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small animal information

A common misconception about small animals is that they are “easy pets” and don’t take much time or effort to care for. Often times small animals are considered starter pets and are left to the sole responsibility of children to care for. Unfortunately, this misconception often leads to the small animal being surrendered to the humane society when the children get bored months later.

 

Small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and hamsters need just as much care as cats and need more living space than most people realize. Traditional cages and crates sold at pet stores are not always the best for long term living. Read on to learn more about what it takes to care for small animals and determine if they are they right pet for you!

Rabbits

Rabbits make amazing pets! They can be very sweet affectionate animals to own, but they require a very specific diet and habitat to help the thrive and flourish. Rabbits can live up to 10 years and can be litter box trained. They require a diet of rabbit food, hay, and fresh veggies.

 

 

Traditional rabbit cages found at pet stores are NOT adequate as a permanent residence. They can be used as a “house” or safespace for your rabbit to stay when you are not home or able to supervise them, but rabbits need significantly more space to live comfortably.

 

 

Rabbits need lots of room to move and hop to their hearts content! If rabbit owners are unable to rabbit proof their homes, (learn how to do that here!), then setting up something like the above photos is ideal. Even with these houses, rabbits still need time in an open space to run, so supervised free time in a room is required.

 

Rabbits can also be destructive if they get bored, so providing regular enrichment activities is a must. Items such as paper towel tubes stuffed with hay and treats, boxes, branches, toys, tunnels, and even blankets can help keep your bunny healthy and happy!

Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs are not only small and adorable, they are super fun pets to have! They are incredibly social and most need to be homed in pairs so that they always have a friend. Guinea pigs tend to be rather timid animals, so it is important to give them houses and huts to hide in and feel safe. While larger store bought kennels can be adequate housing for small or individual pigs, there are other options available that provide much more room.

As with most animals, the larger the guinea pig or the more you have, the more space they require. Guinea pigs should be fed a specific diet of Timothy hay and specific guinea pig pellet food, with supplemental fresh veggies. Guinea pigs also require enrichment to keep them happy. Toys, wooden chews, tunnel, and paper towel tubes are great for giving your tiny pig friends something fun to do!

Rats

Rats have a bad reputation as being “gross, smelly, sewer dwellers,” but in reality they are incredibly smart, affectionate and adorable pets to own! Incredibly intelligent animals, rats can learn their names, be litter box trained, and learn many different tricks! Typically social animals, rats often prefer to be with other rats, so larger cages are a must, and because of their intelligence they require lots of different enrichment activities.

Rat owners can get creative with their habitat setups, adding blankets, shelves, ramps and toys to keep their small friends happy. They require specific rat food found in pet stores, can drink water from a bottle or bowl, and love to have treats!

 

Many rats love to socialize with their humans, and some can even be found tucked into a sweater pocket taking a nap while their human goes about their day. Their social attitude makes them a great pet for children, but of course need adult care as well.

Hamsters, Gerbils, and Mice

The smallest of the small pets, hamsters, gerbils and mice are often overlooked or considered children’s pets, when in fact they need adult care and attention to keep them happy and healthy. They can be interesting pets for children to have, but they tend to be less social than rats or rabbits. Because these pets are so small, it is important to make sure their cage has very small bars and no openings that they squeeze through. Notorious escape artists, having a hamster specific cage, or a tank with proper ventilation is best for these small animals.

Small rodent cages found in pet stores are not ideal homes for these animals. Like any living being small animals need room to exercise and explore, which they cannot do with small kennels. Larger cages with lots of room to move and expore are ideal and can be found in pet stores. Some people like to use ventilated tanks or reptile terrariums to build more natural homes, but it is important to make sure the animals cannot escape, and have enough air getting in to them. Mesh or metal barred lids are ideal for these types of homes. Tunnels, hideouts, wooden chews and toys all provide great enrichment for these small animals. Small animals require breed specific food that can be found at pet stores, and still enjoy the occasional treat