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Nesting Boxes

nesting box

Animals have a strong desire to nest in a secluded area of their environment. Nesting boxes are an essential enrichment method for stress reduction, bully prevention, and improved well-being.

Find the right nesting box for your animal!


Nesting Box – Small Animal

Nesting Box – Small Animal

This nesting box is designed for small animals like hamsters, hedgehogs, mice, rats, ferrets, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. The box is made of 3/8″ thick white polypropylene. It has an inner chamber for added seclusion. The nesting box has pre-drilled holes for hanging and drains. The box is available with an optional removable floor. We also can build boxes to your specifications. The nesting box is suitable for all animal care facilities requiring effective environmental enrichment including zoos, animal rescues, veterinary clinics, and research settings.


  • Can be suspended
  • Dimensions: 17″ x 15″ x 11″
  • Reduces stress and aggressive behavior
  • Autoclavable and washer safe

Nesting/Transfer Box

Nesting/Transfer Box

We designed this dual-purpose box with the help of animal care specialists. The clear polycarbonate box is 12” x 12” x 12” and has a sliding door that is controlled by a metal rod. This makes it easy to safely capture an animal by luring it into the box with food. It also serves as a handy animal transfer chamber. Small animals like hamsters, hedgehogs, mice, rats along with ferrets, guinea pigs, and chinchillas find the box ideal for nesting. The clear 3/8” plastic allows you to observe behavior. Three side ports accommodate 60 cc syringes. All hardware is rust-proof stainless-steel. The nesting/transfer box is suitable for all animal care facilities requiring effective environmental enrichment including zoos, animal rescues, veterinary clinics, and research settings. The box is autoclavable making it easy to maintain hygiene and IACUC standards in laboratory settings.


  • Door can open from left or right
  • Included eye bolts for hanging
  • Makes capture and transfer easy
  • Autoclavable & washer safe

Small Animal Nesting Box

Small Animal Nesting Box

The Small Animal Nesting box is made of stainless-steel with a removable ½” polycarbonate floor. It is ideal for laboratory and zoo use where durability and ease of cleaning is paramount. Options include a solid or perforated floor. Ideal for rats, rabbits, hamsters, hedgehogs, mice, rats, ferrets, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. 10″ x 10″ x 20″ long. The box is recommended for all animal care facilities requiring effective environmental enrichment including zoos, animal rescues, veterinary clinics, and research settings. The box is autoclavable making it easy to maintain hygiene and IACUC standards in laboratory settings.


  • Rust-proof 304 stainless-steel
  • Rugged construction
  • Removable floor
  • Autoclavable & washer safe

Nesting Box (3 Variations)

Nesting Box (3 Variations)

We designed three variations of this popular nesting box, based on requests from animal care professionals. These nesting boxes are suitable for all animal care facilities requiring effective environmental enrichment including zoos, animal rescues, veterinary clinics, and research settings. Use this nesting box with tamarins, spider monkeys, capuchins, marmosets, squirrels, and similar animals to provide a quiet space for rest and stress reduction. These products are autoclavable making it easy to maintain hygiene and IACUC standards in laboratory settings. Custom sizes are available.

White and Black Nesting Boxes

  • Made of 3/8” polypropylene
  • Sliding access door
  • 3 7/8” opening
  • 6.5″ x 10″ animal space

Stainless Steel Nesting Box

  • Made of rust-proof stainless-steel
  • Sliding access door
  • Includes stainless-steel eye bolts for hanging
  • 3 3/4” opening
  • 8″ x 10″ animal space

Jerboa Nesting Box

Jerboa Nesting Box

Jerboas are secretive and thrive in zoo, pet, and laboratory settings only when they have proper environmental enrichment. Their natural predator avoidance instinct is to dart for shelter. Our Jerboa Nesting Box is a dual chamber design with an inner quiet nesting area for sensitive rodents like Jerboas. The box and inner divider are constructed of polypropylene with a stainless-steel hinge on the lid. Measures 14.5″ x 6.75″ x 6.75″. Use this nesting box with jerboas, mice, rats, gerbils, hamster, moles, and similar animals. The box is autoclavable making it easy to maintain hygiene and IACUC standards in laboratory settings.


  • Reduces stress and satisfies nesting instinct
  • Durable construction
  • Easy to clean
  • Autoclavable & washer safe
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Petting Farms: A Quick Guide to Everything You Should Know

petting farms goat and child

What are Petting Farms?

Petting farms are a collection of farm and exotic species that are calm and friendly enough to be touched and fed. Even though public zoos became popular in the 1700s, the attendance of visitors to zoos in the United States has increased by 20% in the last 15 years. Although they are similar, petting farms and petting zoos are usually geared towards smaller, local operations. On the other hand, zoos are large, commercial businesses with more animals, buildings, and exhibits.

For many people, petting farms are fun and exciting because they give people an opportunity to see and connect with various animals. Depending on the size and operation style of the petting zoo, they may even offer rides on large animals or the chance to hold a small animal. For these reasons and many others, petting farms are getting more popular all the time.

What Animals are Common at Petting Farms?

Petting farms often have numerous species of animals to see, touch, and interact with. A majority of animals, such as goats, sheep, pigs, cows, horses, donkeys, alpacas, llamas, turkeys, chickens, ducks, and rabbits are domesticated species from farms. Although these animals may seem ordinary to people living in rural or farming communities, people elsewhere will be making lifelong memories.

Also, most petting farms feature some sort of exotic or unusual animals. These can be more exciting to see in person and attract more visitors. Some of these may include deer, camels, wallabies, emus, large parrots, tortoises, iguanas, peacocks, and zebras. These animals are less commonly seen or interacted with in daily life, even in rural areas.

General Do’s and Don’ts

Like any public place, there are rules and expectations about what you are and are not allowed to do there. It can be important to follow these rules for reasons such as the safety of the people, the safety of the animals, and biosecurity.


  • Follow directions and rules posted by the petting farm
  • Walk around the enclosures calmly
  • Stay in the designated petting farm guest areas
  • Feed the animals what is permitted by the petting farm
  • Wash your hands after touching the animals
  • Have a great time


  • Think that the rules don’t apply to you
  • Run, jump, or climb on, around, or into the enclosures
  • Wander or sneak into prohibited or ‘employee only’ areas
  • Feed the animals treats or snacks you brought with you
  • Put your hands on or near your face before washing them

Where to Find Petting Farms Near You

These days, the best way to find petting farms near you is to search for them online. Local petting farms may come in the form of a functioning farm, mobile petting farm, or even backyard set-ups. You should be able to find information regarding the animals, events, facilities, and more on their website or over the phone. Going to a local petting farm is also a great way to support small businesses in your community.

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Tips for Enriching Your Animal’s Aquatic Habitat

enriching device for aquatic animal polar bear

Summertime brings many visitors to zoos and public aquariums. It is no secret people love watching animals have fun in the water. But as any animal care professional knows, it takes more than just water to keep the animals engaged with their environment.

Ursids are inquisitive. Bears need interesting things to keep them curious and active in their environment. Bears really enjoy wrestling with large objects on land and in the water. The Funny Float is designed to provide large animals like bears and tigers with a toy that is the right size and shape, and able to stand up to the rough treatment dished out by these animals. Instead of taking a one size fits all approach, the Funny Float is available in a variety of sizes and wall thickness so you can match the float to the animal. Funny Floats are available in over twenty color patterns, making it easy to select the right design for your exhibit.

If you are caring for polar bears, penguins, otters, turtles, and other animals that enjoy the water, the Ice Flow has proven to be a winner. The Ice Flow is a floating platform for penguins and other birds. It’s also something for bears and tigers to push around. To increase engagement and curiosity, the Ice Flow has a food chamber that slowly releases food scent and flavor through six grooves molded into the structure.

Creating the proper environment for penguins is key to their long-term wellbeing. Many of the more common enrichment tools are not interesting to the birds. Some Penguin keepers have given up on the idea of using enrichment toys. Georgia Podmore from Penguins International notes that birds are sometimes nervous around the balls and other objects. She suggests experimenting with a mirror suspended under water. This is good advice. Our Underwater Mirror is built for this purpose! The exhibit-safe Lexan mirrors and stainless-steel hardware are durable and will not corrode. The Underwater Mirror provides penguins (and other aquatic life) an engaging focal point within the underwater environment.

An otter environment requires land and aquatic habitats to reduce stress and keep the family groups cohesive. It is recommended to provide otters with complex shapes in the aquatic side of the display. Aussie Dog Zoo designed their Otter Float with this in mind. The Float provides a stable platform for lazing in the sun and playing with others in the group. A Lexan mirror completes the package for full sensory, physical and interactive enrichment. Penguins and other seabirds also find the floating platform appealing.

A simple way to stimulate many of the animals in your care is with our Teaser Balls. More than a regular ball toy, Teaser Balls are a ball within a ball. This design has proven popular with many animals because it provides physical and auditory stimulation. The sights and sounds of the rattling balls are like a puzzle to solve. Whether on land or in the water, your animals will love chewing, pushing and playing with a Teaser Ball.

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Customer Favorite: Kong Quest Wishbone

dog excited by kong quest wishbone

Like most animals, dogs need to play. It is how they socialize, explore their environment and burn off excess energy.

A good game of fetch or tug-of-war can be great fun for you and your pup, but there are also a few games that only dogs can play alone – like the Kong Quest Wishbone.  

kong quest wishboneDogs that don’t have the opportunity to play with different toys or people can get bored quickly and begin to exhibit problem behaviors, like anxiety, chewing, digging, jumping up, biting, and even depression. As with all animals, it’s essential to have a variety of dog toys.  

Dog toys like the Kong Quest Wishbone have different functions, and to get the most fun out of your dog toys, you can also stuff them and freeze them for your pup and keep some other toys hidden away for later on.  

Dog toy trunks come in handy for this, especially if you’re like us and enjoy perusing the pet product sections, whether for dogs, horses, cats, or livestock. 

The Kong Quest Wishbone is an excellent toy for dogs that like to chew. It’s crafted from non-toxic, durable rubber and has a hollow center that you can fill with treats as a tasty reward. The Kong Quest Wishbone is also great for interactive playtime. You can hold one end of the toy while your dog chews on the other or use it to play tug-of-war. 

The Kong Quest Wishbone is available in two sizes: small and large, and is crafted in a few colors like purple (large breeds) and orange (small size).  

Kong toys are known for their durability and quality, and the Kong Quest Wishbone is no exception. It is made from high-quality materials and is built to last. It’s also dishwasher proof for an easy wash!  

If you are looking for a fun pet toy that will keep your dog entertained and mentally stimulated, the Kong Quest Wishbone is a good chew interactive dog toy. Here’s the takeaway: 

The Wishbone is a treat dispensing toy with loads of personality! 

  • Features a unique design to challenge and engage 
  • Cleans teeth and helps with teething 
  • Allows for high-value treats and kibble insertion for fun, interactive play. 
  • Crafted in assorted colors 
  • Suitable for all breeds and life stages 

Fill the Kong Quest Wishbone with your dog’s favorite treats or kibble, and watch them have a blast trying to get to the goodies inside. Not only is the Kong Quest Wishbone a great way to keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated, but it also helps to clean their teeth and massage their gums.  

The takeaway with this interactive dog toy is that it keeps your pup entertained while also being suitable for their health! The Kong Quest can be helpful for the following: 

  • Separation anxiety 
  • Puppy teething 
  • Boredom 
  • Canine depression 
  • Excessive barking 
  • Noise sensitivity 
  • Minimize destructive behaviors 
  • Anxious behaviors 
  • Mental stimulation 
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder 
  • Recouping from surgery 
  • Suitable for rescues and shelters to ease boredom and stress 

All-in-all, remember that dogs feel a bunch of emotions just like us. From boredom, sadness, anxiety, and stress to excitement and a need for play, our interaction with our dogs via interactive dog toys allows for further bonding and a deeper understanding of our dogs.  

Ultimately, interactive dog toys like the Kong Quest Wishbone help to create a well-rounded dog that is happy and healthy. Also, they are less likely to develop problem behaviors when combined with positive training, dog sports, pet vacays, and more.

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Social Media Takes on a New Look – Apps for Apes Program

iPad Enrichment is the coolest thing in the world of animal/human communication I’ve ever seen!

More than a dozen zoos in North America are working with Orangutan Outreach, a New York non-profit organization, to provide iPads to intelligent primates and especially orangutans, who are an endangered species in areas of the world they are found.

The iPads provide music and visual stimuli, as well as serve as a means of communicating.  The idea of an endangered species using high-tech gadgets is ironically appealing to me.  They are drawing and playing virtual musical instruments, as well.  For more info, you can visit these sites:

Orangutan Outreach: Apps for Apes Program

Milwaukee County Zoo, Milwaukee, WI: iPad Enrichment Program

The Houston Zoo: Problem Solving With Apes

The Toronto Zoo: Toronto Zoo Sumatran Orangutans Join The iPad Generation! (downloadable .pdf)

Enrichment for primates can be a particular challenge, but one we have solutions for in the Otto Environmental online store.  The Primate Enrichment System (PES) is many solutions in one, with over 20 inter-changeable toys and treat dispensers.


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Today’s Zoos Are Accredited and Have a Focus on Animal Enrichment

The past 50 years have seen many changes in our lives, due to an evolution in the way we view our world combined with advances in technology.  The world has become a smaller place because of commercial jet travel, satellite communications and the internet.

The world’s zoos and the animals in their care have not been immune to the changes and, thanks to a more enlightened approach, a more attentive public and the establishment of accrediting organizations, conditions of animals in captivity have greatly improved.

In the 1970’s, zoos became more involved in the conservation of species, almost naturally followed by a movement to enrich the lives of their charges, starting in the 1990’s.  The Association of Zoos and Aquariums says that animal enrichment is “a dynamic process for enhancing animal environments within the context of the animals’ behavioral biology and natural history. Environmental changes are made with the goal of increasing the animal’s behavioral choices and drawing out their species-appropriate behaviors, thus enhancing animal welfare.”

Zoos like the Milwaukee County Zoo in Wisconsin have been leaders in taking the next step by defining and implementing an enrichment program consisting of 5 focus areas: environmental, food & feeding, manipulative, sensory, and behavior/social.

Otto Environmental, located just West of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a major provider of animal environmental enrichment products to zoos and aquariums all over the United States.  We have created enrichment products that have been suggested and field-tested by zookeepers at the nearby Milwaukee County Zoo.  Some examples are the Elephant Drum and the Floating Feeder.  We also have worked together to provide custom solutions to enrichment needs of specific species, seen in our Kangaroo Claws Study video.

What does the future hold for zookeeping, animal care and the study of animals?  Video has revolutionized the way we can observe animals without influencing their behavior, not to mention putting millions of people in touch with our animal friends, both as pets and as wild animals.  Some zoos are even experimenting with iPads for primates.  Now, that sounds like the future to me!

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Zoos Evolve, Resulting in a Better Experience for Humans and Animals Alike

With the opening of the London Zoo, established in 1826, the modern zoo was born.  It was meant to be a collection where the members of the Zoological Society could study live animals and expand the horizons of scientific knowledge.  When it was realized that the members were inviting friends and acquaintances it was decided to open the zoo to the public on a limited basis.

The problem with zoos over the next few decades was that they couldn’t manage to keep animals alive very long.  There were issues with disease and reproduction because little was known about their biology.  Diets were provided without full knowledge of the needs of each species, which in modern times would be addressed by observation in the wild by qualified scientists.  The practice of displaying animals individually by species in cages with iron bars was having its own effect on them that was seldom realized by their keepers.

At the beginning of the 20th century Carl Hagenbeck opened the first modern zoo where the animals were housed in more natural environments, outside of cages and with moats separating the zoo visitors from the animals.  He wanted the animals to be seen as they might in the wild.

Over time a better understanding of dietary and other needs, along with public demand for a high level of humane care, has resulted in longer lives and better conditions for zoo residents.  Along the way, professionalism has been expanded by those in charge of zoos to improve the lives the animals themselves.

By the latter part of the century a real revolution in the housing of animals swept the zoos of the world, with Hagenbeck’s model being adopted for a better experience for both animal and visitor, but still with the idea that you were visiting a display of the natural world, sort of a life-size, living diorama.

Zoos are still evolving, with a further breakdown of the barriers between visitors and animals, along with a better understanding of the social and enrichment needs of the inhabitants, in the zoo of today.

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The Evolution of Zoos From Royal Collection to Public Entertainment and Education

Beginning as early as 3500 B.C. rulers of countries like Egypt and China collected wild animals into menageries, the predecessors of today’s zoos and animal sanctuaries, as a means of displaying their wealth and power.  Fascination of wild animals, both domestic and exotic, was not limited to royalty, of course.  As time went on adventurous explorers would return from far away lands with new and amazing species that they would sell to private collectors or put on display for the public at a price.

Needless to say, these animals were not always treated well and many certainly suffered terribly.  An extreme example is the Roman Emperors, who kept thousands of exotic animals that they pitted against each other or humans in spectacles for the entertainment of the people.

Flash-forward to about 1200 AD when the Medieval Kings of England had their own collections that eventually were opened to the public in the 1600’s during the reign of Elizabeth I.  Obviously, these animals were treated much better than those of the Roman Empire, but under today’s standards, still lacking in considering their entire health and well-being.

Vienna, Austria boasts the oldest existing zoo in the world, the Tiergarten Schönbrunn, built in 1752 as an imperial menagerie and was opened to the public soon thereafter, in 1765.

In the early 19th Century the modern zoo was born in London, Dublin, and Paris and mainly served to entertain and educate the public about exotic animals of the world.  Natural history and zoology were on the way to becoming accepted sciences and scientific study was a burgeoning endeavor.

Behavioral enrichment was still in its infancy and that is a subject we will save for another post.

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The Dog Pack

Dog enrichment

Dogs are actually descended from wolves, and although the modern dog is much cuddlier nowadays than his wild ancestor, canines still have some wolf-like characteristics, including his sharp hearing, keen sense of smell and instinctive need to be part of a pack. Never forget that, to your dog, you and everyone else in your household or place of work are part of his/her pack.

A pack has one leader – someone who bosses everybody else around and is respected by all the other members. Your dog knows that somebody’s got to fill that top dog position at all times, in case your group get attacked by another pack; normally he’ll be happy to leave that top spot for you, but if you’re not ready to step up and take that job yourself, then he’ll have no choice but to do it. Don’t give him that chance, or you’ll have a world of behavioral problems on your hands. Just watch one episode of Dog Whisperer and you will find that tons of people have out-of-control dogs but all of them have a relatively simple fix. Make sure you’re unquestionably the top dog – for your own peace of mind and for your dog’s as well.