If you’ve just decided you want a small pet in your life, you’re probably thinking accessories for hamsters are some of the first things you need to buy. While that may be true, there are other alternatives to take into consideration if you are not a cat or a dog person.
What Is A ‘’Small Pet’’?
Small pets or, as people like to call them, ‘’pocket pets’’, are the small, domestic animals that people like to have around their house when they are too busy or simply don’t want to dedicate their time to a larger canine or feline companion. This definition can include anything from hamsters, gerbils, and ferrets all the way to hermit crabs.
A lot of families opt for a pocket pet as a child’s first pet because they are easier to take care of and require much less maintenance than a bigger one. If properly cared for, these little animals can offer all the love and affection an owner could need.
First things first, we’re starting off with the trademark small pets, hamsters. While extremely popular, we advise you to take into consideration the fact that hamsters are nocturnal animals so they may not be suitable for somebody who wants to pet them first thing in the morning because they’ll get cranky and agitated.
Hamsters need to function on their own schedule if they are to be adorable and energetic so if you are the type of person who works long hours and comes home in the evening, you may have just found your new best friend that will always wait for you while putting in a few miles of exercise on its treadmill.
Speaking of treadmills, hamsters are relatively low-maintenance and if you supply them with a wheel, some tubes, and a few toys, they’ll pretty much consider themselves covered and entertain themselves. For their accommodation needs, you’ll want to consider a solid wire cage, preferably something nicely decorated with shavings.
The mainstream assumption here would be that guinea pigs and hamsters are really two peas in a pod and knowing one is getting to know the other! That could not be more false as they are actually really different rodents. Guinea pigs are much more active and sociable and, unlike their cousins, prefer to run around freely instead of enjoying some quality ‘’me-time’’.
While taking this into consideration please remember that guinea pigs, just like rabbits, need to be with others of their own species to be physically and mentally healthy because loneliness can be an actual danger to them, possibly contributing to depression.
Once you get to know them, you’ll be able to tell when they are happy, excited, sad or even angry. However, do keep in mind that their lifespan can be up to seven years, so if you’re not prepared to dedicate that much time to a pet which does need some attention, maybe a guinea pig is not the best fit for you.
Rabbits are another popular choice for pets but they are actually not that easy to properly take care off, especially for children. They are indeed great companions but they are also moody and temperamental, requiring a very specific and organized environment to thrive and be happy.
Simply put, you cannot just buy a rabbit, place it in an enclosed space and be done with it. That’s simply not going to work since they need an area for sleeping and resting but also a larger, preferably outdoor one where they can run around in a secure, predator-free environment.
Furthermore, rabbits are emotional creatures that need the companionship of one of their own kind in order to remain healthy.
If you want to get one for your child, the best kind of accommodation for it would be a wooden-type house where children can quietly sit down and wait for the rabbit to come to them. Contrary to popular belief, your long-eared new pal is not very keen on being picked up and cuddled since rabbits are used to being the prey out in the wilderness.
Chinchillas are a great choice for a pocket pet since they are cute and cuddly creatures which are also very intelligent and, provided you’re really well stocked on treats, are even able to learn a trick or two from you!
However, just like hamsters, they’re also nocturnal animals so it may be hard for them to become best buds with your child if he/she has to go to bed because tomorrow is a school day. They may not require much overall maintenance but a special need they do have is the fact that their already-large cage absolutely needs to have a dust bath in it.
Chinchillas are dust baths aficionados and they’re really enthusiastic about it so be prepared to sweep up and clean up the dust after your lovely pets are done ‘’showering’’. They are also at their happiest and healthiest when they have a companion of their own kind that they can play with.
Keep in mind that regardless of the size of the cage you’re getting for them, chinchillas also need some exercise time out of it because they are active and lively animals.
Ferrets are one of the more unusual choices for a small pet because of their active curiosity which will require you to ‘’ferret-proof’’ your house before buying one. Covering all the unsanctioned entry and exit points is a must if you don’t want to meet up with your new pal everywhere you go in your home. And we do mean everywhere!
Ferrets are like cats in the sense that they are highly intelligent, independent creatures which are also quite mischievous when they want to be. When trained properly since birth, they can really be the loyal and low-maintenance companion that anyone would like to have.
If you want to get one for your child, you really have to fulfill two conditions to ensure both their safety: properly train and educate the pet since its birth and show your child how to pet and hold the ferret to make sure he/she does not do anything wrong that might provoke it into being aggressive. Once they bond, however, they’ll be best friends for life.
If you’re really into thinking outside the box, we’re here to suggest hermit crabs! These crustaceans don’t get enough credit as pets which is a pity because they are highly active, social, and interesting creatures.
Their only ‘’fault’’, if we can even name it as such, is the fact that they require a lot of commitment because they need an environment with a continuous temperature of 75 degrees. They also thrive in humidity so daily misting is encouraged as well as providing them with some sand to dig in, rocks to climb, and places to hide out in.
If you or your child can make sure all of that is available, you’ve got yourself a great pal which will provide you with cool new shells as it grows out of them. Hermit crabs can also live for up to 30 or 40 years when properly taken care of so this is something you need to be sure you’re ready for.
We showed you a list of some of the more popular small pets out there. If anything from the above still sounds like too much work, you can try to get your child some sea monkeys, which are perfect for kids who just want to look at things moving.
The only maintenance they’ll require is feeding them growth food every five to seven days. If you notice their water gets too cloudy, you can even wait longer than that.