So you’ve decided to adopt a pocket pet! Besides being small and cute, pocket pets (gerbils, hamsters, mice, and the like) are fascinating to watch and can be a wonderful alternative to dog or cat ownership. Whether you are short on space, have allergies, are on a budget, or just love tiny animals, a pocket pet may be the perfect companion for you.
Just Starting Out
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding which pocket pet is appropriate for your family. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before venturing into the world of small animal “parenting”:
- What type and size of housing will the animal need? Do I have enough space?
- What are the pet’s specific diet and exercise requirements? Some pocket pets can thrive on a diet of hay and pellets while others need fresh food or other specifics.
- Is the animal nocturnal or diurnal (does he or she sleep during the day or at night)?
- Does my family’s schedule allow enough time for the overall care of (feeding, cleaning up after and interacting with) our new pet?
- Are my children old enough to handle a pocket pet gently? Many small children lack the fine motor skills necessary for the safe handling of these tiny creatures, who could accidentally be squeezed or startled into biting. Take your children’s ages and maturity levels into consideration when deciding to adopt a pocket pet.
Popular Pocket Pets
Gerbils: Active, adorable, and awake for much of the day, gerbils are an extremely popular pocket pet for families with small children. Gerbils require daily human interaction and plenty of opportunities to exercise and chew.
Hamsters: These fluffy creatures are another popular “starter pet”, and it’s easy to see why. Cute and cuddly, hamsters are fun to watch and even more fun to hold. But hamsters are more easily startled than some of the other small pets and may not be the best option for families with small children. Hamsters are also nocturnal, so just as you are getting ready for bed, your hamster will be starting his or her day.
Guinea Pigs: Larger than most other pocket pets, guinea pigs also live longer, up to 5-7 years. Guinea pigs benefit greatly from daily handling and interaction with the family, so make sure your little buddy (or buddies, as Guinea pigs often do better when they live with another Guinea pig of the same-sex) is housed where the family can see and play with him or her often.
Rats: Rats are the most people-friendly pocket pet by far and they need plenty of human interaction and time outside their cages daily. Rats are also mostly nocturnal so ask yourself if your family will have time to play with your rat in the afternoons and evenings. A rat may also be ideal for families who don’t want a long-term commitment to a pet, as rats live an average of 1-3 years.
One last thing…
Consider adopting a pocket pet from your local animal shelter! These little guys and gals are often surrendered to shelters when families realize they don’t have time for or can’t properly care for them. Not only will you be gaining a friend by adopting from your shelter, but you will also be saving a life!
Here at The Maywood Veterinary clinic pocket pets are just as important to us as our other patients. Our veterinarians not only love but are also trained in the proper care and treatment of small animals. Don’t hesitate to give us a call with questions or to schedule an appointment for your pocket pet.