Veterinary Care for Exotic & Pocket Pets
There are several different breeds of guinea pigs, which can usually be identified by their fur. English, or common, guinea pigs have short, straight, fine hair; Abyssinian guinea pigs have rough, coarse hair; and the Peruvian guinea pig is identified by its long, straight, silky hair. While not common, there are also hairless guinea pigs, sometimes referred to as “skinny pigs.”
The average lifespan for guinea pigs ranges from 5 – 6 years and their easy-to-care-for personality make them nice family pets. Requiring a high fiber and Vitamin C diet, it is recommended you purchase a quality commercial pellet for them to eat. Guinea pigs do not tolerate dietary change well, so any changes should be made gradually.
Guinea pigs do require indoor cages; however, a moderate size cage (18"x24") is more than enough room for one to two guinea pigs. Cages should be cleaned daily and have a ready supply of fresh water.
Pocket Pets: Hamsters, Gerbils, Rats, and Mice
Popular due to their minimal level of care, "pocket pets" are often considered ideal first pets for younger children. While their shorter lifespan is sometimes seen as a positive, it should be addressed with children early on so they are not shocked when their pet passes at an "early age."
Most pocket pets enjoy interaction with humans, especially if socialized and treated kindly from an early age. Some, such as rats, can even be trained to do tricks. Most are nocturnal animals, often playful at night. For this reason, it is recommended that cages be in a location where human sleep won’t be interrupted. It is important to maintain a clean and well-ventilated home for your pet in order to keep your pet happy and healthy.
Take time to talk with your veterinarian regarding a proper diet for your pocket pet. Most pet stores carry quality food for your pet, but mixes containing seeds are not recommended, as your pet will prefer to eat the seeds to nutrient-rich pellets.
With lifespans ranging from 5 – 8 years to 10 – 14 years, depending on the breed, rabbits can make good family pets. They are able to be litter box trained and rarely bite; however, they do have sharp claws and can occasionally scratch if they become frightened.
Rabbits have a relatively simple diet of mostly hay with some added pellets and fresh vegetables. They do benefit from a large cage, even for smaller rabbits. Known for their breeding abilities, it is strongly recommended to spay or neuter your rabbit to avoid unwanted and unplanned litters.