Most of us know that a nutritious, balanced diet is essential to the daily health of our small furry friends. But, did you know that daily opportunities for enrichment are essential to your pet’s health and happiness as well? Enrichment can come in many forms, and providing enrichment opportunities is enjoyable for pet and pet parent alike. Here are five fun and easy ways to provide enrichment for small pets each day:
1. Support their instinctual behaviors in fun and challenging ways
Rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and other small animals are intelligent and curious creatures with strong instincts to play, chew, explore, and hide. You can support these instinctual behaviors by outfitting your pet’s habitat with safe and natural chews, toys, and hideouts. Rotate these items regularly to keep pets engaged with their habitat and surroundings.
2. Build a loving bond with enriching play every day
Small pets are social by nature and love interacting with their caretakers. Set aside time every day for active, enriching play. One fun, interactive activity to engage in is to hide healthy treats in different places throughout the habitat. This simple, enriching activity can provide hours of entertainment as pets search their environment for their favorite treat. Always be sure to follow the feeding guidelines on the packaging of your pet’s treat of choice to avoid overfeeding.
3. Keep it safe and natural
Every element of a pet’s daily routine should be safe and natural – enrichment included. Choose enriching accessories carefully, opting for items made exclusively from safe and natural materials. Some examples of enriching, pet-safe materials include woven hay, untreated woods, natural fibers (e.g. sisal), apple sticks, and vegetable-based dyes.
4. Offer a variety of hays each day to keep mealtime fun and stimulating
Small herbivores such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas should have unlimited access to fresh grass hay each and every day. Grass hay should make up at least 70% of the diet of these fiber-loving herbivores. Pets with daily access to a variety of tastes and textures via their hay will be less likely to develop picky eating habits and will remain engaged and enriched throughout the day. Make every day a hay day by providing a variety of hay tastes and textures!
5. Provide spatial challenges with some simple “interior decorating”
We all benefit from a change of scenery, and pets are no exception! Try rearranging elements of your animal’s habitat to provide mental enrichment and fun spatial challenges. This can be as simple as putting your pet’s hideout or food dish in a new location in the habitat. Pets will love this spatial challenge, and you will have just as much fun watching them explore their “new” environment.