Rodents

“Eek, a mouse!” shrieked the cartoon character in fear. Many people are afraid of rodents. Many others are fascinated by them and want to have them be a part of their lives; so much so, that they keep rodents as pets. Are you considering adding rodents as pets for your family? 

Some things to consider are:

  • The size and number of rodents, as this informs the size of the habitat required
  • How much attention they need
  • The amount of equipment required, e.g., habitats, exercise equipment, toys, food/water containers
  • The cost to purchase
  • Care and feeding requirements — veterinary fees (in some cases), grooming/care schedule
  • Activity level and compatibility with the owner’s/family’s activities
  • Training – likely done at home by the owner and their family members
  • Lifespan – some rodents tend to live longer than others

The following guide will help you to choose from various types of rodents to find the best ones for your home:

pet rodents
3 cute ferrets in a line looking at the camera

Ferrets

Ferrets are the long furry pets that love to play, run and hide for hours at a time. They make excellent family pets because they are so playful and curious. They are great for children over 6 years of age because they will keep them busy running around and playing games with them.

Many families like them because of their shorter life span. They have an average lifespan of five to eight years, which means parents won’t be caring for these while their children are away at college.

Ferrets are social animals and they’re usually happiest if you have 2 or more of them. This will keep them from feeling lonely while the family is out for the day, or if there isn’t time to let them out and run around for long.

Ferrets will get along with most family pets including cats, dogs, and certain other pets (except for birds, rabbits, and rodents). With a little bit of training they can even be taught to use a litter box. Their feeding needs are nothing crazy either, they can eat regular cat food or ferret food.

The one thing Ferrets can do that might drive you a bit crazy is they love to escape and hide.  They are quite talented at opening the doors to their cage, but there are ways to keep them inside. It would also be a good idea to Ferret-proof your home, blocking all holes and spaces under and behind furniture/appliances and preventing access to cupboards.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs are not pigs at all! They got their name from Elizabethen times, where they were thought to look like little pigs and were each valued at one Guinea. First bred 3,000 years ago by the Incas, Guinea Pigs were brought by the Spanish from South America to Europe in the 16th century.

Modern day Guinea Pigs are popular pets, loved by both adults and children. They rank high among the social animals and prefer to live in groups, yet also appreciate human affection. This animal is crepuscular, which means that they are most active during the periods of dusk and dawn. They tend to lead busy lives; feeding, grooming, and moving around in their cages. The exercise requirements of a Guinea Pig are moderate and their grooming needs are low, making them an easy-to-care-for pet.

Guinea Pigs
https://crfamilypets.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/gerbil-3.png

Gerbils

Gerbils originally come from eastern Mongolia. The Mongolian Gerbil (one of many species of Gerbil) is the most common domesticated variety. Gerbils first became popular as pets after 1954, when a small number of them were brought to the United States for scientific testing.

Considered to be a small-sized rodent, Gerbils tend to be very active and social animals. This animal has high energy requirements, but low care needs. The habitat chosen will require frequent cleaning and it must be placed in an area that maintains a moderate temperature. Gerbils are good with other pets and with children, which makes them quite suitable for a family home.

Mice

Mice are very small rodents that have short lifespans. Their curious behavior and active nature do make them good pets for family homes. They are considered to have low maintenance requirements and will provide hours of entertainment in return. Mice have high energy needs and do need a period of training to acclimatise to their habitat. Mice are natural foragers, so providing them with treats in various places in their habitats will be appreciated.

Mice will happily live in groups. Although safe to touch, they will do well with little handling. Their habitat requires careful consideration as it needs to be large enough to accommodate the number of mice living in it and is to be cleaned weekly in a specific manner. These are generally clean pets that will self-clean to maintain their coat’s condition.

mouse
hamster

Hamsters

Hamsters are very popular pets, and they have typically been seen in family homes and schools for decades, having been first domesticated in the 1930’s. Many varieties are available, but the most common ones are the Long Haired Hamster and the Dwarf Hamster. They do have low maintenance requirements and are quite docile. Keep in mind that Hamsters do have a short life span compared to other pets.

Hamsters do require training so that they can bond with your family members. Careful attention must be paid to handling them, although they are receptive to touch and tend to be friendly towards adults and children. They do, however, prefer to live alone in their cages. You will find that your pet will sleep most days and will be active at nighttime.

Rats

In the early 1900’s, Brown Rats, or Fancy Rats as they were more widely known, first became domesticated as pets in England. Their popularity grew and today, they can be found as pets across the world. These Fancy Rats are more affordable than most small pets as well as being more intelligent than other rodents. A typical lifespan of these animals is two to three years.

They are considered to be clean animals and have moderate exercise needs. They are playful, and with training, will become comfortable with being handled. Fancy Rats make good pets for families. As with other rodents, Fancy Rats need a comfortably-sized habitat that is kept away from heat, drafts, and other pets. With moderate care needs, Rats are a good choice for the beginner pet owner.

rats

Hedgehogs

It might look like a walking cactus, but that little thing is a Hedgehog. Hedgehogs are great for families with older children and either don’t have the space for a larger pet, or who don’t have the time that a larger pet would take up.

Hedgehogs don’t need much time at all compared to other pets. Because they are solitary most are happy to spend their day exploring their cage undisturbed by anyone else.  If you do have some extra time then you have a number of different ways you can play with them if you are up late.

If you’ve ever wanted to stand out as someone with a unique pet then this one will do in most cases. Hedgehogs are not terribly popular within the US because they are not as sociable as other pets, but many families love having a low maintenance pet around to play with.  

If your family is too busy for other pets, and you have time on the evenings or weekends and want a pet this one might be right for your family.

a hedgehog outside having a bite to eat
2 baby rabbits nose to nose outside

Rabbits

Pet Rabbits have been part of American families since the 19th century. They are fairly easy to care for, and with the right set up for them they can live indoor or outdoors anywhere in the country.

While Rabbits are super soft and cuddly, they do not make great pets for small children. They have a fragile spine that can break if dropped or held incorrectly. They do make great pets for older children, or younger ones that know not to pick them up.

Rabbits take a little warming up to enjoy human attention. After they get to know you and build trust they are more open to sitting on someone’s lap, or cuddling with them.

Rabbits are smart animals and can be taught to use the litter box if they are kept indoors. They clean themselves so they do not need baths unless they become dirty or start to smell.  As long as you provide them with enough food and water, they will generally take care of themselves. If you are a family with limited time this can be a good pet as they don’t take up much time if you don’t have any. If you do expect to be away for most of the day it is a good idea to have at least two so they can socialize.

Chinchillas

Chinchillas

Chinchillas have been kept as pets since the 1920’s, with the onset of commercial breeding. Many people will agree that Chinchillas are cute and cuddly, with fur that practically invites touching. What is not commonly known is that these animals are naturally skittish and do not like to be handled at all.

Chinchillas have high exercise needs and require careful attention to their care. Weekly dust baths, proper nutrition, and habitat maintenance top the list of specific requirements. With careful and persistent training, your pet will become acclimated to living with humans and can be made suitable for families.

Rodent Comparison Chart
Rodent type Size Character trait Cost Lifespan
Rat 9 – 11 inches Social pets that enjoy living in groups. Rats are mainly active at night but can remain active during the day if kept as a pet. $10 – $20 2 – 4 years
Mice 3 – 4 inches Mice are shy and don’t like handling. These pets are best living in same-sex pairs or groups. $5 – $15 1 – 3 years
Hamsters 2 – 4 inches Hamsters are aggressive and could bite if you try handling them. Hamsters also prefer living alone; otherwise, they could fight. $5 – $15 2 – 3 years
Gerbils 6 – 12 inches Gentle pets that are best living with same-sex pairs. Tame Gerbils enjoy handling. $5 – $10 2 – 3 years
Guinea pigs 8 – 11 inches Calm rodents that don’t mind handling by owners. $10 – $40 5 – 7 years
Chinchillas 9 – 15 inches Active and playful pets that make great companions. $150 – $350 15 – 20 years
Cost Chart of Owning a Rodent
Item Cost
Rodent $5 – $20
Cage $30 – $200 depending on size
Toys $2 – $10 monthly
Water bottles $5 – $10
Feeding bowls $5 – $20
Plastic huts $45 – $200
Beddings $7 – $30 monthly
Litter box $7 – $9
Wheel /hammock $15 – $20
Food $9 – $16 monthly
Veterinary charges $150 yearly
General Information about Rodents

Different rodents have different needs for feeding, sleeping, and habitat. For example, chinchillas need a much larger cage due to their large size compared to mice.

The cost of buying a rodent could be anything from free to twenty dollars depending on where you get them. If you look at the classifieds it is easy to find people giving them away after making the mistake of putting males and females together accidentally. This is one of the least expensive pets you will find at a pet store if you wanted to get an inexpensive pet.

Rodents require spacious cages, relatively speaking, to allow them to exercise and move around. The cage should also have a large amount of floor space to give them enough room to run around and play with toys and other accessories.  The bigger the cage, the better environment for your pet.

Bedding for rodents are an important aspect of the good health and comfort of your pet. The cost of bedding depends on the materials you choose. You can use old fabrics to line the cage, or you can use toilet paper. 

Rodents love chewing on anything so if you use fabric or toilet paper, you might have to replace the substrate more often. Fabric may also make the cage smelly because it absorbs urine easier than other materials do.

Some rodents love hiding. They love to hide in  huts or crawl through plastic tunnels. When you buy things for them, you should know that if they can chew it they will.  You could end up replacing them sooner than you expect because everything to them is a chew toy.

Due to your rodents rarely becoming sick you will spend almost nothing on them for vet visits. The most common illness among rodents is salmonella, but it is also rare.

Wheels or hammocks are essential accessories in your pet’s cage because all rodents require some exercise time each day. The good news is that with as little as $15, you can buy your pet an exercise wheel or hammock.

What is the Ideal Habitat for Rodents?

Some rodents can live in a glass aquarium as long as it has proper ventilation and a lockable top to avoid escape. You can also house your rodents in cages made of plastic bottoms and wired sides. You should never offer your pet a cage made of wood because they’ll most likely chew through the wood and escape. It’s also worth noting that it’s impossible to disinfect a wooden cage making it the perfect breeding ground for germs.

As a pet owner, you should avoid placing pets of the opposite sex together to avoid mating unless they are neutered. Some pets such as rats prefer living in groups and rarely fight each other while pets such as Hamsters prefer living individually.

Male mice, on the other hand, are aggressive and should be placed alone in a cage while female mice are gentle and can live in groups.

Guinea pigs can live together peacefully as long as they are neutered to avoid mating. Gerbils, on the other hand, can only live together if they are introduced to each other before puberty.

Bedding / Habitat Requirements for Rodents 

Rodents have a natural instinct to burrow.  The more bedding materials you can provide them with, the happier they will be. Some of the best materials to use for bedding are shredded papers. Something you should avoid using is wood shavings and corn cobs as bedding.

Rodents can chew on the wood shavings which are indigestible and can easily cause abdominal obstructions. Corncobs on the other hand are dusty and when wet they can become moldy and can cause respiratory complications to your pet.

Rodents also love hiding and should have hollow huts made of plastic in their cages. Some pet owners also use rolled toilet paper as hiding materials. If you choose toilet paper, you should frequently replenish the supply because the rodents will chew them to pieces quickly.

Temperature

Rodents may suffer from heatstroke if exposed to temperatures beyond 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The optimal temperatures for rodents is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You will see them much more active at these temperature ranges than if they are kept too cold or too warm.

Toys

Toys are a great mental stimulant for your rodents. You should provide chewy toys to help your pets sharpen their teeth and prevent overgrowth of the incisors. Wheel toys, and hollow tubes are also a favorite for most rodents to exercise with.

Ensure you don’t buy squeaky wheel toys or else they may interrupt your sleep. Most rodents are active at night, the last time when you want to hear lots of squeaking. Also check to make sure the wheels are safe for your pets to avoid foot injuries.

It’s also worth noting that Guinea pigs should not have a wheel because their backs are fragile and could easily get injured if they use a wheel.

Food Preference for Rodents

Rodents are inexpensive to maintain and feed. Some rodents can also eat people food.  It is recommended that you feed your rodents a high quality commercial pellets diet. 

You can also supplement their diet with about 5 – 10 percent of fresh fruits and vegetables. Rodents also enjoy a small portion of seeds, nuts, pasta, and unsalted popcorn as part of their daily diet. Treats should only take up less than 10 percent of the rodent diet to avoid obesity.

According to expert veterinarians, rodents should eat two times a day. Once in the morning and again in the evening. Water should also be provided either from a chew proof bottle or water bowls.

Any uneaten food should always be removed from the cages to prevent your pets from overeating and to become obese. You should also avoid feeding rodent pets with onions, citrus fruits, and chocolate because they are toxic to rodents and could easily kill them.

Rodents also enjoy eating hay, and to encourage chewing it is a good idea to provide them with some hay to chew on.  This does a lot to prevent overgrowth of the front teeth in rodents.

Most rodents don’t require vitamin supplements because commercial foods have the required vitamins they need. The Guinea pig is an exception because they don’t produce their Vitamin C and require supplements.

General Rodent Care

The litter box is the other equipment that is cheaply available. Rodents are intelligent and with proper training, can use a litter box as a toilet. If you don’t enjoy the smell of urine or feces, you should line the litter box with pellets to absorb the smell.  

While it is possible that you can teach them to do this, many owners will either not know how, or just not bother.  In this case it is recommended that you go through as regularly as possible to keep waste buildup in the cage to a minimum and to keep the bedding fresh.

The cage of the rodents should be cleaned every day and the bedding changed two times a week. The habitat should remain well ventilated to prevent respiratory infections. The food bowls should also be cleaned before every feeding and placed at an elevated level to prevent contamination of food with pet waste.

Pets such as chinchillas love having sand baths in the cage for bathing. The sand should be made of fine particles to help maintain their healthy silky fur.

Aggressiveness in Rodents

Most rodents are gentle and make great pets but in some cases they can become aggressive. It is important to understand which pets can coexist peacefully and those that may fight to the death if kept together.

Some rodents fight when they have young pups such as female Hamsters. Other rodents fight for territory.  This is usually in the case of more than one male being kept together with other females. In other cases, some rodents will fight a new member introduced into the cage.

With a proper understanding of the behavior of each rodent, it’s possible to minimize aggressive behavior.

Most rodents love human contact especially after they get used to handling. Some rodents can even learn a few tricks with training. Rarely do rodents attack their caregivers.

In summary, rodents are generally low maintenance pets that are suitable for beginners and expert pet owners alike. Rodents are great pets that love chewing on stuff. After you figure out the best rodent for your family, you can have fun taking care of a new little pet.

Basic Facts about Rodents

According to statistics, about 40 percent of all mammals are rodents. Rodents also have a pair of lower and upper incisors that grow continuously throughout their lives. Since rodents’ front teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, some pets aren’t able to trim the teeth naturally. 

If they were left to grow without being worn down, the teeth would eventually grow so big that they could not use their mouth. If you notice that your pet isn’t able to trim their teeth through chewing on things, then you should take your pet to the vet for regular teeth trimming. In some cases, a vet may even recommend the removal of the teeth or suggest a change of diet.

Rodent owners should also provide their pets chew toys to help them trim the teeth. Not just toys can do this, some type of hay also encourages chewing and trimming of the incisors.

Rodents are social animals that often prefer to live in groups or pairs to meet their social needs. Since rodents breed very fast, you should avoid placing opposite sexes in one cage. Otherwise, you risk having more pets than you could hope to care for.

Some rodents such as mice are born blind and hairless, while some like guinea pigs are born with fur and well-functioning eyes. Naturally, when a rodent is pregnant, it prepares a nest for the young ones.

C&R Family Pets logo
About
Quick Links
Newsletter