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How to Keep Your Small Pet Happy

09 February 2015

UK - Just like you, animals get bored if they have nothing to do. Discover how you can keep your rabbit, guinea pig, hamster, gerbil, rat, mouse, degu or chinchilla happy and healthy with these tips from the Blue Cross.


  • Keep your bunny happy by giving them lots of space to display their natural behaviours of hopping, stretching and playing.
  • Rabbits’ favourite things to do include climbing, tunnelling and digging. You could give them tubes to run through, or a cardboard box filled with shredded paper with an entrance and exit to hop in and out of.
  • Their instinct is to hide if they sense danger, so make sure they have a private compartment to run to for privacy.
  • Bunnies spend a whopping 70 per cent of their waking hours eating! Make this fun by hanging some root vegetables on a string and scatter their food to encourage them to search for it. Putting their hay in hanging baskets means they can reach up and nibble at it like they would in the wild.
  • You can give your rabbit safe things to chew, like apple wood or willow, or buy edible wooden chews from a good pet supplier.

Guinea pigs

  • Guinea pigs enjoy cosying up in an indoor hutch but they need an outdoor run too so they can have a good graze and a nose around.
  • These shy little things love to run in and out of cardboard boxes, tube s and pipes, and enjoy a good munch on tasty green veg.
  • Guinea pigs aren’t big fans of toys, but you can hide small amounts of food for them to seek out to keep them entertained.
  • Guineas also enjoy free running indoors, but make sure they are supervised and can’t escape!


  • Hamsters are nocturnal, which means they spend their days snoozing and are ready for action at night.
  • Although they’re only small, they need lots of exercise and enjoy running in wheels. Don’t get one with spokes though as this can cause injuries. A wide, solid wheel is best.
  • Many people think hamsters like exercise balls but they can be exhausting for them and there is no escape, so the balls are actually more stressful than fun.
  • Hamsters love cardboard tubes to run through and chew, and really enjoy climbing so wooden ledges are perfect. They also have a great time rolling around in a sand bath – you can get special sand for this in pet shops.


  • Happiest hanging out in tunnels, just like in the wild, gerbils love to dig to their heart’s content, so giving them dust-extracted bedding, dried peat moss or a mixture of the two is a good idea. They’ll love cardboard tubes too.
  • Gerbils are curious creatures and like to see what’s going on, so think about putting a flat rock in their tank so they can use it as a lookout point. Fruit tree branches make great climbing posts for gerbils.
  • Sand baths are great fun too – make sure you get special sand from a pet shop.


  • Rats are sociable creatures who love to play. They need at least one hour outside their cage every day so they can stretch their legs and explore.
  • Rats love toys, so pieces of plastic drainpipe or cardboard boxes are great fun.
  • Make sure to rat-proof the room they’re allowed to run free in though, as rats are skilled escape artists!


  • Mice love to climb, so lengths of rope or fruit tree branches suspended from the top of their tank will be a big hit.
  • They are keen tunnellers too, to plastic or cardboard tubes will go down well.
  • Why not try half-filling a cardboard box with compost and letting them explore? Make sure you supervise these tunnelling sessions.


  • Degus are active critters who thrive on exercise. They’ll spend hours whizzing around on a wheel (make sure it’s solid with no spokes), and wooden branches give them a fun obstacle course that they can also chew on. Safe woods to use include apple, hazelnut and hawthorn.
  • Degus need a good supply of hay. Why not fill up a box with it and let them forage? Grass boxes also provide great fun.
  • You could make them a digging box using organic soil and sand. Degus love to have a sand bath every day – you can get special sand from pet shops.
  • Try giving your degu a treatball and toys like jingly balls, sisal and corn toys – you’ll be very popular if you do!


  • Chinchillas are nocturnal creatures and are usually ready to exercise around early evening. This is a great time to let them out for a run – but make sure they’re supervised and stay away from wires as they love to nibble.
  • Chinchillas need plenty of space and love shelves at different heights so they can explore.
  • In the wild chinchillas use fine sand to keep their coats clean so offer them a dust bath for 20 minutes every day using special chinchilla dust which is large and deep enough for them to have fun rolling around without getting injured.

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