Small mammal pets may be tiny in size, but they provide huge enjoyment. It is important to understand how to properly care for and handle these tiny creatures so they remain safe and healthy. With suitable care, small animal pets can give back a great deal of happiness to pet owners of all ages.
Choosing the Small Animal
Before committing to owning a small mammal, do your research and understand the characteristics of the pet you are interested in. Consider reading an expert-recommended book about your desired type of pet. Popular small pets include gerbils, hamsters, rats, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets, and chinchillas. Understand how large each type of animal will get when it reaches maturity, and what type of care and supplies will be involved.
Some small mammals are nocturnal, which may not be a good fit with every family. Families with very small children are often not the best homes for small mammals, as young children may see the animals as a toy that can be handled roughly and carried around.
Regular Veterinarian Visits
Regular visits to the vet are vital to keeping your small mammal healthy and happy. Annual visits should address health screenings as well as nutrition and weight management.
When choosing a veterinarian, visit the American Animal Hospital Association’s website for a list of accredited vet practices in your area and ask for recommendations from friends and family—especially those who take skilled care of their small animals’ health and welfare.
Choosing a Small Animal Enclosure
The larger, the better. Who doesn’t like having a lot of room? At minimum, your small pet’s enclosure should be large enough for it to move around comfortably once it has reached its full size.
Position the enclosure away from direct sunlight, air conditioning and heat vents, radiators, and drafts so that temperature is regulated.
Provide your small pet with toys, litterbox, bedding, bowls for food and fresh water, and other accessories recommended for the species.
Bedding should absorb moisture, help eliminate odor, and be both biodegradable and digestible. Popular examples include aspen, paper pellets, pine, and recycled wood products.
Exercise and Handling
Teach children to properly and gently handle small mammals. These pets should never be picked up by the tail.
Just like other pets, small mammals require exercise. Time out of their enclosures that is safe and supervised is recommended. Pet-proof the room that the animals will be let into to reduce the risk of injury or escape.
You may be surprised to know that rabbits and guinea pigs enjoy boxes with doors cut in them, and that they will play and sleep with soft toys.