What’s a Snuffle Mat?
In case, like me, you never heard of this, let me explain. First of all, its irresistibly adorable name —SNUFFLE MAT— really describes its function. It lets a dog practice foraging for food by scent, which is a lot more interesting than just eating it out of a bowl. It’s like a little adventure that a dog’s nose was just born to go on. Plus, all you have to do is set it up and leave it, so it’s a great way to keep an animal entertained when you’re busy doing something else.
Snuffle mats can hide food in lots of ways. Some of them have pockets. Anything where the food can be smelled but not seen and a little bit of effort is required to extract it from the mat qualifies. In essence, it’s a flat puzzle toy. You could even use a piece of loose, deep pile carpet for this.
Is This a Suitable Toy for a Rabbit?
It’s not that often that you find dog toys that are appropriate across species, but in this case, they really are. Foraging is a key skill for bunnies. This kind of eating is perhaps even more essential for rabbits, since they don’t hunt. They graze on hay or grass, but richer fare like fruit or blossoms are less common, so they forage for those.
The mat I found geared specifically for rabbits is the Tokihut brand Veggie Farm Foraging Rabbit Snuffle Mat, which I purchased on their web site ($26.99). Kinda pricey, but I figured it would be worth it if it became a staple, use-over-and-over-again toy for my guys. Plus, it’s super cute.
But I wondered – would they “get it”? Or would I have to coach them? What about sharing – would it cause a fight?
“Loading” the snuffle mat was quick and easy. I took the rabbit cereal pellets that I would have fed Finnegan and Moraea for the day, and just hid them, in small groups, in the wonderful little rabbit-themed pockets of the Tokihut mat. It took 2-3 minutes, tops.
The design is bright and colorful. There are lots of places to put treats, under or inside different flaps and folds The bottom of the mat is smartly lined with non-slip fabric, to help hold the mat stable while it’s being explored.
The only challenge for me was getting it from the countertop, where I loaded it, to a spot where the bunnies would have access, without any of the pellets spilling out. So far the best method I’ve found was to slip both my outstretched arms under it, at opposite edges. I try to keep it draped as wide and flat as possible as I carry it to “rabbit land”. If you have an extra set of hands to help, you could each take two corners and hold it taut that way. If you know of a better way, please suggest it in the comments!
For us, it worked great! The first time I set it down, Finnegan and Moraea went nuts for it. They knew just what to do, It took them about ten minutes but they were highly motivated and stuck with the task. They cleaned it out completely.
Because the mat was plenty large enough for both of them to sniff lots of hidden goodies, no conflicts ensued. It’s possible that if I had hidden a few higher-value treats in there, like pieces of cookie, things might have played out differently.
I know I had the option to walk away and do other things, but it was far too amusing to watch them go at it. It was also enlightening to see how they worked on it. Foraging, as mentioned, is different from grazing, and there really aren’t very many situations where a house bunny gets to flex that mental muscle. So the opportunity to observe their problem-solving was too good to pass up. You can also see them exercising a variety of the physical skills they love to practice, such as digging, pulling, and sniffing. It’s like giving a typical twelve year old boy the latest video game – they couldn’t be happier.
Here’s just about a minute of their work to show you what I mean. (If you find this entertaining and relaxing to watch, you’re welcome to view the entire ten minutes here.)
What about durability? So far so good! The mat came through its maiden voyage without a scratch. I imagine that prompt removal of the mat when it’s empty will prolong its life. Left within reach long enough without treats, I bet it could magically transform itself from a snuffle mat into a chew toy!
The Fluffy Tail of This Blog Post
Based on my experience, I recommend the Tokihut Veggie Farm Foraging Rabbit Snuffle Mat * . To further tempt you, I just heard that Tokihut has created a holiday version of their rabbit snuffle mat as well, which has a big holiday tree on it. They’re both cute as a button, and the non-holiday version I tried worked great for my buns. It offers a unique experience that most rabbits will really dig, plus it’s tons of fun to watch them at work!
*NOTE: I have received no free stuff or other inducements from Tokihut ever, certainly not in regards to this review, and Tokihut was not informed of my intention to write this post.