Choose a well-lit, draft-free area of your home to place your chinchillas’ enclosure. Though it may come as no surprise, with all that fur, chinchillas can easily overheat, so their enclosure must be set up in a low-humidity, temperature-controlled environment (60 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal) out of direct sunlight. If the household is extremely active or noisy during the day (when most chinchillas prefer to sleep), it may be best if the enclosure is placed in a quiet room, away from the hustle and bustle to avoid unnecessary stress.

Enrichment is Essential

Regardless of how large a chinchilla’s enclosure may be, living day-in and day-out within the same four walls can lead to boredom and can be very stressful for these incredibly smart, active animals. It is imperative chinchillas are allowed plenty of time outside of their enclosure every day to run, play, jump, and explore in a safe, pet-proof area. In addition to the benefit of a trimmer waistline and better overall health, providing ample time outside their enclosure is a wonderful way to increase the human-animal bond.

In addition to plenty of daily playtime, make sure to provide your chinchilla with a variety of species-appropriate enrichment items (in both their enclosure and play area) to help satisfy their instinctual behaviors of exploring, playing, chewing, and hiding. Simply switching out hides, rearranging the levels of their enclosure, or adding some enticing new chew toys can go a long way to ensuring your furry family members stay mentally fit.

Bath Time

Chinchillas’ enviably plush coats are so thick, they do not dry easily. As a result, it is best to avoid getting them wet as moisture can get trapped close to the skin, leading to painful irritation, inflammation, or infections.

Instead of using water, chinchillas bathe by rolling around in volcanic ash which helps evenly distribute natural oils, clears debris, and keeps their fur silky and smooth. Dust baths should be offered 2 – 4 times a week for 3-5 minutes at a time but should not be a permanent structure in your chinchillas’ habitat. To learn more about why dust baths are so important for chinchillas, please read Dust til Dawn: Chinchillas and Their Dust Baths.

In Conclusion... Chinchillas Are Wonderful Pets!

Whether you’re a new chin parent, a seasoned pro, or interested in adopting your first pair, it’s easy to see why these charismatic, entertaining, and wickedly smart animals have been awarded their own auspicious holiday. Though chinchillas come along with some unique quirks and species-specific requirements, if cared for properly, their charming personalities and silly antics will provide joy and meaningful companionship for many years.

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March 17, 2021

Which Small Pet is Right for You: Guinea Pigs

Which Small Pet is Right for You: Guinea Pigs

Have you ever wondered if a guinea pig may be a good pet for your household but you aren't quite sure? Here is a great summary of piggy temperament as well as how to help them thrive socially.

Piggy Personas

Inquisitive and inherently gentle, guinea pigs make delightfully entertaining companions for folks of all ages. Known for “popcorning” and “zoomies,” their day-to-day antics are sure to bring a smile to your face. Though they aren’t likely to be awarded any advanced academic accolades, guinea pigs can learn an impressive repertoire of simple tricks with the right motivation. Time and consistency are key to teaching your friend a new skill (not to mention treats. Lots and lots of treats).

Community-Minded

Like their fellow small herbivore counterparts, guinea pigs are incredibly social and thrive when living in pairs or groups. As it is nearly impossible to spend every waking moment with your piggy pal, providing them with a friend of the same species will fulfill their need for constant companionship. A solitary guinea pig can become quite lonely and stressed, which, in turn, can negatively impact their physical and emotional wellbeing.

Pairing Piggies

Just because two guinea pigs match the gender pairings outlined below doesn’t mean they’re going to get along right out of the gate. When pairing guinea pigs, it is important to keep their unique personality traits in mind and try to find them a partner who will complement their quirks. As is the case with rabbits, introducing altered guinea pigs is often easier. Even though it will not always be love at first sight, two pigs can often build a very strong relationship if gender pairings and personalities are considered and introductions are taken slowly.

The following gender pairings are ideal:

  • Siblings: raising a pair of same-sex siblings can take the guesswork out of the bonding process. Mothers and daughters can also be great friends.
  • Male/female: a neutered male is free to live with females, whether the females have been altered or not. Some piggy parents will have larger herds consisting of one male and multiple females. An intact male should not be kept with intact females, as unanticipated pregnancies can result in serious complications, especially in older females.
  • Two unrelated females: girls tend to be easier to introduce to one another. In fact, many piggy parents keep relatively large all-female herds. There will be occasional tiffs, especially as a hierarchy is established, but as long as they are provided with an enclosure large enough to accommodate the size of the herd, disagreements are generally short-lived.
  • Two unrelated males: boys can be a bit tougher to introduce to one another, so it is often best to keep them in pairs rather than groups.

Nourishing the Bond

While it is true guinea pigs generally prefer having a friend (or two) of the same species to hang out with, these highly social animals also form strong bonds with their humans.

As prey species, it may take a bit of patience and gentle persistence (not to mention a few yummy treats) before you earn your piggy’s trust, but the reward is certainly worth the effort. Guinea pigs recognize and respond to trusted humans, and are often interactive and affectionate, though in their own unique ways. Once you’ve found favor in the eyes of your guinea pig, you will find those little bodies often harbor big personalities.

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March 08, 2021

Natural Science Supplements: Frequently Asked Questions

Natural Science Supplements: Frequently Asked Questions

Oxbow’s Natural Science supplements were designed with the natural diet of small mammals in mind to address some of their most common health ailments. With the help of leading exotic animal veterinarians and nutritionists, these supplements were developed with herbal ingredients targeted towards mitigating these issues.  

When considering adding supplements to your pets’ diet, it should always start with a conversation with your veterinarian about what is best for your pet. To help facilitate this conversation, we’ve put together answers to some of our most commonly asked supplement-related questions: 

Q:  Is it possible to overfeed Natural Science supplements? 

A:  Yes. As with any supplement, it’s important to follow feeding guidelines at all times. Some ingredients used in our supplements may cause GI upset or other health issues if consumed in excess. It is highly recommended to consult with your veterinarian before incorporating any new supplements into your pet’s diet.  

Q:  Can I feed multiple Natural Science supplements at the same time? 

A:  Yes, you can feed multiple Natural Science supplements at the same time but be sure you follow the feeding directions and do not exceed the daily recommended amount of any of the supplements. Also, we recommend that your veterinarian confirm that your pet can benefit from the addition of any of the Natural Science supplements before feeding them.      

Q:  Can I feed multiple Natural Science supplements at the same time? 

A:  Yes, you can feed multiple Natural Science supplements at the same time but be sure you follow the feeding directions and do not exceed the daily recommended amount of any of the supplements. Also, we recommend that your veterinarian confirm that your pet can benefit from the addition of any of the Natural Science supplements before feeding them.   

Q:  Can Natural Science supplements be given with prescription or over-the-counter medications? 

A:  Yes, but it is imperative you first consult with your veterinarian to ensure there are no potential negative interactions between the Natural Science supplements and pharmaceuticals your little one may be taking.  

Q:  Can any of the Natural Science supplements be fed to young, growing, pregnant or lactating animals? 

A: The following Natural Science supplements are appropriate for young, growing, pregnant or lactating animals:  

  • Vitamin C  
  • Multi-Vitamin  

The following Natural Science supplements are NOT intended for young, growing, pregnant or lactating animals and should not be fed during these life stages unless otherwise recommended by your veterinarian. 

  • Digestive Support 
  • Urinary Support 
  • Skin & Coat 
  • Joint Support  
  • Papaya Support 

Q:  Will Natural Science supplements help cure my pet? Or do they work as a preventative? 

A:  Natural Science supplements were designed for:  

  • Small animals with particular conditions as diagnosed by their veterinarian 
  • Small animals in need of supplemental or additional vitamins/support as recommended by their vet.  

Natural Science supplements are designed to support animals with acute or chronic disease as well as minimize the disease impacts on their bodies.   

Q:  Are Natural Science supplements safe to give animals with bladder health concerns? Do they have a low calcium content? 

A:  All of our Natural Science supplements, when given as recommended, contribute very little calcium to a pet’s overall diet. Only two Natural Science supplements, Multi-Vitamin and Papaya Support, have added calcium which is specially added in minimal amounts solely for functional processing purposes. All other Natural Science supplements only contain the small amount of calcium naturally found in the ingredients.  

If your little one has a history of bladder health concerns, it is always important to make sure your veterinarian is comfortable with the addition of the supplement before adding it to your pet's feeding regime. You can find the guaranteed analysis for each of our supplement varieties on their respective product pages or you can reach out to us directly if the information cannot be found or you would like additional insight.  

Q:  Why is there molasses in these supplements? 

A:  Cane molasses is included in small amounts in most of our Natural Science supplements to act as a natural binding agent to help hold the high fiber, plant-based ingredients together, providing a uniform source of nutrition to your pet. Other types of binders can be synthetic or derived from animal sources and are not appropriate for small mammal species.  

Plant-based cane molasses is an unrefined carbohydrate, meaning it is absorbed much slower over time when compared to rapidly-absorbed, refined carbohydrates. This prevents sudden spikes in blood sugar that are often noted with the consumption of simple carbohydrates.  

You can learn even more about cane molasses and why it is included in some of our formulas in one of our previous blogs

Q:  What if my pet won’t eat their new supplements? 

A:  Most pets readily accept Natural Science supplements.  However, as with any new food item, there is sometimes a transition period that is needed to help your pet become familiar with new flavors and ingredients. Below are a couple of tips that often work to encourage even the pickiest pet to accept a new supplement.  

  • Release the natural aroma of the supplement by rolling one of the tablets in a warm, damp (not overly wet) towel for a couple of seconds/minutes before offering the tablet to your pet. You can even use a towel from the dryer that has not finished drying. This will soften the supplement and release the natural aromas to increase your pet’s interest. 
  • Impart a hint of sweetness by adding a small amount of diluted, unsweetened (preferably organic) 100% apple juice. Only use a couple of drops to provide that enticing flavor without adding excessive sugar.  
  • Offer the supplements during daily floor or snuggle time. You can also break the supplements up and offer them by hand. This can lead to a positive association between the supplements and fun, favored activities.  
  • Break the supplements up or crush them into a powder and add them to the dish with your pet’s daily allotment of pellets or leafy greens. As your pet roots around to pick out the pellets or greens, they will usually bite into a piece of supplement and realize how tasty it is.  
  • Remember that introducing a new food or treat can take a lot of time and patience. While some animals take to new things very quickly, others can take weeks or even months. Patient persistence is often the key. 

Q:  Can Natural Science supplements be offered to dogs or cats? 

A:  Our hay-based Natural Science supplements were specifically created to help assuage common health concerns faced by exotic companion mammals. As a hay-based product, they are intended to be used for small herbivores (rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, etc.) or small omnivores (hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats, etc.) who naturally thrive on a high-fiber diet.  

Dogs and cats both have significant protein requirements, meaning their nutritional needs are quite different from that of any of our core species. While none of the products in our Natural Science supplements would be toxic to dogs or cats, they could lead to digestive upset, stool abnormalities, or other undesirable effects.  

We have not completed trials regarding the use of any of our Natural Science supplements in canines or felines and cannot guarantee the safety or efficacy of using this product in these species. Thus, we do not recommend the use of any Natural Science supplements in dogs or cats of any age or health status. 

Q:  Why does my bag of supplements look different than the last one? 

A:  Our supplements are fixed formulas, meaning that we use the same ingredients from the same sources for a consistent product. However, due to the ingredients of the supplements being derived from nature and subject to natural variation, it is possible for there to be slight differences in taste, color, aroma, and/or texture from batch to batch. 

Our Natural Science supplements take the safety and health of your pet into the highest consideration, but we know there is a lot to consider when evaluating a supplement with your veterinarian. We’ve covered some of the most frequently asked supplement questions here, but there is no doubt a plethora of others that may come to your mind. If you don’t see your question addressed above, please always feel free to reach out to us directly with any product questions you have. 

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March 02, 2021

Fun Ways to Encourage Your Pet to Play with Their Food

Fun Ways to Encourage Your Pet to Play with Their Food

As children, most of us were told not to play with our food.  And, while there are certainly merits in modeling proper dinnertime etiquette for our children, play at mealtime can be a highly enriching activity with multiple key benefits for our rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small pets.  Let’s take a look at a few quick and easy tips for encouraging your pets to play with their food and the associated benefits of each. 

1. Make Mealtime a Meaningful Foraging Experience  

Small animals are foragers at heart.  This behavior is linked to their feeding behaviors in the wild, which force them to search high and low for sustenance, all while keeping an eye out for any number of predators.  As prey species, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small pets are wired to search for the most calorically dense nutrition first.  These survival instincts are hardwired and never go away, even as our pets have made the transition from “wild to child.” 

Not All Foraging Experiences Are Created Equal  

Foraging is a very enriching activity for our pets, but it must be offered in the right way to provide any benefit.  While mix-based diets (including “foraging blends”) purport to support a pet’s instinctual foraging behaviors, they ultimately fail to deliver on adding any meaningful enrichment to mealtime.  Instead, these typically unbalanced food options are likely to lead to unhealthy selective feeding behaviors.  We’ll touch more on that in an upcoming article, so stay tuned! 
 
In the meantime, here are some fun and easy ways to support your pet’s instinctual foraging behaviors at mealtime:  

2.  Offer Your Small Pet’s Hay and Food in Fun Ways  

We talk often about the important benefits of offering a variety of hays to your pet daily and how to make feeding hay more fun.  When it comes to foraging, we’ve designed a variety of enriching products that make it easy to turn mealtime into an engaging foraging experience.  Some of our favorites include:    

Enriched Life Apple Stick Hay Feeder 
The more ways you offer hay to your pet, the better.  The Apple Stick Hay Feeder is a great way to add an element of fun and enrichment to your pet’s daily hay dining experience.  In addition to offering a variety of beneficial textures, the feeder attaches easily to the side or top of the habitat.    

Timothy Club Bungalow 
The Timothy Club Bungalow is a favorite hideout for many pets.  This 100% edible, all-natural Timothy hay item is also perfect for loading up with hay and tasty morsels of food or treats for burrowing and foraging.     

Hide & Chew Roll  
The open space at the center of the Hide & Chew Roll is perfect for stuffing with hay, as well as a few enticing treat pieces.  Pets love interacting with this item and you’ll have an equally entertaining time watching them roll, chew, and forage the day away.     

Forage Pot   
As its name suggests, our Forage Pot is designed to support your pet’s instinctual foraging behaviors in enriching ways.  The high-quality clay pot can be filled with your pet’s pellets, in addition to his or her favorite greens, treats, veggies, or fruit pieces for an enriching foraging experience at mealtime.  The forage pot can be easily attached to the side or top of the habitat to challenge your pet to stretch those limbs and get vertical at mealtime.   

3.  Pair Your Pet’s Favorite Loose Hay with Hay-Based Enrichment  

Most of our rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas can’t get enough fresh, fiber-filled hay.  That’s great news when you consider that hay is the single most important component of your pet’s daily nutrition.  Hay is the fiber-packed forage that makes every herbivore’s digestive system “go” and it’s critical for every small pet parent to offer unlimited amounts of fresh grass hay daily to proactively avoid potentially life-threatening consequences of GI system stoppage.   

Given that most small herbivores will happily munch on hay throughout the day, it’s no surprise that hay-based enrichment items are some of the most popular offerings amongst natural chews.  These items offer a variety of textures by combining Timothy hay with appealing and beneficial chewing materials such as natural apple sticks.  

One fun and enticing way to add a foraging element to your pet’s hay dining experience is to hide a hay-based chew (or two) in their fresh pile of hay.  They will gladly forage through the hay for the items hidden inside, likely munching on their favorite hay along the way.  Here are a few of our favorite and most popular hay-based chews:      

4.  Make Mealtime a Bonding Experience   

Life’s always more fun when spent with friends, and our interactions with our pets are certainly no exception.  While your pet may prefer some privacy while eating his or her core nutrition (i.e. hay and food) there are plenty of opportunities to add an element of social interaction and play when it comes to offering foods to your pet.  Some fun, enriching examples of how to do this include:  

Design a Favorite Foods Scavenger Hunt 

Most small pets are active, inquisitive creatures with a penchant for exploring their surroundings.  In fact, exploration (like foraging) is instinctual for all small animals.  One fun way to harness your pet’s exploring instinct is to set up a simple scavenger hunt (obstacle courses are great too!) using their food as the “bread crumb” trail.  Your hunt can be as simple as placing a line of pellets placed across the room (try placing a yummy treat at the end as a reward) or as elaborate as a maze or obstacle course incorporating some of your best friend’s favorite healthy greens and veggies.      

Use Treats for Training and Bonding 

As much as our pets might argue otherwise, treats aren’t a key nutritional component in their diet.  However, this doesn’t mean treats don’t play an important role in strengthening the bond we share with our pets.  In addition to celebrating those special everyday moments, treats also make great positive reinforcements and help with training activities such as litterbox training.     

Engage in DIY Projects that Benefit Your Pet 

Who said “Do It Yourself” projects have to be focused on home renovation or people crafts?  DIY pet projects are loads of fun and come with the added “feel good” benefit of bringing happiness to your pet’s life.  Come up with your own DIY masterpiece integrating your pet’s daily nutrition or try one of our fun DIY tutorials such as our DIY Snack Wreath or DIY Pot O’ Gold Hay & Treat Holder for inspiration! 

Other fun DIY projects include:  

Enjoying our favorite foods is one of life’s great joys for many of us, and the same holds true for our pets.  Adding elements of play and foraging to your pet’s mealtime is a fun and easy way to make their daily routine more enriching and enjoyable each day!

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