Providing plenty of enrichment to our small and loved pets comes with many benefits. Not only can it help improve their overall health, but it can have awesome effects on their general behaviour; sometimes it can even reduce or get rid of any unwanted attitude issues or bad habits like over grooming! Now what does enrichment for our small animals mean? It means providing necessary stimuli to enhance their quality of life, both psychologically and physically.
A majority of our small furry friends have natural instincts to explore their surroundings, play with each other and objects that catch their fancy, chew on things, and hide. When we keep small animals, it is our responsibility to make sure those instincts are met, but it’s more rewarding for us and them if we do more than the bare minimum.
The place to start is an enriching balanced diet catered to the needs of your pet. While we can get used to feeding the same pellets, hay, and veggie mixes day after day it can be beneficial to mix up the food and offer variety. Being offered the same food items daily can lead to a sense of unease, whereas variety means security. As the majority of small animals are naturally prey, variety in diet can help them feel more at ease as it keeps them more occupied. This means they may not be as skittish if they tend to be shy, and for those who are comfortable around people it can lead them to be more outgoing. More textures and types of hay offered, a wider spread of veggies, or some “treat” food in a pet’s pellets can offer them a more enriching diet.
Most products on the market for small animals will check multiple boxes for enrichment. Natural hides offer both security and something to chew for teeth maintenance and beating boredom. Toys and chews fill the same niche of being both play objects and a way to maintain good dental health. You can also get toys that you can stuff with hay, more challenging hay mangers, or balls to offer more engagement; these items can fulfill needs in chewing, playing, eating, and keeping a pet’s mind active.
Enrichment items should be kept as natural as possible. This ensures more safety during unsupervised play, as well as a more natural experience for your pet in terms of textures and digestion. These items can also make a natural aesthetic in a cage, and who wouldn’t want that!
It’s also important to keep variety in a pet’s toys, not offering the same type of toy or chew every time. Change up the toys and other items you offer once or twice a month to ensure your pet always has something “new” to keep their minds busy.
Finally, you are the last piece of the enrichment process. Spending time playing with, petting, or just hanging out with your fur-baby can be a great experience for both of you and lead to some bonding that can bring happiness to both parties. If you don’t have a large budget but have a harness or playpen and some green space for your furry friend, then even taking them outside for a bit everyday can be extremely enriching. Just be sure to keep an eye out and take precautions for any predators in your area!
We are responsible as pet owners to provide the best lives possible for our companions, and one of the easiest ways to do that is through enrichment. It improves security and comfort for our pets and fulfills their instincts, which can provide us with an easier time should they be shy or aggressive or chew up everything in sight.