Pet Chat | Small Animals: Finding the Right One for your Family

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Small animals: finding the right one for your family

When looking for a pet to add to the family there are options other than a cat or dog to consider.  In fact, there are plenty of fun and cuddly pets that are small, easy to manage and fit well into a busy family lifestyle.  Small animals, such as a rabbit or ferret can make a great addition to your family, but it’s important to do your research first.  Deciding what attributes are best for your family is important because different small animals have their own unique behaviors.  For example, hamsters and guinea pigs interact differently with children compared to a gerbil or chinchilla.

Here’s a look at a few of the more popular small animal choices to help you decide which might be right for you:


If you’re considering a hamster, it’s important to note they are best for children eight and older because of their nocturnal behavior. Also, depending on the breed, some can be rather aggressive and nippy. They should be kept in a spacious cage with plenty of activities like a wheel and tunnels. You can use shredded paper or tissue as bedding. Their diet consists of commercial pellets and water but can have the occasional treat or piece of cheese. An average life span for a hamster is two to three years.

Guinea Pigs:

Guinea Pigs are also part of the rodent family but interact very differently than hamsters. They are great starter pets because they are gentle and have a sweet demeanor, which can make them sociable and less likely to bite. Their average lifespan is five to ten years.  Typically they eat pellets specifically made for guinea pigs, prairie hay and fresh vegetables. They tend to be low energy animals and stay in one place for a while. This is their nature so no need to get an exercise wheel for the cage because it can actually cause injury to the guinea pig.  Also note that guinea pigs do well with a companion so consider getting two to keep them feeling safe and comfortable. 


Rabbits are popular among families with younger children because of their gentle nature. Depending on the type of climate, rabbits can live inside or outside under certain circumstances. They require a lot of exercise and it’s recommended that they have a safe and enclosed outdoor area to hop around. Some rabbits can even be trained to exercise outdoors with a collar and leash. Their life span is five to ten years and they typically eat commercial food  and fresh vegetables.


A more exotic option in the small animal family: Chinchillas.  They are best for families with older children because these animals are more delicate than you might think. Unlike their smaller-pet relatives, chinchillas need to be provided a dust bath so they can bathe two to three times a week to mimic their cleaning habits in their natural environment. Their living quarters should be multi-level so they’re able to climb up and down, and their diet usually consists of hay, pellets made specifically for Chinchillas, and water.  They can live up to 20 years, so make sure you’re ready for this type of commitment before adding a Chinchilla to your life. BONUS: they don’t have a body odor, which is always a plus.

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