Mini Hay Burners
Thinking of rabbits and guinea pigs like little horses helps to focus on the products and supplies needed to keep them healthy.
When selling supplies for rabbits and guinea pigs, it is helpful to think of them as little horses with short legs. First, these animals need lots of exercise. In addition, rabbits and guinea pigs groom each other the way horses do, and they also play the same tag and chasing games.
Horses, guinea pigs and rabbits are strict herbivores and need a large amount of fiber in their diets. They spend most of their time grazing to meet their dietary needs. Their teeth, both incisors and molars, grow continuously throughout their lives, which means they need to eat high fiber foods to keep teeth from getting too long and to stop the development of sharp spurs that can damage the tongue and inner cheeks.
Rabbits and guinea pigs also need fiber for the proper functioning of their digestive tract. Without enough fiber in their diet, their intestines can get bogged down. Rabbits, in particular, need fiber to help sweep the fur they ingest while grooming through their system. Without enough fiber, rabbits can be prone to hairballs in their stomach.
The best source of fiber for these pets is grass hay, which should be thought of as their main diet, with commercial pellets only as a supplement. Timothy hay is the most common hay sold for these animals, but other types of grass hays can be fed as well. Alfalfa hay is too high in protein to be fed on a regular basis, but it can be offered in small amounts as a treat.
It’s All About Accessories
A hayrack is the best way to offer hay so that it’s kept off the floor where it can be soiled. Encourage customers to buy hayracks by displaying them next to packages of hay. The best way to offer food pellets is in a food hopper or dish attached to the side of the cage. This prevents the animals from tipping the container over, and helps keep them from sitting in a dish and soiling the food. For water, both guinea pigs and rabbits require size-appropriate bottles with sipper tubes.
Just like horses, rabbits and guinea pigs, especially long-haired breeds, need to be brushed on a regular basis. For some long-haired varieties, a comb will work better than a brush. Generally, the longer the hair, the more space should be between the tines of the comb or bristles of the brush. Brushes with tightly packed bristles are only suitable for animals with short, dense coats. Retailers should carry a variety of grooming tools and instruct staff members on how to advise customers on the best tool for their particular pet. A grooming toolkit should also include toenail clippers.
Rabbits rarely need to be bathed, but guinea pigs need an occasional bath. Retailers should stock a shampoo specifically for guinea pigs if possible, or at least one for small animals.
While there are some differences between the sleeping habits of rabbits and guinea pigs–rabbits are burrowing animals and wild guinea pigs make hollows in tall grass–both need a bed or house to sleep and hide in. Wooden houses and plastic huts work well, as do fabric cozy beds. To be safe, avoid any products that contain foam because it can cause a fatal blockage if ingested. Encourage guinea pig owners to buy two beds because they will need to be laundered frequently.
Debbie Ducommun has a B.A. in animal behavior and has worked in the animal field since 1982. She is the author of the book Rats!, the booklet Rat Health Care and, her most recent book, The Complete Guide to Rat Training: Tricks and Games for Rat Fun and Fitness.