Holiday 2022

Choosing the best small mammal for your home

Find the right small pet

The holiday season is a popular time to adopt small animals into your home. Your new bunny, mouse or hamster will long outlive the festive season, so it’s important to ensure they’re the right fit for your family.

Hamsters

Hamster

Lifespan: 2-4 years

Special equipment needed: Cage, water bottle, food bowls, cedar shaving or hay bedding, exercise wheel and ball

The breakdown: One of the more popular small pets, hamsters are low maintenance animals that can fit in small spaces like apartments with little issue.

Hamsters can keep themselves occupied most of the time, and their cute fuzzy faces make them a hit with kids. However, they do require regular care and handling to habituate to human friendship, plus a variety of toys and an exercise wheel to stay engaged and fit.

Gerbils

Gerbil

Lifespan: About 3-4 years

Special equipment needed: Cage, water bottle, food bowls, cedar shavings, exercise wheel

The breakdown: Like hamsters, gerbils are relatively easy to care for—making them a popular choice for a child’s first pet.

Gerbils tend to have more energy than other small mammals, and they require exercise to stay happy. While gerbils can be trained to be held, their energy needs mean they don’t want to be held for long (they’re also fast and can tend to get away from kids during playtime). When selecting an exercise wheel for your gerbil, make sure it’s “gerbil-safe” to prevent injury.

Mice and rats

Mouse

Lifespan: About 3 years

Special equipment needed: Glass tank aquarium or metal cage, water bottle, food bowls, cedar shavings, exercise wheel

The breakdown: Mice and rats are great pets, due to their active nature and playfulness. Unlike hamsters, they require an enclosure that offers them enough space to exercise and explore, with enrichment features like tunnels and climbing ropes on multiple levels to keep them entertained.

Mice and rats look similar, but the two species have very different personalities. Mice tend to be more skittish and require time and patience to make them comfortable with handling, whereas rats thrive in a home where they get regular engagement with human friends. People who tend to be away from the home for long periods of time would be better off with mice for this reason.

Guinea pigs

Guinea

Lifespan: 5-7 years

Special equipment needed: Cage, water bottle, food bowls, pine shavings, baby gate.

The breakdown: Guinea pigs are adorable little fuzzballs that require special care attention and care. They’re extremely friendly and sociable animals, but they tend to get lonely and can become depressed if left alone for too long. Most experts recommend adopting them in pairs for this reason.

Guinea pigs love to get out their enclosures for playtime and tend to require more space to stretch their little legs. A baby gate allows them to roam around the room without getting into trouble.

Rabbits

Rabbit

Lifespan: 5-10 years

Special equipment needed: Hutch, litter box, hay feeder, water bottle, baby gates, chew toys

The breakdown: Bunnies are commonly seen as a great starter pet for children—they’re smaller, cuddly and usually marketed as “easy and low-maintenance.” However, that’s often not the case.

Rabbits are more like cats than the other small animals on this list. Some enjoy being handled regularly, but others don’t like being carried at all. Others will tolerate handling less or more depending on their mood. Rabbits can also be prone to illness and very sneaky about hiding when they’re sick, which is why it’s important to educate yourself on signs of common rabbit illnesses before bringing home a bunny.

Chinchillas

Chinchilla

Lifespan: 15-20 years

Special equipment needed: Cage or hutch, dust bath, chin-safe toys like drainpipes, terra cotta pots and more

The breakdown: Chinchillas are growing in popularity as pets in the U.S.—and it’s easy to see why (just look at that face!). They’re gentle and very intelligent animals that can be taught to dance and perform other tricks. However, they’re also independent and require specific care to thrive.

Chinchillas like having the freedom to explore and cuddle on their own terms. They often don’t like being picked up or held down by humans, which makes them a difficult match for small children. They also have specific dietary needs and can live as long as 20 years—no small investment for pet owners. However, for people who can invest in their chinchillas, they make wonderful and gratifying pets.

Tell us about your experience as small mammal pet parents at @NationwidePet.

Free Will

They're part of your family. Make sure they’ll be cared for, no matter what, with a will. Nationwide can help you create your free and legally binding will in as little as 20 minutes today.

Create your free will
Free Will

They're part of your family. Make sure they’ll be cared for, no matter what, with a will. Nationwide can help you create your free and legally binding will in as little as 20 minutes today.

Create your free will
Free Will

They're part of your family. Make sure they’ll be cared for, no matter what, with a will. Nationwide can help you create your free and legally binding will in as little as 20 minutes today.

Create your free will
Free Will

They're part of your family. Make sure they’ll be cared for, no matter what, with a will. Nationwide can help you create your free and legally binding will in as little as 20 minutes today.

Create your free will
Free Will

They're part of your family. Make sure they’ll be cared for, no matter what, with a will. Nationwide can help you create your free and legally binding will in as little as 20 minutes today.

Create your free will
Free Will

They're part of your family. Make sure they’ll be cared for, no matter what, with a will. Nationwide can help you create your free and legally binding will in as little as 20 minutes today.

Create your free will

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