Small Rodents as Pets: Tips on How to Care for Pocket Pets

pocket-petsWhat are pocket pets? Even the name itself conjures up images of adorable little furry creatures in the care of smiling children. Pocket pets are defined loosely by veterinarians and pet stores as small creatures, typically rodents such as hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, gerbils and fancy rats. While they look easy enough to care for when your child is pleading in front of the glass tank at the pet store, there is a lot more to the proper care and feeding of pocket pets than you might realize. However, once you understand what they need – and when they need it – it can become a great teaching tool for children and even bring an appreciation of the dedication that is required to care for these creatures by the entire family.

Why Pocket Pets?
When it comes to choosing a pet for your child, many parents go with the traditional cat or dog. However, sometimes that isn’t always possible. Pet allergies may require parents to look into adopting a bunny instead, which is usually a safe choice for most allergy sufferers. The type of home that you live in, such as an apartment, condo or rented home that won’t allow larger animals, may also require that you consider small rodents as pets instead of a Fido or Fluffy. These tiny little creatures require just as much love and attention as a cat or dog, however, so it is important not to choose them because you think it means less work.

Pick the Right Habitat
One of the many lessons that can come from keeping pocket pets is learning what the pet needs and creating a proper habitat that will help them to live a long and happy life. Selecting the cage that is proper for the type of animal that you choose to adopt is very important and some research should be done. If the pet store doesn’t have a lot of information, consider speaking with your Southeastern Massachusetts veterinarian. Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth treats pocket pets alongside cats and dogs, so our staff can provide you some great advice to help get you started. Each type of pet will require a different size and type of enclosure, so make sure you choose accordingly for best results.

Pick a Good Bed
Everybody needs a good night’s sleep and pocket pets are no different. Choose the right size and type of bed for your pet based on his size, the type of enclosure that you are providing and, of course, the type of animal that you choose. Clean, soft bedding is always a good start, but make sure you get something that is non-toxic in case he decides to nibble on it. Other things to look for are “dust free” and “pet safe.” Don’t always just trust that because there is a picture of a hamster on the package, that it is the best solution for your new pet. Change out the nesting or bedding material once or twice a week, depending on how messy your little guy gets it and take care to disinfect the entire sleeping area and enclosure every week.

Pick Some Workout Equipment
Your pet will want to work off all those nuts and seeds you feed him, so make sure that your pet has lots of things to keep him fit and stimulated inside of his enclosure. Hiding places are always appreciated and while tiny mice will enjoy a toilet paper roll for this purpose, larger animals, such as guinea pigs, will require something larger. Tunnels, balls, wheels and chew toys are also things that should be considered when appropriate. Chewing toys are required for rodents to prevent overgrowth of their teeth and to satisfy their natural urge to chew. This will prevent them from chewing on the enclosure – well, as much as can be expected. Make sure that all toys are designed for use by pets, made from non-toxic materials and that they are durable enough to stand up to daily use.

Pick Quality Foods
There is a lot of debate as to what types of food are best for pets these days. All pets, regardless of the type of breed, require fresh and clean drinking water at all times. Many small rodents as pets will do well with a water bottle that hangs from the side of the enclosure. Using a water bottle keeps the water cleaner than putting a dish of water in the enclosure, which might be used as a toilet or bath and become dirty. Commercial diets made specifically for your pet are a good choice. Guinea pig care and feeding is different from what is required by mice, rats or hamsters. While similar, they each have different nutritious needs. Be careful not to feed too many treats or give human food outside of fruits or vegetables that are okay to give to your pet. Speak with your Southeastern Massachusetts veterinarian for guidelines as to healthy treat options and nutritious foods that can be given to your pocket pet.

Pick a Date for a Check-Up
Even though your new pet may be small, he would still benefit from a check-up at Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth. New pets can be examined to make sure that they are in good condition to give them a good head start on a long healthy life in your home. Small rodents as pets can be easy to keep when you know how to take care of them properly. For more tips on hamster, rat, mouse, rabbit or guinea pig care and feeding, as well as information on veterinary services available for small rodents as pets, call Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth at 508-996-3731.