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Small Animals: Enrichment is the Key to Happiness!

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Small animals, like hamsters, ferrets, chinchillas, etc., are often popular pets because they can be lower maintenance than bigger pets like dogs, but don’t let that fool you: Small animals still need maintenance, care, and exercise. Leaving them in their cage and giving them little else but the basic necessities of food and water is a common mistake. To give small pets a full and enriched life, here are some tips on how to make sure their tiny minds and bodies stay active:

Living and Play areas

  • Take in more than one pet to make sure they have company. Different types of small animals have different social hierarchy rules, so research your specific pet to find out what genders get along best with each other.
  • Try to get as big of a cage as you can possibly manage. It may not seem like small animals need much space, but when that cage is their full-time home, a little extra room can go a long way.
  • Provide nesting materials in the cage such as plastic or wooden playhouses available at the store, shoeboxes, baskets, and/or old t-shirts and small blankets. Hammocks are especially good for ferrets as well, but also for chinchillas and guinea pigs.
  • Let them out of the cage into a safe and supervised play area. Find a bigger space they can run around in to get some exercise, and clear it of any wires or cords while covering any possible escape routes.

Toys and Stimulation

  • Toys are important to keep your pet(s) occupied. Most small toys made of plastic, rope, wood, or leather are perfect for small animals, and our staff is ready with suitable toys and suggestions at the Pets Plus store.
  • Chew sticks and branches are also available and help keep the animals occupied.
  • Changing the environment by moving objects and food around the cage can keep your pet(s) on their toes, helping them get used to adaptation and keep them from getting bored. Hiding food in different areas within the cage or inside toys can also allow them to use their brains to search for that nourishment.
  • Tubular objects are particularly fun for rodents, who love running through and hiding in paper towel rolls or PVC pipes. Make sure these are clean though!

Pet-specific tips

  • Many rodents, especially rats, can learn tricks when coached with treats.
  • Chinchillas need dust baths, but gerbils and other rodents enjoy them as well.
  • Cat toys and stuffed animals are often good for engaging rabbits. Setting up an outdoor exercise pen will also enrich their lives when set up correctly and carefully.
  • Guinea pigs tend to be social and enjoy spending time with their owners and petting.Ferrets can learn to wear harnesses and some owners take them on walks using these.
  • Ferrets and chinchillas, in particular, enjoy tall, multilevel cages to climb and jump in.


Have you tried any of these tips for your small animal? If you don’t have one yet, come talk to us and we’ll help find a little partner for you!