This morning I was looking back on all of the “Pet Parenting Tails” columns I have written in the past two years, and I realized that they all share a common theme: dogs and cats.
I have to admit that I relate best to dogs and cats because they are all I had growing up and now as an adult. It definitely wasn’t for lack of trying, as I can remember begging my mom and dad for a guinea pig when I was in elementary school. They never did budge on the subject.
So, in honor of the new year I wanted to discuss a topic that is new to “Pet Parenting Tails”—pocket pets! With a little help from the ASPCA, I compiled some fun facts about our furry little friends (and learned a lot along the way):
Hamsters: Syrian (golden) hamsters are territorial and must to be housed alone. Cage options include wire cages, aquariums or plastic modular cages. Hamsters need a wheel and other things to crawl through and climb on, such as an exercise ball. Hamsters are nocturnal, so if you're a light sleeper you probably shouldn’t keep the cage in your bedroom. Hamsters have a lifespan of about three years.
Guinea pigs: Guinea pigs are known for their gentle demeanor and fun personalities. They are social and enjoy cuddling and petting, and they don’t mind sharing their home with another guinea pig. Larger cages with straw bedding are best, and since guinea pigs enjoy being near family activity it is recommended that you place the cage in the family room or living room. Guinea pigs will rarely bite and are known for squeaking in squeals, squeaks and gurgles. They have a lifespan of about five to seven years.
Rats: Rats are one of the most intelligent rodents. They are capable of learning an array of tricks, such as peek-a-boo, tug-of-war and hide-and-seek. They are clean, quiet, affectionate and social – with people and other rats. Rats are active and need caging that gives the room to explore and exercise. Rats are nocturnal but can alter their schedule to receive more human attention. They have a lifespan of three to four years.
Mice: Like rats, mice stay clean through grooming, but males do have an odor and strong-smelling urine. They have excellent hearing and sense of smell. Mice are curious explorers and are known for being escape artists, so they will be most secure in an aquarium or wire cage. Mice are social creatures are happiest living with other mice. They also enjoy tubes, tunnels and other toys to keep them busy. Mice have an average life span or one to two years.
Chinchillas: Chinchillas are susceptible to stress and must be protected from noise and activity, so they would probably be best in a home with adults only or older children and with no other pets. Chinchillas are active and enjoy climbing and jumping, so they will do best in a large cage with multiple levels. Chew toys are a necessity, and they must not be allowed to chew on plastic. They also must bathe in special sand or dust that is available at pet stores. Chinchillas have an average lifespan of 15 years, but they can live up to 22 years with proper care.
As with any adoption, the decision to add a pocket pet to your family should not be entered into lightly. They require a lifetime commitment, and it’s important to do your research to make sure you find the right fit for you and your family.