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Care Tips for Pocket Pets

Although most people think of cats and dogs when they think of pets, pocket pets can be great animal companions. Today our Seattle vets explain what pocket pets are and share a few tips on how to keep your pocket pet healthy and happy.

Pocket Pets

If you would like a pet but don't feel that a cat or dog is right for you, a pocket pet could be just the animal companion you are looking for.

So what is a pocket pet? The term pocket pet is used to describe a range of different small mammals that have been proven to make great pets. This category of pets includes:

  • Hamsters
  • Gerbils
  • Ferrets
  • Rabbits
  • Mice
  • Chinchillas
  • Hedgehogs
  • Sugar Gliders

Tips For Caring For Your Pocket Pet

While every pocket pet will come with its own specific needs, there are some similarities when it comes to caring for these adorable little pets. Here are a few pocket pet care tips to help get you started:

Create a Clean & Safe Home For Your Pocket Pet

For your pocket pet to live comfortably and happily it's important to provide them with a secure enclosure with plenty of space to move and play. Naturally, the amount of space your pet needs will depend on their size.

A mouse for example will need far less space than a rabbit, but your mouse's enclosure will need to be extra secure to ensure that your pocket pet doesn't escape. On the other hand, a chinchilla will need a taller cage so that they have room to stand on their hind legs and look around, and a rat will need a cage large enough to include plenty of exercise equipment to keep them occupied. Be sure to choose a cage that has a solid base that can be cleaned and disinfected easily. 

Choosing the best spot to place your pocket pet's home can be challenging. Ensure that you keep your pet's enclosure well away from other pets that could view your small animal as prey, (such as cats and dogs), and do not place the cage in direct sunlight. You should also keep in mind that many pocket pets are nocturnal which means that while you are trying to sleep your pet could be scurrying around making lots of noise.

Use Good Quality Bedding

Your pocket pet will need to be supplied with clean, soft bedding so that it can create a cozy nest sleep in. There are countless types of bedding available, and the best bedding for your pocket pet will depend upon the species. Your pet’s bedding must be nontoxic, free from dust, and absorbent. Aspen shavings, Timothy hay and paper litter are some of the most popular forms of bedding for pocket pets.

To discover which bedding is best for your pet be sure to ask the breeder or you pocket pet vet for recommendations.

Remember that your pet's bedding will need to be kept clean in order to keep your pet healthy. Once a week it's important to remove old bedding, clean and disinfect your pet's cage, then provide your small pet with fresh clean bedding. Don't forget to clean any toys or structures in your pet's cage too.

Keep Your Pocket Pet's Mind & Body Active

Pocket pets, like cats and dogs, need plenty of attention and social time in order to stay contented. Set aside a few minutes every day to spend time with your pocket pet. The more time you spend with your pet, the more relaxed they will be when handled. Whenever your pocket pet is out of their cage, be sure that the space is secure so that they can't escape and won't get into trouble, and never put your pocket pet on a tall surface that they could fall off of.

Many pocket pets also appreciate toys and activities. Equipe your pet's cage with species appropriate hiding places, climbing frames, tunnels and exercise equipment such as hamster wheels and balls. Make sure these items are made from durable materials that can’t be chewed and that your pet cannot become trapped inside.

Care For Your Pocket Pet's Teeth

Many pocket pets have teeth that continue to grow throughout their entire lifetime. That means pet parents need to be extra aware of their pocket pet's dental health. Provide your small pet with specially formulated chewing materials in order to help keep their teeth at a comfortable and healthy length.  While all are not appropriate for every pet, some popular options include:

  • Hard shelled nuts such as macadamia or pecan
  • Wood chews
  • Rats often enjoy dog biscuits
  • Apple, willow, aspen branches
  • Compressed alfalfa cubes

Ask your small companion animal vet for advice on which chewing materials are best for your pocket pet.

Feed Your Pet a Nutritious Diet

Every species has its own nutritional requirements that must be met in order for your pet to stay healthy. Providing your pocket pet with food specifically formulated for their species is the best way to ensure that your pet maintains an optimal weight, while minimizing allergic reactions, and reducing the chances of malnutrition.

Many pocket pet species require particular ratios of fresh vegetables, seeds and pellets in order to meet their nutritional needs. Ask your vet for advice on how best to feed your pocket pet.

Provide Your Pocket Pet With Routine Veterinary Care

Just like cats and dogs, pocket pets benefit from regular checkups. Veterinary checkups for pocket pets provide your vet with an opportunity to answer any questions you may have regarding your pet's care, behavior or health, but also give your vet an opportunity to spot the earliest signs of developing health issues. Treatments are generally most effective when health issues are detected early, which means that regular veterinary care may help to extend the good health and lifespan of your pocket pet.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

At Northgate Veterinary Clinic our Seattle vets care for a range of pocket pets. Contact us today to book an examination for your small companion mammal. 

Caring for Pets in Seattle

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