Small Animals 101
Those with small animals as pets fully agree that good things come in small packages!
The most common small pets are Guinea Pigs, Hamsters, Gerbils, Degus, Mice, Rats, Chinchillas, Rabbits and Ferrets.
Guinea Pigs are friendly little rodents that average 10 inches long and 2-3 pounds in weight. They live approximately 4-8 years. Guinea Pigs cannot naturally produce vitamin C and therefore their food must contain a vitamin C additive.
Hamsters usually grow to a size of 4-6 inches and live for approximately 2-3 years. Most hamsters should be kept on their own in their cage because they often will fight each other. Some dwarf breeds (such as Russian dwarfs) may be kept in pairs.
Gerbils live for 3-5 years, on average. Their bodies are approximately 10 cm long and their tails are another 8-10 cm. They are pets that are best kept in pairs, as they are very social animals.
Degus are small animals that are similar to Gerbils, though a little bit larger. They live for approximately 6-10 years, though they typically live longer when housed in pairs. They can grow to be as big as 15 cm long, with an additional 15 cm tail.
Mice grow to an average length of 9-10 cm in body length and their tails are approximately 8-9 cm in length. Their average lifespan is 1½ -2 years.
Rats live approximately 2-3 years, sometimes longer. They grow to be about 9-11 inches in length, not including their tail which is another 7-9 inches. Rats are very smart and can be trained easily.
Chinchillas are known for the softness of their fur. They grow to be about the size of a large ground squirrel, approximately 30-38 cm in length. Chinchillas typically live to be 15-20 years old. They can jump as high as 1.5 m and require tall, multi-level cages.
Rabbits have an average lifespan of 7-10 years. They vary dramatically in size and can be anywhere from 2 pounds up to 20 pounds, although most domestic breeds are on the smaller end of the scale. Rabbits love to be let out of their cages to run around, and are easily litter trained.
Ferrets live an average of 6-8 years, and sometimes up to 10-12 years. They are usually 13-16 inches long, and male ferrets are usually larger than females. Ferrets can be litter trained and can also be trained to walk with a harness.
Most of these animals are nocturnal, preferring to sleep during the day and play at night. Rabbits and ferrets tend to be active at dusk and dawn, while sleeping during the day and the night. Gerbils and Degus prefer to take short naps and are active in small spurts throughout the day and night.
Your pet will likely begin to adjust to your schedule, allowing you some playtime together. Small animals all appreciate regular exercise sessions outside the cage. Make sure you pet proof the room your pet will be in, especially removing all items that could be chewed, before letting your pet out to exercise.
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