Pets have become an important part of households in America, with many people being drawn to cute rodents like rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs. As of 2019, 4% of pet owners kept small animals, with 6% owning a mouse or rat and 27% owning a guinea pig, according to the Washington Post. Keeping pet rodents is fun and fulfilling, and a perfect option for aspiring pet parents who don’t want high-maintenance animals like dogs, parrots, and macaws.
However, rodents still demand time, attention, and resources, so they can thrive and provide the best companionship you desire. Remember that the needs of rodents, from gerbils to mice, hamster, and chinchillas vary. So, it’s crucial to research and understand at-home pet care tips and tricks for your small fur babies. Keep reading to learn how you can care for your pet rodents.
Invest in the Right Housing
Typically, rodents live in enclosed habitats like a pen, hatch, or cage. However, each species has unique housing needs, with safety and comfort as top considerations. For instance, let’s say you own a rat. You’ll want to buy a multilevel cage to support the adventurous nature of your pet. Because rats like to climb and explore, consider buying a wired cage with a solid floor or bottom. The cage should have good ventilation to ensure your rat leads a healthy lifestyle since they have a sensitive respiratory system. If you have two or more rats, buying a ferret condo is advisable.
If you wish to keep mice or hamsters, a glass aquarium or cage with a solid floor and wires fixed together closely to prevent your rodents from escaping. Ensure the enclosure is easy to clean and not made of plastic, so your pet doesn’t chew through it. Unlike other rodents, gerbils thrive well in plastic or glass aquariums covered with mesh tops to increase air circulation. The aquarium should also be deep to support natural burrowing since gerbils enjoy digging tunnels. Like with other rodents, place your gerbil’s aquarium within living spaces where most activities take place to keep them stimulated.
Choose Your Rodent Bedding Wisely
Now that you know the type of habitat your rodent should live in, the next step is finding the right bedding. As a general rule of thumb, your small furry friend’s feet shouldn’t step on the wire for long periods. That’s because wire poses a significant risk to rodents’ soft feet, leading to injury. With this in mind, consider placing recycled paper on the surface of your rodent’s cage or aquarium. Other suitable beddings for pet rodents include tissues, old socks or mittens, paper towels, and soft fabrics like fleece and towels. While corn cob byproducts and pine or cedar shavings might seem like ideal bedding options, they cause irritation to rodent skin and lungs.
Aside from bedding, you’ll also need to accessorize your rodent’s habitat to promote mental stimulation. Whether you’re keeping a rat, mice, hamster, or gerbil, buy small huts that work as hiding or nesting places. Alternatively, fit cardboard boxes or tubes next to the bedding. Also, invest in exercise toys like cat puzzles, ropes, exercise wheels, and spherical balls, especially if you’re caring for hamsters.
Feed Them Fresh Food
Before bringing pet rodents into your home, find out what they eat. Understanding the diet and nutrition needs of rodents is key to ensuring they stay healthy physically and mentally. Naturally, rodents are omnivores, meaning they eat fruits, vegetables, insects, and other small animals. However, mice and gerbils eat an herbivore’s diet. To ensure your rodents eat a healthy diet, provide fresh food, but in moderation.
Recommended daily treats and supplements for pet rodents include fresh vegetables like kale, carrots, broccoli, cucumber, squash, and celery. Feed your pet rodents unsalted nuts and fruit, and provide fresh water to keep them hydrated. Hay should also be part of your rodent’s diet as it provides mental stimulation because its different textures and tastes keep your pet’s mind engaged. Considering rodents need to chew constantly to prevent tooth elongation, providing hay is vital to enhancing dental health and promoting digestive movement. Avoid onions, leeks, chives, and cabbage.
Handle Rodents with Care
Rodents are social animals, meaning they enjoy living in groups. They also enjoy interacting with humans. When socialized, rats, hamsters, mice, and gerbils are less likely to scratch or bite. To maintain a healthy bond with your pet rodent, you need to understand their behavior. For example, rats are highly intelligent creatures, hence, they require mental and social stimulation. You can teach rats to respond to their names, climb ropes, use litter boxes, and do other tricks. Mice are calm, they love to socialize with other mice and enjoy human interactions, while gerbils are fast, active, and thrive well in pairs.
Hamsters are sociable like other rodents, but they get stressed if you mishandle or startle them when they’re sleeping. They also tend to hiss at times, and you might ask yourself, why is my hamster hissing? When you own a hamster, you’ll notice they bite or hiss if mishandled or left to interact with another pet. There are other reasons your hamster might hiss, such as exposure to loud noises, moving to a new location, or introducing your pet to extra activities or new people. Like other rodents, don’t leave your hamster out of their habitat unattended as they could chew on electrical wires, furniture, carpets, and floorboards.
Prioritize Medical Care For Pet Rodents
One of the major health issues pet rodents experience is having overgrown teeth. Fortunately, you can ensure that your rodent’s oral health is in good condition by ensuring they chew hay regularly. Because rats are at a high risk of obesity, respiratory diseases, and tumors, it’s important to feed your rodents healthy foods and create a ventilated habitat for them. For tumor prevention, ask your vet to neuter or spay your pet rat. All pet rodents are prone to gastrointestinal stasis, so be on the lookout for symptoms like pain, infection, and dental health issues. It’s wise to consult your vet immediately when you notice abnormal drinking and feeding patterns, soreness and lumps in the body, bald patches, and difficulty breathing.
Owning small furry animals like hamsters, rats, mice, and gerbils is a desire for many people because they are small and low maintenance. However, like other pets, you must commit time and give your small pets some attention so they can offer companionship. To care for your pet rodents, buy a wired cage for housing and fit it with the right bedding. Also, accessorize your pet’s house, feed them nutritious leafy greens, fruits, and keep them hydrated, and don’t forget to prioritize vet visits.