Small Rodent Basics

A cage or enclosure of at least one foot by three feet with a secure top for each pet is ideal. The cage bottom should be solid, never wire mesh. Bedding should consist of a paper pulp product (like Carefresh or Yesterday’s News) or newspaper. Hiding areas such as cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls, and tissue boxes should also be provided. A solid-surface running wheel of appropriate size should be provided for exercise. House rodents individually because most species, especially hamsters, will fight with one another, even if they are the same sex. The only exception are gerbils or sibling pairs; you can house same sex pairs together if you watch their behavior closely to be sure that they will not fight or injure each other.

Rodent blocks or an appropriate pellet should compose the majority of the diet because this offers the complete nutrition small rodents need for a healthy life. Seeds, fruits, and vegetables can be used sparingly as treats but do not provide adequate vitamins and minerals as a primary diet. Timothy hay may also be offered. Fresh water should always be available and the water bottle or bowl should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.

Always use two hands when picking up small rodents and be very gentle. Try to avoid exposing small rodents to excessive noise, excitement, and over-handling and children should only handle these animals with adult supervision. Because they are nocturnal (active at night) they prefer to be handled in the evenings and can be more aggressive if you wake them during the day.

Always have an initial physical exam performed on any newly acquired pet. It is recommended to have your rodent return to the vet once a year for a physical exam or for any problems. Medical conditions that require attention include decreased appetite or trouble eating, diarrhea, lethargy, sneezing, difficulty breathing, or itchiness.