July 19, 2021

Have You Heard? We’ve Made Some Exciting Changes to Garden Select Hamster & Gerbil!

Have You Heard? We’ve Made Some Exciting Changes to Garden Select Hamster & Gerbil!

Choosing the right daily nutrition for your hamster or gerbil is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make as a pet parent.  This important decision helps establish the foundation for your pet’s health and wellbeing.  That’s why it’s so important to find a food you can trust to provide what’s best for your furry friend. 

Every pet parent should have access to a food they feel good about feeding to their little loved one each day.  With this in mind, we listened as the hamster and gerbil community expressed their desire for a hamster and gerbil food option from Oxbow formulated without Timothy hay as a top ingredient.  Now, we’re happy to share that we’ve updated our Garden Select Hamster & Gerbil formula to deliver the same premium, species-specific nutrition – without the inclusion of Timothy in the formula.

High Energy Whole Grains Now Lead the Way!

The first two ingredients in Garden Select Hamster and Gerbil are now high-energy whole grains in the form of oat and barley.  These high-quality energy sources provide an ideal foundation for the daily nutrition of your active furry friend.    

Garden-Inspired Ingredients in a Non-GMO Project Verified Formula

Our veterinarian-recommended Garden Select formulas contain the complete nutrition you’ve come to expect from Oxbow, with the Non-GMO Project Verified seal that tells you the product has undergone the most rigorous Non-GMO third-party verification in North America. 

Garden-inspired ingredients such as whole yellow pea, tomato, rosemary, and thyme give Garden Select Hamster & Gerbil a delectable, garden fresh flavor hamsters and gerbils love!

An Ideal Foundation for Your Hamster or Gerbil’s Healthy, Active Life

Garden Select Hamster & Gerbil is formulated with premium ingredients to provide your pet the premium nutrition they require to be at their happiest and healthiest.  Starting with balanced sources of protein, fat, and carbohydrates for energy, we add antioxidants prebiotics to support the whole-body health of your little loved one. 

Garden Select Hamster & Gerbil provides 100% of your hamster or gerbil’s daily recommended vitamins and minerals without the use of any artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Our Updated Garden Select Hamster & Gerbil

With the removal of Timothy Grass in Garden Select Hamster & Gerbil, is the overall nutritional profile changing?

No, the overall nutritional profile of Garden Select Hamster & Gerbil is not changing.  In the process of updating the formula for Garden Select Hamster & Gerbil, our nutrition experts were careful to ensure that the levels of essential, high-quality ingredients remain the same.  Please note that the guaranteed analysis levels for Garden Select Hamster and Gerbil have not changed.    

Will the removal of Timothy Grass from the formula affect the flavor or my pet’s acceptance of the food?

While every pet’s perception of ingredient changes is different, we do not expect formula modifications to affect most pets' acceptance or palatability.  Garden Select Hamster & Gerbil is formulated with high-quality and garden-inspired ingredients that many picky pets find especially enticing and highly palatable.  The removal of Timothy Grass should not change this for the majority of pets.    
 
I noticed that Garden Select Hamster & Gerbil still contains Oat Grass and Orchard Grass in smaller quantities.  Why did you remove Timothy Grass but leave these other grasses in the formula?

Great question!  Hamsters and gerbils obtain valuable volatile fatty acids from hay, as well as fiber.  Whereas Timothy hay was previously the ingredient with the highest overall inclusion in Garden Select Hamster & Gerbil, Oat and Orchard Grass are included at lower inclusions than ingredients like oats and barley.  Along with other greens, veggies, seeds, and proteins we recommend feeding, these key ingredients contribute energy and other essential nutrients. 

 Additional Hamster & Gerbil Resources:

Healthy Treats and Foods for Hamsters & Gerbils

Hurray for Hamster Breeds

Caring for Multiple Hamsters
 

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July 19, 2021

How to Support Foraging in Healthy Ways

How to Support Foraging in Healthy Ways

Micah Kohles, DVM, MPA 
Vice President of Technical Services & Research 

Foraging has become an increasingly popular concept in the small pet community, and for great reason.  When supported in healthy and meaningful ways, foraging is a beneficial and instinctual activity for small animals including rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, rats, and others.   

As “foraging” becomes a popular marketing term being attached to small animal products ranging from daily diets to habitat accessories, however, it’s become clear that not all foraging products are created equal.  Furthermore, research has shown that some of these products can have negative health impacts on small animals.

The good news is that you can successfully support your pets’ foraging instincts in a variety of healthy, interactive ways that offer the added benefit of helping to build the bond with your pets.  To help set you up for a successful foraging experience with your little loved ones, let’s take a closer look at the following important questions:  

 

  • What is foraging?  Why do wild animals engage in foraging behaviors? 

  • Is foraging important for domesticated pets? 

  • What are foraging mixes?  Do they really promote foraging in healthy ways?    

  • What’s the best way to promote foraging for small pets?     

What is foraging? Why do wild animals engage in foraging behaviors? 

Simply put, foraging refers to the act of searching widely for food.  Rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and other species explore their wild surroundings daily in search of sustenance in the form of grasses, clover, wildflowers, and even less nourishing options like twigs and bark when necessary.  This instinctual activity is directly tied to an animal’s ability to survive in the wild.  In native environments that can be very sparsely vegetated, animals have no choice but to search far and wide for sustenance.

Is foraging important for domesticated pets?

While their wild cousins engage in daily foraging as a means of survival, most of our pampered pets have the great fortune of having their daily nutrition delivered on the equivalent of a silver platter.  Food for our pets is predictable and guaranteed, oftentimes with little to no foraging required.  Without having to forage as a necessity, the instinct to hunt for sustenance fades and, in the process, most pets miss out on the substantial benefits linked to this instinctual activity.  These benefits include daily physical and mental enrichment, two important contributors to overall health and wellbeing in pets. 
 
The good news is that the foraging instincts never completely go away, even if they’ve never been properly fostered.  For pets, this is the equivalent of remembering how to ride a bike they’ve never actually been on before.  With a proper environment and proper support, small pets will instinctually engage in beneficial foraging behaviors.     

What are foraging mixes? Do they really promote foraging in a healthy way?

In recent years, the market has welcomed a number of small animal foods marketed as “forage mixes” or “forage blends.”  The specific ingredients in these products vary, but what they all have in common is that they contain a variety of components and are marketed with the claim that they encourage the natural favoring behaviors of small pets.  But, do these products deliver on these claims?   

Selective Feeding: Where Mixes Miss the Mark

For many of the same reasons that small animals instinctively forage in their native environment, prey species such as rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and others are wired to consume the most calorically dense nutrition available first.  This behavior (also known as “concentrate-selecting”) is directly tied to the survival instinct.  By consuming as much energy possible (as quickly as they can) small animals are more likely to meet their daily calorie requirements while surviving the imminent threat of predators.   
 
Fast forward to life in the average cozy two-story or apartment.  There are no coyotes or raptors to be seen (we hope!), but the instinct to selectively feed remains hard-wired in our beloved couch-dwelling pets.  So, what does this mean?  It means that, when offered a mix-based diet, most small pets will selectively eat the most calorically dense (and, unfortunately, least nutritious) components first.  This includes ingredients like dried fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, and extruded bits.

The Nutritional Impact of Selective Feeding

Not only do forage mixes fail to inspire meaningful foraging behaviors, but many of the popular options are also nutritionally imbalanced at a formula level – too high in starch and too low in fiber to support the unique digestive tracts of small mammals.  

When pets selectively eat the least nutritious components from these foods, they leave behind a majority of the high-fiber, vitamin and mineral-rich pellets.  This exacerbates nutritional imbalances, leading to potential micronutrient deficiencies in the process.  To make matters worse, feeding mixes has been shown to result in animals consuming less hay and drinking less water, increasing chances of digestive, dental, and bladder issues.    

What’s the best way to inspire instinctual foraging behaviors in small pets?

The primary goal with foraging is to encourage pets to move in search of components of their daily nutrition.  With that in mind, there are many great ways to inspire your pet’s instinctual foraging behaviors in healthy ways.  In addition to the direct benefits to pets, many of these activities offer the bonus of helping build the ever-important bond between us and our pets. Ready to promote foraging? 

Start Simply with Hay

Fresh grass hay should always be available in unlimited amounts for small herbivores, ideally in multiple locations in and around the habitat.  Many pets will instinctually forage within their hay.  Oat hay, for example, often contains tasty seed heads that small pets love seeking out.  In addition to foraging in the process of eating their daily hay, many pets will take the opportunity to burrow inside.

Offer a Variety of Hays to Stimulate Foraging Daily

Beyond the basics of offering hay daily, everyone’s favorite high fiber staple can be used in other fun and enriching ways to promote foraging.  Simply offering a variety of hays is a great way to stimulate instinctual foraging in small pets.  Interacting with a variety of tastes and textures is a great way to engage a pet’s senses while encouraging them to physically interact with their hay every day.   

Forage with Food the Right Way

While mix-based foods miss the mark on promoting meaningful foraging, there are still some great opportunities to utilize a nutritionally appropriate fortified food to inspire this instinctual behavior.  Some easy, effective ways to encourage small animals to forage for their food include:   

  • Scatter feeding is an effective and enriching way to encourage pets to physically and mentally work for their food.  This activity is as simple as spreading a pet’s daily food out over a greater surface area to force them to spend more time and energy to locate and consume it.  Scatter feeding can be especially beneficial for pets who are inclined to eat too quickly.       
  • Hide nutritious food in engaging locations throughout the habitat. A pet’s food doesn’t need to include sugary dried fruit or mystery bits to be enticing.  Small animals will hunt for their food instinctually, experiencing valuable mental and physical enrichment in the process.  Most pets enjoy utilizing their highly perceptive sense of smell to locate and consume their uniform pellets in hidden locations, such as within a pile of hay or at the back of their hide space.      

Use Enriching Accessories to Promote Foraging  

As we’ve discussed, the act of foraging is directly tied to survival for animals living in the wild.  In the domesticated home setting, however, foraging can be considered a direct form of enrichment.  The good news for pet parents and their furry friends is that there are a growing number of fun and exciting accessories specially designed to encourage foraging and make the activity enjoyable for pets and pet parents alike.   

  • Forage Bowls: Helping Pets Slow Down at Mealtime 
    • For pet parents who like the idea of scatter feeding but are concerned about their pet’s food getting soiled or lost, forage bowls are a great option.  These bowls are specially made with safe, rounded nubs designed to slow down the feeding process. 
  •  Enriching Feeders: Adding Motion to Every Meal    
    •  “Pet-powered” accessories like Oxbow’s Enriched Life Wobble Teaser and Rolly Teaser are great for adding physical activity and mental stimulation to the act of eating.  Food is dispensed gradually when pets roll or push these items, making them the poster items for the motto “will work for food.”  Adjustable openings allow you to control the flow of food. 
  •  Hide & Seek Mats: High Fiber Foraging at Floor Level 
    •  Dog owners are likely familiar with the enriching benefits of snuffle mats, which are often made of fleece and designed to stimulate pets to forage for food or treats. Oxbow's Enriched Life Hide & Seek Mats are designed with the same goal in mind, with the added, species-appropriate benefit of being made of 100% Timothy hay.  For fiber-loving herbivores like rabbits and guinea pigs, this is a win/win.  As pets hunt for food or treats, they will enjoy and benefit from munching on the mats themselves.    
  •  Puzzles, Games, and More 
    •  There are a wide variety of additional accessories that can be used each day to support the beneficial foraging instincts of rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small pets.  Accessories with lids or drawers can be filled with rewards in the form of food and are great for stimulating pets mentally.  Similarly, species-appropriate hides (like Oxbow’s Timothy Club Bungalow) make a great option for hiding food and treats inside a generous pile of hay and provide the added benefit of providing a safe place to engage the natural hiding instinct while foraging for food.  

Learn More

Why Is My Pet a Picky Eater?

Why Does My Pet Hide from Me?

How to Make Your Own DIY Pet-Safe Dyes

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July 19, 2021

Top 10 Toys and Accessories for Rats and Mice

Top 10 Toys and Accessories for Rats and Mice

As any rat parent knows, these adorable animals are highly intelligent and require toys and accessories that will stimulate and challenge them throughout the day! Rats also have behavioral instincts that need to be met regularly to discourage destructive behaviors caused by boredom such as bar biting. What are these instinctual behaviors and what toys can help them best meet their needs?  

Exploring – Rats are naturally inquisitive and love to explore their surroundings whenever they can. By strategically placing exploring-centric products in your little one's habitat, you'll not only support their behavioral instincts but will provide the mental stimulation that's needed to keep them happy and healthy! 

Playing  – Rats are playful pets! You've no doubt noticed your ratty playing with anything they can get their adorable paws on.  

Chewing – Rats have open-rooted teeth, meaning that they never stop growing. Therefore, these adorable animals require access to plenty of appropriate items for chewing. By properly supporting dental wear, you’ll also help ensure that your little one doesn't partake in destructive chewing behaviors. 

Hiding – Every pet parent has gazed lovingly at their rat when they're cuddled up and snoozing in their favorite hammock or hide. As prey species, rats need plenty of spaces to hide away to rest, relax, and nest in. Make sure to keep plenty of hiding items on hand to make sure your rat feels safe and protected. 

Check out our top 10 toys and accessories to help meet your little one’s behavioral needs below! 

1. Forage Pot

Perfect For: Exploring, Playing

Rats love to stretch and climb to interact with items in their habitat. Hide yummy treats or a few pellets to encourage your rat to explore and play with something slightly out of their reach. It’s a great workout for your little one as well that will end with them receiving a much-deserved reward!  

Pet Tip: 

Looking for a tasty treat to put in your Forage Pot? Our Simple Rewards line offers a delicious variety of options! 

2. Celebration Cake

Perfect For: Chewing 

  

Looking for a stocking stuffer, birthday, or Gotcha Day present for your rat? (Although let’s be honest, you don’t need to wait for a special occasion to show your pet that you love them.) This cute cake says it all and more.

Pet Parent Tip: 

Looking for other items to celebrate your little one? There are plenty of other celebration items to choose from - such as the Cupcake, Present, Pom Pom, and more! 

3. Woven Hideout – Small

Perfect For: Hiding 

Rats treasure their quiet time. Providing plenty of opportunities for mini-retreats will ensure that your rat gets the rest that they need. Believe it or not, letting your pet have their alone time will help to improve your bond! 

4. Rat Accessory Pack

Perfect For: Hiding, Chewing, Playing, and Exploring 

Need to replace or stock up on multiple rat care items at once? Or, perhaps you have a friend who has become a new rat parent and needs the essentials sooner rather than later. Oxbow has you covered with the Rat Accessory Pack, featuring four different rat-centric care items, including the Climbing Rope, a chew-proof glass water bottle, no tip bowl, and Corner Fleece Hideout.

5. Climbing Rope 

Perfect For: Exploring 

Did you know that rats are master athletes when it comes to rope climbing? Not only are their little paws too cute for words, but they’re made for vertical scaling! Providing alternative paths for your rat to get from one area of their habitat to another is a fantastic way to support their exploring instinct and will provide hours of play for your pet. 

6. Garden Forage Puzzle 

Perfect For: Exploring and Playing 

If your rat boasts MENSA-level intelligence, simple puzzles aren’t going to keep their interest for too long. The Garden Forage Puzzle features 8 spots that are great for hiding different types of snacks or treats under hay or nesting material. This toy is as much fun for you to prep as it is for your little one to play with! 

7. Wobbly Ring Stack 

Perfect For: Exploring, Playing, and Chewing 

This toy is great for encouraging fun interaction! Whether they’re trying to knock over the stack or take the rings off, this will provide hours of entertainment for your little one! 

8. Rolly Teaser

Perfect For: Exploring and Playing 

Mealtime provides an optimal opportunity to introduce enrichment into your rat’s day. Having to earn your food may seem annoying from a human perspective, but our furry friends love it! The Rolly Teaser encourages your little one to interact with the spinner in exchange for yummy pellets. Playing with your food has never been easier or more fun! 

Pet Tip: 

Check out Oxbow’s delicious and nutritious fortified food options for rats!

9. Honeycomb Hammock 

Perfect For: Hiding  

This fleece hammock easily and securely attaches to your habitat to provide your rat a peaceful place to rest and hang out. If your household has multiple rats, the two tiers allow your pets to snuggle up together or to claim their own space. Either way, it’s a win-win for your pet(s)!

10. Hanging Mulberry Chew 

Perfect For: Playing and Chewing

Many rats are wildly entertained by danglies that hang in their habitat! The Hanging Mulberry Chew is a durable, high-quality chew that features mulberry sticks, sisal, and gugertree wood. 

 

Learn More 

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July 15, 2021

Why Is My Pet A Picky Eater?

Why Is My Pet A Picky Eater?

Our small pets are unique in many ways; they are curious, playful, keenly aware of their surroundings, and highly intelligent.  Another unique characteristic of rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and other small pets is one that can be more than a little frustrating for us as pet parents: picky eating habits at mealtime.      

What Is Picky Eating and Why Do Some Pets Do It?  

We all want our beloved pets to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet every day.  And, knowing how important it is for small pets to regularly eat hay and a wholesome daily diet, it can be worrisome to us when our little loved ones turn their noses up at their daily nutrition.   

To understand how to prevent picky eating behaviors with your pet, it’s important to first understand why animals like rabbits and guinea pigs practice picky eating (also known as “selective feeding”) in the first place.   

With the understanding of why small herbivores are oftentimes wired to practice picky eating habits, it becomes easy to develop some practical tips to help your picky pet develop a less finicky palate.

Selective Feeding and Its Ties to Survival in the Wild

To understand why your pet is a picky eater in the domesticated environment of your home, we first need to understand how animals survive in the wild.   
 
Small mammals are prey in the wild and are not able to store a very large quantity of food in their stomachs.  This low storage capacity for food makes it easier to escape predators.  To understand this concept, think about trying to run after a big holiday meal; gives you a side ache just thinking about it, right?  
 
So, to meet their nutrition and energy requirements, our pets select the most nutritionally dense foods.  In this hunt for food, wild rabbits, for example, can spend up to 11 hours per day feeding and foraging, traversing more than 5 acres of land in the process. 

Fast Forward to the Comforts of Home – A Look at Your Pet’s Daily Diet

Being “picky” in the wild allows pets to survive by finding the most nutrient-dense foods.  But, what about our pets at home on the couch?  Food scarcity isn’t a concern for our little loved ones, but the selective feeding instinct remains hard-wired all the same.   

Given the opportunity, our pets will instinctively select the highest calorie foods first.  This becomes especially evident and important when it comes to choosing a daily diet for our pets.

The Link Between Mix-Based Diets and Selective Feeding

If your pet currently eats a mix-based diet (including newer products marketed as “forage mixes” or “forage blends”), there’s a good chance you’ve already seen selective feeding in action.  Have you ever noticed that your pet chooses everything except the pellets first?  Depending on the food, this might include pieces that are high in starch, sugar, and fat – all ingredients small pets are not designed to consume on a regular basis.  Even the more natural ingredients (like dried veggies and flower petals) are likely to detract your pet from eating the essential vitamin and nutrient-rich components.   

While this type of “picky eating” may not seem like that big of a deal at the time (after all, who doesn’t love to pick their favorite pieces out of a bowl of trail mix?), there can be real, serious consequences to this type of selective feeding (more on that in a bit) over time.

How Do I Prevent My Pet From Being a Picky Eater? 

So, now that we know why small animals are instinctively wired to practice picky eating habits when given the opportunity, what (if anything) can we do to discourage or even prevent these behaviors at mealtime?  Is there any hope, or is your beloved pet predestined to turn their nose up at their food at mealtime?   

Good news – preventing picky eating is easier than it might seem.  Here are two effective, proven steps to rid your pet of their pesky picky eating habits.   

Step 1: Ditch the mix and offer uniform nutrition. 

Mixes have been around for many years, and it’s easy to understand why many first-time pet parents opt for these options when looking for a fortified food option they believe their pets will enjoy.  Mixes look fun and appealing.  Most mixes contain a variety of shapes, colors, and ingredients that we associate with tasting good (e.g. dried fruit, yogurt, etc).   

When offered a mix-based diet, many small pets will begin eating right away, munching enthusiastically on the most appetizing, calorically dense pieces.  It may make you feel good as a pet parent to see your pet enjoying their food, but there’s an inherent, two-fold problem when it comes to mixes: 

Not All Components of a Mix Are Created Equal  

The most calorically dense pieces in a mix can contain a variety of ingredients and, oftentimes, these ingredients are not species-appropriate for animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas.  Concentrated amounts of dried fruit, for example, contain far too much sugar for the delicate gastrointestinal systems of small herbivores and can lead to serious health outcomes over time, including serious issues such as GI Stasis, dental disease, and bladder sludge.   

Selective Eating Leads to Nutritional Imbalance 

When pets select only the most tempting morsels, they most often leave behind the less appealing pellets or kibble.  Rather than wait until all the food is eaten, most pet parents are inclined to fill the bowl back up, repeating the cycle all over again.  More sugary, starchy ingredients are eaten, more nutritious pellets are left behind, and the likelihood of negative health consequences just keeps increasing.    

The good news is that preventing picky eating is preventable!  By choosing a unform food, you effectively eliminate your pet’s ability to selectively feed.  In doing so, you help ensure your pet receives a guaranteed amount of the essential vitamins and minerals present in the food.  

Ready to kick your pet’s mix?  Check out Oxbow’s vet-recommended lines of complete, uniform foods.  

What About “Forage” Mixes?  Do They Make Good on Their Claims?  

Forage mixes claim to support the natural foraging instincts of pets, but a quick look at the definition of foraging and how small animals like rabbits and guinea pigs practice this behavior in the wild clearly point out how these claims fall short.   
 
The term “foraging” refers to the act of searching far and wide for sustenance.  In the wild, many species of small animals are forced to forage over a great distance each day to survive.  In the process, animals receive ample amounts of physical exercise and mental enrichment.  Eating a bowl of a mix-based food, in contrast, is far from foraging.  Rather, it’s an invitation to selectively eat the most tempting, least nutritious pieces first.

Step 2: Support Your Pet’s Foraging Instincts in Healthy Ways

So, if forage mixes or other mix-based diets don’t promote foraging, how can you encourage your beloved bunny, guinea pig, or chinchilla to practice this beneficial behavior in the home setting?  It’s easier and more fun than you might think.   
 
In an upcoming blog, we’ll dive deeper into the science of foraging.  For now, here are some Cliff’s Notes on some of our favorite easy ways to encourage your pet to forage each day:

Offer hay, and lots of it!

Every herbivore should be eating large amounts of hay every day for health and happiness.  The next time you offer hay to your pet, try hiding a few small treat pieces or their favorite greens or veggies deep in their hay.  See how they enjoy hunting high and low for these yummy bits?  Guess what?  That’s foraging!  

Challenge your pet to work for their uniform food!

Okay, so you’ve made the commitment to avoid the temptation of grabbing a mix off the shelf.  Congratulations!  This is the single most important step in preventing picky eating.  In fact, providing uniform nutrition is the only way to ensure your pet won’t lean back on their instincts to eat selectively.    

Just because your pet’s food isn’t filled with fun colors, shapes, and tempting bits doesn’t mean that the act of offering it can’t be fun and engaging.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite!  Two easy and effective ways to promote foraging with your pet’s uniform food include scatter feeding (spreading their food out over a greater surface area) and hiding their food in engaging locations throughout their habitat (in their hay, hideouts, etc).

Provide foraging fun with enriching accessories 

Ready to take foraging to the next level?  Oxbow has a wide range of enrichment products designed specifically to encourage foraging in beneficial ways while making the activity fun for both you and your beloved pets.    
 
Some of our foraging favorites include:  

Two of the greatest joys of being a pet parent include supporting your little loved one’s instinctual behaviors and providing the right nutrition to provide a long, healthy life together.  By choosing a uniform food that eliminates unhealthy selective feeding and promoting foraging in healthy and enriching ways, you can take pleasure and comfort in knowing you’re supporting both the health and happiness of your pets each and every day.

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