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Your Guide to Selecting a Small Mammal

If you are thinking about adopting a small mammal but are not quite sure which one to get, this article is for you. You have a world of critters to choose from. Educating yourself about each one will help you decide which one would work best with your family.

Ferret. No one knows when the first ferret crawled up onto the first human lap for a nap, but it’s a good bet that first ferret owner was wearing a toga. These entertaining, sociable animals usually wake up four to eight times a day ready to play, to relieve themselves, to eat and to get into things.

Rabbit. Rabbits are naturally skittish animals. If you understand your rabbit’s normal behaviors and adjust, you can have a wonderful, loving relationship with your soft, but not so cuddly, rabbit.

Hamster. A pet hamster needs the same things that his wild cousins do: lots of exercise, available food and fresh water, and a safe and secure place to sleep away the majority of the day. He will be happiest if you give him his space and allow him to rest on his schedule rather than yours.

Gerbil. Gerbils are excellent small pets because they are naturally curious and social animals and do not bite people unless scared or mishandled. Gerbils emit very little waste and thus are clean and relatively odorless additions to the household.

Guinea pig. A Guinea pig is an ideal first pet for many people. Also known as a cavie (pronounced “ka-vee”), it is an infrequent biter and unfussy eater popular among breeders and casual pet owners alike. Plus, Guinea pigs are just as cute as can be.

Sugar glider. Sugar gliders weigh anywhere from about 3 to 5.5 ounces depending on their gender and measure up to more than 8 inches long. From a good height, they can take “flights” of more than 150 feet. In their native habitat they live in the trees as family groups, and this communal living appears to be critical to their survival.

Hedgehog. Hedgehogs are small animals, about the size of guinea pigs. When hedgehogs are frightened or sleeping, they will use their strong abdominal muscle to draw themselves into a ball about the size of a grapefruit, exposing to predators just a mouthful of spines.

Chinchilla. Quick, agile, acrobatic, quiet, shy, high-strung, odorless and fastidious, chinchillas are soft balls of luxurious fur that make hardy, if rambunctious pets.

Mice. Mice are timid, social and territorial animals. They are not strictly nocturnal, which means they are active throughout the day and night. The female makes a better pet than the male, which tends to have a strong, offensive odor.

Rats. Rats are very sociable animals. They love being played with by their owners and quite happily ride around on your shoulder, take food treats from your hand and sit on your lap. With patience and gentle training you can even teach your rat to answer to its name, fetch objects thrown and complete obstacle courses.

By getting to know as much as you can about your future pet, you can make the best selection for your family and home.