Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Pet Talk

April 8, 2013

Pet Talk: Bringing home your first rodent

While many may not find a rodent as a first choice for a pet, with some insight and guidance you may be more receptive to the idea of a small hamster or rat becoming a suitable pet for your family.

"Rats are probably the most social and interactive of the small rodents," said Dr. Sharman Hoppes, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. "Rats are gentle, seldom bite, and are active during the day and are fairly easy to take care of,"  Hoppes said.  "Rats do not have special dietary needs or sensitive stomachs, although they do need a good quality rodent block or pellet." ‘The seed mix diets are not a nutritionally adequate diet.

To determine which pet may be best for you, you need to evaluate your expectations.

"When picking out a pet rodent, you should select an active, social rodent with clean eyes, clean nose, and normal teeth.  The skin should be well groomed and clean. There should be no lumps or bumps on their skin,” said Hoppes.

Small rodents, such as mice and hamsters, can bite more and tend to be more active at night.

Guinea pigs and chinchillas are a bit bigger and are gentle pets, but they have special dietary needs and their teeth continuously grow.

Gerbils are unlikely to bite, if handled gently.  They have few health problems and are the cleanest of all the commonly kept pet rodents.

If you are more interested in observing your pet and don't have as much time, a gerbil, hamster, or mouse is an option as they are happy living in their cage.

"If you want a socially active pet that needs lots of attention and activity, a rat, chinchilla, or guinea pig is a great pet," said Hoppes.  "Rats are so social that they should not be housed alone. If you are a night owl, then hamsters may be best since they tend to sleep all day and run in their wheel all night.

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