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Bringing Home Your Small Pet

Bringing home a new pet is a really exciting time, no matter their size!

Small pets, such as hamsters, rats, Guinea-pigs, degus, chinchillas and gerbils all have different needs and suit different homes, but all of them can make fabulous pets when given the right love, care and environment.

More about bringing your small pet home

While the small pets usually have less freedom to roam than others, it’s important to consider whereabouts in the house they are going to live and what they will have access to. This is going to come down to their needs, and to yours!

  • Being in a family area is great for social contact, and for keeping small pets part of the family pets tucked away can sadly get forgotten or overlooked in busy households.
  • Don't forget sleeping patterns! Many small pets end up in bedrooms, which can be a nightmare for our sleep when nocturnal pets such as hamsters wake up!
  • Air matters. While chemicals from sprays such as hairspray or deodorant might be benign to us, in high density they can cause problems for our small pet's lungs. Make sure pets are kept away from areas where sprays or chemicals might be used.
  • Safe areas. Handling is important for small pets if you want them to be tame. This means having an area that is safe for them to be in, outside the cage. For larger pets, this might be easier, but very little pets such as gerbils can squeeze through very tiny holes! Have a think about where handling will happen, and how you can pet proof the area.

Go to any pet shopand you will see that the list of things you can buy for your small pet is almost endless! Here are just a few thing to think about adding on your list for your small pet, to keep them happy and healthy:

  • Food bowl - Heavy food bowls are best as they are less likely to get overturned. Pellets (not muesli) are recommended and these need to be right for your pet, for information on the right diet for your pet, check out our small pet nutrition page.
  • Water bottle. Water bottles are the best way to provide water to small pets as they don't spill; make sure to keep them clean and topped up with fresh water.
  • Cage. The housing needs for each small pet will be different depending on species. It's important to get this right, remember, your pet will live here their whole life! Have a look at our housing recommendationshere.
  • Hay rack – If your small pet eats hay, this needs to be kept clean. A rack or hanging net keeps hay off the floor and stops it getting soiled.
  • Run – If you don’t have a pet-proof room, runs can be a good way to get extra safe exercise for your pet. Just be aware some of our small pets are amazing climbers and jumpers, so if you build any external exercise facilities they need to be designed to suit your pet.
  • Grooming tools –Long-haired Guinea-pigs especially will need regular attention for their coat. Even if your pet doesn’t need grooming, all pets benefit from the one-on-one bonding time of handling, and it’s also a good opportunity for you to give them a good check over.
  • Toys – Stimulation is really important for all pets, as boredom can lead to unwanted behaviours and is also poor for welfare. Solid wheels (bars can snag legs and toes) , tunnels, igloos, chew toys and digging areas are all great – what your pet will like best will depend on their species.

Bringing your small pet home for the first time is a really exciting time for the whole family, but don’t forget it can be a very scary experience for a small pet.

  1. Make sure you have a safe carrier to bring your pet or pets home in and make sure it is lined with something absorbent in case of any little accidents.
  2. Ask whoever you are getting your pet from what they have been eating, what their bedding is and what their favourite toys are. If you can get a sample to bring home, all the better! Anything that feels familiar will help your pet settle in at home, and if it smells familiar too that will be even more reassuring.
  3. While travelling you may want to cover the carrier with a light blanket to keep it dark as this can help calm your pets, and if you have any bedding that smells familiar, placing these in the carrier can be soothing. Make sure it doesn’t get too hot in there though!
  4. When you get home, place your pets in their pre-prepared home to settle down – if the carrier your brought them home in fits inside, then just placing this inside and opening the door is best. This means they can come out and explore in their own time.
  5. Having some normal noise around the cage is fine – it’s important that they get used to what will be happening around them on a daily basis – but try and keep the environment calm. Keep an eye to see if you can spot them nibbling food and checking out the area.
  6. If you have children, restrict access to your new pets at first as handling can be quite intense! Bonding time is great, but try and keep it to just a handful of short sessions through the day, and supervise to make sure interactions are safefor everyone.

They are also there if you have any concerns – if you think your small pet isn’t eating or drinking much, or at all, or if they develop diarrhoea, for example.

If you have a new small pet, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch with your local Vets4Pets clinic here!

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