Choosing the Right Small Animal for Your Family
You have made the decision that you would like to add a Small Animal to your family and now you are trying to decide which small animal is right for you.
1. Are you ready for the time and responsibility of owning a small animal?
Just because they live in cages and are self contained does not mean they don’t need to be give fresh food and water, groomed, bathed, visit the vet, and get adequate exercise (maybe not in that order). A great place to start is to purchase a book about the small animal of your choice this will help you care for your pet from before you even bring it home.
2. Do you want your small animal to be awake during the day or at night?
Many small animals are nocturnal and living in your house will not change that. They will still use their exercise ball at 1 in the morning or start running around the cage at 6am with the sun rise. Make sure you get a pet with the right sleeping habits for your family. If you have children that will want to play with their pet after school the little critter could get really nippy if a hand comes into its home and picks it up while fast asleep.
3. Small Animals have very different life spans.
Some will live only a year while others could live as long as a dog or cat. What sort of commitment are your willing to make to your new pet? Here is a link to the lifespan of several small animals http://pets.petsmart.com/guides/small-pets/index.shtml
4. How much money are you willing to invest in your new small animal?
Feeder mice (little mostly white mice) are extremely cheap and can make good pets. Couple that with the boxed starter sets and you can have a new pet for under $40. A hamster will be slightly more expensive but can live in the same conditions that a mouse can. On the other hand a Rabbit or ferret will cost in the hundreds of dollars by the time you have gotten the animal and all of the supplies you will need. But remember just because you got your new pet quite inexpensively does not mean it is any less important to care for then a more expensive pet.
5. Do you want a single small animal or would you like to have 2 or more together to keep themselves entertained?
Not all small animals do well living in the same confined space (sometimes mulitple males will fight and in other small animals multiple females will fight). Some animals like ferrets do rather well in multiples and can entertain each other.
6. Some small animals will require more vet care then others.
Is there a veterinarian in your area that specializes in Exotics? Many people do not think about vet care for small animals feeling that they can take care of themselves. This is not 100% true most of the small animals don’t require yearly vaccination or vet visits but could require some help due to injury or illness in their lifetime. Most vets train for dog and cat care and not other animals. Small animals including turtles, rabbits, ferrets, and guinea pigs are considered “exotics” in terms of vet care and not all vets are able to provide specialized care. Are you prepared to pay for the care your pet needs?
7. Join a forum or two that specializes in the small animal you are interested in
The people who hang out in these forums will be very knowledgeable about the animal you are interested in. Read through old posts ask questions and share your concerns.
8. Search for Breeders of the animal you are interested in
I am not saying you will end up purchasing your pet from a breeder but someone who has been working with your pet of choice for many years will be a great resource for you now and in the future. They will tell you what you really need to care for your pet, at home remedies to common illnesses. They can also help you find a rescue in your area that works with the animal you are looking for. Yes there are ferret, rat, hamster, and bunny rescues many of which will have young animals in their care. If you are more interested i the animal having a long healthy life with you see what sorts of things the breeder does to ensure healthy offspring. Each animal is different and you will learn a lot about good and bad breeders in the forums specializing in your animal of choice.
9. Is it ok if I purchase my new pet at the local pet supply store?
On the one hand you know that if the animal has to be sold with a rabies vaccine you can be sure that it has one and you will be given the paperwork for it and any other medical care it has received during its lifetime. On the other hand they buy from places that mass produce these animals and they probably are not receiving the socialization or lack thereof that they they need to be thriving. However these location often have handouts that they are more then willing to share about the needs and care of the small animals that they sell and it is a good STARTING point in deciding which animal might be right for you.
10. Make an educated decision about choosing the right small animal for your family
With so many small animals that are cute and cuddly don’t make an impulsive decision about that right one for your home. Make sure the pet you want is legal where you live. Ferrets are not allowed to be kept as pets in some areas and other small animals like a sugar glider might require a special permit for ownership. Do you research. Take your time. And love your new pet when you finally bring them home.
What Small Animals Have you Shared Your Life with?