Cost effective ways to look after your small pets

You may not have a big budget, but as long as you’ve got a little imagination and a bit of know-how, you can do marvellous things with loo rolls, an old fleecy scarf, some cardboard packaging or even a magazine rack that’s seen better days. From creating DIY boredom breakers to upcycling old furniture and unwanted items from around the
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11th July 2022

You may not have a big budget, but as long as you’ve got a little imagination and a bit of know-how, you can do marvellous things with loo rolls, an old fleecy scarf, some cardboard packaging or even a magazine rack that’s seen better days. From creating DIY boredom breakers to upcycling old furniture and unwanted items from around the house into interesting features for your pets’ environment, here are 8 great ideas for you to try out.

  1. A play for the hay toy or hidden treat ball for bunnies

Most bunnies like to play and throw toys around, particularly if there’s some tasty hay involved. A simple cardboard kitchen roll tube stuffed with hay is ideal for batting about. Or try putting a bunch in a sheet of brown paper, tying the ends with a strand of hay to look like a Christmas cracker. Your buns will love chucking this around and then ripping it open to get to the hay inside. FIND more ideas for homemade bunny toys from PDSA here >>

Alternatively, you could create a hidden treat ball to encourage your buns to chew and grind down their teeth while they try and figure out the puzzle.

You will need:

STEP 1 Cut the toilet roll tubes into four pieces.

STEP 2 Put one piece sideways inside another, like a cross.

STEP 3 Squeeze the two pieces together to fit them inside a third section of the tube.

STEP 4 Place a treat inside the ball that is forming.

STEP 5 Squeeze the fourth piece of the tube over the others to complete the ball.

  1. A fabulous forage weave for rabbits and guinea pigs

This forage weave from Wood Green is suitable for rabbits and guinea pigs. It can also be adapted for chinchillas and degus by using dry forage and is an ideal way to encourage natural browsing behaviour and also encourage stretching and reaching, which will help strengthen your bunnies’ backs, keeping them fit and healthy.

You will need:

  • Sisal twine or soft garden wire
  • A bunch of safe wood twigs around 2ft in length, such as apple, pear, willow, hazel or hawthorn
  • A large pile of fresh forage such as sticky weed, rose or wild dog rose, bramble, hazel and buddleia
  • Gardening gloves

STEP 1 Lay one layer of six sticks out about 5cm apart on the ground, then weave in and out of each stick a new stick. Repeat again, keeping them about 5cm apart.

STEP 2 Use the twine or soft wire to secure the ends. This should then provide you with a strong frame ready to weave the forage through.

STEP 3 As it is best to use long strips of forage, some plants may have thorns. This is ok for your pets, but it is advisable for you to wear gloves.

STEP 4 Once you have a thick layer of forage and very few gaps visible, your forage weave is ready to be given to your pets. It can be propped up against something or tied to the side of the enclosure.

WATCH the step-by-step video >>


Did you know that feeding the right nutrition to your small pets – such as Burgess Excel’s high quality, great value range – can help prevent digestive and dental problems from occurring, potentially saving you money on vet’s bills?

What’s more, you can Subscribe & Save 10% on your orders of selected Excel items, including Excel Rabbit Nuggets, Excel Guinea Pig Nuggets, Excel Feeding Hay with Dandelion & Marigold, Excel Feeding Hay with Hedgerow Herbs and Excel Long Stem Feeding Hay.

Not only will you save 10% every time, but you’ll also never have to worry about forgetting your small animals’ favourites again! Our no hassle, no fuss service will automatically process your order, and deliver it straight to your door. Find out how to sign up to Subscribe & Save >>

  1. Upcycle old furniture to spruce up your rabbits’ accommodation

Old pieces of furniture are great for rabbits as they are notoriously keen chewers so nothing can be ruined. Throwing away some old drawers? You won’t be after this example from 5 Fluffy Bunnies.

Rabbit owner Poppy has upcycled a set lot of old furniture to add to her indoor housing setup. She has transformed an old magazine rack into a fantastic hay feeder, a set of drawers that her buns use for hiding places, and a children’s bookshelf that’s now a bunny castle. And, to ensure her beloved buns enjoy the utmost comfort, all Poppy’s amazing upcycles have cushions which she made herself from an old duvet.

DISCOVER more creative DIY ideas for your rabbits' housing here >>

  1. Hay filled hanging rolls for rabbits, chinchillas and degus

If you have small pets, you’ll never run out of uses for cardboard loo rolls! And, turning them into hanging hay-filled toys couldn’t be simpler. Make a few and hang them at different heights to provide some snacking fun with a bit of a challenge. 

You will need:

  • Sisal twine (don’t use synthetic string)
  • Cardboard toilet paper tubes
  • Tasty feeding hay 
  • Scissors

STEP 1 Tie a knot in the end of a length of sisal twine.

STEP 2 Make a slit or small hole in one side of a toilet tube.

STEP 3 Poke the string in through the tube and up through the hole until it stops where the knot is.

STEP 4 Stuff with hay, hang and watch the fun begin!

  1. A fetching fleecy peek-a-boo curtain for guinea pigs

Old slippers, winter hats, scarves, mittens, blankets and other items made of fleece will all appeal to comfort-loving guinea pigs. And, as guineas like to keep a close eye on the world from a safe place, why not make them a fleecy curtain to peek out from?

You will need:

  • An old fleece scarf or blanket
  • Scissors
  • Needle and thread
  • Sisal twine

STEP 1 Take the fleecy material and cut into long, thin strips and cut it into long, thin strips.

STEP 2 Turn the end of each one over and stich to create a loop, about 3cm long.

STEP 3 String these strips onto a length of sisal twine so they form a curtain.

STEP 4 Tie to the top of your guinea pig’s enclosure and trim to the required length to create a soft, fleecy curtain they can peep out from.

WATCH more guinea pig enrichment ideas here >>


As well as high quality feeding hay and our specially formulated nuggets for rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas, you can help keep things interesting by foraging for some free tasty titbits yourself. Find out more about foraging for small furries >>

  1. A digging box with buried treasure for rat explorers

Most rats will love exploring a digging box, particularly if there’s some foliage to investigate and a few buried treasure food treats to seek out.

You will need

  • A small cat litter tray, old washing up bowl or other shallow plastic box
  • Sterilised potting soil (not treated with any chemicals, fertiliser or additives)
  • Some cat grass

STEP 1 Take the litter tray and fill it halfway with the sterilised potting soil.

STEP 2 Plant some cat grass, water it and wait for it to grow (or buy some ready grown).

STEP 3 Let the soil dry out a for a day or so and then strategically bury a few rat nuggets.

STEP 4 To minimise mess, place the tray on an old sheet to collect any dug-up soil and grass.

STEP 4 Let your rats sniff, explore and dig!

After all that digging, your pets will need a rat nap – so why not create a cosy hammock for them to chill out in, such as this one made out of old scraps of material from Wood Green >>

  1. A maze for curious hamsters, mice and gerbils to master

A maze that leads to treasure treats (scatter a few along the way for encouragement) will keep small furries physically and mentally busy.

You will need

  • Cardboard packaging
  • Scissors or a sharp utility knife
  • A ruler
  • Pet-safe glue

STEP 1 Use one large box as the frame and cut and glue cardboard strips to the bottom inside, forming the sides of the maze, in whatever configuration you prefer.

STEP 2 Make the strips high enough that your small pets don’t merely climb over, but don't make it so complicated that they can’t work it out.

STEP 3 Add removable cardboard tubes or small boxes with entry/exit holes cut in them as tunnels and some rest stops (add some bedding material here) and then watch your small pets use all their senses to solve the riddle of the maze.

WATCH how to create a maze for your small pets here >>

  1. Turn free stuff into fun and games for ferrets

Recycling can take on a whole new meaning when you have ferrets. That old cardboard box can become an intriguing den if you cut a couple of wriggle-size holes in it and place something tasty such as some Burgess Excel Ferret Nuggets hidden in an old sock inside it.

A tatty, worn out, rather stinky walking boot? It will make a great hidey-hole to pop out of. A cosy jumper that’s past its best? Your ferrets will love tunnelling through the sleeves.

Faded, fraying pillowcase? Stitch some sturdy rope to it, attach each end to the sides of their cage and it becomes a hammock for your ferret chums to clamber on.


  • Make your creations from natural, safe materials that aren’t toxic to animals such as hessian, sisal and plain cardboard.
  • Only use pet-safe glue.
  • Ensure there’s nothing your pet could break off or swallow that could harm them
  • Always supervise your pets with their new toys and never force them to play. Depending on your pets’ species and personality, the new thing you’ve introduced may be exciting or a bit scary at first, so always let them go at their own pace.

Find out more about enrichment ideas for small pets >>  

Did you know that 92% of UK vets recommend our Burgess Excel small pets range?

All our small pets nuggets, feeding hay and healthy treats  for your rabbitschinchillas and degusferretsratshamsters, gerbils and mice and guinea pigs are made using only the finest quality ingredients. Find out why we've got hay fever! >>

Are your small pets Burgess small pets?  Join the Burgess Pet Club for exclusive offers and rewards.

LET’S GET SOCIAL Sign up to the Excel Bunny Base – a safe Facebook community for rabbit guardians that are looking for advice and friendly discussions from likeminded owners – and there are lots of cute bunny photos and videos! Also join us on Instagram. Or why not become part of the Excel Squeak Squad on Facebook? Join Berry & Bramble, our special G-force guinea pigs, on weekly missions and fun competitions.

CARE MORE Find lots of useful advice on caring for your small pets from Burgess, the pet experts. Training, nutrition, grooming and general care. It's all here >>

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