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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.


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Using Chewable Toys for Habitat Enrichment

It’s no secret animals want to lick, chew and taste things they find in their habitat.

This behavior comes from natural curiosity, self-comfort, and for entertainment. Chewable enrichment products are popular with animal care professionals because they’re easy to use and the animals love them. But there is growing concern about hazardous contaminants found in some plastics. A recent research paper published in Environmental Science & Technology, focused on the toxicity of everyday plastics used in consumer products.

While this area of investigation is on-going, there is an important take-away. Most of the chemicals in common plastics aren’t locked into the polymer. The chemicals can be transferred to liquids or volatize into the air. Chemicals can be ingested through the mouth and inhaled. Unfortunately, many chewable enrichment products are manufactured under questionable conditions.

Otto Environmental offers a variety of chewable toys that are manufactured in the United States.

The polymers used to manufacture the products have been evaluated by Cornel University’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center. Lab results indicate the products are free of pesticides, heavy metals and other organic compounds of concern. You can rest assured our enrichment products are safe for your animals.

The Zoy Enrichment Device is an Otto Environmental exclusive!

Made in the US, the Zoy entertains a wide range of animals. Medium to large dogs, wolves, swine, and primates are fans of the Zoy. The device has an open loop for grasping, tugging and biting. The flat section is made for chewing and can handle the most-aggressive gnawing.

zoy gallery on white background
The Zoy

Chewing and licking provides mental and tactile enrichment, but animals get bored with the same old toys. Keep chewers, like primates and dogs, happy with the Zigg.

What’s a Zigg?  The Zigg has a bumpy textured surface that satisfies the need to chew, without causing damage to teeth and gums. The polymer is chewable but can stand up the aggressive biting and gnawing. Primates especially enjoy exploring the irregular surface with their hands and mouth.

zigg enrichment device for animals
The Zigg

Our exclusive Z2 enrichment chew toy provides a loop handle and two chewable balls on either end.

Large primates will carry the Z2 around and use it to have a relaxing chew during a rest period. It’s also a great toy to toss around with canines.

z2 gallery on white background
The Z2

The Zyro is a smaller enrichment product that is easily rolled, tossed, and chewed by lab and zoo animals. Lab animals such as mice, rats, hamsters, and rabbits require chewable enrichment and benefit from the Zyro. The Zyro is a comfort toy or chew device for smaller primates, small canines, and other curious animals including ferrets and rabbits.

zyro enrichment device gallery on white background
The Zyro

Our US-made animal toys are durable, safe, and suitable for lab and zoo animals, even pets. They’re an effortless way to enrich your animal’s cage or enclosure. Otto Environmental chewable products help calm animals in transport, when settling animals into an unfamiliar environment, or anytime you want to give your animals a fun, chewable toy.

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Animal Enrichment: We Are Molding Products to Fit Your Needs

How things are made can be fascinating to most people, so we thought you might want to see how some of our own exclusive Otto Environmental’s animal enrichment items are produced – right here in the USA!  Many of our most fun and creatively designed toys are made of colorful thermoplastic, injection molded here in Southeastern Wisconsin, and ready to stand up to amazingly extreme punishment from a host of various animal species, from canine to primate.

Click on an image below to go to our online store and find out more about some of the most durable and unique enrichment items you’ll ever see.

The Zoy ($9.45) The Zigg ($10.45)
The Z-2 ($9.45 ea.) The Zyro ($8.80 ea.)
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The Marmoset Cage

Finding just the right caging system for small primates such as marmosets can be difficult.  But here at Otto Environmental we’ve re-invented the Marmoset Cage and turned it into one feature-packed piece of equipment.

Sturdy and secure, it’s made of stainless steel tubing, panels, and screening, welded together and mounted on strong casters.  The one over one configuration makes it easy to remove the barrier between top and bottom compartments and allow socialization.

And it’s made to go with many complimentary Otto Environmental products such as water bottles, food bowl and nesting box.

Take a look in our store for more info.


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Designed With Customer Input, Otto’s Adjustable Feed Cart Surpasses Expectations!

When we saw the difficulty some of our customers were having with the logistics of feeding large numbers of animals under their care, we worked with them to develop our Adjustable Feed Cart, handmade of durable stainless steel tubing.  Four heavy-duty 5″ casters give it extreme mobility and its 18″ x 26″ footprint allow it to fit in some pretty tight spaces.  Did we mention it is adjustable?  From a maximum height of 36″ down to 22″ in one-inch increments, it will put less stress on your back at feeding time.

The Adjustable Feed Cart is made to hold a 21.5 gallon clear polycarbonate bin, with optional lid and filter, sold separately.  The cart has been designed to conveniently hold the lid and filter when in use.

You can find all of these and more in the Otto Environmental online store:


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Versatile Nesting Box for a Multitude of Species – An Otto Exclusive

An Otto Environmental exclusive, this polypropylene box can be the perfect solution for many animals’ nesting needs.

It has a sliding door, can be compartmentalized and hung securely on the inside of a medium or larger size cage.

Standard size is 10″ x 8″ x 8″.  You can also order other sizes that can be custom-built to your specifications.

See our online store – call for quantity discounts.

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Stainless Steel Clipboards

Wood, plastic, composite materials… none measure up to the staying power of a stainless steel clipboard.  Made entirely of 18 gauge stainless steel, complete with hook for hanging.  These resilient boards can even be sterilized by autoclave if needed!

Our stainless clipboards come in two sizes: 5″ x 8″ and 9″ x 13″.  They are custom made by Otto Environmental and can easily stand up to the daily rigors of medium and large animal handling in any environment.

Read more: 5″ x 8″ / 9″ x 13″