Small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs spend a great deal of time in their cages, so it’s important to incorporate play outside of the cage into your pet’s daily routine.
Not only is spending time outside the cage fun, but it’s also crucial to your small animal’s well-being. Activities that provide exercise, enrichment and human interaction help stimulate their senses, as well as reinforce the human-animal bond.
Benefits of play
- Promotes physical fitness and weight management
- Has a positive impact on behaviour
- Strengthens the bond between you and your pet
1. Physical fitness and healthy weight
Just like human beings, regular physical activity is a fun way to help your pet maintain a healthy weight. Lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity which is a concern for many small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs.
Here are some fun activity ideas for your pet:
Create a maze or obstacle course using cardboard boxes and tunnels, as well as furniture
- Change it up every so often to challenge your pet and avoid boredom
- Small animals love to explore – hide treats along the path for incentive and to encourage their natural foraging and chewing instincts
Provide digging opportunities
- Small animals love to burrow and dig
- Bury treats or toys in a cardboard box or bin filled with natural, safe bedding or shredded paper and watch as your pet digs for treasure.
Create an outdoor run or corral
- This will give your small pet the opportunity to run around, stretch their legs and burn off excess energy
- It’s also a great opportunity for your pet to forage
- Make sure the run is not located in direct sunlight. Small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs suffer from heat hypersensitivity so it’s important to provide them with a safe, shady retreat. During excessive heat, it’s always best to keep your pet indoors until the temperature cools down.
No matter what activity your pet engages in, it’s important to always ensure that their environment is safe and secure. Keep all electrical wires, sockets, and plants out of reach to prevent chewing, and keep an eye on young children, other pets, and potential predators when outdoors.
2. Provides enrichment and mental stimulation
A cage-bound pet is a bored pet, and boredom can lead to undesirable behaviours and territoriality. Rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals are intelligent, sociable, and busy animals that require daily enrichment and mental stimulation for their overall well-being. Creating an enriching environment encourages a small animal’s natural instincts for exploring, digging, playing, and chewing and can have a positive impact on your pet’s mood and their quality of life.
Toys and chews are a great option for adding enrichment to your pet’s daily routine. It’s important to provide enrichment items that are safe and natural. Accessories such as the Living World Green Naturals Ball or Carrot and the Living World Green Naturals Chews do double-duty by encouraging interactive play while helping to keep teeth trim and healthy. Toys can be stuffed with small morsels of food or hay to encourage foraging and rolled and tossed around for fun. Rotate toys every so often to keep your small pet interested.
3. Establishes your bond with your pet
Small animals are social, playful and enjoy human interaction. Playing games and spending quality time daily with your pet benefits both of you – allowing you to bond and build trust, with the added bonus of keeping your pet from getting bored and encouraging exercise.
Finding activities that provide enrichment can be a fun new way to interact with your small pet. Even if it’s only for a few minutes a day, playing with your small pet helps to strengthen your bond. Here are some tips and ideas:
- Toss or roll a toy toward your pet and see how they react; small animals love toys they can carry or toss around
- Hide-and-seek – hide treats around the room and watch as your pet forages for them
- Tug of war – guinea pigs in particular enjoy a good game of tug-of-war
- Create a snack puzzle using treats and paper cups or toilet paper rolls – watch as your pet sniffs around the cups while trying to locate the treat
- Train your pet to run an agility course, spin, and jump