We all know how important it is to provide food, water, and shelter for our small furries, but just as important as all of those is to provide them with appropriate enrichment! In the same way that we get bored if we’ve got nothing to do, so do they, and it’s up to us as their owners to make sure that our Rabbits and Guinea Pigs are as happy as possible.
Rabbits and Guinea Pigs some of our most popular small pets in the UK, and are both extremely curious creatures who love nothing more than getting stuck into exploring their environment. They are most active at dawn and dusk, but can also be quite active during the daytime in between eating and snoozing. Whether your pets live outdoors or indoors, there are plenty of ways that we can help encourage them to display a wide range of natural behaviours such as digging, chewing, reaching, and foraging. Remember to change and swap things over in their environment on a regular basis so that they don’t become bored!
Tunnels and cardboard boxes
Wild rabbits, and the wild cousins of guinea pigs live in underground burrows and warrens. It’s a natural instinct for them as prey animals to seek shelter in a burrow-like tunnel or box, and most love exploring them as somewhere to hide or play in. Try filling a box with shredded paper or hay as an extra stimulant for your bunnies.
These are particularly great for bunnies to hop up to different levels. Although Rabbits aren’t a big fan of heights, they do enjoy exploring their surroundings, and a viewpoint to keep a lookout from is always a great addition. For Guinea Pigs, try creating some platforms low down to the ground, as they cannot jump as high as a rabbit.
Sand or Spoil Pit
Most rabbits have a strong natural instinct to dig, as this is how they would build their burrows and warrens in the wild. You can encourage their natural behaviour (away from your lawn!) by giving your rabbits access to a sand or soil pit that they can enjoy to their hearts content! It also gives them a cool place to lay around in for a nap.
Soft bedding and hammocks
Guinea pigs in particular seem to love soft blankets and bedding to snuggle in and crawl under. You can buy hammocks that can be tied low down in their cage to crawl into as a safe place to nap, or even try making one yourself out of some spare fleece!
Safe branches to chew
As both rabbits’ and guinea pigs’ teeth are constantly growing in the same way our fingernails do, they need to keep their teeth worn down to prevent them from getting overgrown. As well as providing your pet with plenty of high-quality feeding hay, you could also give them branches from rabbit-safe trees, such as apple, willow, or birch.
Plants and herbs
Not only will some safe flowers or herbs look great in rabbit and guinea pig enclosures, but these act as a great additional snack. Try putting a tall pot filled with rosemary, mint, or basil in their run with a platform up to it to encourage them to work for their treat.
Whether homemade or bought from a pet shop, a wide range of toys are great for your small furries to get stuck into. Not only do many help keep their teeth worn down, but many are puzzle-like, which are fantastic boredom busters! For some homemade ideas, try stuffing loo-roll tubes full of feeding hay and pellets, using an egg box to hide some leafy greens in, or poking some sticks through a kitchen-roll tube and adding some small bits of safe fruit and berries to the end of the sticks.
It’s very easy to just put your pet’s food pellets in a bowl, but next time try scatter feeding to encourage them to forage for their food. Foraging is a natural behaviour for rabbits and guinea pigs and replicates them having to search for their food as they would in the wild. You could also put their feeding hay in a handing basket to encourage them to reach and stretch, as well as hanging treats from a piece of string tied at each end to their enclosure like a washing line.
No matter the enrichment activity, your pet will enjoy the change in routine and opportunity to engage in some natural behaviours! And if you need a helping hand, our We Love Pets team of pet care professionals are available to assist however they can - find your local branch here.
Written by Lucy GreavesLucy is the director of the We Love Pets Kidderminster branch, and is completely animal-mad! She is passionate about advocating for the welfare of all animals, but rabbits in particular - she has 6 rescue bunnies of her own that live in a bunny mansion. Working with animals each day is a dream come true!
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