Hand-feeding is a great way to build a closer bond with small animals. It takes time to build trust, but when your little friend finally feels confident enough to take a treat from your hand, it’s a special moment. Our in-house vet Dr Suzanne Moyes has some tips...
Posted: 25 April 2018
There are cat people and there are dog people – but there are also some who believe that small pets are where it’s at. Whether you cherish your chinchillas, have a passion for bunnies, adore guinea pigs, or have a soft spot for rats, hamsters, gerbils or degus, as a committed and responsible owner you want your small furries have the best life they can. Building a closer bond with your little pets will enhance and enrich your relationship with them.
A great way to build this special bond is by hand-feeding. This is something that will take time and patience, but once your small pal happily accepts a tasty treat from your hand, is incredibly rewarding. The key is to take things slowly, so that your little chums learn to associate you with good things and begin to place their trust in you.
Small pets are prey animals, which means they think anything approaching is a potential predator – even you. Don’t loom over them (as a predator in the wild might), but crouch down to meet them at their level.
Keep your approach slow and steady – small pets can be easily startled and will simply run for cover. Speak to them in a soft, happy voice as you gradually get closer.
Offer some food, so they learn to associate your approach with something good happening. If your pets won’t come close enough to take food from your hand, lightly toss the food to them whenever they come in your direction. Wait until they come a little closer each time before offering food again, while continuing to talk to them in a soothing voice.
If your pet does take the food, sit beside them and continue chatting to them. Then, offer them another treat. If your pet looks comfortable and doesn’t back off, you could try giving them a gentle stroke. Do this every day and your pet will begin to approach you, creating some magical animal moments.
Most rabbits will pick this up pretty quickly, as will super smart rats, chinchillas and degus. Guinea pigs, gerbils and hamsters may take a little longer to gain confidence, but every pet is an individual and it’s essential that they choose to interact with you on their own terms – and it’s that which makes it so rewarding. When your small pet decides that he or she trusts you enough to want to engage in some hand-feeding time with you it’s a great result!
Burgess Excel Snacks are complementary, healthy treats that your small furries will find simply irresistible. Why not try:
Apple Snacks Delicious dried apple pieces covered in parsley and thyme for extra taste that your rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and other small animals will love.
Gnaw Sticks These provide great environmental enrichment, keeping fibrevores busy and occupied, which is good for their emotional health. Ideal for rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and other small animals.
Country Garden Herbs A delicious blend of herbs and foliage that help increase fibre intake and add variety and interest to diets. Suitable for rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas.
Mountain Meadow Herbs A tasty mix of aromatic herbs and flowers, including calming chamomile. Suitable for rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas.
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