Is a Small "Pocket" Pet Right for You?

These tips for taking care of rabbits, birds, guinea pigs and other animals can help you make an informed decision.  

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- Posted on Jan 29, 2020

A small, green parakeet in a bird cage.

While dogs and cats are the most popular pets in America, there are many other animals that might be right for your family. Some people prefer a smaller “pocket pet.” Think about what kind of pet best fits your lifestyle. Will you have enough time to devote to its care? How much will it cost you to house, feed and provide it with medical attention? Do you have enough room? Here are some other points to consider.

Rabbits

· Bunnies are often purchased on a whim for Easter, and later given up or even abandoned. Remember, pet rabbits can’t survive if released into the wild. If your family wants to welcome a bunny, be sure you can commit to its care for its whole life—10 years or more.

· Rabbits are social and enjoy being part of the family, but many don’t like being picked up and held, which may not be ideal for young kids. 

· Although precautions are necessary to rabbit-proof the home, some people allow pet rabbits to run free inside. It’s even possible to train your rabbit to use a litter box.

· Some rabbits can be kept outside in a large hutch or a shed. Just make sure their home is safe, dry and well-ventilated and has protection from extreme temperatures and drafts. 

· Consider adopting your rabbit from a local animal shelter.

Baby Chicks and Ducks

· Chicks and ducklings are also popular at Easter, but unlike domestic pets, they are generally considered livestock and require special provisions and veterinary care. Check your zoning laws. Some municipalities don’t allow chickens or ducks in residential areas.

· You’ll need to provide a safe and secure enclosure; ducks also require a protected place to swim. Both animals will attract predators, even in urban areas.

· Chicks and ducks can carry salmonella. Wash your hands with antibacterial soap after handling them.

· These pets often lose their appeal, especially to youngsters, when they grow into adult animals.

Guinea Pigs

· Guinea pigs are happiest with company, so consider getting two. Two males generally get along better than two females.

· These large rodents make adorable vocalizations but can be noisy. They “wheek” loudly when they want food or attention.

· Guinea pigs create a lot of waste. To prevent odor, you’ll need to clean their cage often. Be sure it’s large enough for separate nest, bathroom, and food and water areas; most cages sold for guinea pigs are too small.

· Consider adopting. It’s possible to find guinea pigs at animal shelters.

Birds

· Birds like attention and may engage in destructive behavior, such as plucking feathers, if they’re lonely, bored or stressed.

· Do you prefer quiet? Birds can be very noisy. They also tend to be early risers, so they may wake you up.

· Birds are sensitive to drafts, temperature changes, and odors like cigarette smoke and chemical fumes.

· They can be messy, scattering seed and shavings outside their cages.

· Some diseases, such as avian tuberculosis, can be transmitted through the air from bird to human.

Herptiles

· Educate yourself on habitat requirements for your specific herptile (reptile or amphibian). You’ll need to regulate temperature, lighting, humidity, moisture and water quality. Make sure the enclosure is safe and escape-proof.

· Check your zoning laws. Some municipalities have regulations about keeping certain kinds of lizards, snakes and other reptiles and amphibians. 

· Consider the adult size of the animal. Will you be comfortable with your little snake once it becomes a five-foot python?

· Are you squeamish? Some herptiles need to be fed live food. Think about where you’ll purchase and store live mealworms, crickets or mice.

· Reptiles and amphibians can carry salmonella. Always wash your hands with antibacterial soap after you handle them. Small pets can be wonderful additions to your family, but just as with cats and dogs, it’s important to consider all the factors of care before bringing one home.

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