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5 Versatile Toys for Enriching Exotic Animals

Jay Stutz of Busch Gardens Shares His Recommendations

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Jay Stutz has worked with some famous animals, from Babe to Beethoven, and even had his own Animal Planet show, "Good Dog U." Now, as a curator/animal expert at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Jay has plenty of experience working with exotic animals. He recommends these five easily-obtainable toys as enrichment tools for many different species.

Busch Gardens has a wide range of animals, so these toys work well for everything from big cats to primates to kinkajous and coatimundis. Check out these toys if you own an exotic animal and want some new ideas for enriching your pet's environment and offering mental stimulation.

1. Kong Rubber Toys

Barb Nefer

Jay says that Kong's large rubber toys combine durability with flexibility. For example, he uses a cone-shaped toy to fill with food treats for the Busch Gardens primates.

Chimps, gorillas and orangutans alike use their fingers to work the goodies out of the toys rather than simply licking out the treat. Jay says that many of the primates also use the toys as an opportunity to show off their tool-related skills. They find sticks in their habitats and use them as utensils to scrape out the food.

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2. Jolly Balls

Cheetah cub
Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Gardens goes through many Jolly Balls, since their exotic animal residents are much harder on this toy than the average cat or dog. Jay says Jolly Balls are especially good for young exotic cats. Animals like Kasi, the park's cheetah cub, exhibit prey behavior with the balls, hunting them and carrying them around, which lets them practice their natural skills.

The hooved stock at Busch Gardens also enjoy the apple-shaped Jolly Ball toys normally meant for horses.

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3. Boomer Balls

Gorilla
Busch Gardens Tampa

Boomer Balls are durable balls that come in many sizes, which makes them suitable for a wide variety of exotic animals. They can easily used for various forms of enrichment, according to Jay.

For example, Boomer Balls float, which allows water-loving species like tigers to play with them in their pools. Drilling holes in the balls allows them to be stuffed with treats or scents to keep the animals' attention.

4. Hol-ee Rollers

Barb Nefer

Hol-ee Rollers are excellent enrichment toys for smaller exotic species. For example, Jay says that anmals like the kinkajou and coatimundi love playing with these toys when they are filled with hay and little treats. They poke in their noses and forage through the material in the ball's openings.

Hol-ee Rollers are on the more inexpensive side, starting at under $10 for the smallest sizes.

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5. Buster Cubes

Buster Cubes make great puzzle feeders for many exotic animals. They hold a wide variety of treats, like kibble, seeds, grapes, and require the animals to shake them, roll them around, and try various other methods at get at the goodies, Jay explains. This poses both a physical and mental challenge to keep the animals busy and occupied.

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