Hanging chew toys are now being manufactured for small animals, which means these pets are now being offered an enhanced play experience.
There is a new, exciting trend in small animal toy category: hanging chew toys, similar to those sold for birds. Both rodents and birds have a strong desire to chew, and they also have the ability to hold and manipulate objects. In addition, blocks of wood that sit on the floor of the cage are prone to getting dirty.
A hanging toy also enhances the pet’s play experience. A chew toy sitting on the floor offers no resistance, but a dangling toy allows the pet to pull and tug. When the pet pulls on the toy and then lets go of it, the toy will rebound, creating movement and attracting the animal’s attention again. Not only will the pet get more use and enjoyment from the toy, the owner will also be able to watch their pet at play.
Variety Is the Game
Hanging chew toys come in different colors, shapes, textures and flavors. While they tend to cost more than single- piece chew toys, hanging options that incorporate several different items have the potential to last a lot longer. In addition, hanging toys add color and interest to the cage, making the pet’s habitat more stimulating and attractive.
Many hanging bird chew toys use chain to suspend the toys, to make the toys last as long as possible. Natural fiber rope, thick string or twine can also be used. The rope or twine can even become an active part of the toy, offering yet another chewing experience.
Inspired by hanging bird chew toys I saw in a pet shop, I created a make-it-yourself chew toy station at a rat event, and it was very popular. Rat owners enjoyed picking out separate chewable items and stringing them on twine in varying order.
The chewable items we offered included craft sticks (similar to popsicle sticks), wooden blocks with holes (sold in pet shops), tube pasta dyed with food coloring, star-shaped bird biscuits with holes, slices of manzanita branches with holes drilled in the middle, and cupcake papers to wrap around the wood slices to make them look like candies. Not only did the cupcake papers add extra color to the finished toy, they gave the rats the chance to first chew off the paper and then chew on the wood, adding extra behavioral enrichment. We offered two thicknesses of sisal and cotton twine for the stringing, and we included a metal hook to tie at the top to hang the toy in the cage.
Retailers may want to consider offering something similar, allowing customers to choose items from bulk bins. Another option would be to package a few pieces of one item together, letting shoppers buy a few different packages to make their own creation. Retailers could also offer a kit for a custom-made chew toy that includes a variety of different items. Pet owners get excited about something they can easily make for their pets as a way of expressing their love. Retailers that offer a new experience like this can be sure customers will remember their store with more intense positive emotions than if they just bought a ready-made chew toy off of the rack.
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.