Over the past year we have seen a rise if the number of people opting for small mammals as pets and we can completely understand why, small furries such as rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and gerbils can make excellent loving pets. But as much as they make us happy, we need to make sure we are making them happy too, we can do this in a number of ways and one of these is enrichment. Enrichment ensures an animal is happy and stimulated, keeping their mind active when we are not around for companionship, enrichment is vital for your pet’s physical and emotional welfare so follow our tips on how you can provide the best for them.
Guinea Pigs are naturally curious and love exploring. Guinea pigs should have access to both an inside and outdoor area to exercise and nose around in, cardboard boxes, tubes and tunnels provide excellent adventures as well a safe place to hide should they want some privacy. Although Guinea Pigs do not typically play with toys as such, they love seeking out different scents and tastes, so hiding and burying food can provide hours of entertainment.
Guinea pigs love company of their own kind but not of others, like rabbits, so keep them in a same-sex or neutered pair or small group.
Rabbits are not the simple ‘easy’ pets people once believed they were, like all animals they have high demands that need to be met. They need to be able to hop, stretch and play and because rabbits live together in the wild it’s important to keep them in a pair or compatible group otherwise they’re likely to get depressed. Make sure your rabbits are neutered – this is important even if they’re in a same-sex group to avoid them fighting.
Like Guinea Pigs they love cardboard boxes and tunnels, this fulfils their need to tunnel, as well providing a safe haven for when they feel scared. Rabbits also love to dig, so providing them with a dirt box filled with soil can be great fun, and help to prevent holes in the garden lawn.
Rabbits spend a large portion of their day eating, so why not make their food enrichment, encourage them to forage or stretch and jump to reach extra special treats.
Hamsters are nocturnal animals, so while it may seem like they sleep all the time, the nighttime is when they come out to play. Ensure they have lots of safe toys to chew during the night, cardboard toilet tubes are a very safe and cheap why to provide this. People think they like exercise balls but they are really exhausting for hamsters and there’s no way of escape for them, so it’s actually more stressful than fun, but exercise wheels are essential.
A Syrian hamster is happy on its own and will fight with another one. But dwarf hamsters like company and can be kept in same-sex pairs or small groups.
Perhaps the most intelligent of the small furries, Rats love nothing more than human company, so before taking on a rat ensure you will have lots of time for them, due to their intelligence they are great for training and learning tricks. Surprisingly for some, Rats require at least one hours exercise out of their change each day, this allows them to stretch their legs, but just make sure it is in a safe area as rats are known escape artists.
Just like most of the small pets, rats are very sociable and live in groups so keep them in a same-sex pair or group.
In the wild Gerbils spend most of their time tunnelling and digging, so it is essential that you are providing this at home with a variety of textures. You can create a tunnel-environment by giving them cardboard tubes, like finished toilet rolls, which they’ll have a whale of a time running through and chewing. Gerbils also enjoying climbing and being on look out, so provide platforms and ledges for them to explore.
Gerbils are very sociable and would be unhappy on their own so make sure they’ve got at least one gerbil pal or live in a group of the same sex.
Like Hamsters, Chinchillas are nocturnal so it is important to take this into consideration when considering one as a pet. Being natural explorers Chinchillas love nothing more then scurrying and nibbling their way around their surroundings, so lots of space and things to do is essential. They also love height, so providing various levels will keep a Chinchilla very happy.
In the wild chinchillas use sand to keep their coats clean so offer them a dust bath for 20 minutes every day using special chinchilla dust which is large and deep enough for them to have fun rolling around without getting injured.
Chinchillas also need company of their own kind and will be much happier with a playmate and someone to snuggle up to.