Davenport Veterinarian’s Guide to Pocket Pets – Part 1

Just what exactly is a pocket pet? We use the term to describe small mammals.  These include rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, rats, gerbils, ferrets, sugar gliders, chinchillas and hedgehogs.  Some have been around for years and others such as sugar gliders and hedgehogs are relatively new to pet owners.  Each has its own specific set of needs and health issues and all have become a growing part of veterinary medicine.  We certainly enjoy having them as patients at our clinic.

One of the key differences between the pocket pet owners of today from those of the past is the desire to provide better care for their pets. No longer satisfied with just replacing one pet with another should illness occur, they insist on quality care.  Pocket pets have become near and dear to our hearts, often assuming the same importance as dogs and cats to many owners.  Often one of the biggest hurdles in small mammal ownership is finding a veterinarian who is well versed in the specific requirements of their unusual pet.

Why choose a pocket pet? They can be a great option for those with limited space or a rental situation where larger animals are not allowed.  They are generally housed in a cage and so are much less likely to damage your home or apartment. Even better, the cost of feeding and caring for a little critter is generally about ½ or less than that of a traditional pet.  For the most part, most pocket pets are nonaggressive and will adapt quite well to handling.  They each have individual personalities, are quite playful and generally fun to have around.  Some, such as rats and ferrets, are highly trainable and capable of learning tricks and other complex behaviors.

Like any other pet, small mammals have specific housing, feeding and care needs. Not all of them may be appropriate for young children.  The small size of many pocket pets makes them fragile and particularly susceptible to injury if dropped or handled roughly.  Others, although cute to look at,  require much more detailed care than others.

One final reminder; just like your dogs and cats, pockets pets need to checked annually for parasites. It is also a good idea to bring them in yearly for an overall health check.  Since most exotic pets mask illness, this is one way to help us diagnose any medical problems early enough to treat them. Our aim is to keep them healthier and you happier.

Remember, this is just a quick overview of the world of pocket pets. If you are considering adding one of these charmers to your home, please do your research first.  Shelters are already seeing an increase in the number of little critters that are thoughtlessly acquired then just as thoughtlessly discarded.  Please don’t add to the problem.

We will take a closer look at each of the individual pocket pets in upcoming blogs.  So, be sure to check back in.