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Compare the small pets!

It very much depends on the individual family. We’ve profiled a select few of the usual suspects; it’s a good starting place but it is wise to do much research before embarking upon small furry ownership.

The Hamster

Lifespan: 2-3 years

Equipment and care requirement: Moderate

Fascinating fact: The dwarf breeds of hamster can be as small as 2 inches long.

Pros: Often the first pet a child is given due to the relative ease of care required, compared to other small furry pets. They do however have specific needs which must be met to keep them healthy and happy. They are usually kept indoors without creating too much of an odour, provided their cage is cleaned regularly. Larger breeds such as the Syrian can be handled carefully by adults and respectful children and often enjoy interaction and attention from people.

Things to consider: Of course personalities vary and some will have a little nip from time to time especially if fingers smell of food. They are nocturnal, becoming active at night (so get that squeaky hamster wheel sorted!) and don’t always appreciate being awoken for handling during the day. Smaller breeds such as the Russian dwarf can be highly skittish and therefore tricky for children to handle. There are some that are so small; it is not recommended that they are handled at all.

The Rabbit

Lifespan: 8-12 years

Equipment and care requirement: High

Fascinating fact: It is normal for rabbits to eat their own faeces, it is a method of getting all the nourishment from their diet that they possibly can.

Pros: A well socialised, happy, relaxed rabbit can make a wonderful, tactile companion.  They are intelligent and can be trained to come to their name, do tricks and even to use a litter tray. They have funny, exuberant characters and will put a smile on anyone’s face with their running, leaping and playful nature.

Things to consider: Rabbits aren’t born relaxed around people. They need a great deal of socialisation and handling before they will enjoy your company without leaving scratch marks up your arms. Put simply, they are not an ‘easy option’, as viewed by some who are unable to have a cat or a dog. They require quite a lot of equipment, such as indoor and outdoor runs, spacious enclosures and enrichment toys. They should live with at least one other of their own kind, in compatible pairs (usually a neutered male and a neutered female works best) and much research should be carried out into appropriate diet and veterinary care necessities.

The Rat

Lifespan: 2-3 years

Equipment and care requirement: Moderate to high

Fascinating fact: Rats are reported to be sensitive to electromagnetic fields. So don’t house them near electrical devices like cordless phones or mobiles!

Pros: Highly intelligent, loveable and loyal pets when handled and socialised well. Will potentially build strong bonds with human companions and can even be taught to do tricks. Great fun to watch as they love to play and explore. Once they know you, generally happy to be handled by adults and gentle children.

Things to consider: Can be rather whiffy, strict hygiene must be observed for your sake and theirs as they easily suffer health problems otherwise. They require a lot of care and species knowledge to be healthy and happy. Rats must live with at least one other rat, in small, same sex groups ideally from the same litter.

The Chinchilla

Lifespan: 10-20 years

Equipment and care requirement: High

Fascinating fact: Never hold a chinchilla by their tail, it can easily break off altogether!

Pros: Beautiful, soft and nearly odourless creatures who can make loving companions for adults and older children. If handled from a young age, they will be happy to be held, often seeking attention from their human companions. Their luxurious coat really is something to behold.

Things to consider: Not recommended for young children due to their highly sensitive nature. Can be a significant commitment considering their lifespan and requirement of a highly specific environment. They must be kept in temperatures of 10-18°C, and heat, cold, humidity and draughts etc. can leave them susceptible to disease. They have specific dietary and enclosure needs, requiring a great deal of space. They tend to be active at night requiring many safe toys to enrich their environment. They must live with at least one other chinchilla (of the same sex unless you intend to breed) and be closely observed for signs of stress. This is a pet for the knowledgeable owner, with much dedication and time to offer.

So, there’s a taster of just a few of the common small furry companions available as pets. There are many more out there to choose from, all of whom will have their own set of specific care needs and who will, no doubt, make you smile in their unique way. The important thing is to be sure you know what you’re signing up for and that you can provide a suitable lifelong home and environment.

Want to know more?

Need help to make a decision? Or have you got a small pet with a health problem? Either way, just book an appointment with one of our vets! You can telephone or book online here.