From rabbits and rodents to turtles and birds, our exotic pets need to be fully engaged if they are going to live life to its fullest. One of the best ways to improve the well-being of your exotic pet and ensure that they remain happy, healthy, and fully engaged is to focus on enrichment.
Enrichment will help to keep your exotic pet physically active and mentally stimulated. The practice of enrichment involves modifying the animal's environment, enabling it to display natural behaviors and improving its overall well-being. Best of all, we can enrich the lives of our exotic pets with DIY homemade toys and items using common items found around the home.
The Four Characteristics of Good Exotic Pet Toys
Depending on the type of exotic pet you have, it will have its own unique needs for engagement and enrichment. Generally speaking, exotic pet engagement has four characteristics: exercise, puzzle solving & foraging, sensory enrichment, and security. Let's dive deeper into these important engagement characteristics and the toys most associated with them.
Toys that promote exercise and movement include shredding toys for birds, exercise wheels for rodents, tubes or tunnels for ferrets, snakes, and rodents, dig boxes for rabbits, and vertical hanging toys, like ropes and swings, for rodents and sugar gliders.
Puzzle Solving and Foraging
Some items you can introduce to your exotic pet's environment to promote grazing, foraging, and puzzle-solving behaviors include pet-safe grasses and plants, tubes and puzzles, and hay bins.
There are many ways to provide your exotic pet with sensory enrichment using items found around the home. For example, reptiles love touchscreen devices and televisions, while birds and amphibians respond well to singing and talking on the radio. Small mammals and snakes will enjoy the smell of an old t-shirt, while small mammals benefit from tactile enrichment from being introduced to different textures.
Many exotic pets flourish in environments where they feel safe and secure. Chinchillas, guinea pigs, and hedgehogs enjoy the safety and security of hiding boxes, just like fish love having caves inside their tanks. Ferrets, snakes, and rodents take great comfort in exploring and hiding in tunnels and tubes.
Common Household Items for DIY Exotic Pet Toys
No matter what exotic pet you share your home with, chances are you will be able to find common, everyday items around your house that you can use to enrich their lives and keep them engaged.
Common household items to look for include:
toilet paper rolls
cardboard from packaged food items or food deliveries
touch screen devices
old pillowcases, bedding, or clothing
ceramic or clay pots
Best DIY Homemade Toys for Exotic Pets
With those characteristics in mind, here are some of the most common toys you can create using common household items to promote engagement and satisfy these enrichment characteristics.
DIY Shredding Toys for Birds
If you are the pet parent of a bird, you know that it's a bird's instinct to shred paper, which is related to instinctual nesting behaviors. In a home environment, birds enjoy shredding paper to stay active, engaged, and relieve boredom.
For DIY shredding toys, grab some natural plain paper, free from dyes, and cut it into fun shapes for your feathered friend to shred, weave strips in and out of their cage bars, or crumple it up in a ball and watch your bird shred away.
DIY Tubes and Tunnels for Snakes, Ferrets, and Rodents
Exotic pets like ferrets, snakes, and rodents love to explore and hide in tunnels. Cardboard paper towel rolls and toilet paper rolls, along with PVC piping, make great tunnel toys for any number of exotic pets.
Some people make tunnel playgrounds for their exotic pets as a creative and fun way to bond with them and help them stay active. There are countless cheap or free materials that you can use to make fun, safe tunnel playgrounds that your pet will enjoy over and over.
DIY Dig Boxes for Rabbits and Rats
Rabbits love to dig! In their natural habitat, rabbits dig to escape predators, create a comfy place to sleep, and give birth. In a home environment, rabbits tap into that instinct and dig to stay engaged or respond to boredom or stress.
DIY dig boxes for rabbits are easy and fun to make. All you need is a clean cardboard box filled with animal-safe items like shredded paper, straw, and cardboard tube rolls. Throw some treats into the bottom, and your rabbit will have a blast foraging. Your rabbit is sure to love playing in its new dig box but check it regularly to ensure that it does not use it as a litter box.
Rabbits aren't the only exotic pets that love to dig boxes. Your pet rat will be thrilled with a small plastic litter pan filled about halfway with sterilized potting soil. To take it to the next level, plant some birdseed or wheatgrass, and your rats can have a tasty sprout snack while they dig the day away.
Making DIY Toys for Exotic Pets
The key to fun and excitement for you and your exotic pet is to be creative while addressing their instinctual needs. These are just a few DIY toys you can make to keep your exotic pet engaged and enrich their environment. But you don't have to limit yourself to these few ideas.
Using this article's list of materials and items, you can let your creativity shine by making just about anything to keep your exotic pet happy, healthy, and engaged.