Pets column: Is a pocket pet for you?I have always been an animal lover. As a child, one of my favorite springtime activities was going to the local feed store to look down into the bins of chicks and ducklings and gaze wistfully into the cages of rabbits on display.
By: Amy Miller, For the Budgeteer News
I have always been an animal lover.
As a child, one of my favorite springtime activities was going to the local feed store to look down into the bins of chicks and ducklings and gaze wistfully into the cages of rabbits on display. Critters of all shapes and sizes fascinated me, and my parents quickly learned that none were off limits to the question, “Can I have one?”
In fact, I distinctly remember how I got my first rabbit. After seeing an ad for baby bunnies in the newspaper one summer morning, I spent the day cleaning the house from top to bottom as a surprise for my parents. When they returned home from work and discovered my handiwork, I slyly mentioned the ad. Although I now realize I wasn’t fooling anyone with my impromptu cleaning spree, my parents decided to let me answer the ad and we picked up my new friend that night.
I learned a lesson that day: Good behavior is sometimes rewarded. Over the next few weeks I learned another valuable lesson: Regardless of cost or size, all pets require commitment and responsibility.
It is easy to fall in love with adorable small animals such as hamsters, gerbils, mice, and rabbits. Soft fur, tiny twitching noses, and petite paws make these “pocket pets” irresistible.
Pocket pets can make wonderful companions. They may be a good choice for those who cannot own a cat or dog because of space or rental restrictions. Typically, these small animals cost less and their shorter life spans don’t call for the 10- or 20-year commitment a kitten or puppy might. But before deciding to get any new pet, it is crucial to do your research.
The Humane Society of the United States has a website with helpful articles about different species that can be used to research a potential new pet. These articles contain interesting facts that may surprise you. For example, did you know that the lifespan of a mouse, rat, or hamster is about two to three years while that of a guinea pig or rabbit is roughly five to seven? That rabbits need chew toys for the health of their teeth, plenty of space to play, and can be litter-box trained? That hamsters are nocturnal and may not be the best choice for a light sleeper? That rats are very smart and social animals? Gathering this type of information on each species’ specific needs will help you decide which is right for you and help you plan and prepare for your new pet.
As mentioned above, a small animal can cost less than a cat or dog. But before you get that $4-mouse, consider the cost of setup and care.
While each species has its own specific needs, most require a cage, water bottle, food dish, toys, exercise wheel, and hiding house just to get started. Take into account ongoing costs of food, bedding, and replacement equipment, and it may be surprising how quickly it adds up. Before choosing a pet, make sure these expenses are included in your budget.
Remember to budget for medical emergencies and routine veterinary care as well. Give yourself time to find a veterinarian who specializes in the type of animal you choose.
As with any new pet, anticipate a lifestyle change. You’ll need to set aside ample time to give meals, clean cages, and interact with your furry companion.
As always, once you’re prepared for a new pet, think adoption first.
A quick search on the Petfinder website showed almost 900 rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, hamsters and other pocket pets within 500 miles of Duluth awaiting new homes. With proper research and preparation, they could be welcomed into yours.
And parents, consider yourself forewarned if you return from work to find a freshly cleaned house.
Amy Miller is the marketing and communications manager for Animal Allies Humane Society. She lives in Duluth with her husband and three adopted pets: dogs Maverick and Goose, and a cat named Buddy Love.