Care of Pocket Pets

This month we’re going to discuss the care of pocket pets. Pets that I would consider pocket pets are hamsters, sugar gliders, rats, mice, rabbits, and ferrets. Though care for each of these species may vary, I’ll try to touch on items and foods needed to care for each. Husbandry is everything when looking at owning a pocket pet. Because they will spend most of their time in their cage, their environment is essential to a pocket pet’s health.

First things first, the type of cage you need will vary upon species. Typically, I would not recommend a wire bottom cage unless there are many places available that are flat or smooth surfaced. Wire bottom cages can cause a lot of sores on their feet and can rust quickly. That being said, you will need to keep up on cage cleaning with the plastic bottom cages because there is no place for urine and feces to drain in to. I recommend cleaning out feces and urine every day to every other day. The substrate, or bottom lining of the cage, you select can make a difference in health too. I would steer clear from cedar and pine beddings. In some species, pine can be toxic. The wood shaving beddings have a lot of dust in their packaging. The dust can lead to upper airway disease and infections. I always recommend Care Fresh recycled paper bedding.There is minimal dust using Care Fresh, absorbent, it is easy to clean, and very soft for the feet.

Fresh water should always be available. I recommend using a drip water bottle rather than a dish. Dishes are easily spilled and then the bedding becomes wet. It is easier for pocket pets to drink from drip water bottles, as well. Food should always be available and old food or water food should be discarded. Most pocket pets will have a pelleted diet available. Rabbits and Guinea Pigs are hind gut fermenters, meaning most of their diets should consist of hay and or vegetables. Sugar Gliders do enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as protein (Insects.) You should ask the pet store or breeder where you purchase from what diet they feed and or what they recommend feeding once you’re home. I always recommend researching ahead of time before you purchase a pet. Ask yourself;  What all you will need and how difficult it is for you to get the things the pet will need.

I find it important for pocket pets to have a few places to burrow or hide within their cages. Most of these species are nocturnal so having a dark place to go during the day is necessary. Hamsters, rats, sugar gliders and ferrets would probably appreciate something soft to relax in like a hammock. Pet stores have many options for cage comforts. Ask your pet store employee what items they use and prefer. This is an easy way to find a reliable product that works best for your pocket pet.

Pocket pets require hands on contact and socialization. Pocket pets appreciate only 1-2 people handling them and bond easily with their owners. With regular handling, it becomes less likely that your pocket pet will bite you. Under socialized pets may be afraid and feel the need to defend themselves. Depending on the species, this is a shorter term commitment that dogs and cats and therefore may be a good first pet choice. However, know that you will have your pocket pet for at least a few years before purchasing.

In short, pocket pets are good for older children and first time pet owners. They are a commitment but not as long term as having a dog or a cat. Doing your research ahead of time before purchasing a pet is alway recommended. Make sure you have the time, space and finances available before your purchase. Pocket pets can be very affectionate towards their owners and require regular handling to maintain a docile nature.

Thanks for reading!
Your Friendly Neighborhood Vet Tech, RVT,CVJ

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