Author: Micah Kohles, DVM
Playing is a fun and instinctual behavior of small pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. Watch as Dr. Micah Kohles of Oxbow Animal Health provides some quick tips on how to support your small pet’s playing instincts.
All right, so let’s talk about something fun. Let’s talk about play! Let’s talk about interacting with our munchkins. We know it’s great for them and it’s certainly something that many owners like myself really enjoy with our pets. There are a lot of benefits to play. You know, some of the obvious ones include stimulating physical behavior and mental stimulation. The more they think, the more they interact, the more they physically move, and the more they play, the more happy and healthy in general our pets are going to be.
We’ve talked in other videos about boredom-based behaviors and certainly we want to get our pets out in as big of an area as we possibly can. But, playing and interacting with our pets also decreases the likelihood of a lot of those boredom-based behaviors.
The Importance of Physical Activity for Domesticated Pets
We talked about physical activity. In the wild, these animals are spending huge portions of their day physically moving around, not only looking for food for survival, but trying to avoid predators. Yet in captivity, we provide their food and eliminate the threat of predators. So a lot of times they’ll just sit and they become very inactive. That’s not good for a lot of different reasons. Play stimulates that movement, keeps them being active. And at the end of the day too, it really helps strengthen the human/animal bond. The more we interact our pets, the happier and healthier they will be, and the more meaningful our relationship will become.
Tips for Encouraging Your Pets to Play
So, what are some tips that we can think about when we think about play? First of all, variety is king. Just like when we talk about offering a diversity of grass hays – the bigger the variety of play items and play types, the better off we can be. All kinds of safe, natural chews, different types of toys, different types of interactive things that not only offer different colors and different shapes, but different smells, textures, sounds are all different ways that we can really add variety to that play, add variety to that interaction. Always be thinking about how do we move things around? How do we change up the routine one morning when they wake up? This is here, or we move this over here. But what we do is we constantly change up that environment because for these guys, this is their world, right? It’s what they know.
Make Play Interactive to Build the Bond With Your Pets
The more we can mix up and stimulate movement and exploration, the better off our pets are going to be. Make play as interactive as you possibly can and do it every single day. I love my clients who make time in the morning and time in the evening to get down on the floor and directly interact with these guys. Maybe it’s playing with a ball, maybe it’s offering them a new type of treat. We can even tie some of these natural behaviors to a reward in the form of a treat, and these animals love that interaction. And again, the bigger the variety of how we interact, the bigger the variety of the types of things that we use to interact, the better off that play interaction is going to be.