Guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets, and other small mammals have become increasingly popular as pets. Owning a small mammal can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Although often considered a children’s pet, small mammals do require good attention to hygiene and have specific dietary requirements to maintain health. The more time an owner is willing to invest in their fuzzy companion, the more its true personality will shine through. Many small mammals are now kept indoors, spending considerable amounts of time interacting with their owners.

Interested in becoming a small mammal owner? It is very important to research your desired pet’s needs before making a commitment.

  1. Lifespan – Consider the lifespan of each species. Some small mammals like mice and rats live 1-3 years while chinchillas can live to be 15 or more!
  2. Housing – Proper environment and regular exercise are vital to keeping your small pet healthy. Be sure you have adequate space for housing depending on the size and type of pet you choose. This includes having a safe space for your new pet to roam around.
  3. Exercise – All small mammals need exercise, most of them do best spending some amount of time outside of their cage on a daily basis. Lack of exercise and proper environment can lead to behavioral and health issues with your pet.
  4. Night life – Some small mammals are nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day and are active at night. Be sure to research each species carefully if a nocturnal pet will be bothersome to your family.
  5. Other pets – Carefully consider how existing pets in your home will react to a small mammal. Does your dog or cat have a strong prey drive? Do you have other small mammals that would not do well with a new friend? Do you have space to keep your pets separate if needed?

Once you bring your new pet home, we recommend you schedule an appointment with Mount Airy Veterinary Associates within 2 weeks to be sure your pet is healthy and to discuss your new pet’s nutritional and environmental needs. After this, we recommend a yearly exam to ensure we catch any problems early. Small mammals are masters at hiding their illness, so early treatment is imperative.

These pets make excellent companions! If you have any questions about your small mammal please don’t hesitate to call us or schedule an appointment with your Mount Airy vet today.

– Brianna Cormier, DVM