With the summer holidays fast approaching you may have been asked to look after a friends pet while they are away. Or your kids may have been asking you if they can have one and you have decided now is the time. These animals can make great first pets for your children but remember to consider all the aspects of their care before taking them on.
When you bring them home find your new pet a position in the home where they will feel safe and secure (no prying dog’s and cat’s noses). They should be able to get used to the hustle and bustle of your household, without feeling disturbed by it. You also need to make sure they are not exposed to extremes of temperature, so no draughts and no baking hot sun in the summer.
Whichever pet you are looking after, remember that you have the potential to be big and threatening to these little animals. Let them settle in for a week with minimal handling. When you start handling them remember that you need to earn their trust. Put your hand in so they can sniff you and get used to you before you try to pick them up. Then gently open your hand and scoop them up in cupped hands. Some of these guys are fast so make sure you are handling them in a secure room. Hold them over something so that if they make a leap there is not far to fall. For the more cautious animals or handlers try laying a cup on its side in their cage and herd them into it so you can pick them up in the cup. A good tip to allow you to clean out their cage is to put them in a clean, dry bath with the plug in. Most of these animals will not be able to escape from the bath!
A lovely gentle pet with lots of energy, Hamsters are nocturnal so will sleep during the day and wake at dusk. They are generally best kept on their own, although some breeds can be kept together.
Gerbils are fast and energetic, but great fun and easy to tame. They are active during the day and will keep you entertained. Gerbils are social animals and don’t like to be kept alone. However, be cautious of introducing a new gerbil to an existing one as they can sometimes fight. Gerbils like to dig, so make sure you get a cage with a deep base that you can fill up with sawdust. Never pick up a gerbil by its tail as you can cause injury.
Rats might not be everyone’s cup of tea but they actually make fantastic pets. They are very friendly, intelligent and easy to train. Rats are also sociable and do not like to live alone but go gently if introducing a new rat to an existing one. When buying a cage for a rat, remember their size, they need more room than some of the other small pets and love toys to keep them entertained.