Top 10 Weirdly Cute Pets You Should Own
Should You Get a Pet Rodent?
Hamsters, and gerbils, and rats, oh my! No matter which type you choose, rodents can make great pets — as long as you give them the care they need.
By Dennis Thompson Jr.
Medically Reviewed byJennifer Garcia, DVM
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Have you ever considered buying a pet rodent on impulse? You're in the pet store and there they are, inexpensive and cheerful, playfully scampering around their cages and running on their wheels. The health benefits of pet ownership are well known, and rodents can be terrific pets. Why wouldn't you want to buy a small pet right there on the spot, both for their benefit and your own?
Before you jump in, however, you should consider a number of factors about owning a pet rodent, whether it's a hamster, gerbil, guinea pig, rat, or mouse. These small pets are inexpensive to buy, but there additional costs involved in keeping them. They also require gentle attention and constant clean-up and care to ensure pet health. Depending on which type of rodent you choose, they may not live on your daily schedule. And if you buy more than one, you may wake up one day to find yourself the proud owner of many, many baby rodents.
6 Tips for Choosing a Pet Rodent
Factors that go into your decision to purchase a pet rodent — and the type of rodent you choose — include:
- Size.Guinea pigs and rats are larger, while mice, hamsters, and gerbils tend to be small in size.
- Number needed.Pet hamsters and mice tend to fight when kept with a companion, so it may be better to purchase just one. Gerbils, guinea pigs, and rats are social and thrive with companionship, particularly same-sex pairs. You should consider buying more than one of these species if you want a happy small pet.
- Attention and care.All pet rodents need some daily attention if they are to be socialized into your family. They should be handled or let out to play every day. But guinea pigs require even more attention than that. Because of their long fur, they need to be groomed regularly.
- Nocturnal or not?Pet hamsters and rats are nocturnal creatures, which means they'll be up playing when you're asleep and zonked out when you're awake. Gerbils, guinea pigs, and mice are more likely to be on your daytime schedule.
- Human interaction.Some pet rodents take to humans more readily than others. Guinea pigs and rats are much less likely to bite, while hamsters and mice tend to be more nervous around people.
- Lifespan.All pet rodents have a short lifespan compared to dogs, cats, and some other types of small pets. Mice live 1 to 3 years, hamsters and gerbils 2 to 3 years, rats 2 to 4 years, and guinea pigs 5 to 7 years. Keep this in mind when buying a pet rodent for a young child.
How to Care for and Feed Your Pet Rodent
Pet rodents have very specific needs if they're to be kept healthy and happy, including:
- Housing.You will need to purchase a cage, terrarium, or aquarium for your pet rodent. Rats and guinea pigs require larger cages than other species. Be sure to buy housing with a sturdy latch, as pet rodents often prove themselves escape artists. A modular enclosure with tubes connecting the different "rooms" can provide your pet rodent with entertainment. You also should stock their living space with plenty of toys and at least one exercise wheel. Lay down fresh hardwood shavings for bedding in their living space.
- Food.Most pet rodents eat pellets specifically formulated for their species. You also should supplement these pellets with fresh produce every day. Guinea pigs have even more specific food requirements, including fresh hay and vitamin C supplements. And don't forget to keep your pet's water fresh, changing it at least once a day.
- Chewing.All rodents love to chew. You need to provide them with safe materials to chew on. It's important for their physical and mental well-being.
- Cleaning.Pet rodents tend to excrete very strong-smelling urine, especially gerbils. You will need to replace bedding and clean out their enclosure at least once a week. Clean their food dish daily, and their water dish or bottle with every refill.
These small pets are adorable and can be sweet companions. Just be sure you know what you are getting into when you decide to bring one into your family.
Video: Pet Rodents : Buying Gerbils
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