GERBILS, HAMSTERS, GUINEA PIGS, RATS & MICE
Fancy mice, fancy rats, guinea pigs, hamsters & gerbils are all relatively easy to care for. For a child, it is a good choice if they wish to have the responsibility of caring for an animal other than a goldfish. They do not require as much space, time or attention as a dog, cat or bigger animal. Of them all, guinea pigs are probably the most social and fancy mice are probably the smartest.
Deciding On A Small Pet Rodent
In deciding which pet is good for you a consideration to factor in is the lifespan of the rodent. Fancy mice live from 1 year up to 3. Gerbils and hamsters live 2-3 years. Fancy rats live 2-4 years, and a guinea pig can live 5 years up to over 7 years.
Most of these pets can be kept with others of there kind and are very social creatures. Male mice may fight between each other if kept as pairs but any other mix is fine. Hamsters are better kept by themselves as they prefer to be solitary creatures.
The larger the rodent, the larger the cage you will want to have. Of the 5 species usually chosen as pets, fancy mice have the smallest bodies which range from 2-3 inches. This is not including tail length. Gerbils hit approximately 4 inches. Hamster can grow to around 6 inches. Fancy rats can get roughly to 8 inches and guinea pigs measure in at up at around 10 inches.
Rodent Co-Habitation, Interaction & Enrichment
If you are thinking of getting an additional rodent(s) to add to your cage, you want to be careful. Some will attack other species and some will attack their own kind aggressively.
Syrian hamsters are known to attack their own kind if another comes into its territory, let alone its cage. Fancy rats will eat pet mice or any smaller creature than itself given the opportunity. Guinea pigs may become territorial if something unfamiliar comes into its immediate vicinity as well.
Rats, mice & gerbils can live with their own same species as long as conditions do not get overcrowded. Do not mix any species with each other and it is best if different species are kept in separate cages.
You can alleviate stress on your pet rodents by enriching their habitat and supplying them with proper lighting. Stay away from fluorescent lighting as it has a tendency to flicker and this can induce stress on your pets as well. LED lighting has come a long way and is a great substitute for any fluorescents in your home, office or store.
Be sure to give your pet access to natural sunshine. A few minutes here and there daily with access to lots of low-level natural light will help keep your pet healthy. Mimicking items found in the wild such as substrates and creating foraging opportunities can help keep your pet healthy & happy.
Food & Nutrition
Each rodent species has its own individual nutritional requirements. Choosing the proper foods for your pet is very important to health and longevity. As well, a substitute mineral stone that they can gnaw on is beneficial as they usually tend to only use it as they need it. Since the individual needs of acceptable foods and treats is a large variety for all the separate species, the links below address each species.
Although similar, the habitats for guinea pigs vary compared to that of hamsters, gerbils, rats, and mice. Everything can be similar in the cage for all the rodents except for the choice of bedding. DO NOT USE WOOD SHAVINGS such as pine or cedar for guinea pigs cages. Whatever substrate your use for any of your pets, remember to clean your cages a minimum of once per week. More if you have several pets in a cage. Water should be changed multiple times daily and food should always be present. Toys, tunnels, caves and other stuff in the cage is great. Make sure your pet(s) have adequate room in the cage and nothing can fall on your pet(s). A fancy mouse can get 9-12 inches from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail. Finally, keep your cage away from direct sunlight.
WORLD PET NETWORK
RABBITS & CHINCHILLAS
While not as common as small rodents due to their size and maintenance requirements, all these pets are gaining popularity.
Chinchillas are from the Andes Mountains in Chile. At one time their numbers included areas such as Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru as well as Chile but no more. They can be found living in "herds" at an elevation of approx 13000-15000 Feet. Although they live together in the wilds, chinchillas in captivity need to be housed separately. Wild chinchillas can live up to 10+ years and domesticated ones can live up to 20 years.
Rabbits come from all over the world now. At one point rabbits were not present on every continent but the introduction of them led them to quickly establishing "fluffles" or "herds". Stories put the domestication of our modern day rabbits back to the Monks in France during the 5th century. That's over 1500 years ago. There is no shortage of rabbits and in fact, there are still problems in countries dealing with an overpopulation of them such as Australia where they are not native to the land but were introduced.
A chinchilla rabbit is not related to chinchillas. It is a rabbit that has been bred to resemble the coat of a chinchilla. These chinchilla rabbits cannot be bred with a chinchilla since chinchillas are rodents.
Rabbits Or Chinchillas
Both make a good pet for the right people. Rabbits are a better option with young children in the home. Chinchillas are more suitable to be around children 15 years and older. Due to chinchillas deceiving size because of their puffy fur, they are actually very fragile so not suited to young kids and their sleeping habits are not typical of a standard pet either. Interruption of this sleeping cycle could be very stressful on the pet.
Both rabbits and chinchillas prefer to live in pairs of their own species. You can also get them to get along with supervision. However, you do NOT want to house them in the same cage together or leave them alone with each other as this could result in a trip to the vets or worse.
Rabbits & Chinchillas With Other Pets
Both rabbits and chinchillas get along well with other pets if introduced properly. Certain dogs you would not ever want to leave alone with them. Hunting dogs such as dachshunds or terriers for instance.
Introductions to dogs need to be done carefully and slowly since rabbits can die of fright and any undue stress could exasperate this unique condition. It is recommended that if possible to introduce them at a young age but not so much that play could result in injury. If they are older, then it may be a bit more difficult but not impossible.
Indoor house cats can get along with rabbits and chinchillas as well but it is much easier if they are introduced at a young age. Slowly introduce them together through the rabbit or chinchilla cage as you would a dog and monitor reactions.
Chinchillas get along with other rodents better than rabbits do but you never want to leave any of them alone in a room by themselves or keep them in the same cage. Although chinchillas are rodents, they have different diets than their smaller relatives and this hinders co-habitation.
Rabbits & Chinchillas Have Significantly Different Diets
Chinchillas main diet consists of proper chinchilla pellets at all times with hay or grass available as well for roughage. These pellets contain a healthy mix of chinchilla approved greens with a protein level of between 18-20%. Avoid any pellets with seeds, fruit, nuts or vegetables. The proper pellets also assist in keeping their teeth sharper than if they were to eat loose greens all the time. In the wild, they would eat other items such as certain barks and other rough foliage to balance any digestive issues.
There are not many treats recommended for chinchillas. I would recommend no more than ONE raisin every 3-4 days as a treat. Do not overdo giving them raisins as it is very unhealthy for a chinchilla. Other treats you could give are rose-hips or an unfrosted shreddies wheatie. Be aware of what you give as many plants are toxic. Click here for a list.
Rabbits are the opposite of chinchillas. You want fresh hay available at all times as their main food source and they can eat a variety of vegetables such as romaine or dark leaf lettuce, cilantro, dandelion leaves, mint, parsley. Portions of certain fruits are fine as well such as an apple but the seeds of an apple are toxic to many animals including rabbits.
For younger or baby rabbits, alfalfa should be high on the diet but do not feed it to adults except very sparingly and very small amounts as a treat. A few vegetables you can give sparingly are kale and carrot-tops. Pellets should not be the bulk of a rabbits diet as they are very high in protein and should only be given sparingly as a supplement to fresh hay. Hay is available at any pet store and multiple big chain stores. For a full list of poisonous plants to rabbits, click here.
To keep your pet rabbit or chinchilla happy and healthy, a proper environment must be maintained as well as a proper diet with at least an hour out of the cage daily. Chinchillas are more susceptible to heat since they do not sweat at all. Rabbits sweat through their feet, however, it is very little. You never want them to over heat as it can be fatal.
Rabbits & chinchillas have different types of bedding needs as well as having different diets. Rabbits prefer dry straw or hay and chinchillas prefer pelleted or shredded paper. Chinchillas also have a couple more needs addressed over rabbits. They need to have "Dust Baths" frequently. We used to use mason size pickle jars, standing upright with dust in them to let them roll around inside. An exercise wheel is crucial if you are not socializing with your pet 3-4 hours a day outside their cages to let them burn energy.
Neither one needs additional heat added in the form of lamps or heating pads. If you are comfortable, they are and they can handle a bit cooler temperatures than us and stay comfortable thanks to their natural coats.
WORLD PET NETWORK
FERRETS & WEASELS
Ferrets are a member of the weasel family with the main difference being that ferrets were chosen for domestication over 2000 years ago. Weasels do not make as good a pet like a ferret, they can be more challenging and less domesticated although some people do keep weasels successfully as pets. Since Ferrets are a very social animal it is good to keep them in pairs or more. It is not a good idea though to have small rodent pets in your homes such as a guinea pig or hamster. A cat is as small an animal you would want around your ferret and you would never want to leave them alone unsupervised. You would also never want to introduce your ferret to a hunting dog such as a terrier either. It is possible but should both be introduced at a young age.
If you are thinking about getting a ferret or weasel to add to your family make sure you check your local laws and regulations to see if they are allowed in your area without a permit.
Differences Between Ferrets & Weasels
Although weasels and ferrets are related, there are some characteristics that make them different from each other. Markings and colorations differ from one another. Whereas a weasel is usually red or brown with a white underbelly, ferrets tend to be black, white, brown or a mix. Weasels are predatory so they tend to roam further. Ferrets are more territorial so tend to stick around within an area.
Ferrets and weasels are related to minks, skunks, badgers, wolverines, otters, and other musk producing gland animals. Although a mongoose somewhat resembles a ferret or weasel it has no scent glands and is not related. The mongoose is actually related to Meercats and civets.
Weasels & Ferrets have much in common. They are both carnivores. They are both social animals. They are both good hunters. They are both more active from dusk until dawn with preference to sleep during daylight hours.
Considerations Owning A Ferret/Weasel
A domesticated ferret can live up to between 6 - 10 years compared to its wild outdoor counterpart which averages 3-4 years. A weasel never really loses it's wild side and depending on the breed of weasel can live from 4-15 years. Do not consider a mink as they are vicious and unless you have a vast amount of experience handling these types of animals can be very harmful to you, your family and your other pets.
Other considerations you may want to address are
1) Is it legal to own a ferret or weasel where you live?
2) If you have pets already, do you have the time to train them to associate with each other?
3) Costs associated with specialty foods, medications. finding a vet that assists ferrets & weasels.
4) Housing and space for your ferret or weasel.
5) They can be destructive so you need to "ferret-proof" or weasel-proof" your home.
6) If you have children, how will they be with pets? Roughhousing these pets could result in bites and scratches ending up with a trip to the doctors.
Training & Tricks
Your ferret does not mind handling but you do need to be careful. It is also not uncommon for people to walk their ferrets on leashes. Aside from training a ferret to walk with a leash, there are many more tricks you can teach them. Ferrets are intelligent as far as learning new things. All things take time and patience and if you have those, you can train your ferret or weasel some fun little tricks to keep them stimulated.
If you wish to introduce your ferret to your cat or dog or both you must be cautious in the approach. Introduction at a young age is best since ferrets play can be misinterpreted by dogs and cats as an aggressive attack until the animal learns it is just playing. Usually, when they are introduced at a young age, there are no issues. Bear in mind a hunting dog such as any terrier may kill the ferret by instinct if left alone with it. To introduce your pets at a later age, bring the ferret in its housing around the other animals for a while and see how it and they react without letting it out. Introduce pets together slowly. For help on these steps, click the image.
Ferrets & weasels are carnivores by nature and sustain themselves on a protein diet consisting of meat. In the wild, they hunt for small to medium size rodents such as mice, birds, small rabbits, snakes, small gophers, and prairie dogs.
Domesticated ferrets and weasels can have a diet of pellets specially made for them along with raw chicken or even cooked pieces of chicken. They can have a high protein kitten food as well as baby food high in meat proteins. As a rare occasional treat, they can even eat eggs. You want to stay away from deli-meats as these have a high nitrate sodium content and will give your pet diarrhea and an upset tummy.
Fruits/vegetables/grains/bread/chocolate and more need to be avoided
(Click the image for more information)
Housing / Habitat
A few necessities are needed to keep your ferret or weasel happy and healthy. One of them besides a diet and interaction is suitable habitat. The most important thing I would say is to keep the housing or cage away from any direct sunlight and/or heat sources.
Since ferrets sleep approximately 18 hours out of 24 and weasels sleep mostly during the day time. The housing or cage should be in a quiet area to allow them to sleep often during our waking regular hours.
Freshwater and pellet food need to be available at all times. Bedding should be changed frequently and kept clean. There should be a hiding spot in the cage such as a tube or box for it to sleep in. If trained, you can add a low litter box if the housing or cage is large enough and use NON-DUSTY cat litter. Dusty cat litter can cause respiratory issues and it is definitely not recommended. To teach your ferret to use the litter box, follow the link
Habitat temperature is very important in regards to a ferret. Since ferrets cannot perspire (sweat) they can suffer heat stroke within a few minutes. Anything in the high 80's F is dangerous and 90 F is deadly.