Katie Sharman explains about responsible small furry pet ownership
April is National Pet Month and a time to focus on responsible pet ownership. You might think owning a small furry pet like a hamster, guinea pig, gerbil, or chinchilla, is pretty straight forward and doesn’t take much responsibility. Right?
It’s true, small furry pets do spend most of their time in cages and hutches. However, in order to give them the healthy and fulfilling life they deserve, would-be owners should educate themselves on what their preferred species’ needs are, before making a purchase. Head nurse Katie Sharman has this advice:
Responsible pet ownership - caring for small furries:
- Healthcare: Your small furry pet won’t need annual vaccinations (except rabbits), but they will benefit from annual or bi-annual health checkups. If you spot unusual behaviours, lumps or bumps, or a reduced appetite, you should contact your vet for advice.
- Nutrition: Do some research into what a healthy and balanced diet looks like for your particular species of pet. Diet is very important for oral health too as small furries need the right type of food to look after their teeth.
- Enrichment: Boredom and loneliness can lead to self mutilation and health issues. Enrich your small furry pet’s life with regular human interaction, toys to play with, and challenges that mimic those they’d experience in the wild - give them obstacles to move, climb on, and chew through to make themselves a comfortable home. Remember though, most small furries are nocturnal and should not have their daytime sleep disturbed.
- Handling: Getting your small furry pet used to being handled is important so that a) you can enjoy some quality time with them, b) you can clean out their housing without causing them stress, and c) both you and the vet can check them over without upsetting them, or being bitten.
- Company: If you’re able to, it’s a good idea to keep small furry pets in pairs for companionship. Research which pairings work best for your species, and talk to a vet about neutering.
- Environment: Whether an indoor cage or outdoor hutch, your pet’s housing should be warm, well ventilated, and safe from predators. Give them a comfortable bed and somewhere to hide out too.
- Hygiene: Remove soiled bedding and droppings daily. Give bowls and toys a weekly clean. Once a month, remove everything and clean it (including the housing itself) with warm soapy water if possible or a pet-safe cleaning spray.
Get in touch with our nursing team if you have any questions about this topic.