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Vital Stats of Little Critters

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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Most people are aware of the life expectancy, age of puberty and length of pregnancy for dogs and cats, but what about other types of popular pets? Guinea pigs, rats, gerbils, rabbits and hamsters are common pets, but vital statistics about these creatures aren't always readily available. Just how long will your small mammal live?

Life Expectancy

  • Rats live about 2 to 3 years.
  • Gerbils tend to live up to 4 years.
  • Sugar gliders live 4 to 5 years.
  • Mice and hamsters average 1 to 3 years.
  • Guinea pigs, chinchillas and hedgehogs average 5 to 8 years.
  • Ferrets and rabbits tend to live the longest, averaging 8 to 10 years.

    Age of Puberty

    With such a short life span, many small mammals begin reproducing early in life. Knowing when puberty hits can help you prevent unwanted additional pets and to understand the reason behind a sudden change in behavior.

  • Mice, rats and hamsters go through puberty at 4 to 6 weeks of age.
  • Gerbils wait a little longer, around 9 to 12 weeks of age.
  • Guinea pigs can reproduce at the tender age of 2 to 3 months.
  • Rabbits generally go through puberty around 4 to 6 months of age.
  • Ferrets and hedgehogs around 6 to 8 months of age.
  • Chinchillas and sugar gliders have wide ranges of age of puberty, varying between 4 to 12 months of age in chinchillas and 8 to 15 months in sugar gliders.

    Heat Cycles

    Once these little critters go through puberty, length of heat cycle is another important statistic to know.

  • Chinchillas average 40 days.
  • Sugar gliders average around 29 days.
  • Ferrets have one of the longest, averaging up to 160 days.
  • Mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, gerbils and hamsters all range from 10 to 20 days.

    Length of Pregnancy

    If breeding is your intention, length of pregancy, also called gestation, can help you prepare for your little ones.

  • Hamsters and sugar gliders have the shortest, averaging 16 days.
  • Mice and rats are pregnant for only about 3 weeks.
  • Gerbils wait a little longer and deliver 25 days after pregnancy.
  • Guinea pigs deliver their progeny in just around 2 months.
  • Rabbits average a pregnancy of around 30 days.
  • Hedgehogs average 35 days.
  • Ferrets are pregnant for about 42 days.
  • Chinchillas have the longest gestation at 111 days.

    Size of the Litter

    How many babies can you expect to be born?

  • Mice, rats, rabbits, hamsters and ferrets average five to 10 babies.
  • Guinea pigs and sugar gliders average around two babies.
  • Gerbils and hedgehogs usually deliver around three babies.
  • Chinchillas vary between one to six babies.

    Adulthood

    After delivering the babies, there is one more thing you need to know. When can they live on their own?

  • Rabbits, ferrets and hedgehogs are weaned at 4 to 6 weeks of age.
  • Chinchillas should stay with their mother for at least 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Sugar gliders can live independently at the ripe old age of 120 days.
  • Mice, rats, guinea pigs, gerbils and hamsters are weaned around 3 weeks of age.

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