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Before you acquire a small mammal

You and a small mammal would be a perfect match if you...

House Rabbits

House rabbits make wonderful companions - for the right people. According to veterinarian Jennifer Saver, "a rabbit person is someone who enjoys observing as much as handling, and who does not get overly upset at a rabbit's natural tendencies, such as chewing and digging." House rabbits are easily litter trained, learn to respond to their names, and a few simple commands. The life-span of a well-cared for rabbit is seven to ten years, with some living into their teens. Rabbits should be spayed or neutered between four and six months. This will make them nicer to be around, more trainable, and healthier. Unsterilized rabbits will lunge, mount, spray, and box, and females are at risk from uterine cancer.

Small Rodents and Ferrets

Small rodents such as mice, rats, gerbils, and guinea pigs, are fairly easy to care for and are a joy to have as companion animals, especially for people with busy lifestyles or small spaces. If handled gently and regularly from a young age, these small rodents will lavish you with affection and provide hours of entertainment. Although these small rodents are fairly low maintenance, they do have a few requirements to ensure they lead happy, healthy lives. Ferrets can be lively and entertaining pets, as long as they have a proper environment, plenty of entertainment, and are handled appropriately from a very young age. Pet ferrets should be spayed or neutered and have their scent glands removed when they are young.

General Tips for Small Mammal Care

  • Housing
    • Rabbit and ferret cages need to be fairly large. A large dog crate or puppy exercise pen is ideal. The cage should not have a wire bottom because this can cause foot ulcerations.
    • Small rodents need well-ventilated cages. A wire cage with a solid bottom works better than a glass aquarium.
  • Food
    • Rabbits should have fresh, unlimited grass hay and water at all times. Daily rations of dandelion greens, carrot tops, and parsley, carrots, and apples supplement the hay. Commercial rabbit food can be given in limited quantities. NEVER feed tomatoes, cabbage, or lettuce. These can cause bloat and diarrhea.
    • Several varieties of nutritious ferret and small rodent diets are available.
  • Bedding and litter
    • Small rodents have sensitive respiratory systems; recycled newspaper bedding or corn cob bedding is less irritating than wood shavings.
    • Rabbits and some ferrets can be litter trained, but need grass hay or pelleted sawdust litter. As with small rodents, rabbits are sensitive to respiratory problems, so wood shavings or clay litters are not good choices.
  • Chewing
    • The teeth of rabbits and small rodents grow throughout their lives, so they need safe things, such as plastic baby keys, wood blocks, cardboard cartons, or old towels, on which to chew.
    • All small mammals, including ferrets, are very curious and like to chew, and will experiment on anything they can get their mouths around, including electrical cords and house plants. Monitor out of cage playtime.
  • Exercise
    • All small mammals need some out of cage play time, especially rabbits and ferrets. ALL small mammals are escape artists and like dark, small places. Be sure to monitor out of cage playtime.


City of Bloomington, IN
Last updated: Sept 14, 2009's quote of the day
"Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want."
-Joseph Wood Krutch

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