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The Importance of Reliable Doors at Zoos and Laboratories

For zookeepers, animal handlers, and veterinarians, a day at work revolves around ensuring animal welfare.

While enrichment, proper nutrition, and veterinary care take center stage, a seemingly mundane detail plays a crucial role – reliable doors. Not all animal facilities are up to modern standards. Dr Kirsten Pullen, chief executive of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums notes: “Some of our zoos are well over 100 years old when health and safety concerns were less of a concern than they are now. These zoos have had to adapt.” Modern specialty doors are not just used in zoos. They are also important in veterinary clinics where animals are taken for treatment as well as quarantine activities.

Why Doors Matter

Animal enclosures require access for various purposes: feeding, enrichment, cleaning, veterinary examinations, and animal transfers. Malfunctioning doors can disrupt these routines, causing stress to animals and creating safety hazards for staff. Doors must be able to hold up under harsh environments, wear and tear, and frequent cleaning with water and disinfectants for biosecurity. The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) inspector guidelines  address the need for safety and security. Likewise, laboratories also must follow safety guidelines. Here’s how reliable doors benefit both animals and caretakers.

Animal Safety – An escape due to a faulty door can be catastrophic. Animals, especially large or frightened ones, can injure themselves or others if they breach containment.

Reduced Stress – Unreliable doors create uncertainty during routine procedures. Animals may become anxious if doors stick, creating difficulties during feeding or vet checks. Smooth operation minimizes disruption. This applies even to animal shelters and kennels. Our lock and door lubricant will help keep your doors working smoothly and quietly.

cage care lubricant 32oz on white background
Otto Animal Cage & Lock Lubricant Oil


Staff Safety – Animal care can be unpredictable. Secure, well-functioning doors provide a barrier between staff and potentially dangerous animals during unexpected situations. The recent incident at the Fort Worth Zoo with silverback gorillas makes the case for adequate and secure doors.

Efficiency – Timely access to enclosures is vital for animal care. Doors that open and close smoothly ensure efficient completion of daily tasks.

Human vs. Animal Doors

Zoo and laboratory enclosures require two distinct door types:

Staff Doors – These allow personnel access to animal spaces. Common types include swinging doors, sliding doors, and sally ports. Our stainless-steel personnel doors are built with the highest-quality stainless steel and door components. We can custom-make doors to your size and specifications. Our stainless-steel Dutch Doors offer good air flow and the ability to open the upper or lower door independently. We design and manufacture wire mesh doors. Wire mesh doors provide security, full view of the environment, and air flow.


Stainless Steel Personnel Doors
Stainless Steel Dutch Door


Animal Doors – Designed for animal movement, these doors prioritize safety and ease of operation. A popular choice is the guillotine door. Guillotine doors, named for their vertical movement, are ideal for animal enclosures. Here’s what makes them effective.

Safety – Their design prevents animals from pushing the door open. Additionally, the smooth, vertical action minimizes the risk of injuries during operation.

Strength – These doors are constructed from durable materials to withstand animal contact.

Remote Operation – Guillotine doors can be operated remotely, minimizing staff interaction with potentially stressed animals. Watch our remote door control in this YouTube video.

Our custom guillotine door is built for outdoor use. Stainless-steel construction and hardware make this a popular choice for outdoor zoo enclosures, ranch, farm, and shelter use. We also have a ready-to-install model.

Stainless Steel Guillotine Door


Beyond Guillotine Doors

While guillotine doors are excellent choices for many situations, other animal door options exist.

Slide Gates – Suitable for smaller animals, slide doors offer easy access while maintaining security. Our sliding door is wall-mounted and can be made with galvanized or stainless-steel. We can customize to your requirements.


Sliding Door Assembly


Access Doors – Ideal for feeding and passing items or small animals through enclosures.


Reliable doors are often an overlooked but crucial element of animal care facilities. By prioritizing robust construction, proper operation, and choosing the right door for the specific needs of both animals and staff, zoos and animal care facilities can ensure a safe, efficient, and stress-free environment for all residents. Otto Environmental has built a reputation for manufacturing quality specialty doors and hardware.  All our cages, doors and access products are made of high-quality galvanized or stainless-steel and fabricated by skilled craftsman for years of trouble-free service. Working with a builder or architect? We will work with them to find the right product for your project. Need a custom size? We will build it to your specifications! Have questions? Contact us to discuss your next project or upgrade.


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The benefits of folding stainless steel tables

In the dynamic world of veterinary medicine, the demand for durable, hygienic, and functional equipment is paramount.

Among the essential pieces of equipment in any veterinary clinic, animal shelter, zoo, or laboratory, stainless-steel veterinary exam tables stand out as indispensable tools that assist in the daily work of caring for domestic and exotic animal species. As a leading manufacturer in the field, Otto Environmental specializes in crafting a variety of drop-leaf laboratory tables that cater to the diverse needs of animal care professionals. Our folding tables meet the recommendations of key laboratory and American Animal Hospital Association animal facility design and operational guidelines.

Exceptional design standards

There is nothing worse than a flimsy work surface. Our 304 stainless-steel veterinary exam tables are not merely furniture; they are critical tools that facilitate the examination, treatment, and care of animals of all shapes and sizes. Their robust construction and hygienic properties make them ideal for environments where cleanliness and durability are non-negotiable. Our tables are designed to attach to a wall and fold down and out of the way when not in use. This saves space and allows you to use the space for other activities when the table is not needed. This feature is particularly useful in smaller clinics or mobile veterinary units where space is limited. The Drop Leaf Laboratory Table serves as a work station and an exam table. The table measures 22” x 40” and will support up to 150 lbs. (68 Kg). The table extends lengthwise from the wall, allowing staff to access both sides of the table.

Drop leaf stainless steel laboratory table
Drop-Leaf Laboratory Table


Properties of stainless steel

One of the primary advantages of stainless-steel tables lies in their material composition. Stainless steel is highly resistant to corrosion, staining, and bacterial growth, making it the ideal choice for environments where sanitation is of utmost importance. You’ll find this requirement in many animal research lab guidelines such as the University of Michigan’s animal lab program. The smooth surface of stainless steel is easy to clean and disinfect, saving valuable time and effort for busy staff. This feature is particularly crucial in veterinary clinics and laboratories, where the risk of cross-contamination between animals is a constant concern. Our tables can be power-washed or steam-cleaned if needed. You can even use strong disinfectants such as bleach, ozone, and peracetic acid. With Otto stainless-steel exam tables, veterinarians and animal care professionals can perform procedures with confidence, knowing that their equipment meets the highest standards of hygiene.

The many uses of sturdy tables

The versatility of stainless-steel tables extends beyond veterinary clinics to encompass a wide range of animal care settings. In zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, these tables serve as essential platforms for conducting health checks, administering vaccinations, and even preparing food for the animals. Stainless steel is the surface of choice for food preparation, even at zoos. The Smithsonian National Zoo uses human food-grade ingredients in their animal diets. Their food kitchen rivals commercial human kitchens in professionalism and use of high-quality stainless steel surfaces, as this behind the scenes video demonstrates.  Our durable construction and choice of materials ensures that the tables can even withstand the rigors of outdoor use and exposure to diverse weather conditions. Our Flip-Up Table mounts to the wall at any height. The 16” x 30” table supports up to 100 lbs. (45Kg). There are no levers. Just lift the table up and it locks away in the stowed position. This helps with efficient traffic flow through the facility.

Flip Up Table


Otto tables look great in your facility

Beyond their practical benefits, stainless-steel veterinary exam tables contribute to a professional and hygienic environment that instills confidence in clients and visitors alike. The Denver Zoo’s new veterinary clinic can be viewed by the public, allowing the staff to demonstrate the highest level of animal care. Their table’s sleek and modern design enhances the aesthetic appeal of any animal care facility, reflecting a commitment to excellence in veterinary medicine and animal welfare.

Finial thoughts

In conclusion, Otto stainless-steel veterinary exam tables are indispensable assets in the field of animal care, offering durability, hygiene, and functionality that meet the diverse needs of veterinarians, zookeepers, laboratory technicians, and animal shelter managers. The comfort, health, and safety of your staff and animal patients are the highest priority for every product we design and manufacture. As a trusted manufacturer of quality equipment, Otto Environmental continues to innovate and refine its product offerings to support the vital work of animal care professionals around the world. If you would like to discuss your facility’s needs, please contact us for immediate assistance.

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Squeeze Cages: Essential Tools for Zoo & Veterinary Professionals

Animal squeeze cages are invaluable tools for zoo, laboratory, and veterinary professionals.

Squeeze cages provide a safe and controlled environment for performing examinations, administering treatments, and transporting animals. Squeeze cages are available for just about any mammal ranging in size from rabbits up to primates and hoofstock. If you are not utilizing a squeeze cage, chances are your staff is missing out on the many benefits of the device.

Squeeze Cage Benefits

Animal Restraint:  Squeeze cages effectively restrain animals for necessary procedures, minimizing stress and injury to both the animal and handler. The adjustable panels gently but firmly hold the animal in place, allowing for efficient and safe examinations. This video demonstrates how a squeeze cage simplifies blood draws and vaccinations.

Improved Procedures: The restrained position facilitates various procedures like vaccinations, blood draws, and minor medical interventions. Easy access to different parts of the animal’s body makes the process smoother and quicker.

Enhanced Safety: Squeeze cages protect handlers from bites, scratches, and other potential injuries that may occur during animal examinations or treatments. This is especially crucial when dealing with wild or aggressive animals.

Stress Reduction: Compared to physical restraint, squeeze cages offer a less stressful experience for animals. The enclosed space provides a sense of security, and the gentle pressure of the panels minimizes anxiety.

Choosing the Right Squeeze Cage

Selecting the appropriate squeeze cage is essential for optimal functionality and animal welfare. Otto Environmental manufactures a variety of different squeeze cages to choose from. Key factors to consider include:

Animal Size: Choose a cage size that comfortably accommodates the animal while allowing enough room for essential procedures.

Species-Specific Needs: Certain species have unique requirements. For example, primates may need cages with perches or climbing structures. You can add species-specific enrichment items if required.  We also provide small animal squeeze cages for rabbits, ferrets, and similar-sized mammals. Small animal squeeze cages are recommended for sedating exotic animals and pets. We manufacture squeeze cages for a wide range of animals including pinnipeds, chimpanzees, and bears.

Small Animal Squeeze Cage


Pinniped Squeeze Cage


Chimpanzee Squeeze Cage


Bear Squeeze Cage


Material and Construction: Look for durable and easy-to-clean materials like stainless steel or wire mesh. Otto manufactures squeeze cages with high-quality 304 stainless steel. We make sure surfaces are smooth to prevent injuries. Some designs have removable trays to simplify sanitation.

Functionality: Consider features like adjustable panels, access doors, and removable floors for added convenience and versatility. Many of our squeeze cages have lockable wheels for transporting the animals and easy maneuvering.

Squeeze Cage Best Practices

Acclimatization: Allow the animal time to adjust to the cage before initiating procedures. This reduces stress and ensures a smoother experience.

Gentle Handling: Treat the animal with care and avoid unnecessary force. Speak calmly and reassuringly throughout the process.

Proper Positioning: Ensure the animal is positioned comfortably and securely within the cage to prevent escape or injury.

Teamwork: When dealing with larger or potentially aggressive animals, teamwork is crucial. Coordinate effectively to ensure safety and minimize stress for both the animal and handlers.

Minimize Exposure: Perform the animal care procedure as quickly as possible to minimize the animal’s time in the squeeze cage. This is a common procedure for non-human primate research at Brown University.


Squeeze cages are vital instruments for zoo and veterinary professionals, enabling safe and efficient animal care. This is required to conform to IACUC and other standards such as the National Research Council’s laboratory animal guidelines. By understanding their benefits, choosing the right cage, and following best practices, professionals can ensure the well-being of both animals and handlers. With proper use, squeeze cages can contribute significantly to improved animal care and welfare. If you would like more information on our squeeze cages or would like a custom-designed cage, please contact us for quick and professional service.

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Current Trends in Laboratory Rodent Enrichment

Each year, more than 120 million rodents are utilized for research purposes.

Laboratory rodents, like hooded PVGc rats and NOD, FVB, and BALB mice have traditionally been kept in small cages that constrain their natural behaviors such as nesting and burrowing. These housing conditions can lead to decreased physical fitness, impaired thermoregulation, and reduced welfare for the animals. This results in the development of abnormal stereotypic behaviors. Research indicates the stressful nature of conventional rat and mouse housing seems to have a negative impact on the health of rodents, raising doubts about the reliability and applicability of the data generated from research studies.

Moreover, rodents endure long-term consequences resulting from these laboratory housing conditions. Traditional rodent cages are small and offer minimal amenities, usually limited to food, water, and a granular flooring substrate like a corncob. In their natural habitat rodents engage in burrowing activities to create warm and secure nests for resting. Foraging for food stimulates cognitive, visual, and physical activity.  Rodents often explore larger home ranges, which can span several cubic meters within buildings or encompass dozens to hundreds of square meters of field habitat. Rodents have a strong instinct to explore and investigate their surroundings.

A significant portion of research involving rodents remains unpublished, lacks replication, or exhibits limited translatability.

Conventional laboratory rodent cages often cause abnormal behavior, cognitive pessimism, impaired sleep quality, and reduced resilience to acute stressors. For instance, rodents housed in cramped or uninteresting enclosures can exhibit prolonged tachycardia (increased heart rate) following injections or other stress-inducing events. Conversely, rodent enclosures with complex enrichment result in better study data, larger organs, and inhibition of cancer growth to name a few benefits.

Current laboratory rat and mouse enrichment practices include making the rodent’s environment more complex through enrichment products. The Council of Europe has required the provision of shelter or nesting for laboratory rodents. The Canadian Council on Animal Care also published guidelines for laboratory mice care that includes adequate stimulation through enrichment. These and other published guidelines increasingly recognize the importance of providing laboratory animals with complex environmental enrichment.

Creating better enclosure conditions is easy with enrichment products. Here are a few proven techniques.

Otto Wood Block Pine Cube Gallery
Pine Chew Blocks
wobust wodent wheel
Wodent Wheel

Our Casablanca Small Animal Cage is suitable for mice and rats.

The cage has two shelf platforms and ladders for climbing. Chew-proof metal shelves and ladders ensure this cage will hold up under tough conditions. The 6.5″ deep base allows plenty of room for bedding and burrowing. Each cage is made with durable plastic and chew-proof welded steel.

Casablanca Cage
Casablanca Cage

Supplement loose bedding with our specialty Rodent Bedding material. Simply unroll a section and tear it off. Mice especially enjoy shredding and nesting in this material.

rodent bedding pad roll on white background
Rodent Bedding Pad Roll

The Otto Cedar Forager has 1¼” drilled holes to stuff with treats or leave unfilled to create more paths for small rats or mice. The all-natural Cedar Forager provides a comforting space to explore.

Cedar Forager

For large rodents, the Guinea Pig Condo is the ideal exercise center. Made from polycarbonate, the condo has ramps, shelves, and plenty of air holes for ventilation.

If your facility requires autoclavable enrichment devices, consider the stainless-steel Minie Mouse Jogger Wheel or the Swinging Minie Jogger. Both exercise wheels are hand-built of sturdy stainless steel and can handle the rigors of laboratory experiments.

Minie Jogger
swinging minie jogger attached to cage
Swinging Minie Jogger

We have an entire catalog of rodent enrichment devices that will fit into your laboratory protocols. Rotating various enrichment products every month or so is a growing trend in laboratories relying on rodent-based experimentation. It keeps the animals engaged, lowers stress, and reduces stereotypic and aggressive behavior, not to mention better experimental outcomes.

If you require heavy-duty laboratory animal equipment, like our Rodent Cage transport Cart, or customized enclosures, please contact us to discuss your project.

rodent cage transport
Rodent Cage Transport Cart
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The Importance of Reliable Caging at Animal Care Facilities

Having well-made cages, pens, and enclosures makes caring for your animals easier, saves money, and keeps staff and animals safe. These four factors are to consider when planning on a new enclosure or modifying an existing containment area.

  • Animal welfare – The enclosure must be tailored to the health and safety of the type of animals it will hold.
  • Staff safety – The risk of accidental harm to the handlers must be minimized.
  • Ease of cleaning – Hygiene is of utmost importance.
  • Safety to visitors – Enclosures must minimize risk to the public.

Good enclosure design balances all four factors. Many animal facilities have windows so the public can see behind the scenes. The Denver Zoo added large viewing windows into their state-of-the-art veterinary care facility. Visitors can watch the animals being cared for. It is especially important to use enclosures that are clean, safe, and designed to comfortably house the animal. Rusty, dirty cages are bad for the animals and staff and give the impression the animals are kept in poor conditions. The same goes for private veterinary practices and animal shelters caring for dogs, cats, pigs, and even wild animals. In fact, The British Columbia SPCA has a program to house and rehabilitates wounded wild animals such as birds, rabbits, deer, and other wildlife.

Otto Environmental manufactures a full range of animal enclosure products for zoos, veterinary hospitals, universities, shelters, petting farms, and research facilities. We will work with you to design the optimal enclosure for your particular facility.

Our customizable horse stalls are functional and attractive. They are popular with public, private, and governmental equine facilities around the world.

Customizable Horse Stalls

Working with big cats like tigers, leopards, cheetahs, lions, and cougars? Our lion cages are designed to safely hold all types of cats including small species like lynxes, bobcats, ocelots, and other smaller felines. Our enclosures are constructed of rust-proof stainless steel and use the finest hardware for reliable service.

Stainless Steel Lion Cage

If you are maintaining or upgrading an existing enclosure, we have many door designs that are easily incorporated into new and existing enclosures and housing.

We custom-fabricate access doors that are secure and make feeding and training safe and easy. Otto Environmental also manufactures stainless-steel guillotine doors for indoor and outdoor applications. This door design is common at zoos but is also recommended by the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine for dog pens in animal shelters.

One of our most popular items is the Sliding Door Assembly. It makes it easy for handlers to transfer animals in and out of pens and enclosures. The precision-built hardware allows the door to be operated with little effort while holding up to daily use.

Sliding Door Assembly

Additionally, Otto Environmental manufactures stainless-steel access doors for your laboratory, clinic, zoo, or university.

Stainless Steel Personnel Doors

All of our cages, doors and access products are made of high-quality stainless steel and fabricated by skilled craftsmen for years of trouble-free service. Working with a builder or architect? We will work with them to find the right product for your project. Need a custom size? We’ll build it to your specifications!

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Preparing Your Animal Facility for Valentine’s Day!

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! Everybody enjoys receiving a special Valentine’s gift. It shows they are loved and appreciated. The same goes for the animals in our care.

Donors and patrons like to include their favorite zoo, shelter, rescue, and petting park in their holiday celebrations. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to “matchmake” your animals with the public. Lee County Humane Society had a two-day Love Unleashed Valentine’s event to connect potential adopters to “fur friends.” The San Antonio Zoo is hosting its annual Wild at Heart Valentine’s dinner. Attendees get to dine on gourmet food while enjoying the company of Timothy and Ulma, the zoo’s hippos. Maybe your facility does not have gourmet dining or hippos. Not to worry. Here are some simple and fun valentines events you can adapt to your zoo, shelter, or animal care facility.

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo offers a kids-only valentines night featuring pizza and a guided tour to meet small animals. Parents drop off their children while they enjoy a stroll through the zoo. For the 21+ crowd the zoo offers the Love is in the Air event. Visitors enjoy an adult beverage and take a romance-themed nighttime tour through the park.

Valentine’s Day is also a great time to offer friends and supporters a way to donate.

The Rogers Williams Park Zoo runs an annual Valentine’s Day Gift Guide as an online method for cash donations.

The Pennsylvania SPCA has an annual Send a Shelter Valentine. For a $10 donation, a special valentine is hung on the animal’s kennel door. The donation goes toward the shelter’s needs in caring for dogs, cats, birds, and small animals.

Supporters often like to donate specific items for their favorite animals. It provides a personal connection between the gift and the animal. Here are a few of the most popular enrichment toys that are gifted to shelters, zoos, veterinary practices, and other animal facilities.

Kong is a well-known brand among pet owners and animal care professionals. We carry the full line of Kong products. You’ll find toys for dogs, wolves, and other canids. Did you know Kong makes enrichment products for large animals like horses, lions, tigers, bears, dolphins, and primates? Kong has something for just about every animal.

Kong Zoo Horse Kong

Need something for a petting farm?

Consider these swine enrichment products as gift ideas. Children love small animals like mice, gerbils, hamsters, small primates, ferrets, and other furry friends. These small enrichment toys are ideal for Valentine’s gifts.

Pigs Playing with Easyfix Luna 50

Don’t forget the birds!

Parrots, cockatoos, cockatiels, and other birds are fascinated by colorful objects that rattle and can be manipulated. Visitors enjoy watching birds play with rings, bells, and mirrors. No matter what kind of bird, we’ve got a bird-friendly enrichment toy that will entertain and make a fun gift.

Avian Looking Bowl Mirror

Whether your facility is an exotic animal center or a local animal shelter, Valentine’s Day celebrations are an effective way to bring awareness to your important work and provide supporters with a way to grow closer to the animals in your care.

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Benefits of Wash Baskets for Zoo, Park, Shelter, and Laboratory

Its no secret that caring for an animal is a big job.

If you work at a zoo, shelter, laboratory, or petting farm, you’ve got dozens or hundreds of animals that need daily attention. Your time is valuable and anything that makes the daily tasks easier and faster frees up more time for other projects like enrichment and research activities. One of the most common “everyday” tasks at animal facilities is providing drinking water and nutrition. It takes time for staff to collect, clean, fill, and distribute food, water, and other essentials. Wash baskets, bottle fillers, carts, and other time-saving devices increase efficiency, and make daily tasks go quicker with less work.  That’s why we created the Otto Environmental basket line of products. Here’s how to reduce work and free up more time for you and your staff.

Stainless Steel Mesh Wash Basket
Bottle Filler 12
Stainless Steel Mesh Wash Basket in Feed Cart

Bottle baskets

Whether your providing animals with drinking water or dosing pharmaceuticals in a research study, bottle baskets make the job easier. Our stainless-steel bottle baskets are designed for easy loading. Dirty bottles are quickly collected and secured in the individual compartments. Put an end to “bouncing bottles” tumbling from a tray. If you use glass bottles, you know the hassle of cleaning up broken glass. We designed our bottle baskets with features not found in generic products.

  • 304 Stainless-steel wire construction
  • Sliding lid that won’t fall out or get lost
  • Stackable design keeps baskets stable
Bottle Basket 10
Bottle Basket Plus








Our basic Bottle Basket holds 24 bottles. The Bottle Basket Plus holds 24 8-oz  French square and low-profile bottles, and has duel sliding lids. If your facility requires a smaller-capacity basket, consider the Bottle Basket 12. It holds 12 16-oz bottles. To make filling the bottles easier, use a bottle filler. Fill all the bottles at once!

Bottle Basket 12

Ergonomics and safety matter!

Carrying baskets of bottles and other materials can be tricky in a busy lab, zoo, or shelter. Slip and fall incidents occur in every work environment. Floors are often wet or slippery. The animal enclosures may be some distance from the preparation area. A basket cart makes it easier to retrieve and deliver bottles. Carts relieve muscular microtrauma brought on by repetitive motion, keeping staff in good health and positive mental outlook. There is a cart for every type of facility. Need to transport a lot of baskets? The Bottle Basket Cart SE has it covered. Speaking of covers, we’ve got lightweight covers and carriers for single baskets.

Bottle Basket Cart SE

Hygiene can’t be ignored!

It doesn’t matter if you maintain a veterinary practice, large lab, or a vast zoo, enclosure hygiene is critical for animal health. Best practices and IACUC protocols require washing, decontaminating, or sterilizing equipment like water bottles and other equipment. Our stainless-steel wash baskets make it easy to power-wash, degrease, or autoclave bottles, tools, and enrichment devices. The same applies to our bottle baskets.

Stainless Steel Wash Basket

The benefits of baskets

No matter what type of animals you’re working with, baskets provide an array of benefits to staff and the animals in your care.


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The Benefits of Ball-Style Enrichment Products

There’s something fun and exciting about rolling, throwing, and catching a ball.

Maybe you’ve played fetch with a dog or watched a cat bat a ball around. The truth is many animals, both exotic and domestic, obtain entertainment and comfort with ball enrichment devices. Balls facilitate exercise, exploration, interaction with the environment and other animals, and can also be a bond-forming between animals and caregivers. We have ball-style environmental enrichment products for all sizes of animals ranging from mice to hoof stock. Keep in mind when it comes to enrichment, the only limit is your imagination. A tough dog ball works with pigs, horses, and primates. A tiny bird ball can be used with small cats and even rodents like mice and rats.

The Jolly Ball Push-N-Play was designed to be an indestructible dog ball. These balls hold up to fetching, chewing, and rough play. They even float! That makes the Jolly Ball ideal for pigs, zebras, wolves, and primates ranging from apes to macaques. The Texas Biomedical Research Institute recommends the use of balls for primate manipulative enrichment. In particular, hard plastic balls, like the Jolly Ball, are recommended.

Jolly Ball Push-N-Play

Feeder balls, like the Stubbs England Horsey Ball, have proven to be effective enrichment with a variety of animals like zebras, horses, pigs, wolves, coyotes and other foraging animals.

The Horsey Ball is a “dribble feeder.” The idea is to load the ball with appropriate biscuit or kibbled foods. As the device is rolled, nudged, or handled, food is slowly dispensed. This multisensory enrichment using treat-based puzzle-solving has proven effective with swine, primates, and bears. Treat-dispensing balls have even helped with captive walruses!

Stubbs England Horsey Ball

Research continues to show that enrichment is beneficial and even essential for small animal health in zoo, shelter, and research settings. Soft ball products like the Ferret Sport Ball are easy for animals like mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small mammals to nudge, carry, roll and nestle. The Atomic Nut Ball is an all-wood toy designed to be chewable. This satisfies the desire of rabbits and other small animals to gnaw and chew, preventing boredom and stereotypical behavior in enclosures and petting displays.

Atomic Nut Ball
Ferret Sport Ball

Don’t forget the birds!

Conures, African grays, cockatoos, cockatiels, and other parrots love to manipulate, taste, rattle, and tug on small balls. Foraging balls provide puzzle-solving activities with a food reward and have been shown to be effective with parrots. The hanging Buffet Ball provides parrots with needed visual, tactile, and taste stimuli.

Buffet Ball

Caring for large animals? They’ll benefit from large balls!

Amber Barnes, writing about horse enrichment for, recommends rolling enrichment devices coupled with food dispensing. Sheep, goats, cattle, large primates, and bears will benefit from products like the huge 30” Planet Ball. It’s big, tough, and easy to roll!

30″ Planet Ball

No matter what type of animals you have in your facility, there are ball-style enrichment devices that improve animal health, quality of life, and research outcomes.

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What’s the deal with KONG?

You probably recognize the KONG brand of dog toys. Did you know KONG has been producing enrichment products for exotic and companion animals since 1976?

KONG is recognized by animal professionals around the world as a manufacturer of exceptional enrichment products for all kinds of animals. Whether in a zoo, home, laboratory, or shelter, these products will help animals feel secure in their environment.

KONG products have been the subject of primate enrichment research studies and found to provide effective enrichment through novel product design. The Texas Biomedical Research Institute recommends KONG products like the Hanging Rubber Forager and Stuff a Ball, in their Primate Enrichment Manual. But the Kong enrichment products go beyond primates.

hanging red rubber foraging device
Hanging KONG Classic

Amber Banes, writing about enrichment for horses for the Open Sanctuary Project, says “Add things they can manipulate with their hooves, like balls, and things they can toss around with their mouths.” KONG manufactures durable balls suitable for horses and other hooved animals. Research indicates that horses and other animals fare better when they are offered grazing variety and challenges. Slow-feeding reduced stereotypical behavior. The KONG Zoo Classic is designed to make it easy to provide this form of enrichment.

kong zoo classic gallery with sku
KONG Zoo Classic (3 Styles)

You’re familiar with KONG dog chew toys but they’re great for all canines. Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (Phoenix, AZ) found that KONG toys stuffed with treats helped dogs stay calm while in quarantine. You can use the same technique for all canids: like wolves, jackals, and foxes. Whether in an enclosure, during transport, while in veterinary care, or when acclimating a new arrival.

Perdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science notes that canine boredom is a real issue and can be countered with enrichment products stuffed with treats, tossing a ball during human-canine interaction, and even tug of wars with other canines. It’s also important to periodically change the enrichment toys to keep the animals interested and challenged.

We can’t forget about cats, large or small!

Don’t be fooled by their stoic behavior. Unhappy felines can appear calm but have elevated stress hormones. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) have published the Environmental Needs Guidelines for cats. Larger cats in zoo and park environments have similar enrichment needs. All have a desire to stalk, pounce, chew and explore interesting scents, tastes, and textures. KONG has created a full range of enrichment products for any sized cat. The Nibble Crtitters Catnipillar is ideal for small cats. The Duratreat Ring is a food puzzle that you fill with interesting scents and tastes and can be enjoyed by larger cats.

There is no limit to where you’ll be able to use KONG products in your animal care facility. Chickens and other birds can become stressed if not provided with an interesting environment. One of the ways to keep birds happy is through the use of enrichment toys like colorful balls and feeding puzzles.

chickens playing with kong genius leo
KONG Genius Leo

No matter what animals your caring for KONG has safe, durable products that will fit right into your enrichment program.


YouTube video of KONG manufacturing:

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December Gift Giving

Holiday and end-of-year donor support tips

The holidays are upon us and we’re thinking about gift-giving to friends, family, and pets. The good news is many people like to donate to their local zoo, animal shelter, and rescue facility. It’s also a time of end-of-year giving for tax purposes. Maybe you’re making a wish-list of items your facility needs for the 2023 season. But how to get the message out there to friends and donors? Here are some effective methods for easily getting the word out in time for holiday giving.

Social media

Instagram, Facebook, and other social media outlets are an ideal way to let people know they can give animals a holiday gift. Simply create a holiday post that links to your donation page on your facility’s website.

Support for specific animals

Many people like to support their favorite animal. Some are fans of primates while others love otters or canines. Animal shelters appeal to small animals like dogs and cats. Large animal rescues, depending on their focus, will have horses, pigs, alpacas, and other types of large animals. You can create multiple social media posts, using a variety of animal-specific images and products, to let your donors know how to support their favorite animal.

Get specific with your wish list

One of the most effective ways of communicating your needs is with a wish list. Share it on your website, by email or at the facility. Make a list of products and explain how they enrich the animal’s lives. Show an image of the item and animal that benefits from the enrichment product. Feel free to use our product images, like for this Cylinder.

Polyethylene Cylinder


Don’t shy away from a little creative marketing

Slogans like “Giving gifts is for the birds” may seem a little corny, but it resonates with animal-lovers. Tell a story that helps donors identify with the need.

Some of our animals’ favorite toys are ones that roll, wobble and are just fun to pounce on or chase. These items are important for the animal’s physical and mental well-being, but they wear out over time. Help us replenish our animals’ worn-but-well-loved toys!

You can also reinforce your facility’s goals and the importance of enrichment products for animal well-being:

By purchasing a present for Your Facility’s Name, you help our animal keepers/caregivers/veterinarians provide a happy life for the animals.

Be sure to explain that:

These products support research, help refurbish our animals’ habitats, and provide toys that enable animals to express their natural behaviors through play.

In-person events

If your facility has a holiday open house, use that opportunity to share your wish list and animal’s needs. It’s a great time to show worn-out enrichment toys and explain how important new ones are to the animals.

Otto Environmental is dedicated to helping you care for the animals in your care by providing high-quality animal enrichment products and systems. We wish you a happy holidays and look forward to serving you in the new year.