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.
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!
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.
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.
Caring for large animals? They’ll benefit from large balls!
Amber Barnes, writing about horse enrichment for Opensanctuary.org, 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!