close up of rat face

Photo courtesy of RSPCA

Novel Scents

Spray novel scents on toys/objects and hiding them under the bedding of the cage. It is important to remember to dilute the extract; a small animal’s sense of smell is much more sensitive than ours. You can encourage small animals and birds to use their sense of smell by hiding food items and treats in their cage or exercise pen. Rats will happily dig in sand or gravel trays, or chew through cardboard tubes to find hidden favourite food items.


The following has been adapted from the RSPCA. In the natural environment, small animals and birds use their skill of foraging for food to survive. There are several easy ways in which we can allow them to express this normal behaviour and stimulate the olfactory sense.

Searching for Food Encourages Natural Foraging Behaviour and Keeps them Busy


  • Scatter feeding – scatter greens and/or daily pellet ration around their home
  • Hiding food under flower pots and in cardboard boxes or tubes with the ends stuffed with hay or shredded newspaper
  • Hanging up their greens so they have to stand on their back legs to reach them
  • Wrapping some pellets in brown paper for them to unwrap
  • Hide fruits and vegetables within the cage for a small animal to smell and search for
  • Make homemade paper rolls stuffed with treats and hay
  • Hang some root vegetables from the cage, so the small animal can either climb or reach up for them

rabbit playing with toys

Photo courtesy of House Rabbit Society

Find DIY instructions to build your own:

Territorial Marking 

rabbits playing with toys

Photo courtesy of RSPCA

Small animals need places to mark territory – ensure there are objects or areas within rabbits’ home where they can mark their territory using chin secretions, urine and droppings.

Rabbits perform “chin marking,” “chin rubbing,” or “chinning,” where they gently rub their chin on an object or against part of their enclosure. This activity transfers secretions from their scent gland onto the item, marking their territory and making it smell familiar and reassuring. These scents are not detected by people.

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