Pets can be great sources of companionship and comfort, and the health benefits of keeping a pet are well documented. Pet owners often experience increased self-esteem and reduced feelings of loneliness, and they may even gain physical health benefits such as lowered heart rate and blood pressure.
But maybe you aren't up to the challenge and responsibility involved in owning a dog or cat. If that’s the case, don’t overlook the benefits of small pets! From pet birds and rabbits to ferrets and pet rodents, these guidelines can help you choose the best small pet based on personality and the level of care needed to safeguard its pet health.
- Rabbits are social and friendly animals, and adapt very well to human companionship.
- They have one of the longer life spans of small pets, living between 7 to 10 years.
- Their floppy ears, soft fur, and wriggly noses make them popular with kids.
- Companionship rabbits should be kept in the home, rather than in an outside coop or in a basement or garage. You will need room for a fairly large cage.
- Rabbits need daily handling and care to become socialized. You need to pet your rabbit regularly and let it out of its cage for at least an hour each day.
- Rabbits have a delicate digestive system and need a varied diet that includes fresh vegetables.
- Rabbits and small children do not go well together. Rabbits are skittish animals that need a quiet environment, and the quick movements of excited children could startle and stress them.
- Pet birds are colorful additions to any home, and you may find their tweeting and chirping to be charming.
- Pet birds can be kept in a cage in one area of your home, eliminating the potential for mess elsewhere.
- Many types of birds have been selectively bred for human ownership and adapt well to domestic life. These include finches, cockatiels, canaries, parakeets, and lovebirds.
- Many wild birds, such as toucans and parrots, belong in the wild and will not enjoy domestic life. They can be loud and destructive.
- Most birds are flock animals, so when purchasing certain species you really should get two in order for them to lead a happy life.
- A bird’s cage should be big enough for it to spread its wings fully and fly from one side to the other. Keep in mind that the cage will need to be cleaned regularly.
- Hamsters are a cuddly, friendly, and inquisitive type of pet rodent.
- Hamsters are relatively independent and self-entertaining and therefore don’t require the amount of attention that other small pets do. However, you will need to provide them with a variety of toys to enjoy.
- Hamsters are solitary creatures, so you only need to buy one.
- Hamsters are nocturnal and won’t be awake for much of the time you are. They may also make some noise rattling around at night while you sleep.
- Hamsters must be handled gently or they could bite. Children under 8 might not possess the motor skills needed to handle a hamster correctly.
- Hamsters carry diseases like salmonella, so you should be sure to wash your hands after handling them.
- Hamsters only live 2.5 to 3 years, so be prepared to explain death if you purchase one as a pet for a young child.
Have Fun With Ferrets
- Ferrets are engaging pets with a playful attitude and boundless energy.
- Ferrets enjoy a long life span, about 8 to 10 years.
- Ferrets can grow very cuddly as they get older, usually at 3 years of age or later.
- You will need to “ferret-proof’ your home and supervise them when they are out of their cage, as their inquisitive nature can get them into trouble.
- You should not keep a ferret in a cage for long periods of time. They need to be out spending time with you when you are home.
- Ferrets can be pretty smelly, as their fur contains a natural musky odor.
- Ferrets require gentle handling and can bite if threatened or harmed.
- Guinea pigs are considered the sweetest and most social of the pet rodents.
- Guinea pigs live 5 to 7 years, longer than hamsters.
- Guinea pigs can be kept in an open-topped pen rather than a cage, as there’s less chance they will try to climb out and escape.
- Guinea pigs have long hair that will require grooming.
- They are herd animals — you should get at least two guinea pigs so they will have companionship.
- You will need to clean your guinea pig’s pen regularly.
- Like hamsters, guinea pigs carry salmonella and other diseases.
- Chinchillas are adorable pet rodents with soft fur, large ears, and bushy tails.
- Chinchillas live between 5 to 10 years.
- Chinchillas tend to be solitary and do not need a companion.
- They are usually clean and odorless, and friendly to humans.
- Chinchillas can be easily startled and should be handled carefully. Also, patches of fur can come loose and slip off with rough handling.
- Chinchillas require dust baths once or twice weekly to maintain pet health. The dust — usually powdered volcanic ash — must be provided deep enough so your chinchilla can roll around in it.
- Chinchillas can be large and hard to handle.
- Gerbils tend to be very clean pet rodents.
- Gerbils are independent and can keep themselves entertained for extended periods.
- Unlike hamsters, gerbils are not nocturnal. They will be up when you’re up.
- Gerbils are smaller and can slip out of wire cages. You’ll need to purchase an aquarium in which to keep them.
- As with other pet rodents, gerbils must be treated gently or they can bite.
- You will need to clean your gerbil’s aquarium regularly. As desert animals, they tend to pass highly concentrated urine that can have a strong odor.
- Gerbils live for 3 to 4 years, so you may have to explain death if you have a young child.
There are plenty of pet alternatives to choose from, especially if you are more comfortable welcoming a small pet into your home.