Cats and dogs may get much of the attention, but small pets can bring just as much to a household as their larger counterparts. Diminutive in size but not personality, hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets, reptiles, mice and more may be just the right fit for those who desire a pet, but may not have the space or money for large animals.
The American Pet Products Association’s 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey found that 7.9 million households had birds, 6.7 million had various small animals and 4.7 million included assorted reptiles. The pet sitter company PetBacker says 9% of Canadians own pets such as fish; birds; small mammals, such as hamsters; and reptiles. They may be smaller in size, but these pets still need a variety of gear.
Most small pets will spend the majority of their time in a cage or a tank. In this environment, the pets will need bedding or some type of cage lining. Wood chips and shavings, shredded newspaper or hay are often used. Reptiles and amphibians may have special needs to help regulate temperature. Gravel, stones and rocks may be used. Always consult with a veterinarian or a pet supply expert regarding the correct set-up for a small pet’s environment to ensure the animal’s health and well-being.
Toys and other gear
Small animals need items to provide mental stimulation and physical activity. These items do not need to be complicated or expensive. A gerbil or hamster may appreciate an empty toilet paper tube to run through. Some pets like to race around in plastic balls, while others will be satisfied digging and burrowing through bedding. Tube mazes or hiding places also may fit the bill. Birds like hanging mirrors and other colorful toys on which they can perch or peck.
Food is another consideration when starting out with small animals. They may not eat as much or as often as a dog or cat, but they, too, have specific dietary requirements. For example, Banfield Pet Hospital says overfeeding is a big issue with hamsters, so look for a quality hamster food and avoid snacks and treats.
Hamsters tend to horde food, so they may take food they really do not need. Certain lizards will eat mealworms, crickets or other insects. Research which fresh foods can be mixed with commercially produced foods for optimal health.
Feeding bowls, bottles or small dishes also will need to be purchased when addressing small pets’ dietary needs, offers the pet retailer Petco.
Veterinarians can be a great resource in regard to how to care for small pets. (MC)