Rodents can make great companions, but just as dogs or cats, they need regular veterinary care. Each species has specific requirements that make them unique and interesting to own. Be sure to research and speak to your veterinary team before you adopt one of these pets so you are fully aware of the responsibilities that come with ownership.
Guinea pigs can live an average life span of 5 – 7 years. Like rabbits, they have continuously growing teeth; 20 teeth in total! They are very gentle/social pets, and should be handled frequently while young. Guinea pigs are naturally curious and friendly, but they can be startled very easily. They have two glands around their anus in which they use for marking. Some owners often notice them rubbing their hind end against things to mark their scent. Guinea pigs cannot jump or climb, but they are quick to bolt away from you.
1. Diet: Guinea pigs are herbivores, which means their diet should consist mainly of vegetables and hay. Grass-Hay should be available to them at all times; ex. Timothy hay. You should avoid alfalfa hays because they can cause respiratory problems. Parsley, kale, kiwi, and broccoli are some great options for fresh leafy green foods that guinea pigs often love. Keep in mind that fresh foods should be removed from cage after a few hours if not eaten. Guinea pigs are unique when it comes to vitamin C. They need to have Vitamin C rich foods because they lack the enzyme needed in the synthesis of Vitamin C. Purchase food that is no more than 3 months past produce date; the vitamin c levels will have decreased dramatically if longer. Do not add any vitamins or medications to the sipper bottle, it could change the taste and the guinea pig may not drink it. Pellets can be given in limited quantities; but never give rabbit pellets. Guinea pigs are nocturnal animals and like to eat a majority of their food at dusk and dawn. They do not tolerate environmental or dietary changes; they often refuse to eat. It is a good idea to expose them to a variety of foods early in life so they become accustomed to variety; feed new diet every 3 – 4 days to allow intestinal tract to adjust. Foods to avoid – high starch foods (Peas, beans, corn, cakes, cookies, cereal, grains, bread); they can cause bacterial imbalances in the intestinal tract. Guinea pigs are similar to rabbits in that they also digest their food through caecotrohy.
2. Environment: Guinea pigs are extremely messy pets, they require regular bedding and cage clean up to minimize ammonia. They often turn their bowls upside down and urinate and defecate in food and water dishes. Their bedding should be absorbent, non-toxic, have good ventilation and be dust free. The easier it is to replace the better; ex. hard wood shavings, shredded paper, or commercial pellets. Avoid cedar, saw dust, and soft wood. The cage should be escape proof and kept away from direct sunlight; susceptible to hyperthermia. Wire cage bottoms can cause foot problems and should be avoided, a solid bottom is best.
3. Entertainment: Guinea pigs need routine grooming, especially if they are long-haired. They are curious creatures and are often interested in toys; cat toys or hammocks. Guinea pigs should be provided with as much floor space as possible. Keep in mind to close off any escape holes or harmful surfaces. You can place cardboard boxes or piping in their cages for them to run through. Be sure to provide lots of things for your guinea pig to chew on; it can help grind their continually growing teeth. Guinea pigs are gentle companions and need lots of love and attention.
Rats on average live 2-3 years but within their short life span they will leave large imprints on families hearts, they make great family pets. They are extremely intelligent and are easily trained to preform tricks and come when they are called. Rats are very social, and interactive, they require affection and companionship.
1. Diet: Rats are considered opportunistic eaters, meaning they will eat whenever the opportunity arises, causing them to be prone to obesity. Rats are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and animals. There are fully balanced diets that are formulated specifically for rats. The best options are usually the ones that are in pellet or block form. The mixed seed diets are fully balanced as well but most rats will pick through and only eat the parts they like. These balanced diets should be available for consumption at all times. Small portions of fresh fruits and vegetables are great to offer to rats as treats. Some good examples include; apples, berries, bananas, plums, carrots, broccoli, kale, and peas. Other tasty treats would be; cooked lean meats, meal worms, yogurt, small dog biscuits, and whole wheat bread/pasta/rice. The incisor (front) teeth of a rat grow continuously throughout the pet’s life. It is important to provide rats with things to gnaw on, such as; wood, or other safe chewing toys. Over grown incisors is a common problem seen by veterinarians. It is treated by grinding or filing the teeth under general anesthetic.
2. Environment: Most pet rats spend the majority of their lives in a cage, therefore the larger the cage the better. A large cage encourages exercise, which increases lifespan and decreases the risk of obesity. Cage and bedding need to be cleaned and changed at least twice weekly, a small cage should be done more frequently. Good types of bedding include; paper pellets (example – Carefresh), straw pellets, and shredded cardboard or cloth. Beddings you should NEVER use with a pet rat include; cat litter, cedar or pine chips, and corn cob. It is important the housing is well ventilated to prevent respiratory issues that are commonly seen in pet rats. With that being said, be sure the wire bars are close enough together that rats cannot escape through them. Also, cages with solid bottoms are recommended, wire bottoms can be harmful and painful to a rodents feet.
3. Entertainment: Rats are very social and affectionate animals, they enjoy the company of humans, and other rats. If introducing rats to one another be sure to do it gradually, house separately and have supervised play time to start. Rats are curious by nature, and like to explore. They constantly look to be entertained. Providing toys is a great way to keep them busy, and active. Crinkle tunnels, hammocks, climbing ropes, and wooden toys are all great examples of toys for rats. Keep in mind, rats like to chew, so all toys should chew-friendly.
A hamster is one of the most commonly kept family pets, with a lifespan of approximately 2 years. They are hardy, clean animals and are generally easy to care for. With gentle care and good socialization from a young age, hamsters can make great pets.
1. Diet: Hamsters are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and animals. There are fully balanced diets formulated specifically for hamsters, offered in pellets or mixed seeds and dried fruits and vegetables. This should be available to pet at all times. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be offered in small amounts, such as; apples, bananas, blue berries, bell peppers, broccoli, and carrots. Protein sources should also be fed daily; dog biscuits, hard boiled eggs, and mealworms are a few good examples. The incisor (front) teeth of a hamster grow continuously throughout the pet’s life. It is important to provide hamsters with things to gnaw on, such as; wood, or other safe chewing toys. Over grown teeth are a common problem seen by veterinarians. It is treated by grinding or filing the teeth under general anesthetic.
2. Environment: Similar to other rodents, hamsters are excellent escape artists. They are able to squeeze through bars of cages that are too big, and will chew through some types of caging. Cage needs to provide good ventilation to prevent respiratory infections. Avoid wire bottom cages, these are harmful and painful on your pet’s feet. Cage and bedding should be cleaned and changed every couple of days. Safe and appropriate bedding options include; Carefresh, Kaytee Clean and Cozy, and Aspen shavings. NEVER use the following, anything scented or artificially coloured, cat litter, corn cob, and pine or cedar wood shavings.
3. Entertainment: Obesity is commonly seen in hamsters, therefor exercise is important. Hamsters enjoy exercise wheels, tunnels, mazes, and puzzle houses or toys. Be sure to provide only safe and appropriate forms of entertainment. Keeping in mind hamster may chew and ingest any and everything they are given. Hamster are the most aggressive of the pocket pet family, but with gentle care and lots of socialization they can be very affectionate and interactive. Hamster are easily frightened, move slowly and calmly to avoid startling them.