All pets need play, but you can't take a hamster for a walk, teach a ferret to catch a Frisbee or play fetch with a parakeet – so what games can you play?
The Importance of Play
In the wild, small animals stay fit and alert as they scavenge for food, evade predators, seek out shelter, court mates, raise young and do other things that are necessary to survive. Our captive pets, however, have a life of ease and luxury, and their minds and bodies are not nearly as active. This can lead to several problems, from obesity and illness to stress, anxiety and boredom. Play can alleviate these issues, however, and provides great mental and physical stimulation for all types of small animal pets. Not only will play be great exercise, but it also improves agility and joint health, offers mental challenges and becomes a bonding time for both you and your pet.
8 Great Games for Small Animals
Small pets don't usually play games that are quite as vigorous or interactive as cats and dogs will play, but playtime with your small pet or cage animal can be just as fun as with any other pet. Exciting but safe games to play with small pets include…
- Mazes or Obstacle Courses
Small pets love to explore, and you can create a unique and challenging maze or obstacle course for their workouts using cardboard boxes and paper tubes. Adding treats to the excursion will keep them interested, and you will have the entertainment of seeing how quickly they solve the puzzles you have created.
- Body Crawl
Small pets have agile toes and gripping claws to climb about, and they'll love to climb about on you. Use your hands to provide steps, ramps and bridges, or allow your pet to walk up your arm and explore your collar or hair. They will also enjoy climbing in pockets or other hidey holes as they learn your specific scent and body shape.
- Photo Shoot Fun
Get great photos of your pet while they explore different props during a fun photo shoot. You can use wacky objects, crazy costumes or other entertaining props to create a storyline or just have fun taking more photos of your pet.
- Ball Time
Exercise balls can be great fun for your pet, and they offer good out-of-cage time while still keeping your pet safe. Consider creating a road course for your pet to follow, or a larger version of a maze for them to navigate while inside the ball.
- Trickster Training
Even small pets can learn simple tricks such as rolling over, standing on two legs or climbing to reach a favorite treat. Spend time training your pet and reward their efforts with praise, gentle petting and delicious treats.
- Dig Box
Many small pets love to burrow and dig. Use a cardboard box or shallow bin filled with shredded paper, wood pellets or similar "diggable" material, and bury several toys or treats in the box for your pet to find. They will love exploring the box to find more buried treasure.
Very active pets will enjoy a fun game of tag, chasing you around the room and in return getting chased by you. For small pets, it may be best to use a string toy or just your hand for this game so there is no risk that they get overly exhausted or stepped on during the fun.
It is possible to play catch with a small pet by tossing papers, toys or treats in the air for them to jump and dance with. Outside, use autumn leaves, grass clippings, hay or similar material for jump and catch fun.
There are plenty of games you can play even with small pets, and regular playtime will not only exercise your pet, but will provide stimulation and bonding time to keep them healthy and happy for a long, comfortable life. Alternate or rotate which games you play to keep it even more exciting, and both you and your pet will enjoy every moment you play together.