In the zoo, laboratory and pet segments of small animal care, it is no surprise many animals love to chew just about anything in their enclosure. Rabbits, rats, mice, guinea pigs and other small animals have a strong instinct to gnaw and chew. Zoo staff and laboratory professionals should not overlook the importance of providing chewable materials. While seemingly simple, chewable materials play a pivotal role in enhancing the physical and mental health of these animals. The environment of the animal should accommodate innate physiological and behavioral needs such as smelling, tasting, foraging, and gnawing. In this blog post, we will delve into the benefits and importance of providing such materials to ensure the overall welfare of these small creatures.
Physical Health Benefits
One of the primary advantages of offering chewable materials to small animals is the promotion of dental health. Rodents, in particular, have continuously growing teeth, and regular chewing helps naturally wear down their teeth, preventing overgrowth and potential dental issues. Research indicates providing chewable enrichment is paramount to avoiding small animal dental issues. This simple activity can significantly reduce the occurrence of dental malocclusions, a common problem in captive small animals. The Chew Stack is an example of a chewable enrichment device that is more interesting and effective than a paper towel roll. The Chew Stack can be hung from enclosure, where it provides a variety of shapes, textures and chew experiences that keep animals interested and engaged.
Chewing also contributes to gastrointestinal health by promoting proper digestion. The mechanical action of chewing on fibrous materials stimulates saliva production, aiding in the breakdown of food and facilitating nutrient absorption. This is especially crucial in laboratory settings where the precision of research outcomes may be influenced by the health of the animals involved. Our Apple Sticks are an all-natural fiber-rich chewable enrichment product. Great for laboratory rodents and other chewers such as guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, degus, and prairie dogs.
Mental Stimulation and Enrichment
Providing chewable materials is an easy and effective method of offering behavioral enrichment to small animals, yet is often overlooked by some animal caregivers. In both zoo and laboratory environments, where these animals may be confined to limited spaces, engaging activities such as chewing help prevent boredom and reduce stress. This is particularly important for laboratory animals, as stress can introduce variables that may compromise research results.
Chewable materials provide cognitive stimulation. The exploration and manipulation of diverse textures and shapes challenge the animals’ minds, preventing stereotypical behaviors and promoting mental agility. Enriched environments contribute to the overall well-being of small animals, ensuring that they exhibit more natural behaviors, even in captivity.
Proper Material Selection
Careful consideration must be given to the types of chewable materials provided. Natural materials, such as untreated wood blocks or hay, are excellent choices. These materials not only cater to the animals’ chewing instincts but also avoid potential harm from toxic substances found in some synthetic alternatives. Otto Environmental has already vetted the chewable enrichment products we offer. You can be assured our enrichment products are safe when used the appropriate species. We offer a variety of enrichment products that will satisfy the chewing needs of any small animal. Here are just a few of the enrichment products we recommend for chewing animals in the laboratory, home, shelter, and zoo.
- Timothy Hay Balls are an ideal enrichment idea for rats and mice along with guinea pigs, hamsters, chinchillas, and other rodents. The balls roll and are designed to be chewed and eaten.
- Willow Bundles are easily held, manipulated, and chewed by rabbits, guinea pigs, prairie dogs, chinchillas, degus, rats and other chewing animals.
- Natural deer antlers are rich in calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and collagen. Naturally shed and collected in the USA, they are perfect for eager chewers like squirrels, chinchillas, and prairie dogs.
- Carrot Crunchers contain nothing but carrots but are tasty, crunchy fun for rabbits and other gnawing animals.
Chewable materials are an essential enrichment tool for small animals in both zoo and laboratory settings. Beyond addressing physical health concerns, these materials contribute significantly to the mental well-being and enrichment of the animals in our care. Otto Environmental understands that your time is valuable. It takes up valuable time hunting down chewable scrap materials that are safe for your animals. That is why we have sourced trusted chewable products that are easy to incorporate into your small animal enrichment program. If you have any questions or special needs for your animal care program, give us a call. We are happy to help you find solutions for all of your enrichment needs.