Rodents

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RODENTS

 

Many rodents are kept as household pets. As with any pet, it is important to choose the right rodent pet for you!

 

Carefully consider the rodent's needs and if you will be able to meet these requirements - you will need to be able to put enough time and care into keeping your little pet healthy and happy.

 

  1. What types of rodents make good pets?
  2. What habitats do rodents need?
  3. How do the lifespan's compare of mice, rats, gerbils, guinea pigs, rabbits and chinchillas?
  4. What are some of the signs that your rodent is not getting enough stimulation from its habitat?
  5. Are rabbits social animals?
  6. Can rabbits and guinea pigs be housed together?
  7. What should you look for when choosing your rat, gerbil or hamster?
  8. Hamsters - What foods should be avoided?
  9. Hamsters are "crepuscular" - what does that mean?
  10. Which five different hamster species often kept as pets?
  11. How do hamsters store food and why?
  12. Rats - Can they be taught to do tricks?
  13. Chinchillas - What do they eat?

 

1. What types of rodents make good pets?


The most common pet rodents include: hamsters, mice, rats, gerbils, guinea pigs and chinchillas. Rabbits can also be kept as pets. Rabbits are technically part of the lagomorph species and are not classed as a rodent. Lagomorphs are more closely related to rodents than any other mammals.

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2. What habitats do rodents need?


Bigger is always better. Rodents such as hamsters are able to travel great distances in the wild. Hamsters, mice and gerbils enjoy burrowing - habitats should have tunnels with material to burrow. Rats like to climb - a cage with ropes and ladders would be very suitable. Guinea pigs enjoy lots of horizontal areas to explore as they do not climb. Think of ways to make the habitats exciting and interesting for your pets. Put in chewing blocks for hamsters and gerbils. Also consider cleanliness and line the cage or glass tank with paper or wood shavings.

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3. How do the lifespan's compare of mice, rats, gerbils, guinea pigs, rabbits and chinchillas?


Average lifespans for

  • Mice: 1-2 years
  • Hamsters: 3 years
  • Rats:  2-3 years
  • Gerbils: 2 years
  • Guinea pigs: 5-7 years
  • Rabbits: 8 -12 years
  • Chinchillas: 12-20 years 

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4. What are some of the signs that your rodent is not getting enough stimulation from its habitat?


Signs that the habitat does not provide enough stimulation:

  • Excessive bar chewing or or repetitive chewing
  • Rabbits for example should be bright and alert. They should not appear stressed or lethargic.
  • Digging in one spot
  • Racing back and forth in one spot
  • Over grooming and stripping fur
  • Head bobbing
  • Repetitive movements that have no purpose

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5. Are rabbits social animals?


Yes they definitely are! Rabbits are very social and should be kept in same sex pairs. It is important to spay a female rabbit (apart from the obvious reasons!) - it will reduce the risk of your rabbit from contracting uterine cancer.

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6. Can rabbits and guinea pigs be housed together?


No - this is never a good idea.

  • Rabbits are much stronger than guinea pigs and can hurt them badly even if unintentionally, by kicking with their strong hind legs.
  • Rabbits tend to bully guinea pigs.
  • They have different dietary requirements. Guinea pigs need extra vitamin C in their diets - too much vitamin C can make a rabbit ill.
  • Rabbits carry a disease called bordetella which is fatal to guinea pigs.

 

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7. What should you look for when choosing your rat, gerbil or hamster?

 

  • Bright, clear eyes.
  • Shiny and smooth coat.
  • No obvious growths on the body
  • The nose should be clear of mucous
  • Avoid buying a rodent that bites or scratches aggressively
  • Do not buy a rodent that is extremely fearful — one that darts and hides away. For example a curious hamster that sniffs but doesn't climb right into your hand is a good choice. Also a good choice is a little guy who is curious and nips gently to test your hand
  • A curious, active personality will make for a good pet

 

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8. Hamsters - What foods should be avoided?


Avoid giving your hamster: almonds, meats high in fat, the leafy, green parts of a tomato, chocolate, beans, potatoes, citrus fruits (too acidic). Onions, garlic and peppers can cause stomach irritation.

 

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9. Hamsters are “crepuscular” - what does that mean?


"Crepuscular" animals are most most active during twilight and at dusk. Wild hamsters generally leave their burrows shortly before the sun goes down and return once it gets dark.

Many other mammals are also crepuscular, including cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, and rats to name but a few.

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10. Which five different hamster species often kept as pets?


The five hamster species most commonly kept as pets are: Roborovski, Syrian, Campbell’s Dwarf, Chinese and Winter White Russian Dwarf hamsters.

 

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11. How do hamsters store food and why?


If a hamster finds food but isn’t comfortable eating it in its current location (for example when predators are close by), it will store the food in its cheeks and run to a safe place before starting to eat.

 

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12. Rats - can they be taught tricks?


Absolutely yes! Rats are extremely intelligent animals and you can have great fun in teaching them tricks. You can successfully train your rat with a reward system. Kindness, as with any animal, goes a long way - Don't scold your rat if they do something wrong and be patient. Some rat owners even make their rats mini agility sets and teach them to jump through hoops and to do similar tricks as their dog counterparts.

 

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13. Chinchillas - What do they eat?


Chinchillas are herbivores and are not accustomed to diets high in sugar and fat. Chinchillas can live without treats - pellets and hay are the only foods that are necessary for your chinchilla. DO NOT give many treats every day - even if your chinchilla is begging!

 

Do not feed your chin ANY vegetable except some carrot, as vegetables can cause bloat. Treats that can be offered in moderation include: alfalfa hay cubes, dried rose hips, fruit (not watery fruit as they can lead to diarrhoea). Avoid corn and food containing animal ingredients such as milk and cheese.

 

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