Sometimes, amidst all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it can be easy to overlook our pets — especially the little ones! Here are some creative stocking stuffers that are bound to be a hit with the small animal in your life.
1. Snuffle mat
Have you heard? Snuffle mats aren’t just for dogs anymore! They’re also fantastic for small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and ferrets. Hide their favourite treats in the mat and watch as they sniff them out.
You can purchase snuffle mats at your local pet supply store or online. A basic one can also be made from fleece fabric cut into strips and knotted around a rubber sink mat. Check out our easy step-by-step instructions (PDF).
2. Homemade baked biscuits
While the holidays tend to be synonymous with baking, our favourite sweet treats are far from suitable for small animals. Instead, try this simple recipe for bunny biscuits (PDF), which can be adapted for guinea pigs and rats too.
3. Treat ball
Small animals like rabbits and guinea pigs can quickly learn to roll around a treat-dispensing ball and gobble up the food that falls out. This is a more stimulating alternative to simply eating their daily pellets out of a bowl.
You can use treat balls labelled for cats, or search online for ones made specifically for small animals. Whichever you choose, it’s best to have one ball per pet. You might also need to supervise their use, as the one who catches on the quickest could hog all the food!
4. Paper bag hay cave
A paper bag hay cave is proof positive that enrichment for small animals can be fun and inexpensive. Just fill a brown paper bag with hay and sprinkle in your rabbit’s or guinea pig’s favourite treats. Lay the bag on its side in their enclosure or out on the floor during free-roam time. They’ll burrow right into it in search of the hidden goodies — and even shred the ‘cave’ once that’s done.
5. Toilet paper roll food puzzles
Did you know that toilet paper rolls make some of the best DIY toys for small animals? Rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, hamsters and gerbils all enjoy chewing their way through the cardboard to get at the tasty treats planted inside.
- To make a puzzle roller (below left), flatten and fold three toilet paper rolls into random shapes. Slide the three crumpled rolls into a fourth roll. Arrange them any way you like, as long as they fit snugly together without falling out. Then push a few treats as far down as you can into the gaps.
- To make a puzzle ball (below right), cut a toilet paper roll into rings about a centimetre wide. Begin wrapping the rings around each other to create a ball shape. Just before you add the last few rings, slip a few treats inside. Add the remaining rings and shift them around to close any large gaps in the ball.
You can also take advantage of the season and use the cardboard tube from a roll of wrapping paper instead!
6. Small animal sushi
Leafy greens and other fresh vegetables are an important part of a rabbit’s diet. Why not have a little fun with your food prep and make your rabbit some small animal sushi (PDF)? Try for a holiday theme using small amounts of red pepper stuffed inside the green zucchini ‘wrapper’.
This snack is also a favourite with guinea pigs.
7. Fleece forest
Because they’re prey species, small animals need places to hide in order to feel safe. A fleece forest provides a comforting space for rabbits and guinea pigs to get away. (After so much socializing over the holidays, we can probably all relate!)
Fleece forests can be purchased at pet supply stores or online, or you can make your own. All you’ll need is a sturdy cardboard box, pencil, scissors and some fleece fabric. Then follow these steps:
- On one side of the box, draw and then cut out a doorway large enough for your pet.
- On the top of the box, use a pencil to mark dots where your fleece ‘trees’ will hang down.
- Wherever you’ve put a dot, punch a hole through the cardboard using the tip of the pencil.
- Cut as many strips of fleece as there are holes in the box. Each strip should be as tall as the box, plus a bit extra, as they’ll be tied at the top.
- Tie a knot at the end of each strip. Thread the strips through the holes so the knots are at the top. The strips should come close to touching the bottom of the box without dragging too much — otherwise, they’ll get dirty quickly. Cut off any excess fabric.