Many children’s first pet is a small animal. They are easy to take care of and can provide a very rewarding teaching experience for young kids. Different small pets require different cages.
Hamsters, gerbils, and mice do best in plastic cages reinforced with metal. An example of this is the CritterTrail series. This series provides several cage options. The cages can include a wheel, food bowl, and water bottle. These animals can run eight miles a day, and a wheel is a must for them, so picking a cage big enough for a wheel, if not included, is very important. Little pets like to chew, and chew toys are a must for the continued health of all small animals, so provide these in their cage or aquarium, as well.
Hamsters are exceptionally territorial and do best alone. Even purchased together, it can be difficult or impossible for hamsters to accept each other. The exception to this can be dwarf hamsters, but that is not always guaranteed.
Gerbils are social creatures and do better in pairs, but they can be exceptionally territorial. It is best to purchased two gerbils from the same litter together at the same time. If that is not a possibility for you, the next best option is to slowly train them to accept each other. Before you put gerbils purchased at different times in the same cage, put cages side by side, place some bedding into each other’s cage, and then eventually let them see each other. CritterTrail cages can also be connected with many tubes and accessories.
Rats can make excellent pets. Rats can even learn their names, come when called, and can live longer than hamsters, gerbils, or mice. There aren’t many rat-specific cages, as most cages are too small while the larger cages have wire with a width too big to safely contain the rats. This is a time you may consider an aquarium. It is best to secure the lid, but give them a platform to climb onto to be closer to fresh air, especially since they have sensitive respiratory systems. They should also have a wheel in their cage as well as something to chew on. Rats are very good with their personal hygiene, very similar to cats, and will wash themselves regularly and will want to keep themselves clean.
All small pets should be provided water bottles, with fresh water daily. Water bowls often get messy and are easily tipped over. Regarding bedding, you should never use cedar bedding since many animals can develop allergies to it. Pine bedding can also cause respiratory problems. The best beddings are Cell-Sorb or Carefresh, made from recycled paper. These beddings are especially absorbent, provide for a cleaner, less smelly cage, and offer a more aesthetically appearing cage.
Ferrets and chinchillas prefer to have larger, taller cages. They both like to climb, so many pet supplies, such as hammocks and tunnels, are recommended.
All small animals can be potty trained! The best option for the larger animals is to use a corner litter pan with a scoopable cat litter. Clay cat litter doesn’t work well and will create dust. If you place the corner litter pan where they usually do their business they will start using it. Sometimes you may have to place some of their waste inside the litter pan to entice them, but usually you can train them with little or no trouble. Smaller animals can be trained using a potty litter and outhouse accessory for their cage. Potty training your small animal will significantly reduce your bedding changes.
Now that you know more about small pets, you can make an educated decision on which small animal you will bring in to your home!