Environment enrichment for small mammals
Luckily, small mammals like rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, and gerbils, or the ‘Small Furries’ as we like to call them, are a lot less likely to be hit by the current confinement situation than the cats and dogs we talk about on our other advice pages.
However, like cats and dogs, cage and hutch-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 small animal environment enrichment tips we’ve missed, we’d love to hear about them so please do share your tips on our Facebook page.
The three essentials
There are three essential elements that need to be taken care of for all mammals, including the small ones:
- Water – A plentiful supply of fresh water is always essential.
- Food – Do make sure your small pet has the correct food. Also, making them work a bit harder to find their food can be a major contributor to their enrichment.
- Shelter – 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 Furries are generally very social animals 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 we recommend neutering to minimise fighting and unwanted pregnancies.
Somewhere to play
Assuming home and company are all in order, the next step is to ensure your 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 in practice:
Rabbits will love a digging pit in their outdoor run. Plus, as well as normal food, give your rabbits something safe to chew, like applewood or willow.
Guinea pigs are super curious but don’t really like toys, so giving them a run in a different and 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 are super active and curious and need at least one hour outside their cage every day to stretch their legs and do some serious exploring.
Mice like to climb so tie a 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-level guide on how to keep the life of small mammals suitably enriched.
These are just the start though, so we’d encourage you to read up on your pet species and get to know their preferences in a bit more detail. 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 – www.facebook.com/WildboreVetstop
If you have any questions or concerns about your small furry pet’s health, you can give our friendly team a call on 01909 472059 throughout the current situation.
Read our advice:
You might also like to read our factsheet on how to care for your rabbit: Understanding how to care for your rabbit