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Environment enrichment for small mammals

Luckily small mammals or the ‘Small Furrys’ as we like to call them, are lot less likely to be hit by the current confinement situation than the cats and dogs we talk about elsewhere on our news pages.

However, like the cats and dogs, cage housed pets need to have an ‘enriched’ environment to ensure they can enjoy a life that’s as close to the one they would have had in their natural habitat. To help you achieve that, here’s our quick guide to enriching the environment of small mammals.  

If you have any environmental enrichment tips we’ve missed, we’d love to hear about them on our Facebook page so, please do …

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The three essentials

There are three essential elements that that need to be taken care of for all mammals, including the small ones,  namely; water, food & shelter;

  1. Water – A plentiful supply of fresh water is always essential.
  2. Food – Do make your small pet has the correct food. Also, making them work a bit harder to find the food can be a major contributor to their enrichment.
  3. Homes – The more opportunities you can give them to mimic their natural behaviour the better.  Make their shelter a home from home.

Now, let’s build a little on those three…

A happy home is a hidey home

Small mammals are naturally nervous, so almost all will need somewhere to hide and somewhere to play, in both their indoor and outdoor home. A sanctuary of some sort is really important.

Family & friends

Small Furrys are generally very social and almost all will benefit from living in at least a pair. Syrian Hamsters being an exception. Make sure your pet has the right company (same sex couples and small groups are normally best) and consider neutering to minimise fighting.

Somewhere to play

Assuming home and company are all in order, the next step is to ensure you pets’ playtime allows them to mimic something that’s as close to their natural behaviour as possible.  Here are our top tips for the small mammals we see most.

  • Rabbits – As well as normal food, give your rabbits something safe to chew, like apple wood or willow. They will also love a digging pit in their outdoor run.
  • Guinea pigs – Are super curious but don’t really like toys, so giving them a run in a different, secure, room each day and hiding their food will keep them entertained.
  • Hamsters – Love wheels but exercise balls stress them out. We recommend that if you exercise your pet on a wheel that you always use a solid one.
  • Gerbils – Like chilling out in tunnels and looking out for danger. Provide pipes for them to retreat to and try providing a large flat rock to ‘lookout’ from.
  • Chinchillas & Degus – Love a sand bath every day, especially if they’ve been handled. You can get special sand from pet shops. Hamsters love this too by the way.
  • Rats – Super active and super curious, need at least an hour outside their cage every day to stretch their legs and do some serious exploring.
  • Mice – Mice like to climb so tie thin rope from the top of their tank or add a few fruit tree branches to their home.  Gerbils and Degus like a bit of branch action too.

So, there you have it, our top-line guide to keeping the life of small mammals suitably enriched. 

These are just the start though, so we’d encourage you to read up on your pet and get to know their preferences in a bit more detail.  Also, as we said above, if you’ve got any top tips, or you’re trying something new from our list above, please do …

Share your enrichment tips on our Facebook page