Exotic mammals make for a wonderful, fun addition to any household. We are able to see common small exotic mammal pets, including rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, sugar gliders, chinchillas, ferrets, and hedgehogs. Annual visits are essential to keeping your exotic pet healthy. At your pet’s exam, your veterinarian will discuss their needs in detail with you. As a supplement, we have provided basic husbandry tips for you below.
All exotic mammals that can be kept as pets have their own unique needs when it comes to their housing. You should choose an enclosure for your pet based upon its species, size, and need for space. Some pets, such as hamsters, do well living in smaller cages with appropriate enrichment, while others, such as rabbits or chinchillas, need space to explore, sleep, and play. At a minimum, your exotic mammal’s enclosure should be about 5x their size when they are fully stretched out. You should select an enclosure that will be reasonable for you to clean regularly. Typically a good rule to follow is to ensure you clean your pet’s enclosure at least several times a week. Cleaning may include changing out the bedding or lining of the cage, wiping down surfaces, and inspecting the cage for any damages.
What Should Be Included In Their Enclosure?
Food and water: There are a few basic needs of all exotic mammals, regardless of species. Each pet will need dedicated food and water that should be changed/cleaned daily to prevent bacteria from growing. The food you select should be based on your pet’s specific nutritional needs, please discuss with your veterinarian what will be the best diet for your pet. In general, your exotic pet will need a nutritionally balanced food such as a pellet diet. Additionally it is great to supplement their diet with snacks and treats! Snacks and treats can vary and you may choose to include fresh fruits and veggies or store bought treats. It is best to avoid foods that are excessively sticky, sugary, or citrus.
Bedding: All mammals need a place to ‘bed down’. When selecting a bedding, choose a type commonly used for your specific pet. The bedding you choose should be one that is affordable and easy for you to change regularly. Options include: Natural paper bedding from brands like Yesterday’s News or Carefresh, or fleece fabric that you wash regularly. You should also provide a hammock, den, tunnel, or a combination of areas designed for your pet to nestle down for some shut eye. Small mammals like to feel safe and protected; giving them a place to hide while they sleep is important to their overall well-being.
Enrichment: Enrichment is highly important for all pets! Enrichment allows your pet to expend energy and use their brain for good. While the type of enrichment utilized for each species may vary, there are some certainties. Every exotic mammal should have some sort of toy to keep them busy when you are not able to spend time with them. Your exotic pet needs daily play time or enrichment to satisfy their highly intelligent minds.This could include a running wheel, something to chew on, or even something simple such as a non-edible ball. Other examples of toys you may already have in your home are: Cardboard egg cartons, boxes, or toilet paper rolls to play with under supervision. When selecting toys, it is important for you to select those that your pet will not be able to destroy and ingest.
Small mammals need plenty of exercise in addition to proper enrichment. While we encourage all pet owners to handle their exotic pets regularly, sometimes they may prove to be a fickle friend. If your exotic pet is not fond of being handled, we suggest finding another way for them to expend some energy. Some ideas include a running wheel, a multi-level enclosure, or supervised time outside of their enclosure where they may explore and move about. Each exotic will have a different requirement for their physical needs; ask your veterinarian for more detail on the needs of your particular pet.
A proper diet will vary by species, but we are able to provide the basic needs for most small exotic mammals. A diet rich in fiber, such as forage diets, are essential for exotic mammals. For all herbivorous mammals fresh hay should be available at all times. As a compliment to having fresh hay, pelleted diets are ideal for providing optimal nutrition. Some species have special requirements, such as guinea pigs and ferrets, and will need more specialized diets. Further diet recommendations can be discussed during your pet’s annual visit.
For most small exotics, their preventative care includes an annual exam and maybe some grooming. It is imperative your exotic pet takes a trip to the vet at least once a year for a check-up, your vet may notice something medically concerning before you do. Ferrets also have the requirement of needing both a rabies and a distemper vaccination, just as dogs and cats do.
What Is A Small Mammal Emergency?
Exotics are unique; certain changes that would not be alarming in dogs and cats are considered an emergency for exotic mammals. A change in stool, appetite, or energy signals significant illness and requires veterinary intervention quickly; these symptoms signal an emergency that calls for immediate medical attention.
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