Other Small Furries
Hamsters are rodents, with an average lifespan of 2-3 years. There are several species that are kept as pets, with varying coat colours. Most species have expandable cheek pouches with which to store and carry food and bedding back to their nests. They are nocturnal creatures. They are very active and have lots of energy, and need items such as a wheel, boxes and tubes to keep them occupied. They spend a lot of time grooming themselves, and arrange their living environment into separate areas for sleeping, feeding, playing and toileting. They need plenty of fibre to wear down their continuously growing teeth. Some breeds of hamster are fiercely territorial and are better kept alone.
Chinchillas are lively animals that can live up to 15 years in captivity. They are native to the Andes mountains in South America, where they live in burrows or crevices in rocks. They are agile jumpers and can jump up to 6 foot. Baby chinchillas are born fully furred and with their eyes open. Chinchillas are mostly nocturnal, and live in large social groups. They are therefore happier being kept in at least pairs. Chinchillas clean their fur by taking dust baths which absorbs oil and dirt. Their luxuriant coat is so dense that it resists parasites such as fleas. They have continuously growing teeth and need somethin to chew on, such as pumice stone or a piece of wood.
Their delicate build and nocturnal habit means that they aren't really suitable pets for small children.
The mouse - Mus musculus - is a rodent that is becoming increasingly popular as a pet. Mice have a playful nature and can grow used to being handled. They are herbivores, enjoying a large variety of vegetables. They are sociable animals that like to groom and play together, and should be kept in groups or pairs of the same sex. However, they shouldn't be kept with other rodents. They like to climb and explore, and branches, ropes and tubes make ideal additions to their cage. Mice are nocturnal, and have a normal lifespan of up to 2 years.
Degus - Octodon degus - are small rodents native to Chile. They make very social pets and are awake during the day. Degus like to hide in their bedding, and need regular sand baths to keep their coat clean. They also need a wooden block to gnaw on and grind down their continuously growing teeth. They are social creatures, and ideally should be kept in pairs of the same sex. The normal lifespan of a degu is about 5 years.
Rats are popular pets, known for their intelligence and docile nature. Domestic rats are not hardy, and should be housed inside. Their ideal food is a complete food specifically for rats, and they need a source of fibre to grind down their continually growing teeth. They are active creatures and should be provided with boxes, tubes and tunnels to explore. They enjoy company, and are best kept in pairs or groups of the same sex. Their average lifespan is 2-3 years.
Gerbils are a type of rodent and are indigenous to Africa, Asia and India. The Mongolian gerbil is the most common breed kept as a pet. They have many different coat colours. They have a placid and inquisitive nature, rarely bite and are awake during the day, and therefore make a popular pet for children. They have an average lifespan of 3-5 years. Gerbils have continuously growing teeth and need to gnaw on fibre to wear them down and prevent overgrowing.
Gerbils are sociable creatures and are much happier living in pairs or groups to allow them to perform normal social behaviours. Gerbils aren't often neutered, and will need to be kept in single-sex groups.