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Enriching Your Small Animal's Life with Oxbow

Posted by Crystal Dalo on

Enriching Your Small Animal's Life with Oxbow

Having a small furry friend can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences. But it can also be a challenge to keep your small animal happy and enriched in their everyday life. This month we’ve partnered with Oxbow to help your little buddy live their best life!


Small animals like gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, and chinchillas all need enriching activities in their cages for times when you’re not around. Activities for your small animal mostly fall into three categories: playing, hiding, and chewing. Your small animal is curious and excited for new experiences, and Oxbow’s Enriched Life small animal products can provide an outlet for their energy. 

Toys And Games For Small Animals

Just like us, our small animals have a biological need for playtime. Offering your small animal a chance to play gives them mental stimulation, promotes physical activity, and prevents problematic “boredom” behaviors. An easy way to keep your pet engaged is to do a little interior decorating in either their habitat or their play area. Rearranging items in their habitat can be a fun way to get them to re-explore and pick a new favorite spot. You can also rotate toys or play hide and seek with some treats in their habitat. 


In a barren or boring cage, your small animal can exhibit boredom-based behaviors which may be problematic. These behaviors can include abnormal, repetitive behaviors like over-grooming, chewing on the cage, or pacing. To avoid this, you should try your best to include play as a daily activity with your small animal. 


For other ideas, check out these two articles about encouraging play and supporting healthy play habits from Oxbow.

Encouraging Healthy Chewing In Small Animals

Dwarf Hamster chewing on a piece of wood.

Many small animals have a biological need to chew, in order to keep their teeth healthy and prevent them from growing too long. In the wild, this is done naturally through foraging and chewing on grasses, bark, and other plant material. But in captivity, we need to provide ample stimulation for our small animals to keep their teeth trimmed down. You should provide a variety of chewing substances for your small animal. 


Healthy chewing materials include different varieties of hay, leafy greens, and a variety of chew toys made for small animals. By rotating these types of chews in and out of the cage and play areas, you will help your pet keep their teeth healthy and have some fun, too. 

Promoting Healthy Hiding In Small Animals

Rabbit hiding in wooden bowl

Domesticated small animals are “prey” animals in the wild, which means that they have strong instinctual urges to hide, even when they’re safe inside their cages. To give your pet the best life, you should provide a few safe, dark hiding places for them to rest their eyes. If you have multiple small animals in an enclosure, be sure to provide enough hiding spaces for everyone.


If your pet seems reluctant to use the hiding spots you’ve created, you can encourage them to explore by placing high-value food or treats, like hay or chew toys, in the hiding areas. If they still don’t like what you’re offering, you can always just put a deeper pile of hay in the habitat. Often, our small animals will just burrow into their hay. 


You can read more about hiding places for small animals in this article here.


Small Animal Enrichment with Oxbow

Live in the Portland area and still have questions about enrichment for your small mammal friend? Join us for a free presentation from Oxbow on Tuesday, November 12th where we’ll be talking all things enrichment! Click here to learn more.