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Environmental enrichment for rabbits and guinea pigs
The oxford dictionary defines enrichment as “the act of improving the quality of something, often by adding something to it”.
Enriching any animal’s environment will make their lives better but it is especially important for animals kept in cages or confined to the house when their natural environment is outdoors.
Looking after rabbits and guinea pigs involves providing a good quality diet, fresh water and an interesting environment to ensure boredom does not set in. The animal needs both physical and social stimulation to prevent unwanted behaviours caused by depression and stress. Victorians first kept rabbits in a hutch just prior to cooking them for dinner. It’s such a shame we still do the same today to our pets!
A rabbit’s diet should consist of hay, grass and dried grass the same size as their body each day! Then you can top up with nuggets and green leafy salad. Guinea pigs must have special guinea pig mix to provide them with essential vitamin C every day. Why not hide their food around the house so they can search it out.
All animals can be trained using positive reinforcement so why not teach your pet some tricks to test their brain power and keep them interested.
Clicker training is the best way to teach any new behaviours. Use a pen with a button which makes a ‘click’ sound or buy a clicker. The click sound must be followed by a tasty treat such as a pinch of dandelion or their favorite herb. Your rabbit/guinea pig will quickly learn that the click = something tasty is coming!
Check out Karen Pryor’s website for ideas: www.clickertraining.com/node/306
Guinea pig and Rabbit boredom can easily be solved by providing enrichment toys: It’s easy to provide low cost toys such as pine cones or wooden curtain rings, wicker baskets, ping pong balls, natural growing tree branches and grass; Apple tree branches are the tastiest! Cardboard boxes and telephone directories make for great shredding. Try putting some tasty treats inside an egg carton or closed cereal box and letting your bunny or guinea pig figure out how to open it to get to the prize inside! (Just make sure anything you provide is untreated and unstained!).
Pet Planet have a fabulous selection of toys for sale. Take a look here http://www.petplanet.co.uk/category.asp?dept_id=65
Remember that your pets need company and social time but go gently with rabbits and guinea pigs as they are naturally prey animals so take time to get them used to being handled. Sit on the floor with them and allow them to come to you. Give them treats and stroke them gently until they get used to you before you start to pick them up!
Some other useful websites for finding out about your furry friends are as follows:
www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk and www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets
Very Important Pets are London’s premier pet services agency that uses only qualified or experienced pet carers to provide a range of pet care services across London and the Home Counties. . We currently have over 140 pet sitters working for us and are expanding all the time, and with fifteen successful years of trading, Very Important Pets is well known for giving our clients the best possible service. As well as our popular pet care services we also provide, Puppy training classes, one to one dog training, Pet First Aid seminars, Pets at Weddings service , and a pet sitters training course.
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