Whether nibbling on their favorite hay, munching on leafy greens, or chewing on their favorite toy, small pets are wired to chew all day, every day. As it turns out, chewing is an instinctual behavior with important benefits to your pet’s health and happiness. Read on to learn more about how to provide an environment that helps meet this basic need.
Why Do Small Pets Chew?
The continuously-growing or “open rooted” teeth of rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas are designed to keep up with the continual wear caused by the natural, high fiber diet of small herbivores. In the wild, your animal would munch on grasses, branches, bark, and any number of other hard, fibrous materials throughout the day. In captivity, it’s essential to provide ample materials to satisfy this instinctual behavior and prevent dental overgrowth.
Chewing Checklist for Your Small Pet
High Fiber Hay
Satisfying your pet’s chewing instincts starts with hay. Every small herbivore should have unlimited access to fresh, high fiber hay each day. Hay is the primary source of fiber in your pet’s diet; in addition to providing essential dental wear, the fiber in hay is responsible for keeping your pet’s digestive system healthy and moving. Without this constant motion, your pet’s digestive system can quickly fall into a dangerous state called gastrointestinal stasis.
Safe, Natural Chews
Hay is great, but it’s essential to provide additional fun chewing options to keep your pet mentally stimulated and engaged. To accomplish this, provide a variety of safe, natural chews each day. Place these items in various locations throughout the habitat, rotating chews regularly to keep your pet mentally stimulated. Ideal materials for chews include untreated wood, hay, natural fibers such as sisal, jute, and vegetable-based dyes.
In addition to their chewing instinct, all prey animals are wired to hide away to escape stressors throughout the day. Every habitat should include at least one hide space to support this instinct. Choose a woven-hay hideout such as Oxbow’s Timothy CLUB Bungalow to make this experience even more enriching. In addition to a safe space to hide, Timothy Club Bungalows provide an ample supply of all-natural chewing materials.
Tips for Chew-Proofing Your Home
Wires and cords
Electrical wires and cords pose a serious threat to the health of chew-happy animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs. Take special care to keep these items out of your pet’s reach. Exercise pen fencing makes a great barrier to areas where
cords and wires might be present. Plastic splitlength tubing is available at most hardware stores and makes a great protective cover for cords in areas where it might not be possible to eliminate your pet’s access.
By nature, your small pet will instinctively want to forage on any green, leafy material available, including houseplants. Some houseplants can be poisonous to small pets, so make sure to keep all plants elevated and out of reach. If you are concerned about whether any of your plants might be poisonous, be sure to check with your veterinarian.
Furniture, Carpet, Etc.
For rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small pets allowed to roam the house, it can be very difficult and frustrating to prevent damage to furniture, carpet, and other “tempting to chew” elements of home décor. The best way to prevent this type of damage is to offer better, more interesting options. Provide a variety of all-natural chews, toys, and play centers throughout your pet’s living space to help prevent destructive chewing behaviors.
Benefits of Chewing Include:
Provides essential, beneficial dental wear
Offers mental stimulation throughout the day
Promotes play and activity that help prevent obesity
Prevents boredom-based behaviors
Helps build your bond with your pet