Mental stimulation is important for the behavioural enrichment of small animals. With some small positive changes to their normal routine, you can have a healthy, mentally stimulated furry friend! 

Changing their environment 

The quickest and easiest thing you can do to change up their routine is to rearrange items in your friend’s living environment. Moving items to the opposite corner makes them think about its change of location; they may even try to move it around to place it where they want it. Introducing different “furniture pieces” such as branches and bedding can create a different environment. Introduce only one item at a time to prevent fear and stress. 

It is important to note that small animals rearrange their furniture how they like it- so if there is an item that they keep moving to a certain area, it’s best to leave it where they are placing it to avoid stressing them out. It’s similar to someone coming in and constantly redecorating your house – a little change is good, but if there’s a certain item that you like in a certain spot, it’s very frustrating if people keep moving it! 

Other ways to change their environment: 

Cardboard – boxes with holes cut into them are great for hiding spaces and a change of environment. Cardboard tubes can also be stuffed with hay and healthy treats for added enrichment. 

Tunnels – plastic and fabric tunnels can be purchased at your local pet store or online, or you can make your own tunnels from cardboard boxes or tubes with wide diameters. When it comes to choosing a tunnel for your small animal to play in, always ensure that it is big enough for them to enter and turn around in – we don’t want anyone getting stuck in a tunnel that’s too small! 

Mirrors – these can offer comfort for female rabbits. The effects can be short-lived, so this is recommended for temporary relief of loneliness. 

Digging opportunities – domestic rabbits will perform this behaviour so you can try providing them with a “digging box.” Safe places to dig are large plant pots or litter trays filled with earth, cardboard boxes filled with shredded paper and sandpits filled with child and animal-friendly sand. 

Toys and objects 

Toys that allow animals to perform normal behaviours, such as digging, chewing, chin marking and jumping keep them mentally stimulated. 

The RSPCA suggests these great toys: 

Objects to manipulate or throw, such as untreated straw or balls. Solid plastic baby toys like key rings, rattles and stacking cups can make great rabbit toys. 
Let them shred paper such as newspapers. A great idea is to wrap your rabbit’s favourite food in brown paper and let them unwrap it. 
Again, cardboard is a great object for them to play with. Tubes can be stuffed with hay or healthy treats to rotate their routine. 
Toys such as balls, rings, and chewing blocks are great for entertainment. You can also think of things they may want to carry, push, bury or hide. 

Ensure there are no small parts that can be swallowed and you are supervising the use of these toys. 

Read How to enrich your small animal’s environment for more ideas. 

Let’s keep our small animals active and stimulated! 

Help us continue to educate about pet health and well-being by making a donation. 



The post How to keep your small animals mentally stimulated appeared first on Ontario SPCA and Humane Society.

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