Pocket pets like hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, and ferrets need enrichment just like larger animals. Many rodent species love to run through tunnels or use them as hiding places.
I give my two guinea pigs a variety of different tunnels, from store-bought models to things I make with materials at home. This list of five types of tunnels will give you some ideas for creating some fun for your own pocket pets.
01 of 05
Hard plastic tunnels are a staple play item in my house for my guinea pigs. Other pocket pets, from little mice, rats, hamsters, and gerbils, to larger animals like ferrets, enjoy being able to hide and negotiate tunnel toys.
Some plastic tunnels, like Flex-E Fun-Nels, have pieces of different shapes that you can connect together. Others, like Ware Fun Tunnels, are just long and straight. Plastic tunnels are easy to wash and pretty durable, although my girls like to chew them.
I found another use for plastic tunnels when I connected two cages to make one large habitat. My girls didn't like using the ramp that led to the cage door until I attached plastic tunnel pieces. They like the security of being enclosed on the ramp.
There are other kinds of hard tunnels made from cardboard or woven twigs, straw, or hay, but plastic is my favorite material because of its durability. My former guinea pig, Borat, loved to see what sort of maze I created each day in his playpen with his Flex-E Fun-Nels, and one of my current guinea pigs, Quinn, seems to have the same love of tunnel exploration.
02 of 05
Many companies make soft crinkle tunnels for pocket pets, like the Super Pet Crinkle Tunnel. They're made out of materials like vinyl, so they're not quite as easy to clean as their hard plastic counterparts, but my guinea pigs love them.
I sometimes connect my crinkle tunnel to the plastic tunnels by slipping them inside it, since the crinkle tunnel has a wider opening. The guinea pigs love negotiating my creations.
One of my crinkle tunnels has an opening in the middle. The piggies use it as an entrance and exit, and they also hang out in the tunnel and use it as a place to see what's going on outside of their hiding spot.
03 of 05
Boxes are a great resource for enriching pocket pets and giving them new places to hide and tunnel. I save everything from oatmeal tubes to Keurig coffee boxes to Kleenex boxes to cereal boxes and use them in my guinea pigs' cage or playpen as part of their tunnel system.
Often you can fasten an appropriately sized box to the end of a plastic tunnel. I often use Keurig boxes as connectors for my Flex-E Fun-Nel pieces. I create "tents" with cereal boxes that I stand up at the ends of tunnels, and my guinea pigs also like to use freestanding "box tents" as hide-outs.
Cardboard boxes are free, as long as you used boxed products in your household (who doesn't?). Just throw them out when they get soiled.
04 of 05
Small brown paper bags are big hits with guinea pigs and other pocket pets. Larger bags are good for rabbits and similar species.
I often stuff paper bags with timothy hay as a fun way to feed my piggies, but the bags make great tunnels, too. I rip the bottoms out of a couple of bags and put them on either end of one of my plastic tunnels. The girls love to run through them and even rearrange them, separating them from the tunnels.
Paper bags also make good hiding spots for small animals. Pocket pets are prey animals, so they like having a variety of hideouts. If I put a couple of paper bags in my guinea pigs' playpen, they'll often just hang out in the bags. I simply through them away when they get battered or soiled.
I buy paper bags in the grocery store. The ones sold as lunch bags are perfect for any pocket pet between the size of a mouse or hamster and a guinea pig.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
Newspaper isn't a good bedding material for guinea pigs because they get a condition called bumblefoot from sitting on soggy paper. An absorbent option like Carefresh or Kaytee Clean and Cozy is a much better option.
Newspaper does have some uses. I use it temporarily when my guinea pigs are out in their playpen, which I made from a child's swimming pool. I line it with paper and quickly replace the wet sheets. It's good as a protective covering, but I discovered another use: tunnel material.
Quinn just loves to burrow under the paper and shape it into tents she can run through. Somehow she's even managed to make the tents adjacent to her other tunnels to create her own little obstacle course.
If you're looking for some cheap enrichment for your own pocket pets, craft some tents out of newspaper and let them have some fun. Just throw away the paper when it gets chewed and soiled. Most newspapers are made with soy-based inks, which means they're safe for small rodents to gnaw.