Did you know small animals can make a wonderful pet?
Small pets are a great way to teach responsibility, are usually affordable, work well in smaller homes and spaces, and most are generally easier to care for than larger pets. With proper care and attention, they are a wonderful addition to the family. We can’t wait to share a few tips on how to provide a loving home and the very best care.
When deciding on what kind of small pet to get, keep in mind you may need to get at least two. Guinea pigs and rats for example are very social and need a buddy. Hamsters however are better with just one. Also consider how much space you have for their home and play.
- Hamsters are solitary, nocturnal, independent and love to burrow and run on their wheel at night
- Guinea pigs are gentle, sweet and sociable so they need a companion/buddy, and can make an ideal first pet
- Rabbits are also gentle and sociable, best with a companion, and can be trained to use a litter box
- Rats are very smart and social and can learn fun tricks
Before you bring your new pet home, it's best to get their new home all ready for a happy homecoming. It's much easier and less stressful if you purchase supplies and get everything setup before you bring them home.
Small Pet Supply Checklist
It will vary slightly by animal but generally these are the basics you need:
- Pet carrier for transportation home and vet visits
Appropriate large habitat with ample room for your pet to play and plenty of space for everything they need – Bigger is Better! It's fun to watch them burrowing and building tunnels or popcorning in the bedding.
- Avoid wire bottomed cages, as this poses a risk of injury for their small and delicate feet
- Plenty of carefresh soft, absorbent paper bedding for nesting and burrowing. It’s unscented, no soggy mess, easy to clean up, with lots of fun colors to choose from
- Food & water dishes that won't tip over or a water bottle that hooks on the side
- Appropriate food including fresh hay, pellets, treats, fresh fruits and vegetables, dark leafy greens
Toys and accessories to keep them busy! It’s so much fun to watch them exercise on their wheel or run through a tunnel:
- Wood, wicker, cardboard, etc for chewing and entertainment and to wear down their teeth
- Tunnels or wheels for exercise, make sure the wheel is large enough to avoid back injury, no wires or mesh
- Hidey House: small pets need a place to seek shelter and feel protected.
- Small litter box and carefresh rabbit & ferret litter (for rabbits, ferrets or any small pets that use a litter box)
- Appropriate grooming tools
- Sand bath for those pets that cannot be bathed in water
- Playpen for safe social time
It's all about the location
Now that you have all the supplies, it’s time to have some fun setting up their home. Make sure to put their habitat in a well-lit area out of direct sunlight, with good ventilation, not too hot or cold.
Remember that most small pets are social creatures and will enjoy being able to observe you throughout the day; however, hamsters are more nocturnal and can get a little noisy at night running on his wheel!
Start by putting 2-6 inches of carefresh bedding in their habitat, or even more bedding off to one side or corner to give them ample space to burrow or nest—gerbils and hamsters will especially love you for this!
Then add all the accessories, being sure to secure the water bottle or water dish. Be creative!
Now you are ready to bring home your new pet!
Bringing them home
Your pet will need time to adjust to their new home. Keep your interactions to a minimum for the first few days, changing out their food and water when they are sleeping—give them time to feel safe.
Sit nearby and speak gently to them, letting them adjust to your presence and the sound of your voice. Observe them for any odd behaviors and contact your vet if you notice anything concerning.
As soon as your little ones are more used to their new home, start socializing with them and playing with them, a little more each day. Some small animals do not like to be held a lot but they may enjoy lots of soft petting – guinea pigs and rats even purr!
Be sure to handle them very gently. Small children should always be supervised.
Hamsters will squeak out of pure joy when being fed, running on a wheel, or receiving a new toy to play with, and guinea pigs make the cutest noises when they are happy.
Now you can provide the very best care and have FUN with your new small pet!