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Bird Toys – Not Just for the Birds!

I’ve owned my female gray cockatiel, Charlie, for 13 years, and still I haven’t developed the knack for figuring out what toys she will love and hate. She is a very picky girl and can take weeks to even glance at any new toy I give her, let alone play with it. Needless to say, this has resulted in a lot of perfectly good bird toys being stowed away in the cabinet never to be enjoyed. I thought I was wasting a lot of money on things that Charlie didn’t even like, and decided to experiment.

Not Just for the Bird

I thought maybe it would be worth a try to offer the unwanted bird toys to my rats and guinea pig. Toys my rodents have all enjoyed include anything composed of a combination of blocks, balls, rope, rawhide, coconut fiber, shredded paper, corn husk, and/or sticks. Now, my rodents no longer go for the basic rodent toys such as wood blocks and toilet paper tubes. They now have a taste for the finer things.  My rats, Rizzo and Shadow in particular enjoy puzzle style toys that have a series of holes or compartments for hiding a smudge of peanut butter or cheese whiz. Right now they have a Nut Maze that they have yet to extract the nut from. It drives them crazy! Anything they can tear up and make nests out of is very well loved, too.

Butters, my guinea pig is the probably pickiest of my pets when it comes to toys, but he enjoys things with bells and larger bird toys that he can hide under and scratch himself against. He also likes loose balls that he can push around the cage with his nose. I give the guinea pig toys with thick plastic that can take a long time to chew up and wear out, but be weary of these as you don’t want animals to swallow a lot of plastic. I always take these toys out if they get worn or have jagged edges on them. Butters isn’t a very prolific chewer, so I trust these toys for him. He mostly likes to take toys on top of his nose and fling them over his head!

Piñatas (marketed for birds) are a small animal’s best friend. You can give mini piñatas to your smaller rodent pals and medium to large sized ones to guys like guinea pigs and rabbits. These come with holes in the back where you can store yummy nuts, treats, or just bedding fluff to yank out. I once gave a small cat shaped piñata to my 2 previous rats, Caesar and Piper, and in less than a day, it had no head! Bearing a bit of a grudge perhaps?

Pre-constructed bird’s nests are also great for burrowing rodents such as hamsters, mice, and gerbils. They come woven together with natural wood and straw fibers so they are safe, fun to tear apart, and they provide shelter before they get mangled. They usually are so tightly woven that they take a little longer to completely destroy, so this will save you money on new toys.

Maintenance

As with any type pf toy, you’ll have to remove old, worn, or destroyed toys to avoid injury to your pet. Toys that clip onto the wire of the cage are good choices because your pet cannot soil them as easily. If a toy becomes dirty and is made of porous material such as coconut fiber, wood, or straw, it is best to throw it out as washing will just ruin it and will not kill germs anyway. Plastic toys are easier to clean using soap and water, but remember these will need to be replaced in time, too.

Sharing My Acquired Knowledge

Having discovered the benefits of bird toys, I find myself taking customers straight to the bird aisle when they are looking for furniture for their small pets. Having at least one hanging bird toy for your pet will alleviate boredom, provide chewing stimulation, and add hours of fun to your pets’ day. Even if some pets are picky and may not like a new toy right away, don’t give up. Save it and try putting it in the cage again another day, maybe with a hint of fruit juice or a bit of peanut butter smeared on it. Tantalizing smell and taste can make anything irresistable! I rotate my bird toys between the rats, the guinea pig, and the bird to see who likes what and for how long. Several of my bird toys have lasted through many rotations before finally being thrown out. Doing this has saved me a a lot of money and frustration, and has given my pets plenty of mental and physical stimulation. And I will admit, it is fun toy shopping for my fuzzy and feathery kids!

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About jeppley

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Jess has been an employee at That Fish Place/That Pet Place since 2005, stationed in both the Reptile and Small Animal rooms. She specializes in small animal care, and focuses particularly on rats, giving her the nickname of “The Rat Girl” by her customers and fellow employees. She has an Associate degree in Liberal Arts from Penn State York and is currently attending English courses online at University of Maryland University College. Her passion has always been animals and she has owned just about every variety of them, including cats, birds, reptiles, rodents, and even millipedes! She also loves writing and is working on publishing a series of young adult fantasy novels.
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