Before deciding to go and buy one of those cool hamster habitats for your kid’s next pet, you might want to take a moment and see what other types of small pets might be suitable as well.
We all know how beneficial it can be for a child to have a small pet around that teaches him or her a little bit of responsibility and also offers companionship, so it’s important to make sure that the choice you are going to make is the right one from every point of view.
It’s true that rodent pets are absolutely adorable and less of a hassle compared to dogs and cats, especially if you don’t have too much time on your hands. Also, many times they are more affordable while still being little furry friends. However, even though they might seem like being similar, small pets have different needs and each kind requires a particular type of care.
In this article, we will take a look at what these are for hamsters, rats, and gerbils, to help you understand which one is better suited for your family. You might also want to keep in mind that these pets have different styles of interacting with family members, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
These small and adorable rodents are definitely one of the best-known types of small pets. Hamsters usually live around two or three years in captivity and they are easy to care for, requiring little specialized maintenance. Moreover, they can even sometimes be trained to do simple tasks, as they are intelligent animals.
On the other hand, hamsters (smaller breeds and females in particular) tend to be quite aggressive which might make them rather difficult to handle, especially if your kid is around 5 years old and might want to play with the pet all the time. One thing to keep in mind is that small pets should not be bought for children under 5 years old.
Larger types of hamsters, such as the Syrian breed, might be more likely to adapt to being handled, thus being a better companion for a kid. In terms of habitats, these small rodents are best housed in a cage that offers plenty of space and that includes elements such as nesting areas and tunnels for sleep or entertainment.
Another thing you might ask yourself is ‘What do hamsters eat?’. The bags of seed mixes you can find in specialized stores are surely a very good addition to their diet, but it’s not enough. They also need fruits, vegetables, and protein sources, and you can achieve this by either supplementing the diet with the actual veggies and fruits or with pelleted food.
It’s true that many people are less than happy when they hear the word ‘rat’, and the idea of owning one as a pet can seem a little far fetched. However, rats are extremely intelligent animals that can be great pets for children. They tend to be calm, relaxed, and less nippy than other types of small rodents.
Another thing that makes them great is the fact that they can be easily handled and they enjoy getting attention. If you want your child to develop a nice and strong bond with his or her pet, then a rat can be an excellent option. Thanks to their intelligence, these often misunderstood animals are interactive, can learn tricks, and offer very nice companionship.
Since they enjoy interacting with people a lot, you can make toys out of pretty much anything that can keep both a kid and his or her pet rat busy and happy for long periods. In terms of care, they don’t require anything complex.
They usually eat what most rodents do, but you might want to keep in mind that contrary to popular belief, rats are actually very clean and vain animals. They also require at least an hour outside the cage every day to get the right amount of exercise.
Males are lazier and larger than females, which might make them a better alternative, especially since females tend to get a bit agitated when they are in heat, which happens every 5 days. All things considered, a rat might actually be the perfect pet for your kid. Their lifespan is around three years.
Just like hamsters, gerbils are popular pets that are both small and inexpensive, as well as very easy to take care of. This makes them a very good choice for children who might not be as involved in playing with their pet. They tend to live less than hamsters or guinea pigs, having an average lifespan of 2 years.
In terms of diet, gerbils don’t need anything very particular, having similar preferences with those of other rodents. However, you might want to avoid sunflower seeds and keep these only as treats. You can easily choose one of the dedicated mixed or pelleted food you can find on the market.
Gerbils are actually very sociable animals, so they might not do so well as solitary pets. Therefore, getting a pair is usually the best solution, especially as they don’t have particular needs that might take up a lot of your time.
They are friendly pets that can also be held, but you should know that they are very fast, so even if you do hold them, it might not be for a very long time. One particular thing to know is that they do tend to be more sensitive to their environment than other rodents, and keeping a low level of humidity prevents respiratory problems.
Before your purchase
Once you’ve decided what pet is the right one for your kid and family, you should be careful where you buy it from. Going for expert breeders or reputable owners others might recommend is many times better than visiting a pet shop.
However, no matter the source, once you get the little guy, take him or her to the vet for an initial check-up that can save you from a lot of trouble.