Rodents such as rats, hamsters and guinea pigs are inquisitive creatures that require a lot of mental stimulation. Keeping your pet entertained is important for their happiness and health, as a stressed pet is more susceptible to illness and disease. Providing a stimulating environment with toys and other cage accessories will help enrich their lives.
Many rodents are kept in cages, which can quickly become boring. It is similar to you being stuck inside your house for your entire house, seeing the same furniture and surroundings every day - you would quickly become bored and stressed. This is why, as an owner, you must provide your pet with environmental enrichment. Simply put, environmental enrichment is anything that causes a pet to engage with its environment, both physically and mentally.
One way to ensure your pet is happy and active is to keep them with other members of their own species - get them a friend! Rats and guinea pigs are very sociable creatures and thrive when kept in small groups. Rats need to be kept in same-sex groups to prevent unwanted litters, whereas good combinations for guinea pigs include a neutered male and one or more females, two females or neutered brothers. Keeping female-only guinea pigs is not ideal as conflicts will occur. In regards to hamsters, not all species are sociable. Russian Dwarf hamsters naturally live in groups, but, adult Syrian hamsters live on their own in their burrows.
Secondly, provide your pet with lots of toys, and rotate these toys regularly. The best hamster toys are ones that engage your pet, keeping their attention by encouraging them to use their brain and stimulating them physically as a form of exercise. Wheels, balls and runs are a great way to make sure your pet gets enough exercise. Hamster chew toys are a great way to encourage natural behaviours and look after your pet’s dental health too. Willow balls, wooden toys and stick chews are all safe for your rodent to enjoy nibbling on and moving around their cages.
Rat cage accessories such as tunnels, hammocks and puzzle feeders will help to keep your rat stimulated. There is a large range of climbing and housing options available for rodents which all help to keep them engaged with their environment.
Guinea pigs love to race through tunnels and will happily interact with and throw around boxes and wooden toys in their cage. Piles of shredded paper and hay will provide foraging opportunities and a place to burrow and hide - all great ways to prevent stress and keep your pet happy in their home.
Rats, hamsters and mice are omnivorous, meaning they need a diet of fruit, vegetables and protein whereas guinea pigs are solely herbivores so can only eat fruit, vegetables and grasses. Hiding food in hay and hanging it from the bars of a cage makes your pet work for their food so they are using their brain to puzzle solve, forage and search, just like they would in the wild. Puzzle feeders are a fantastic way to keep your pet’s brain active and prevent the boredom of eating from a bowl, which is not natural for these animals.
Having a large number of toys is not enough to keep your pet entertained if you are giving them access to all of the toys at once. Place a “new” toy in the cage every few days and take the “old” one out. When you bring back the “old” toy, your pet will think it is brand new! Rotating toys helps provide a sense of variety.
When choosing a toy for your pet, make sure it is made from safe materials as they will undoubtedly give it a chew. Natural materials like wood, are best.