It is important to provide proper care for your small animals. Once you bring home that cute little fur-baby, he or she becomes a part of the family. Here are some tips for keeping your small pet happy and healthy:
- Always provide fresh water
Fresh water should always be readily available for your small pet. If using a water bottle, it is important to check it every day to make sure there is plenty available at all times and change the water at least once per week. If using an open dish, check your pet’s water supply throughout the day. Refill your pet’s water dish with fresh, clean water daily.
- Provide a healthy, balanced diet
Small pets should be fed a well-balanced diet that consists of high-quality pellets, veggies, fruits, and timothy hay (for some pets). The proportions of each depend on the type of pet you have. Learn more about the type of diet your small pet requires.
- Pick the right habitat
All small pet habitats should be large enough to allow them to move around freely. Your pet needs enough space to be able to eat, sleep, and play in his or her habitat. Make sure the habitat for your pet is secure so that your pet cannot chew or climb out. It is also important for the habitat to be well ventilated and located in a room with a comfortable temperature, out of direct sunlight.
- Replace bedding frequently
Many small animals love to burrow, dig, and tunnel in bedding. Cover the cage floor with sludge-free paper bedding, pine, or aspen shavings. Since the purpose of bedding is to absorb moisture and odor, it is important to replace it frequently. Replace bedding at least once a week to ensure the healthiest environment for your rabbit, guinea pig, hamster, mouse, rat, gerbil, ferret, or other small pet. If housing multiple pets in one habitat, more frequent changing may be required.
- Clean the habitat
Replacing bedding is not enough to keep your pet’s habitat clean. Before adding the fresh bedding, wash the cage with clean water and a gentle all-purpose cleaner. Mild soap can be used as an alternative to a cleaner. Allow the habitat to dry before adding fresh bedding. And don’t forget to check any enrichment devices you’ve added, such as tunnels, hidey holes and exercise wheels to ensure they remain clean too.
- Provide chew toys
Many small animals are rodents and most have teeth that grow continuously. In order to prevent teeth from becoming overgrown, make sure to provide plenty of chew toys for your pet to gnaw on. Treat sticks, safe wood chews and gnaw bones such as those offered at your favorite pet store are a good option.
- Hay is essential for some animals
Hay is only necessary for small pets that require high-fiber diets. These include guinea pigs, chinchillas, and rabbits. Timothy hay, orchard hay, or oat grass should make up 75% of the diet for these animals. Without hay, these animals’ intestines cannot function properly. Timothy hay can also be given to hamsters, gerbils, mice, and rats.
Just like humans, small pets need exercise in order to stay healthy. Larger small pets, like rabbits, guinea pigs, and ferrets, should be let out of their cage every day for exercise and socialization. Hamsters, mice, rats, chinchillas, and gerbils love to run on exercise wheels in their cage. Always remember to supervise your pet when they are let out of their habitat.
- Not all pets welcome friends
It is important to know that you should never house two different types of small pets together. Some types of small pets are very social and can live in groups, while others are better off alone. Guinea pigs, ferrets, and rabbits can be housed in pairs if they are raised together or are introduced correctly. If you house a male and female together, make sure to spay or neuter before introducing.
- Handling your pet
It is important for your pet to become accustomed to you and being handled. When you first adopt your pet, give him or her some time to get acclimated to their new home before handling them. Be sure to learn how to pick up and handle your pet the proper way before doing so for the first time.