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Here's some tips for how to use leftover or throw away items and repurposed them into animal care supplies. Free toys and bedding, easy clean up, and lots of recycling!

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Welcome back to Animal Wonders, where we care for many different animals, from domestic pet species to exotic non-pet species. We’re always looking for ways to be creatively frugal so we can use our funds where they’re really needed. I’d like to share some ways that we save money by using things that we have just laying around or we might throw away and reuse them for our animals. [CHEERY INTRO].

First up is paper towel and toilet paper rolls. Unless you have a bidet and only use cloth towels, you’re going to end up with a bunch of these little rolls. Instead of throwing them away, you can turn them into very useful items for an animal in your care.

We make the rolls into enrichment for a variety of species. We can hide food inside and make it a foraging toy for an animal that likes digging and ripping. Like Lollipop the skunk and Rook the raven.

We also string them together to make toys for the parrots. They can be given as is for a shredding toy, or they can be folded to hold a treat and encourage foraging behavior. Another way paper towel rolls come in handy is to use them as cricket and cockroach tunnels.

If you have animals in your care that need to eat insects, then you know catching a bunch of crickets from a large container can be a pain. If you leave the roll in the container, the crickets will naturally crawl in, and then you can simply pick it up, cover the ends with your palms, and then you have a little cricket dispenser. You can open your hand a little to let a few crawl out, or do what I do and tap it into your hand and then you have a nice handful to toss in with whoever is ready to eat.

These are also items that you can easily ask your friends and family to save as well. Preface it by letting them know it’s for the animals; it’s not awkward unless you make it awkward. The next common thing most people end up with and don’t have a good use for is excess cardboard boxes.

Boxes are the most useful unwanted item that we can get at Animal Wonders. So much so, that we ask our friends and volunteers to save their boxes for us, too. We take any boxes that are made of just paper without any plastic laminate on them, and we shred them and use the shredded bits as bedding.

You can use this in place of wood shavings or paper bedding that’s sold in stores. You do need to invest in a decent shredder, but depending on how much you use it, it can pay itself back in two to three months. We’ve used a few brands over the years, and what you need to look for is one that shreds criss-cross and not strips and it can take ten or more sheets of paper at once.

My favorite one took twelve sheets at once, but this one works well, too. It cost about $90. Now, we’ve gotten a ton of use out of our shredder, and we’re shredding boxes every day because we have a whole lot of animals.

But if you’re making bedding for just a couple pets, then your shredder should last a good long time. If you think you’ll be using your shredder a lot, then I’d recommend getting the 2-year warranty in case it gives up early. We use ours so much that several times we’ve gotten a few replacements for just the price of the original and a $15 warranty.

Now we go one step further because we have the space to do it, and we compost all of our animal bedding to turn into fertilizer that we then use for our garden to grow produce for the animals. I know that this is not practical for most pet owners, but I love being able to do it and it works out really well for us all around. So we also end up with plenty of boxes that have plastic on them that we aren’t able to shred.

We use the non-shreddable boxes as enrichment, much like the toilet paper rolls. Different sized boxes are good for different sized animals. We can use these big ones for Kizmit the African crested porcupine who loves to chew into everything.

We hide some of her food inside the box, and she can smell it so has to chew into it to get the food. It’s great enrichment for her! We can use these smaller boxes for the foxes, and if you have a dog that’s active and food motivated, then this is a perfect way to use extra boxes while giving your dog a fun activity to do.

Just be sure to watch your dog with the box to make sure they don’t try and eat the box itself. Some dogs can get carried away. And if your dog doesn’t understand how to get the food, you can teach them how it works using a few steps to get them going in the right direction.

Start with a few pieces of food on top of the box, and then put a few underneath so they have to move it. Next put a few pieces of food underneath and inside the box to get them to knock it around. Continue this process until they don’t need any underneath and they know it’s inside.

Then gently close the opening so they have to manipulate it a lot to be successful. Finally, tightly fold the box in half so they have to really get into it to make the food come out. Another great use for the smaller boxes is for smaller animals like hedgehogs, rats, and other small rodents.

They can use them for cozy little huts or a fun obstacle course. Up next is another thing most of us end up with: extra paper like misprints or old mail. We can put paper to use in so many ways that we get stacks of it donated from offices that end up with tons of scraps.

We sort the donated paper and remove any staples or plastic coated sheets. We also remove any that have heavy printing on them to avoid too much ink. We can then shred the paper to make a bedding that’s softer than the cardboard pieces.

Sydney the brush-tailed bettong appreciates having her entire space covered in a thick layer of soft shredded paper. We also use shredded paper to fill boxes and offer as a foraging bin or a cozy bed option. Sheets of paper can also be left whole and used for enrichment.

You can simple scrunch them up and make them into balls. Our rabbits and rats like moving them around, and some of the parrots love shredding them up into teeny tiny pieces. Or you can rip the paper into thick strips.

We hang the strips on the bars for some of the birds or tie them together with a string and hang them up. The rabbits and cavies enjoy this kind of presentation, too. The last common item often going to waste is leftover newspapers.

Many of you might not get physical newspapers anymore, but there’s still plenty of them being simply thrown away when they can be easily reused. If you know someone or some business that gets newspapers, ask if you can have them once they’re ready to be tossed out. I don’t recommend using newspaper like you would scrap paper because the ink is everywhere and not the best for animals that might use it as a bedding to sleep on.

We use leftover newspapers under all of our indoor birds. The birds don’t come into contact with it, and it makes cleanup super easy. We simply roll up the newspaper with all the poops inside like a little poop burrito, and fold it in half and throw it away.

We also line the bottoms of the rabbit and cavy litter boxes, underneath a layer of shredded cardboard or wood shavings. This makes it easier to dump out all the soiled litter because nothing sticks to the pan. It just comes out all at once.

Alright, that is all the tips I have for you today. I hope some of them come in handy, help you reuse some waste, and reduce your costs for pet care. If you have any helpful tips to share with us and other pet owners, please share them in the comments so we can all learn!

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