Social Interaction

two mice together
Photo courtesy of the RSPCA

Interaction with one’s own kind

Social interactions vary among small animals and birds. Some benefit from being with a companion, while others do not.

Determine what each individual animal prefers of the following:

  • To be alone, in a pair or group
  • With the same sex, or with the opposite sex
  • With one from the same litter

stop sign iconIf housing rabbits together, make sure your rabbits are neutered – this is important to avoid fighting and conflict, even in a same-sex group.

For more information about social interaction between specific animals see:

Human Interaction

The following has been adapted from the RSPCA. Animals gently handled by people from a young age can learn that humans are friends and companions. Those receiving little handling when young, or roughly handled at any age, may find human contact distressing. This can be expressed as fearfulness/running away/hiding/aggression.

Provide regular handling (petting, holding), and use a soft voice when in their presence, in order to help both birds and small animals become accustomed to human interaction.

person holding mouse
Photo courtesy of RSPCA

Handle carefully and considerately, in a confident but gentle manner. Some animals can find exposure to humans stressful until a positive relationship has been formed:

  • Provide the small animal with regular, calm and gentle contact to slowly allow a bond to develop
  • Reward with treats to help them enjoy your company
  • Small animals can build close relationships with people and be successfully trained
  • Most like playing, especially when young
  • They can learn to play with humans as well as others of their own kind
  • For nocturnal animals, handle in the morning or evening if possible –this avoids disturbing them in the daytime when they are sleeping

stop sign iconEnsure there are no small parts that could be swallowed. Supervise the use of toys and objects. Hide food in/under some of these objects


Not only are mazes mentally stimulating for small animals using them, but they are fun for us humans as well, as we assemble them or watch them in use. They can be made using things such as PVC piping and connectors or from simple paper towel rolls. Treats or food can be placed inside the maze to further enrich the small animal. They will be reliant on their sight (as well as other senses) to navigate their way through the maze.

Reading Program

The following has been adapted from the RSPCA.

Although most reading programs focus on dogs and cats, reading is also beneficial for small animals and birds. A reading program can provide some well-needed company, and does not require physical activity to enjoy time together. Most animals usually enjoy spending time with you and welcome the opportunity to curl up on a warm lap. This is easier done in a playroom or communal space, but a chair can still be pulled up beside an individual cage. Sit quietly in a chair or on the floor, start reading and let the animal choose to come to you. While you read aloud, the animal will find the sound of your voice comforting and will learn social skills that will help them get adopted. The key is your presence, quiet interaction with occasional petting, and a possible treat.

Tools needed: A good book, and a person to read it (a treat pouch can also offer a few surprises throughout the visit)

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