Although a furry little pet who loves to snuggle in your shirt pocket can be a great family addition, you should do your homework first. In this post, our La Pine vets discuss pocket pets, their requirements, and things to consider before getting one.
Before adopting a pocket pet or other exotic animal, there are some questions you need to ask yourself:
- What type of housing will the pet require?
- What will the pet eat? Pocket pets originally come from the wild and many have specific dietary needs.
- How much exercise and interaction do pocket pets need?
- When will the pocket pet be most active? Some will be active during the day, but others are nocturnal and may keep you up at night.
- What type of veterinary care, such as spaying or neutering and wellness visits, will the pocket pet need?
Below, we'll list some of the most popular pocket pets along with their care requirements.
Sugar gliders are nocturnal marsupials that prefer to be kept in groups. Sugar gliders must be housed in groups. If they do not interact with other sugar gliders or people, they become depressed and may develop undesirable behaviors. They also need a tall wire cage with branches and hiding spots where they can sleep during the day.
Sugar gliders are insectivores that eat mealworms and crickets. They should not be fed sweet treats like honey or large amounts of fruit.
Small Rodents: Mice, Gerbils, & Hamsters
Mice, gerbils, and hamsters are fun pets with distinct personalities. Hamsters, however, must be kept alone. If kept with other hamsters, they will fight. Female hamsters are generally friendlier and less likely to bite than male hamsters. Gerbils can be kept together, but female pairs are the most secure.
To prevent escape, small rodents should be housed in a wire cage with a solid floor and narrow spaces between cage bars. Rodents will climb the cage bars, but they will also need additional climbing surfaces inside the cage and an exercise wheel. Give them plenty of bedding to satisfy their desire to dig, tunnel, and bury food, as well as extra nesting material.
Commercial pellets, which contain a variety of essential nutrients, are the most nutritious diet option for rodents. Provide plenty of chewing material as well to avoid tooth overgrowth. Avoid seed diets because they are high in fat and calories.
Hedgehogs need a large cage, at least 20 gallons, with paper bedding. They are insectivore-omnivores by nature and require insects in addition to an insect-based pellet diet and small amounts of fruit and vegetables. Hedgehogs have sharp spines that make them difficult to handle safely. They are also nocturnal and prefer to hide and burrow instead of interacting with humans.
Chinchillas are quiet, shy animals that thrive in groups, or with at least one other chinchilla. Because they are nocturnal, a nesting box or hiding area where they can rest during the day is essential. To help wear down their constantly growing teeth, chinchillas should be fed grass-based pellets and hay.
Chinchillas require dust baths at least once a week. Provide a box or tray filled with dust designed to absorb oil and dirt from their fur.
Guinea pigs are social pets that don't require much attention. The best housing for them is a well-ventilated wire cage with a solid floor lined with a soft material. You need to feed Guinea Pigs a species-appropriate pellet diet as well as as much grass hay as they want. They must eat vitamin C-rich foods such as kale, parsley, and peppers because they cannot produce their own.