At River Ridge Pet Clinic, we are equipped to help you care for your small pets -- gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets, rats and mice. These small pets are often referred to as pocket pets, and are becoming more popular for a variety of reasons. They are small, cute, fuzzy, relatively inexpensive, and relatively easy to care for by today's busy families. Their small size does not mean that pocket pets can be neglected. To remain healthy, these little creatures need the same care and attention as other pets.
Proper housing is a major factor in keeping pocket pets healthy. Your pet's house should be made of glass, stainless steel, or durable plastic. Avoid wood and other porous substances as they are difficult to disinfect properly. Also, remember that these lpets are avid gnawers, meaning they can easily destroy or escape from a poorly constructed home.
The house should be large enough to allow the pet(s) room for exercise. The exact area needed depends upon the species and size of the pet. Be sure to provide an area where your pet can hide. A hide box gives the animal a safe refuge if scared.
Bedding materials should be nontoxic, dust free and absorbent. Wood shavings, ground corncob, or shredded butcher paper meets these criteria. All bedding should be changed at least twice a week. The entire area plus all of its furnishings should be cleaned and disinfected with dish soap and water and a weak chlorine-bleach solution once a week (one-part bleach to thirty-parts water).
Food and water
It is best to use ceramic food dishes to prevent damage from gnawing. This type of dish also is less likely to tip over, decreasing the chances of contaminating the food with urine or droppings. A water bottle with a sipper tube is preferred to a dish.
Good quality, fresh commercial food should be the main part of your pet's diet. Fresh foods such as green leafy vegetables, carrots, alfalfa sprouts or hay should also be fed three to five times a week. Many pocket pets do not tolerate sudden changes in diet, so be sure to introduce new foods gradually and in small amounts.
Pocket pets often are given to children as a first pet. However, the inexperienced child can easily mishandle these animals, resulting in injury to the pet or a potentially serious bite or scratch to the child. Adult supervision is recommended until the child gains experience in handling the pet. Children should always be sitting down when handling pocket pets to prevent dropping from high heights and causing injury.
Handling always should be gentle, but be sure that support is firm. Go slowly and try not to startle your pet before picking it up. If it is asleep, leave it alone or carefully awaken it first.
Signs of Illness
- decreased appetite
- discharge from mouth, eyes or nose
- loose stools
- lethargy (inactivity)
- lumps or bumps
- flaky skin or hair loss
Call us immediately if your pet is showing any of these signs. Many pocket pets are seriously ill by the time they show symptoms and can die if you wait too long to bring them in. However, it is best not to wait for disease symptoms to appear. Just like dogs and cats, we recommend an annual exam for your pocket pets.