Many children learn the responsibility of pet ownership with a small mammal. Although they are perceived as relatively low maintenance pets, don’t underestimate the complex needs of a small furry.
CHOOSING A SMALL MAMMAL
When choosing your new pet, make sure the environment they are coming from is clean and well-maintained and that they have been given a good diet. Be sure to check the animal itself for the following; clean and clear eyes, drooping or dropped ears (not applicable for lop bunnies), even and clean coat without signs of nibbling or bald patches, clean bum and no poo attached around general area or on bottom of feet. Ask if the animal has been vaccinated, wormed and if they are on any medication.
Once you have chosen your new pet, transport them in a proper pet carrier to keep them safe on the journey home and have a towel handy to cover them to avoid any unnecessary stress. Finally, and most importantly, find out what food they are eating and provide the same for at least two weeks while they settle in. If you do choose to change the food, always mix the new the old and make the switch a gradual process as they can have very sensitive tummies.
Rabbits have a very complex digestive system and can go downhill rapidly if they stop eating. The bulk of a rabbit’s menu should be hay and grass as they require a diet high in fibre. A ready supply of good quality hay is necessary for healthy digestion, but also helps to trim their teeth. All rodents grow their teeth continuously and so they must be kept in check by chewing. But foraging through hay for food also keeps a rabbit entertained and mimics its natural habitat, as well as helping to wear down the teeth. Rabbits can be fussy and pick out only the bits of muesli that they like, so nuggets ensure that your rabbit eats a balanced diet and get everything he needs nutritionally. You should also aim to feed 5-6 greens a day, providing a variety for of veggies, plants and herbs.
Limit any sweet treats to just a couple of tablespoons a day as rabbits can suffer from obesity, leading to a variety of health issues. While carrots themselves are high in sugar, carrot tops can be fed much more freely. It is also important to be aware of food that is toxic to rabbits. Onions, shallots, garlic, chives, rhubarb, foxgloves, bluebells and plants grown from bulbs can all be found in the garden if you let your bunny out for a run.
Finally, make sure small mammals always have access to plenty of fresh water. A bottle cover on an outdoor hutch will help regulate the temperature and stop water freezing in the winter or going green in the summer.
A small mammal should usually be kept in pairs, but two males – even siblings – will likely fight. Successful pairings are usually two females or a neutered male and female. New rabbits should be introduced to each other in a neutral environment rather than in the existing home of either one to improve the chances of becoming buddies. Although they are sociable creatures, it is important to provide large enough housing to accommodate both bunnies. Read our blog on Buddies for Bunnies here.
Hamsters and rats need lots of attention, handling and mental stimulation. Boredom busters and brain games are advisable for all small mammals. We stock a range of natural houses, toys and chews to keep your small mammal occupied and stave off boredom.