Providing our pets with mental stimulation is one of the most important things we can do to ensure their continued happiness. Interacting regularly with the animals in our lives has enormous benefits for all, with studies consistently showing a lower level of stress both in pet carers and in the pets themselves. Inevitably there are times in the day when we can’t be with our pets; for these occasions, toys designed to challenge and reward our companions are a valuable addition to their living environments.
As naturally inquisitive animals, cats enjoy games of chase and catch. Aside from the evergreen balls and other shapes on strings, there are lots of toys on the market designed to stimulate a cat’s natural hunting instincts by chasing ‘prey’ (either a ball or cat treat) around a circuit or through a simple maze. Using an online search engine to look for ‘interactive toys for cats’ will bring up endless options to suit all households and budgets. You can even make something similar yourself by sealing up a cardboard box with a ball or some favourite treats hidden inside and making a few paw-sized holes around the outside.
Almost every dog log lover will know of Kong, maker of the original treat toys. Placing biscuits and treats inside these sturdy chews encourages dogs to work to free their reward, providing exercise and challenge and replicating natural behaviours. The erratic bouncing of the rubber toys and their soft mouth feel make them a great choice, and the wide product range has something for every shape and size of dog.
It’s vital for any animal living in a hutch or cage to have sensory and mental stimulation in order to keep them happy and engaged. There are a wide range of chews, tunnels and boxes available to buy, but the toys you can make at home are just as good (and much cheaper!) Encourage your rabbit to work for his / her food by placing treats inside cardboard tubes or boxes, or inserting them in small holes. Thread leafy greens through the spiral of a slinky toy and hang from the roof of the hutch so that you rabbit has to work to untwist the tasty leaves.
There are plenty more ideas here.
Guinea pigs and small rodents
With teeth that continue to grow throughout their life, it’s important that these pets are encouraged to chew often, in order to minimise dental issues. Again, there is a wide range of affordable pet-safe chewing toys available to buy, but variety is important to stimulate your pet’s brain, and so you may wish to add homemade options. The inner tubes of kitchen and toilet rolls are a perennial favourite (especially when stuffed with hay with tasty treats hidden in the centre so your pet has to work to free the treats), but you can also use twigs or small pieces of wood from suitable sources. The Hamster Central forum has a list of safe woods here.
Or for the simplest toy of all, hang a piece of fruit or green vegetable on unbleached twine and hang just within reach!
Ultimately the aim of any toy is to prevent your pet becoming bored, ideally by replicating his / her ‘natural’ pre-domestication environment as best you can. Toys are no substitute for time and attention, but used in addition to lots of together-time they can add variety and mental stimulation to your pet’s daily life without breaking the bank. Making your own toys in itself helps strengthen the bond between you and your pet, and is a great way to keep the children busy too!
Until next time, best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support
Please note: The Ralph Site is not affiliated with the third-party organisations in any of the links shared here, and the views, ideas and suggestions expressed in this and other blogs are simply shared with the intention of helping you, our friends, take care of the special animals in your lives.