Small pets are a great addition to the family and make wonderful companions for people of all ages. However, as with any other pet, you need to do your research before committing to ensure you can correctly care for your new family member. If you've settled on the idea of a small furry friend but are left wondering "what is the best small pet for me?", here are our top tips and pet facts to help you make your decision.
Which small pet should I get?
Although small pets are often grouped together, each animal has unique needs that will need to be catered for to ensure they live a happy and healthy life. Some small pets, such as guinea pigs, are classed as exotic pets, while others are nocturnal. It's important that you find a pet that can easily fit in with your family life, so let's take a look and find the right one for you.
Rabbits are popular and make adorable pets, but it is important to remember that they are also classed as a prey anima l which means they have a natural instinct to try to defend themselves in the face of danger. In the wild, they are easy prey for larger animals looking for food and so they need to be ready to run from a threat, meaning that rabbits can be easily spooked. They don't always like being handled, so it's best to approach slowly and calmly at first, always leaving them be if it becomes clear that they don't want to be played with to avoid biting . While rabbits can be great with children, be sure to supervise handling.
Bunnies are social creatures and don't like to be alone, so having two neutered rabbits (male and female) that were brought up together is ideal. While they will live 6-8 years, it's best to avoid introducing a new rabbit without expert advice, and never pair rabbits and guinea pigs due to their differing needs.
Guinea pigs are family-friendly pets that can live up to seven years. They're incredibly social creatures, so be sure to always buddy them up with another piggy. All they need is lots of love and a safe space to play and shelter from the weather. They are very vocal and it will soon be easy to tell their mood – a low or deep purring sound means they are content, whereas a high pitched purr or squeak can indicate an annoyed or scared piggy.
Chinchillas are active fluffballs who love nothing more than lots of play. Whilst wild chinchillas can live outdoors, pet chinchillas should be kept indoors in the UK due to our climate as they can't tolerate rain, direct sunlight and draughty environments.
They need a large indoor cage with lots of areas for play as well as nesting, plus will need daily exercise outside of their cage. With a lifespan of up to 15 years, they like to have company, so neutered males and females are perfect together. It's important to note that they are nocturnal, so be sure to avoid disturbing them as they sleep during the day.
Hamsters are often a great pet for small children due to their small size and active nature. Originally from the Syrian or Turkish desert, hamsters are solitary and territorial, meaning that they do not get lonely, and actually prefer to live alone. Syrian hamsters , also known as teddy bear or golden hamsters, are a very friendly breed, making them popular with children.
However, hamster owners sometimes don't realise that they are nocturnal and should not be woken up from sleep during the day, otherwise, they may bite when they become startled or woken from a deep sleep. Hamster cages are generally small, but they need lots of toys and activities to keep them busy. Owners should handle carefully as hamsters don’t generally like to be held, and always keep other pets out of the room when handling your hamster.
Small and cute, gerbils are lovely pets but children need to handle them with caution. They move fast, which means small hands often struggle to hold them without squeezing too hard, which will hurt your pet. Once you've taught your little ones how to correctly handle their new friend, gerbils are a fun family pet.
In the wild, gerbils naturally burrow, so you'll need a special glass-walled cage with a mesh roof to enable them to dig. Like many small pets, they are social creatures and are happiest in small groups, so at least one other companion is essential.
Not as common as other small pets, degus are a good choice as they are very intelligent and are highly sociable animals. They are active during the day and thrive on human interaction and a busy environment, so there's plenty of opportunity for play. Degus have lots of energy, so you'll need plenty of toys, a large cage with lots of ramps, and either a dirt or sandbox for digging to keep them occupied. Again, these social animals should not be alone and need a friend to play with.
Often overlooked, rats are actually one of the friendliest small pets you can have, making them an ideal option for homes with children who have a lot of time and love to give. They love to play with their human owners and are known to get depressed when they don't get enough attention. Incredibly clean and super smart, they are even able to learn tricks and will be a loyal companion - think of them as a tiny rodent dog.
Ferrets are about as close to a cat or dog as you can get in the world of small pets. They can be litter trained, taken for walks on a lead and are a loyal, playful pet. While they do sleep 20 hours a day, they are extra active when awake, especially at dawn and dusk. Their social nature means you will need to give them lots of love and attention, but another ferret friend from the same litter is highly recommended too. Ferrets famously love to squeeze into any hole, so be sure to have lots of tubes for play. Be sure to ferret-proof your home, too.
Once you've made your decision, it's time to start getting prepared for the arrival of your furry friend. Be sure to have your hutch or cage, feeding bowl, and some fun toys to welcome them to their new home. And if you choose a small pet that eats hay, you will need sufficient nutritious high quality feeding hay such as our very own Timothy Hay, which you can buy from our online shop.