The A to Z of taking care of small animals

Looking after your hamster, bunny, rat, mouse, guinea pig, gerbil or chinchilla can be fun. They are so cute, but do you have the basics to keep these pets healthy and happy?

Aquarium

A glass aquarium is ideal for a pet rat, as it will protect him from draughts, and from cats and dogs. Make sure the aquarium has a secure lid, as you don’t want your intelligent rat to escape through the lid.

Ball

A simple plastic running ball with air holes can provide exercise and stimulation for your rodent. They are known as hamster balls, but mice and gerbils also enjoy playing with them. Exercise balls allow your hamster to move around the house safely.

Cages and hutches

Before choosing the ideal house for your pet, consider his adult size first. Small mice can live in a smaller cage than a hamster or guinea pig. Big rabbits need a good-sized hutch – as large as possible.

Dust bath

Chinchillas enjoy a dust bath a few times a week. You can purchase chinchilla dust from your pet store and place it in a low-rimmed dish.

Exercise wheel

Hamsters run many kilometres each night in search of food in the wild. An exercise wheel provides your pet with a place to run inside the safety of his cage. Avoid a plastic or wire wheel with step-ladder rungs; rather opt for a solid wheel.

Fresh fruit and vegetables

You should supplement your pet’s commercial diet with fresh fruit and vegetables. Hamsters enjoy carrots, apples, spinach and baby marrow a few times each week. Rats, mice and rabbits should get a supply of green vegetables, and rabbits should get carrots and occasional chopped apples without seeds.

Gerbilarium

A gerbilarium is the best home for a gerbil. It consists of two storeys with the top storey being a wire cage, and the bottom storey a plastic or glass tank filled with substrate and connected with ladders or tubes.

Hay

Most small pets need a good supply of hay each day for roughage in their diets. It is their staple and makes up about 75% of the total food consumed. Without it, their digestive systems cannot function correctly.

Iron and vitamin supplements

You can opt to add a supplement or tonic to your pet’s diet, which should consist of a balanced commercial diet with extra fruit and vegetables. Consult with your vet first.

Jungle gym cages

Special cages for hamsters with various levels and connecting tunnels will provide your hamster with plenty of hiding places and opportunities for exercise.

Kibble

Pet food companies manufacture food that is balanced to provide small animals with all the nutrients, vitamins and trace minerals that they need to stay healthy.

Litter

Bedding or litter is required in the cages of most small animals. It helps absorb waste and provides a cosy nest for your pet. Different animals prefer different types of bedding.

Mineral stones

A mineral stone makes a great chew toy for mice, rats and hamsters and provides your pet with extra minerals and calcium.

Non-toxic cage cleaner

You should clean your pet’s cage at least once each week, with a daily check for soiled bedding and uneaten fruit and vegetables.

Oat hay

This grass hay provides roughage and enrichment for small animals like chinchillas, rabbits and guinea pigs.

Playpen

A playpen is a safe place for your pet to play outside of his cage. Never leave your pet unattended in the playpen.

Quell the smell

To keep the odour of small pets at bay, you should clean your pet’s cage properly once a week and replace bedding.

Rabbit harness

Rabbits can be taught to walk on a lead. You’ll need a special rabbit harness that fits over his upper body and across his back where it attaches to the lead.

Shampoo and slicker brush

It is not essential to bath your rabbit, but some TLC can be nice. Look out for rabbit-specific shampoo. For other small pets, use pet wipes to clean their fur.

Travel carrier

A pet carrier provides a safe way to transport your pet in the car to the vet, and also keeps him contained at the consulting rooms.

Unwanted visitors

Small pets get lice, mites and fleas. See your vet for ideal products to use. Never use products intended for larger animals on small pets.

Vitamin C

Guinea pigs need vitamin C in their diets to fight off illness. A quality food formulated for guinea pigs will have the correct amount of added vitamin C.

Water bottles

Small pets can become dehydrated easily, especially in hot weather. Clip-on cage water bottles work best for most small pets.

Extra hiding places

You can purchase plastic logs, small plastic houses and other cosy nests for small pets. Toilet or kitchen towel rolls double up well as hiding places for them.

Yummy treats

Treats can be beneficial while trying to tame or train your pet.

Zigzag tubes

A variety of different modular tunnels, tubes and high nesting areas provide an additional surface area for your pet to run and hide in.