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Choosing a Pet Rodent

[18 Dec 2010 | No Comments | 32 views | Author: Dee Braun, DrR, CA, CCT]
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Choosing a Pet RodentWhat happens when most women see a mouse in their home? They climb up on a chair and scream. At least that’s what most cartoons would have you believe. It might surprise you that many people choose a pet rodent when they decide it’s time to get a pet.

There are a number of rodents which are kept as pets: gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, and rats. Pet stores are a great place to find these pets but you may also find individuals who have them to sell or give away. Here is some information on each type that may help you decide which rodent to have as a pet:

* Gerbils are about 4 inches long and can live as long as 5 years; 2-3 years is the most common. They have a furry tail, are active, and do better in groups rather than being kept alone. It is best to get gerbils while they are young so they get used to being handled. They need a cage about 12x24x12 so they have plenty of room to run and play.

* Hamsters generally live 2-3 years and can range in size depending upon the species. Golden and Dwarf hamsters are the most common. They need a 12x24x12 cage. How social they are depends upon how much they are handled as young. Dwarf hamsters are more social with their own kind than the Golden hamsters.

* Guinea pigs may or may not be rodents depending upon who you listen to. They’re larger than most pet rodents, weighing as much as 2-3 pounds. They live between 5-7 years but some have been reported to live as long as 10 years. They rarely bite and prefer to be kept with others of their kind. Because of their larger size they will need a cage about 4 feet square or larger.

* Mice are very easy to keep but they are also known to be escape artists. They live 1-3 years and are generally about 3 inches long. They can live in a cage 12x18x12. If you end up with a breeding pair, you could very easily be overrun with little pinkies. They can be tame if handled often, but may not be the best choice for families with small children.

* Rats are larger than their mouse cousins, coming in at nearly 8 inches. They live 2-4 years and prefer to live in pairs of the same sex. As with mice, a breeding pair can soon have many babies. They require a cage about 24×36 inches which is very tall. They can be tamed and rarely bite.

As a general rule, rodents need a large enough cage they can’t escape from, bedding to nest in, safe chewing material, food, and water. It is also important to provide some type of exercise wheel for smaller varieties of rodents.

Don’t expect your children, especially younger children, to completely care for pet rodents. They’ll likely forget to take care of them so it’s best if you resign yourself to that before you bring the pet home. You’ll also want to have a veterinarian check out a pet rodent within two days of purchasing it. They will be able to verify the animal’s health and ensure you know how to care for it properly.

Choosing a pet rodent isn’t always easy. Consider the amount of time you have to devote to the animal, how much space you have for it in your home, and make an informed decision. Remember, when you get a pet, any pet, you are agreeing to care for it for the rest of its life. Choose wisely.

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