Complete guide to "small" pets
It's easy to know how to take care of dogs and cats: Everyone has them, so if you don't know something, you can just ask. But what about small animals -- how do you take care of them? Luckily, it's not that much more time consuming to take care of smaller animals -- many times, they're actually easier to care for than Fido the Dog or Fluffy the Cat!
Small pets -- unlike cats and dogs -- need to be kept in specialized housing. It's for their own good: Small animals aren't as easy to see as larger ones and can come underfoot. Hamsters, rabbits, birds and guinea pigs should be kept in specialized wire cages or hutches -- just be sure that they can't chew through the wires or fit their heads in between them.
Cages should also have plenty of litter or bedding to soak up the associated odors that come with small pets, along with places for their food and water. Their living quarters should also have room for them to roam around and get exercise -- or add something like a hamster wheel so they can get some movement in (hey, small pets can become obese, too!)
Fish and reptiles are better kept in glass aquariums. Fish should be in there for obvious reasons: They need water! Reptiles benefit from the warmer atmospheres in glass living quarters. For fish, make sure their aquariums or bowls are calibrated for their specific body chemistry -- for example, goldfish do just fine in fresh water, but more tropical fish require salt water or tanks with oxygen supplies. Both fish and reptiles should have rocks and other decorations in their tanks, too -- it gives them something to explore.
It should go without saying, but small pets need fresh food and water every day -- after all, you like to eat, right? So do small animals. All small pets do fine with fresh water, but their food requirements vary from species to species. For example, you can't feed a guinea pig leftover rabbit pellets because it doesn't contain enough vitamin C. Many types of small pets benefit from fresh fruit and veggies, though -- just be sure you clean the food of all pesticides and chop it up into bites that small critters can handle.
Oh, and don't forget to give them treats, too! Small animals love to snack on the fun stuff, just be sure that's not all their eating.
Exercise and play
Small animals -- like their human and larger animal counterparts -- need recreation and fun on a daily basis. Some of the smaller pets -- like fish -- are in charge of their own recreation since they can't get out of the bowl. However, critters like gerbils, guinea pigs and hamsters like to gnaw on toys and run around. Be sure to put toys made out of hemp and rope in their cages for them to play with and consider purchasing an exercise ball or wheel so they can safely run to their hearts' content.
Be sure to change out your pet's food and water every day and choose food bowls made of safe materials -- like ceramic -- to keep them happy and healthy. Also, make it a habit to check their cages for rips and tears -- small animals are known for being escape artists and can burrow out of even the smallest holes in their cages.
Also, be sure to research before you decide which small animal to buy. For example, busy people might be better suited for a fish rather than a bird. Know your lifestyle and you'll avoid the heartache and stress that comes with giving up a small pet you can't properly care for.
What are your tips for caring for small animals? Share in the comments below!