May, 2022

May 16, 2022

Best Toys for Redirecting Destructive Behavior in Small Mammals

Best Toys for Redirecting Destructive Behavior in Small Mammals
by Dianne Cook, LVT

Let’s face it, small mammals have garnered a reputation for being destructive. The truth of the matter is that most of the destructive behaviors small mammals express are simply a way of them communicating that something in their environment isn’t working. Luckily, with some patience, understanding, and the aid of engaging, species-appropriate enrichment items, you can generally redirect your little loved one’s less than desirable actions in a positive way.  

What Are Some Common “Bad” Behaviors in Small Mammals? 

Many pet parents consider destructive behaviors to be “bad,” but using the word “bad” to describe a small mammal’s actions is a bit of a misnomer. “Bad” implies that your small friend’s behavior is somehow willfully wrong. Despite the fact it may seem like your animal chewed up your new shoes out of spite, the reality is they were simply expressing one of their natural, intrinsic behaviors.  

Regardless of how you choose to label your little one’s troublesome chewing practices, however, the most common destructive behaviors reported by pet parents are: 

  • Inappropriate chewing – chewing on things they “shouldn’t” 
  • Excessively digging at carpets, litter boxes, or the corners of their enclosure/environment 
  • Biting/rattling enclosure or play yard bars 

In this article, we are focusing specifically on physically destructive behaviors (like those listed above), but it is important to mention that hormonally driven behaviors, like aggression and humping, are also considered undesirable by many pet parents. Having your pet spayed or neutered and working with a trusted veterinarian is the best way to limit these types of behaviors. 

Why Do Small Animals Resort to Destructive Behavior? 

Think of a time you were bored. Can you imagine how amplified that boredom would be if you were forced to sit in the same room day in and day out, eat the exact same meals, and interact with the exact same items? Now imagine what it must be like for your beloved pet. The truth is that humans are not the only beings who experience boredom. As naturally active and inquisitive species, our small furry friends are just as likely to find themselves in a dull and spiritless mood, especially if their environment isn’t providing enough meaningful stimulation.  

Despite generations of domestication, small mammals are still very much driven by four instinctual behaviors:  

If your little one is not provided with an ample pet-proof environment filled with interesting items that are safe to chew on and explore, the next best option is for them to make their own fun. Unfortunately, when our small furry friends are left to their own devices, they often choose to destroy important, meaningful, or hard to replace items, or chewing at the bars of their enclosure in an attempt to occupy their time.  

Best Enrichment Items for Redirecting Destructive Behavior  

In addition to providing your little one with the largest living space possible, as well as plenty of daily play time in a well-supervised, pet-proof area, the best thing you can do is make sure your fur baby has a variety of species-appropriate enrichment items on rotation to keep their bustling brains busy. Though far from an exhaustive list, the Oxbow Enriched Life items below are a great way to keep your pet engaged and can help redirect their natural behaviors in a positive, purposeful, less-destructive way. 

Forage Pot

Designed to engage the natural foraging behaviors of small mammals, forage pots offer a unique way to support your pet’s natural playing, exploring, and chewing instincts. Fill the inside of the all-natural, tera cotta pot with pellets, hay, or fresh produce and watch as your little one figures out how to get to their favorite goodies. 

Garden Dig Box

This fun, garden-themed activity center engages your pet’s natural playing, exploring, and chewing behaviors. Each of the rattan balls are secured to the box with string and can be left in place as a unique challenge for your pet, removed and played with separately, or replaced with other Enriched Life items. Hide your little one’s favorite food or treats amongst the shredded paper to encourage digging and exploration.  

Wobbly Ring Stack

Similar to a popular toy for human infants and toddlers, the wobbly ring stack features removable wooden play disks and a semi-circular bottom to provide hours of fun and engaging entertainment. You’ll be amazed how quickly our kiddo figures out how to remove the rings from the base and fling them around the room!   

Rolly Teaser and Wobbly Teaser


These engaging items both offer a novel way to encourage your pet to work for their food. Each product has an adjustable opening to control the flow of pellets, allowing you to increase the “difficulty” as your pet becomes more accustomed to the products. 

Customizable Play Place

As burrowing animals, small mammals love to root and tunnel. This fun, interactive maze is custom designed for use with Oxbow’s Enriched Life accessories and features a rooftop hay feeder and a removable roof. By adding new enrichment items and changing up the layout, you can easily keep your pet interested and engaged. 

Wooden Puzzler

This uniquely engaging enrichment item offers multiple ways to stimulate both your little one’s brain and their physical prowess. It also serves as a wonderful way to encourage bonding and interactive play with your little one. Hide pellets, treats, or veggies in and around the cups to encourage foraging, or use the cups without the base to hide treats throughout your pet’s enclosure.

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May 11, 2022

What Is The Difference Between Oxbow’s Hand-Sorted And Bulk Hay Products?

What Is The Difference Between Oxbow’s Hand-Sorted And Bulk Hay Products?

At Oxbow, we recognize that every pet household is unique with its own specific product needs.  For this reason, we believe in providing a variety of hay sizes to meet the needs of families of every shape and size. Whether yours is home to a single pet, or one with a large fluffle of rabbits, a herd of guinea pigs, or any other kaleidoscope of hay-loving friends, you can rest assured that we have premium hay that will meet the daily nutrition needs of all of your hungriest herbivores. 

Oxbow Hay at a Glance: 

No matter which size of Oxbow hay you purchase, there are some shared characteristics you will always find with the hay inside the package.  At a glance, here are some shared characteristics of all Oxbow hay products:  

  • Oxbow hay is harvested predominantly in the Northwestern region of the United States, an area that provides the ideal conditions for consistently growing premium quality hay.  
  • We work with a small, select group of expert grower partners that meet the stringent growing and harvesting standards we’ve had in place for decades.  
  • We focus on the maturity of the hay, targeting an early cut of the immature hay which provides the best nutritional and physical plant properties for our small animal clientele. 

Hand-Sorted vs. Bulk Hay  

Our customers often ask about the differences between our hand-sorted and bulk hay products.  You will find our hand-sorted hay products in our traditional full-color packaging (i.e., bags) in sizes ranging from 15 to 90 ounces, as well as 9 lb. boxes.  Our bulk hay products, meanwhile, will appear in our 25 and 50 lb. boxes.  Regardless of which size you purchase for your pets, let’s take a closer look at the features of the hay inside. 

Oxbow’s Hand-Sorted Hay 

When our hand-sorted hay is packaged, our production experts comb through the hay by hand, removing anything left over from the fields.  This can include weeds and twine that can get caught up during the baling process. Once the sorting process is complete, the hay is packaged into a bag and sealed. 
Learn more about Oxbow’s hay quality process.      
Features of Oxbow’s hand-sorted hay varieties include:  

  • Grown by expert partners across Oxbow’s family of farms 
  • Harvested at an immature stage of growth to meet nutritional needs and taste and texture preferences of small animals 
  • Nutritionally tested to ensure the hay meets the specific requirements of small animals  
  • Hand-sorted by trained production experts 
  • Hand-sorted sizes include: 15 oz, 20 oz, 35 oz, 40 oz, 84 oz, 90 oz, 9 lb.   

Oxbow’s hand-sorted varieties of hay are the perfect size for households with one or two pets, or for owners who want to provide a variety of hays, which is optimal for pets.   

Read more about the many benefits of offering multiple varieties of hay to your little loved ones.   

Oxbow’s Bulk Hay 

Oxbow’s bulk hay products consist of the same hay you’ll find in our smaller, hand-sorted products. These larger sizes are hand-packed into large bags and then placed in a corrugate box without undergoing the same hand-sorting process as our smaller sizes.  

As a result of the less labor-intensive packaging process, we are able to offer these larger sizes at a lower price/oz than our smaller, hand-sorted options, but you may also see more natural variability in the characteristics of the hay.  These characteristics can change as you move through the portions of the hay bale in the box.  For this reason, we always recommend sorting through our bulk hay as you feed it to your pet to make sure anything undesirable is removed.  

Features of Oxbow’s bulk hay varieties include:  

  • Grown by expert partners across Oxbow’s family of farms 
  • Harvested at an immature stage of growth to meet nutritional needs and taste and texture preferences of small animals 
  • Nutritionally tested to ensure the hay meets the specific requirements of small animals 
  • Lower cost/oz than Oxbow hand-sorted hays  
  • More commonly available online than in brick-and-mortar stores    
  • Bulk sizes include: 25 lb., 50 lb.  

Bulk hay boxes are ideal for those households that have a larger menagerie of little friends, are looking for a more economical option, or are unable to get to the pet store as often. 

Since our bulk offerings are large and not ideal for retail shelves, you are more likely to find them at one of our online retail partners than in a brick-and-mortar location. 

How to Store Your Pet’s Hay  

  • Whether you prefer hand-sort bags or bulk box sizes of hay, it is important to remember to store your pet’s hay in a cool, dry place that is out of direct sunlight.   
  • If you choose to store your hay in a different container, make sure to provide ventilation holes for the hay. Proper airflow is important for storage and to prevent any chance of the hay becoming damp or moldy.  
  • Always keep the bag or take photos of the lot information on the outside of the bag or box, in case you need to contact us with any concerns or questions. This information is extremely important to our team. 

If you have any questions about any of our bulk or bagged varieties of hays, contact our Customer Care team. We are always happy to assist with any question or concern! 

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May 11, 2022

Oxbow Animal Health Announces the 2022 KINDSWELL Academic Scholarship Recipients

Oxbow Animal Health Announces the 2022 KINDSWELL Academic Scholarship Recipients

Oxbow Animal Health has announced the recipients of its 2022 KINDSWELL Academic Scholarships.  Established in 2005, the Oxbow Academic Scholarships provide financial support for students pursuing future careers in animal science, veterinary technology, and veterinary medicine. 

KINDSWELL is one more way Oxbow Animal Health grows good every day for small pets, their people, and the world we all share. Through KINDSWELL, Oxbow uses its unique capabilities to make a positive difference throughout the communities of veterinarians, rescues, and local community organizations.

“At Oxbow, we know that today’s students are tomorrow’s veterinary leaders,” said Melissa Ross, Vice President of Marketing for Oxbow Animal Health.  “Through our KINDSWELL program, we are honored to support this year’s Oxbow Academic Scholarship recipients on their path to develop the knowledge and skills that will empower them to expand the landscape of care and nutrition for small animals everywhere.”

The 2022 Oxbow Academic Scholarship recipients are:

Nebraska High School Scholarship

  • Callie Coble - South Dakota State University| Brookings, SD

Veterinary Technology Scholarship

  • Hayley Bland - Northeast Community College | Norfolk, NE

Veterinary Technology Scholarship

  • Jayah Fuqua - Owensboro Community and Technical College | Owensboro, KY

Undergraduate Scholarship

  • Kaitlyn Praisler - Morehead State University | Morehead, KY

Veterinary Medicine

  • Elizabeth Handberg - University of Florida | Gainesville, FL

Nebraska High School Scholarship

Callie Coble – South Dakota State University | Brookings, SD

“Caring for animals has always brought me an abundance of happiness, whether it's simply cleaning out my goat's pen, helping pull calves on the family ranch, or attempting to keep a sand lizard as a family pet,” said Coble.  “I'm so grateful to have received this scholarship because it brings me one step closer to my ultimate goal of becoming a veterinarian by helping me to pursue a bachelor's degree in Animal Science at South Dakota State University this fall.  Thank you so much for selecting me for your scholarship; I promise to do my very best!”

Veterinary Technician Scholarship

Hayley Bland – Northeast Community College | Norfolk, NE

“I am so honored and thankful to be selected for the Oxbow Veterinary Technician Scholarship,” said Bland.  “It will be extremely helpful to me as I finish my schooling at Northeast Community College and start the next chapter of my life as my dream career of being a veterinary technician.”

Veterinary Technician Scholarship

Jayah Fuqua - Owensboro Community and Technical College | Owensboro, KY

“Receiving this scholarship means so much and I am honored to be named as the recipient,” said Fuqua.  “The Oxbow scholarship will help me pay for college and help me finish my career in school to become a licensed Veterinary Technician. Thank you again, Oxbow, for all that you do for people in veterinary medicine!”

Undergraduate Scholarship

Kaitlyn Praisler - Morehead State University | Morehead, KY

"I am so excited to be the 2022 undergraduate scholarship recipient,” said Praisler.  “From a young age, I have been involved with animals and have a strong interest in science.  The field of veterinary technology combines the two and I really enjoy caring for animals and helping them maintain or return to health. I realize the value that pets bring to their caretakers and am excited to pursue a career that allows me to help both animals and people. Thank you, Oxbow Animal Health, for your support!"

Veterinary Medicine Scholarship

Elizabeth Handberg – University of Florida | Gainesville, FL

“I am honored to be the recipient of the 2022 Oxbow Animal Health Veterinary Medicine Scholarship,” said Handberg.  “This scholarship will help me to advance my education so that I can provide the highest standard of care to my future exotic animal patients. I am so grateful to Oxbow Animal Health for supporting my veterinary education and giving me the opportunity to advocate for exotic animal health.”

About Compana Pet Brands

Oxbow Animal Health is proud to be part of the Compana Pet Brands portfolio. With roots dating back to 1842, Compana Pet Brands is a global leader in pet care and nutrition dedicated to enriching the lives of pets and their families today and for generations to come. Based in St. Louis and employing approximately 700 passionate pet lovers around the world, the company manufactures and markets more than 20 household brands in dog and cat, backyard chicken, equine, small animal, and indoor bird categories. Compana believes pets are an important part of the family and its broad portfolio of brands focuses on care and wellness solutions to improve the quality of life for pets of all shapes and sizes throughout their lifespans. For more information visit or follow Compana on LinkedIn.



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May 04, 2022

Antioxidants in Senior Pet Foods

Antioxidants in Senior Pet Foods
by Dr. Cayla Iske, PhD

Small mammal pets are living longer lives in recent years thanks in large part to improved veterinary care and nutrition. This added time with our little loved ones brings a new set of potential health issues with it, however. As any animal ages its physiological systems can become more inefficient leading to increased levels of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress at the most basic level is an imbalance between free radicals, or molecules with unpaired electrons, and antioxidants. The resulting oxidative damage cause by free radicals can lead to some of the common issues seen in older pets such as heart disease, cancer, and even reduction in cognitive function. There are many factors that can lead to the production of free radicals including stress, low quality diet, environmental factors such as pollution, and even daily functions such as digestion. It can be hard to control some of the factors which contribute to free radical production so often times the addition of antioxidants becomes a focus to reducing oxidative stress. For a more detailed insight to oxidative stress see our previous blog.

Antioxidants in the Senior Diet

While antioxidants are beneficial at any age, they should be of particular focus with an animal approaching its golden years. Older bodies are less efficient at repairing oxidative damage so the added boost that dietary antioxidants provide can help keep your pet feeling spritely as they age. Fresh greens and veggies provide a fantastic source of antioxidants and should remain a key dietary staple in a senior animal’s diet. When looking at senior specific fortified foods, antioxidants can also provide benefit to the daily diet. Ingredients such as oats and barley provide antioxidants in the form of whole grains while other plants such as yucca also contribute valuable antioxidants. Ingredients that contribute omega 3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed, can also provide anti-inflammatory and protective effects again oxidative stress. Even ensuring adequate levels of vitamins such as vitamin E and vitamin C can add benefit as these are needed to defend the body against oxidative damage.

Some herbal ingredients can also be added to a fortified food to pack another punch of antioxidants. Herbal ingredients such as ginger root, turmeric, and chamomile contain flavonoids and other natural antioxidants which can benefit senior pets primarily through anti-inflammatory properties. 

Ingredient Nutrient Function
Turmeric Powder Curcumin, carotenoids Exerts anti-inflammatory properties  
and helps alleviate chronic pain
Ginger Root Gingerols Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant to reduce inflammation and pain

Terpenoids, apigenin, quercetin, luteolin

Anti-inflammatory with anti-allergic properties

Consider the Whole Diet

Providing elderly pets with appropriate fiber levels and types is of utmost importance. Though beneficial, antioxidants and their benefits take a back seat to the fiber necessary to stimulate your pet’s digestive tract to keep it functioning properly. With that in mind, there are always ways to add antioxidants to each component of your little one’s diet. For example, herbal ingredients can be added to your pet’s loose grass hay or can be purchased in the form of Botanical Hay. Dark, leafy greens and veggies high in antioxidants, as mentioned before, should be a staple in your small mammal’s diet and can also be added to homemade treats and enrichment items. It is important, however, to remember these antioxidant ingredients should be fed in appropriate amounts and added gradually to the diet. 

Over the past decade we’ve seen the life expectancy of many small mammals grow as knowledge of improved veterinary care, diet, and husbandry has been furthered. By educating yourself on the unique needs of older animals, you can keep your pet healthy and help them continue to thrive into these senior years. One area of focus that can be beneficial to older pets is dietary antioxidants which can come via key ingredients in fortified foods, dark leafy greens and veggies, or even herbal additions you can make to your pet’s hay. These antioxidants provide key benefits to mitigate signs and symptoms of aging so those added years are enjoyed by all.

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