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Animal Enrichment - Small Mammals

dvm2 (9)With our busy lifestyle many of our friends at home are severely under stimulated which can lead to harmful, annoying, and frustrating behaviors.

To reduce or even eliminate these problem behaviors we are adapting the practice of providing enrichment for our pets. An additional benefit of implementing enrichment in your daily routine is that it has been shown to slow down age related mental decline in pets.

What exactly is enrichment?
Enrichment is anything that promotes physical or mental activity. As people we use things like playing sports and games, reading, doing crossword puzzles, traveling, walking, dancing, and arts and crafts.

When reading the following suggestions, please keep in mind that this group contains animals with very different dietary needs and social habits. You will need to adjust to your pet accordingly. Rodents and rabbits might gnaw on toys and containers. Remove them from the enclosure after play if necessary.

Use treats conservatively, but occasionally try to vary your pet’s diet within its limitations.

Puzzle feeders are containers that require your pet to work food out of them. Pet stores and online sites sell such containers and balls pre-made. You can also make them easily yourself. Use very small boxes or plastic dishes. Cut holes in the lid or the sides and fill the containers with food. The holes should be just big enough to release the food slowly.

With the exclusion of hamsters most small mammals prefer living in pairs or groups depending on the size of the housing. Please be mindful that small mammals are typically not altered and can produce very large numbers of offspring. Keep them in groups of the same gender.

Permit your pet supervised exploration outside of its cage, if you can.

Build structures and rearrange them frequently. Integrate larger boxes, tubes, hammocks, and branches. Try to build different levels connected by ladders into the cage. Please know that animals are not comfortable walking on wire.

Provide material to build nests with.

Offer different substrates to explore. You can use small tubs or litter boxes and fill them with shredded paper, mulch, snow, or sand. Be careful that your pet doesn’t ingest the material.

Stroll through the aisle for cat and bird toys in the pet store. Many of the hard plastic toys can be adapted for small mammals.