billings-iStock_000029796018_LargeIf you own a pocket pet like a rabbit, gerbil, hamster, ferret, or mouse, you are already in an elite club. Not everyone has the passion and know-how to keep one of these pint-sized critters. Keep reading to learn a few things that even you might not know about your fabulous pocket pet.

Pocket Pet Fact 1: Not All Vets Know How to Treat Them

Many people assume that just because a veterinarian has received his or her license that he or she can treat any type of animal. While this is technically true, many veterinarians have little or no knowledge regarding pocket pets and exotic pets.

If you have a pocket pet, look for a veterinarian with experience and an excitement for these special pets. This ensures that your pet’s doctor has the know-how and interest in helping you to provide good care for your pet. Billings Animal Family Hospital enjoys working with pocket pets and is happy to help you keep them healthy.

Pocket Pet Fact 2: Not All Pocket Pets Work in Every Home.

Most of our pocket pet species are actually wild animals that we have decided to welcome into our homes. Research the species that you are interested in owning before acquiring, if possible. Things to take into consideration include:

  • Is this animal primarily nocturnal or diurnal?
  • What type of lifespan does this pet have?
  • Does my daily routine allow time to properly care for this animal?
  • Is anyone in the household allergic to the bedding or feeding supplies required for this pet?
  • Will this pet be stressed in my home? (Take into account other pets and the noise-level of your home)
  • Am I allowed to have this type of pet? (If you rent)
  • Pocket Pet Fact 3: Pocket Pets Aren’t Always the Best Choice for Children.

    When it comes time to teach little ones some respect and responsibility, parents often think of small mammals as a good solution. Pocket pets and kids don’t always mix, though. While some can make great companions for little humans, others aren’t the best choice.  Research the species you are interested in and remember:

  • Pocket pets can have very short lifespans
  • Some pocket pets are prone to biting
  • Nocturnal pets are often less fun for children
  • Some small mammals don’t like to be handled
  • Small pets are still pets and require a clean, enriching environment with good nutrition
  • All pets require adult supervision
  • Pocket Pet Fact 4: Good Care Goes a Long Way.

    Individual species of small mammals have very different husbandry, or care, requirements. Learning about your pocket pet of choice through books, websites, breeders, and your veterinarian is very important. Be sure to know:

  • Does your pocket pet have certain nutritional requirements? What foods are harmful? What are appropriate treats?
  • What size and type of enclosure does your pet need? Are there certain temperature requirements?
  • Does your pet require a certain type of bedding?
  • Does your pet nest or take dust baths?
  • What type of enrichment does your pocket pet need? Will it need a friend?
  • Are there any household items or foods that could be harmful?
  • Poor husbandry is the number one cause of disease and illness in pocket pets. A little know-how can go a long way in being sure that these little critters remain happy and healthy.

    Pocket Pet Fact 5: It is Difficult to Know When a Pocket Pet is Sick.

    Pocket pets are wild animals, and like most wild animals they tend to hide signs of weakness. This means that it can be quite difficult to know when a pocket pet is sick until it is too late. Handling your pet frequently and paying attention to his or her normal habits is very important as are frequent check ups. Be sure to bring your pet in right away if he or she:

  • Has a decreased appetite
  • Is less active than normal
  • Experiences vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation (or any change in stools)
  • Stops grooming
  • Is hiding more than normal
  • Has weight loss
  • Has dull or sunken eyes
  • Is having any trouble breathing
  • Is drinking more than normal
  • Pocket pets can be great additions to the family and are just as enjoyable as any “traditional” pet in the right hands. They definitely need a little different type of care, though. Hopefully by reading through our pocket pet facts you are better prepared to care for these sweet little creatures.