Caring for a Small Animal Is a Big Commitment
Thinking of getting a fish, guinea pig, hamster, rabbit, chinchilla, reptile, bird, or other small animal because it will be “easier” than caring for a dog or cat? Think again.
They may be small, but these animals have specialised needs and caring for them requires just as much time, energy, commitment, and love as caring for a canine or feline companion. Like all animals, small ones need routine and emergency veterinary care—which is often more expensive than care for cats and dogs, as regular clinics may refer them to veterinarians who specialise in treating exotic animals.
They also need nutritious food and clean water; regular grooming; a comfortable and clean living environment; daily exercise and attention; lights, temperatures, and humidity levels that are specific to their needs; and more. Unfortunately, many people underestimate what’s involved in caring for these small beings, and they’re frequently neglected—sometimes, fatally.
For example, small animals’ need for companionship (or solitude, in the case of hamsters) is often ignored by people who are uninformed about—or indifferent to—this requirement. Guinea pigs are often kept alone, but companionship is so vital to their well-being that Switzerland has made it illegal to keep only one of these animals. Gerbils are also highly social and languish if kept in solitary confinement. Isolating a rabbit in a hutch is a recipe for a lonely, withdrawn, unhappy bunny.
Confining these social animals alone, in outdoor hutches, cages shoved into a forgotten corner of the house, or tiny bowls or tanks, is just as unacceptable as keeping a dog on a chain 24/7 or forcing a cat to live in a closet.
If you’re certain that you have the time, money, ability, desire, and dedication needed to provide a small animal with a lifetime of care, please give an animal a second chance at life and love by adopting from a shelter. Many shelters have small animals available for adoption.
If you already have small animals, please consider how you can better meet their needs and make their lives happier and more fulfilling. Perhaps that means providing a larger habitat with hiding places and interesting areas to explore, spending more time brushing and playing with them, keeping their minds engaged with games and treat puzzles, or adopting a carefully matched companion for a lonely, solitary animal.
Small animals have feelings, needs, and desires that are just as real and important as those of cats and dogs. We hold their happiness—and entire world—in our hands, so let’s always do our best for them.