There is a time in every child’s life where he or she gets their first ever pet, and that pet is typically a rodent of one type pr another. These pets have been in the industry for decades primarily for the reason that they are incredibly inexpensive. Unfortunately for the animals, their incredibly low price has caused them to be a disposable pet or in a lot more cases, a food item for predatory animals like snake and various reptile species. Unfortunately for all those people who disregard these little creatures because of their low cost, they are missing out on some of the most intelligent creatures on the face of the planet. Perhaps it is because they are prey items to most creatures but for some reason they have evolved to be incredibly intelligent, but they are all incredibly short lived. Of the hundreds of rodents in the world, this article will focus on mice, hamsters, and guinea pigs because through these three rodents, you will get a good picture of the diversity of these fantastic animals. Although research is essential to any hobby, with the level of diversity in the rodent hobby, an extensive amount of research is needed to be truly successful in this hobby.
What is a Rodent?
Rodentia is an order of mammals also known as rodents, characterized by two continuously growing incisors in the upper and lower jaws which must be kept short by gnawing. Common rodents include mice, rats, squirrels, porcupines, beavers, chipmunks, guinea pigs, and voles. A mouse (plural: mice) is a small mammal belonging to the order of rodents. The best known mouse species is the common house mouse. Hamsters are rodents belonging to the subfamily Cricetinae. The subfamily contains about 25 species, classified in six or seven genera. The guinea pig (Cavia porcellus), also called the cavy, is a species of rodent belonging to the family Caviidae and the genus Cavia. Despite their common name, these animals are not pigs, nor do they come from Guinea.
Purchasing Your First Rodent
The first rule about purchasing your first rodent as a pet is to buy a species that is interesting to you. Never be persuaded to purchase a animal that you don’t want because you are told it is an easier to keep animal meant for a beginner. If it is a rodent that you don’t really want, then it is a pet that you will grow tired of in the future. Regardless of what type it is that you want, you have to ensure you do all the research about it prior to purchasing it so that you take proper care of the reptile from day one. Mice, hamsters, and guinea pigs are just three of the many different types of rodents in pet stores, and with a little bit of research on your part, you will find a pet that peaks you interest and fall in love. That’s not to mention that there are dozens of different types of mice, hamsters, and guinea pigs available on the market at any given time, which gives you a vast supple of rodents to choose from.
One of the most debated issues in all of the pet industry is whether to purchase from a private breeder or from a pet store. Here is an argument that is based on a few too many bad apples spoiling it for the bunch. Without pet stores, there simply would not be pet industry because it was various pet stores that sparked the interest in small animals in the first place. But over the past twenty years, there have been numerous cases of animals being sold by people thinking only of profit as their small animals suffer from neglect. Thankfully, there has been numerous pet enthusiasts stepping forward to challenge pet stores to live up to the standards that their customers demand, and there have also been numerous pet stores in North America that have been promoting proper care of animals for years. The downside to purchasing from a pet store is that you will be paying higher prices because the pet store purchases from breeders and then mark up the prices to make a profit. Sometimes you will find unique snakes in pet stores, but for the most time, they are usually the run of the mill whereas, if you purchase from a breeder, you may be able to get a more unique morph that most people have never seen before.
As a general rule of thumb, always try to purchase the healthiest reptile available. This is easily done by purchasing the largest reptile in a group that has bright eyes and is active. Larger animals typically mean that they are being well fed and cared for. If a reptile is skinny and not active, then it is best to leave it be. One of the most common reasons for buying a small sickly animal from either a breeder or pet store is because you want to save it and nurse it back to health. Although noble your intentions might be, a life time of health issues will not make you love your new pet any more, and health issues in reptiles are incredibly difficult to treat especially if it is young and has yet to build up a resistance to illnesses. A healthy animal can live many years, and if you put in the time that is necessary, you will be rewarded in the long run. The other thing that research comes in handy for is that there are some species of rodents that like being in groups and there are some that do best as individuals. In most cases, more than one male in a cage will fight, which often leaves one or both seriously injured.
Glass aquariums or cages with wire bars and plastic flooring, are the most common types of housing. A span between cage bars of less than 9 mm prevents young mice and hamsters from attempting to escape by forcing themselves through the bars, where they may get stuck. This can also help prevent predatory pets such as cats, dogs, arthropods, snakes, and other carnivores from killing and eating the your newly acquired pet. In the case of guinea pigs, a significantly larger cage is required, and the most popular method of keeping these larger rodents is by utilizing larger cages meant for rabbits. The best products for in-cage bedding are aspen wood shavings. Paper-pulp-based products are also available, as well as a variety of recycled products, though newspaper products may contain inks, dyes and other chemicals from the papermaking process, but all are non-toxic and should generally be avoided. Cedar and pine, even kiln-dried, should not be used as they release aromatic oils that damage the respiratory system and can cause or exacerbate chronic respiratory disease. Recent research suggests that paper-pulp beddings may allow very high concentrations of ammonia to build up in cages, especially those with little ventilation.
Rodent cages should be cleaned every couple of days to stop it smelling and disinfected properly every 2 weeks to prevent infection and disease. Compared to larger mammals, the mouse`s small body makes it difficult to regulate body temperature effectively. Thus, drafts and large fluctuations in temperature can adversely affect the health of small animals. Low wattage reptile bulbs are a great help in the case of colder climates, but general cage placement, avoiding doors, windows, and casual walkways, will prevent your little boy or girl from getting sick from constant breezes. If you are going to use a reptile bulb, it is best to remember that most rodent species are nocturnal, only active at night, and therefore, the bulb you buy should be infrared so that you don’t mess with their nighttime activities.
Small hideaways and toys, such as cardboard boxes and tubes, are good to have in the cage. Commercial toys are also available that stimulate their minds and also act as chew toys that are required to file down their ever growing teeth. Since most rodents travel many miles in the wild in search of food, water, and mates, there is a great need and love for running on exercise wheels. These are commercially available for all sized of rodents from the smallest mouse to the biggest guinea pig. The other thing that all small rodents love to do is to make a comfy nest out of random bits of things they find in the wild. Thankfully, you don’t have to collect random pieces of trash from outside because there are commercially available “fluff” products available for rodent owners. The main thing you have to remember is that every rodent is a little bit different, and you have to do your research before you bring an animal home. Since a majority of these animals are for children, the worst thing you can do is break a child’s heart by having to replace a pet that it has bonded with.
Variety Equals Healthy Diet
Mice and Hamster’s diet have one of the larger varieties of food that ranges from specially formulated feed mixes to fresh veggies to table scraps. Carrot, spinach, tomato, and lettuce are usually very inexpensive, although the latter should be applied sparingly as it may not provide a balanced diet. Bread crumbs, wheat and rice can also be good for mice and hamsters. Laboratories keeping mice as experimental subjects almost uniformly use a product called lab block, a scientifically-formulated blend originally designed for mice in laboratories, which is also now designed for pet stores. Hamsters have a specialty dry food that is designated specifically for them, but is almost the same as the food produce for mice. In order to keep variety in their diets, mice and hamsters can also eat a variety of grains like oats, oily seeds, clean eggshell, breakfast cereal, and stale bread. For a more natural diet, fruit and veggies are a very healthy diet for mice. The key to a happy and healthy mouse is a diet that is full of variety and designed to ensure the mouse gets the best diet available. Mice and hamsters will also drink water but require little of it because they rely mainly on the moisture present in their food. If a water source is provided, then a gravity bottle feeder is necessary for maintaining the cleanliness of the water supply. Although it does sound pretty gross, mice will eat their feces to acquire nutrients produced by bacteria in their intestines, which is a behavior they share with rabbits and guinea pigs that is called Coprophagy.
Guinea Pig`s have a fairly simple and natural diet, grass. After centuries of evolution, the guinea pigs’ molars are particularly suited for grinding plant matter, and grow continuously throughout the animal`s life. Most grass-eating mammals are quite large and have a long digestive tract; while guinea pigs have much longer colons than most rodents, they must also supplement their diet by coprophagy, the eating of their own feces. Guinea pigs benefit from feeding on fresh grass hay, such as timothy hay, in addition to food pellets which are often based from timothy. Alfalfa is also a popular food choice; most guinea pigs will eat large amounts of alfalfa when offered it, though there exists some controversy over the feeding of alfalfa to adult guinea pigs because some pet owners and veterinary organizations have advised that, as a legume rather than a grass hay, alfalfa consumed in large amounts may lead to obesity, as well as bladder stones due to excess calcium. However, published scientific sources mention alfalfa as a source for replenishment of protein, amino acids, and fiber.
When it comes to nutrition, guinea pigs are a lot like humans because they cannot synthesize their own vitamin C, and they must obtain this vital nutrient from food otherwise they can suffer a potentially fatal bought of scurvy. The easiest way to ensure they get the required level of vitamin c is to ensure a lot of fresh foods go into their diet like broccoli, apple, cabbage, carrot, celery, and spinach. The other way is to simply add a dietary supplement to the guinea pigs’ normal food, whether that be the pellet food or fresh veggies. Not only do they require vitamin c supplementation, but a healthy diet for guinea pigs require a complex balance of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and hydrogen ions; adequate amounts of vitamins E, A, and D that are also necessary, which are all supplements that can be added to their food if need be.
Although the second they are found running across the floor, over your front lawn, or basically anywhere outside of a plastic or glass cage, rodents are considered pests no matter where they are found. There are a lot of reasons behind this image of the rodent, but the most significant negative event that has been attributed to rodents is of course the Black Plague where hundreds of thousands of people were killed by the fleas that rats carried throughout Europe. Rodents have always been seen to infiltrate our homes and cause destruction by getting into our foods, chewing anything they can, and leaving poop everywhere. Its impossible to erase this negative picture that has been painted, but for some reason, people have been generally accepting of rodents as pets. Mice, hamsters, and guinea pigs are arguably the most popular of the pet store rodents, but there are also many others that people can choose from like rats, gerbils, and degus. Despite how small they are or how relatively short they live, they are some of the most intelligent creatures on the planet. For those of you who are fans of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy books, television show, and movie, you will be aware that mice are also the most intelligent creatures in the entire universe. The truth is that they simply are some of the most diverse and fascinating animals that most people have already had or will probably have in the future. Even though you know they are pets and despised by a majority of the population, their little beady eyes, messy fur, and little personalities will always steal you heart.