Jan 252012
 

Fancy Rat

(Rattus Norvegicus)

Download and print the pdf version here.

Adult Size – Males weigh from 300 – 550 grams. Females weigh from 250 – 450 grams. Their body length is around 7 inches.

Life span – 2-4 years

Male/female differences – Males are usually larger than females and they can be sexed by eyeing the distance between the urethra and the anus; the distance is further apart in males.

Compatibility – Rats are social animals that live in wherever in the wild. Interaction and socialization are important in developing a rat so that it will learn to trust you. If possible consider getting a pair so that you are not the only source of interaction the rat receives.

Origin – Northern Europe.

Climate – Average temperatures in cities, farms, wherever humans maintain surplus of goods.

Day Cycle – Nocturnal, but are happy being woken during the day.

Temperature – Avoid extremes; an average home temperature of 75 F will suffice. Make sure they are not in a drafty room as this could lead to complications.

Lighting – No special requirement besides a room’s lighting.

Humidity – Low or none.

Habitat/Territory – Rats live wherever humans live; in the wild they live in burrows.

Substrate/Bedding – Aspen bedding is a good option given their cage is properly ventilated, since a drawback to aspen is its dustiness. Wood pulp substrates are better options because of the low amounts of dust and they provide more comfort to the rat. Newspaper pellets can also be used as substrate since they are dust free.

Hiding Place/Den – Chew safe toys and non-toxic hiding places will increase their level of interaction when they are left alone. Hiding places will give them a comfort zone and an escape during the day.

Cage Type – Aquarium cages of 30” or longer are good as long as it is well ventilated. You can go with a wire cage if it is escape proof. Exercise is key here, with toys, wheels, ramps and platforms, so bigger is better.

Diet – A decent diet will consist of pet blocks, nuts, grains, oats, and seeds. For more variety throw in some fresh veggies and fruits, bland human foods like dry pasta, scrambled eggs, yogurt, and cooked white meat. They will gladly accept the change.

Supplements – Vitamins in water help supply missing nutrients from captive diets. Depending on what you feed, supplements such as enzymes and vitamin tablets can aid in their digestion and a healthier looking coat.

Diet Precautions – Avoid high-calorie diets that contain sunflower seeds and fatty foods that could lead to obesity. Dry fruits and treats should be given sparingly. Signs of a poor diet could be hair loss, chronic infections, and staining around the eyes and nose.

Feeding – A rat’s stomach is about half the size of their head so try not to overfeed. Give about that size twice a day and throw away the leftovers.

Water Source – Most store rats are used to water bottles, but they will also drink from a bowl. Rinse and wash both and supply fresh water each day. Consider bottled or purified water. The water bottle may require a metal guard as the rat will gnaw and render the bottle useless.

Grooming – Pet safe wipes are the best option for cleaning your rat. Occasionally you could bathe your rat, but do it very carefully with pet safe shampoo and then dry them quickly with a towel. Afterwards brush them with a nylon bristle brush.

 Oral and Foot Care – Rats need chew toys or else their teeth will grow continuously. Supply them with chew treats, or pumice blocks.

Proper Handling – Rats are one of the most sociable creatures next to dogs, cats and ferrets. They are not known to bite. As with any new pet give them time to get to know you and eventually you will be able to put them in your pocket with no problem. Proper handling is holding them with both hands and securing them so they won’t fall down. Never grab them by the tail.

Habitat Maintenance – Rats tend to go to the bathroom in the corners. Spot clean their cage daily and at least once a week clean out the whole thing.

Health Concerns – Diarrhea due to poor diet, congenital cancers, tumors respiratory problems, mites and obesity. A proper nutrition can help prevent the cancer and eliminate the threat of obesity. Proper ventilation and dust-free bedding will help prevent respiratory problems and mites.

Nov 162011
 
Rabbit

Rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus

Download the care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
3 – 5 pounds, depending on breed

Life Span
7 – 12 years, depending on breed

Male/Female Differences
After about 6 weeks of age, the sex organ, when pressed out with the thumb and forefinger, will appear more rounded in a male and more V shaped in a female.

Compatibility
In general, rabbits should be of the same sex and size if they are to be housed together. Ideally the rabbits should have been kept together from a young age. Keeping two or more rabbits is greatly advantageous, but rabbits introduced at older ages can be aggressive.

Origin
All domestic rabbits were bred from the wild European cotton tail.

Climate
Local climate is ideal. Rabbits will be happy with standard household temperatures. A rabbit kept in an outdoor hutch should be shielded from cold winds in the winter and hot sun in the summer.

Day Cycle
Diurnal (awake during the day.)

Temperature
Ideal 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lighting
No special lighting is required, but rabbits, like all creatures, will benefit greatly from natural sunlight, and a normal day/night cycle.

Humidity
Ambient humidity is ideal. Arid climates can be harsh on rabbits, as well as excessive humidity – over 70% can be dangerous, as rabbits are highly susceptible, to heat stroke.

Habitat/Territory
Deciduous forest, woodland, and grassland, but there are species of rabbit and hare living all over the world! Pet rabbits have a long history of domestication and household environs suit them well.

Substrate/Bedding
Aspen shavings, compressed hardwood pellets, or recycled paper products are ideal. Cedar and pine shavings can emit gasses that may lead to liver problems.

Hiding Place/Den
Rabbits will greatly enjoy a hiding place that is snug, but gives them enough room to stand, turn around, and lie down.

Cage Type
Bigger is better! Minimally four times the size of your rabbit is fine, but if the rabbit is to be kept in the cage the majority of the time, the cage should be at least half again as large. Rabbits kept outside in a hutch should have a great deal of space – four feet by two is great.

Diet
A pelleted rabbit food should be fed to insure that your rabbit is meeting all of his/her nutritional needs. On top of that, rabbits over six weeks of age should fed supplemental fresh vegetables (dark leafy greens are best.) Hay should always be available to your rabbit as a high amount of fiber is necessary for the rabbits slow digestive system.

Supplements
Yucca extracts and digestive enzymes can be very helpful in controlling impaction from ingested hair, as well as maintaining an attractive coat.

Diet Precautions
Always have fresh hay available as a source of fiber. Rabbits under six weeks of age should not be fed fresh vegetables. You may witness your rabbit ingesting his/her feces directly from his/her anus. This is normal and helps the rabbit maintain gut florae and is necessary for intestinal health.

Feeding
Rabbits fed exclusively pellets may become obese. Hay should always be available at all times. Feed a variety of fresh vegetables – one cup to several cups daily on top of about a quarter to half cup of fresh pellets. Anything other than vegetables, hay, or pellets is a treat and should be fed sparingly.

Water Source
Water should always be available, mostly from a water bottle, and should be changed daily.

Grooming
Rabbits can be brushed to reduce the risk of impacted hair. Nails should be cut once a month – this can be done at home with proper instruction, or your vet or Wilmette pet can provide this service.

Oral and Foot Care
Rabbit’s teeth grow constantly, and they need sufficient wood chews to wear them down. A problem exists known as malocclusion, where if your pet’s teeth are not worn down, they may need to be cut – again, your vet or Wilmette Pet can do this for you – it is not recommended that you attempt to cut teeth yourself. Nails should be cut once a month.

Proper Handling
Pick rabbits up from above, as approaching them from the front can make nervous rabbits more defensive. Hold them by the chest and rump, or support the feet to make them feel safe and secure. Rabbits should be handled carefully to avoid damaging delicate spines. Keep close to the ground in case they try to hop out of your arms.

Habitat Maintenance
Litter box/soiled area of the cage should be changed daily. A full substrate change should be performed once a week.

Health Concerns
Malocclusion (the misalignment of teeth, as previously mentioned), the intestinal impaction of hair, and bacterial infection resulting in diarrhea and resulting dehydration are some of the most common concerns with rabbits.

Nov 162011
 

Adult Size
4 to 6 inches plus tail

Life Span
3 to 4 Years

Male/Female Differences
Males have obvious testicles from an early age. Females have a smooth opening near her tail.

Compatibility
Opossums are solitary animals and each one needs a separate cage. This is an animal that does not need a “friend”.

Origin
Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia

Climate
Tropical climate: warm and relatively humid. The adapt to most home temperatures. An under tank heater or non-UV heat lamp can ensure they have the right temperature if the home gets cooler than 70 degrees.

Day Cycle
Nocturnal (works the night shift, sleeps during the day.) May be awake and more playful in the evening hours.

Temperature
70 to 80 degrees. They like it warmer while sleeping, conditions met in their sleeping box.

Lighting
Being nocturnal, bright lights should be avoided.

Humidity
40% to 60% ideal. Low humidity risks dehydration and excessively high humidity can speed the development of bacteria.

Habitat/Territory
Tropical jungle, everything from terrestrial to arboreal. They sleep in small holes in the ground or in trees.

Substrate/Bedding Provide a safe and soft bedding, the less dusty the better. Cedar bedding can be toxic and pine too dusty. Good litters are shredded or pelleted aspen or recycled paper products. Supply nesting materials and dry hays.

Hiding Place/Den
A bird nesting box makes an ideal retreat and sleeping den.

Cage Type
At least a 30 inch aquarium with a locking lid with numerous branches and climbing places. Bird cages work well, with plenty of places to hang toys and perches – just make sure all the doors are locked. The cage must be large enough for a safe running wheel, a litter pan, a nest box, a food bowl and a water bottle with plenty of room for jumping and climbing.

Diet
Opossums are omnivorous in the wild. Offer them variety! Start with a basic ferret, cat, or hedgehog dry diet. Superworms and crickets are a favorite treat and by offering them by hand you speed the bonding process. Offer fresh or thawed fruits and vegetables – they love grapes! Give small bites of scrambled or boiled egg, baby food (both fruits and vegetables), and cooked lean meats. Dairy, like yoghurt and cottage cheese, need to be offered sparingly.

Supplements
Variety in the diet will prevent any nutritional deficiencies. Calcium powder can be added to crickets and other insects before feeding. Vitamins, such as bird or hamster vitamins, can be added to food or water.

Diet Precautions
Overfeeding of fatty foods can lead to obesity. Do not offer too much dairy as it can cause diarrhea. Avoid foods with high fat, sugar, and salt content.

Feeding
Feed at night. Remove the food in the morning to prevent spoilage. Offer insects by hand to bond with your opossum.

Water Source
Water bottles work because they are not as easily soiled as water bowls. Some opossums, however, have difficulty operating the bottle, so offer a small bowl of water. Make sure the opossum can drink from the bottle (training might be necessary) and check water bowls frequently so they stay clean.

Grooming
Opossums groom themselves and are quite clean. Occasional dust baths, using chinchilla dust, or bathing using gentle pet shampoo can remove excess oils from their fur.

Oral and Foot Care
Opossums have little problems with oral problems, and nails tend to stay short from the exercise. Use manicure bird perches to naturally trim their nails. Running wheels must be safe to prevent foot injuries.

Proper Handling
New opossums are nervous; ply with treats like crickets and superworms. Pick up familiar opossums around the waist. Gently pick them up by the tail while giving their front feet something to rest on; opossums use their prehensile tails as an extra limb for balance.

Habitat Maintenance
Empty and change litter box daily. Opossums sometimes use the bathroom when running in their exercise wheel; choose a wheel that is easy to clean. Some owners place litter boxes under the wheel. Regardless of your solution, clean this area daily. Replace the bedding and wipe down cage once a week.

Health Concerns
Opossums are at risk of hair loss due to protein deficiency or an allergy to the bedding. Diarrhea is possible due to new foods and dehydration can be a real danger. Older opossums are at risk of respiratory illness, digestive problems and tumors. Opossums are the only other mammal that can develop skin cancer from too much sunlight!

Nov 162011
 

Download care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
2”, about 2 ounces

Life Span
2 – 3 years

Male/Female Differences
Young mice are difficult to sex. Sexing mice is done by eyeing the distance between the urethra and the anus; the distance is greater in males than in females.

Compatibility
Male mice will fight to defend their territory against other males. Females get along better, especially raised together.

Origin
Mice are native world wide.

Climate
Very diverse habitats including forests, savannahs, grasslands and rocky habitats

Day Cycle
Nocturnal, although will be awake occasionally during the day.

Temperature
Household temperature is fine. Avoid extreme heat as mice will pile up together and can get too hot.

Lighting
Being nocturnal, lighting is unimportant.

Humidity
Mice do well in most indoor humidity. Keep their bedding dry at all times.

Habitat/Territory
Mice are burrowing animals, preferring the safety of cover for their nests.

Substrate/Bedding
Provide a safe and soft bedding, the less dusty the better. Cedar bedding can be toxic and pine too dusty. Good litters are shredded or pelleted aspen or recycled paper products. Supply nesting materials and dry hays.

Hiding Place/Den
Mice need a hiding place to feel secure. Wooden huts and coconut shells make great hideouts, as they also offer opportunities to chew. Plastic mouse huts can be used but will be destroyed.

Cage Type
Hamster or gerbil cages can be used for housing mice. Aquariums can also be used with a metal screen top to prevent escape. The cage should be large enough to allow the mouse room to exercise, preferably in a safe exercise wheel.

Diet
Seed mixes are good basic diets for mice. Pelleted pet blocks are better, as they combine complete nutrition in a form designed to wear away teeth. Offer variety with other foods such as cooked lean meats, leafy vegetables, and pastas.

Supplements
A proper diet, including variety, will preclude the need for supplements. Hamster or bird supplements can be added to water or cuttle bones.

Diet Precautions
Avoid foods like chocolate, excessive fats and sugars. Giving sunflower seeds in excess can cause obesity.

Feeding
Feed small amounts and remove old food to prevent spoilage. Mice will scatter their food around the cage and bury it in the nest, so be sure to not over feed.

Water Source
Water bowls will quickly get dirty, so use a water bottle. The bottle should either be round or hung outside the cage to prevent the mouse form chewing and destroying it. Use a metal chew guard for water bottles in the cage.

Grooming
Mice are very clean animals that spend a lot of time grooming themselves.

Oral and Foot Care
A mouse’s teeth are always growing, so offer plenty of wooden sticks, hard pet blocks, pumice stones, and foods that will wear away their teeth. Avoid running wheels with bars to prevent injury to their feet or tails. Offer chances to climb to help keep nails shortened.

Proper Handling
Avoid picking a mouse up by the tail if you want to stay friendly with it. Scoop the mouse up gently from below. Mice can be nervous at first, so cup a hand over them to make them feel more secure.

Habitat Maintenance
Spot clean soiled areas daily. Clean the cage weekly with mild soap and water and replace all bedding.

Health Concerns
Mice kept in conditions with poor ventilation are prone to respiratory infections. Diarrhea is possible due to unsanitary conditions and poor diet.

Nov 162011
 
Guinea Pig

Guinea Pig

Download the Guinea Pig Care Sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
1 – 2.5 lbs, 8 – 10 inches

Life Span
4 – 5 Years

Male/Female Differences
Sexing can be difficult when young. Invert the urethra to check for a penis. There is no difference in external appearance. Genitals can be obvious on males.

Compatibility
Females get along with each other, and a male can even be added. Males usually get along, after some settling of hierarchy, but will fight over a single female. 2 males together are not recommended.

Origin
Native to the Andes mountains of South America.

Climate
Local climate is ideal. Avoid extremes of heat and cold.

Day Cycle
No cycle, wake and sleep 27/7

Temperature
Room temperature works best.

Lighting
No special lighting required except a natural day and night schedule.

Humidity
Ambient humidity is fine.

Habitat/Territory
They make their homes in the cool and dry areas of the Andes. This terrain is void of large vegetation and so they exist on grass.

Substrate/Bedding
Provide a safe and soft bedding, the less dusty the better. Cedar bedding can be toxic and pine too dusty, and corn cob can harbor mold spores. Good litters are shredded or pelleted aspen or recycled paper products. Supply nesting materials and dry hays.

Hiding Place/Den
Wooden huts provide a safe sleeping place. Edible home can provide a treat in addition to a hiding place.

Cage Type
Wire cages are proof against nibbling. The larger the cage the better, although a guinea pig still needs daily exercise outside of his home.
Diet Pelleted guinea pig food provides the basic diet, 2 tbls pelleted with ¼ cup chopped vegetables, such as dark leafy greens and carrots. Timothy hay is an important addition as it provides fiber to keep their digestive system working properly. Small amounts of yoghurt help maintain intestinal florae.

Supplements
Vitamin C should be added to the food of guinea pigs to help prevent vitamin deficiency. Digestive enzymes help guinea pigs get more nutrition from their food.

Diet Precautions
Excessive alfalfa hay has been known to cause obesity. Always have timothy hay available as a source of fiber. Nuts and seeds should never be given.

Feeding
Feed fresh pellets daily, as vitamin C content can deteriorate. Treats can include fruits such as apples and small amounts of yoghurt.

Water Source
A water bottle, cleaned and filled daily, is preferable to a water dish. Guinea pigs can kick substrate into and foul water dishes.

Grooming
Guinea pigs groom themselves to keep clean. Occasional cleanings with pet safe wipes and once monthly baths with mild pet shampoo can help keep their coat smelling fresh and free of debris. Long-haired, or Angora, breeds should be brushed frequently.

Oral and Foot Care
A guinea pig’s nails grow continuously, and need to be clipped monthly. Long nails can cause a condition called “bumblefoot.” This can be done at home with proper instruction. Your vet or Wilmette Pet can also perform this service. A wooden chewing block or pumice stone, or hard, crunchy treats will help keep their teeth trimmed.

Proper Handling
Scoop a guinea pig from underneath, rather than grabbing from above. Keeping them next to your chest at first calms them and makes them feel safe. Avoid grabbing around middle as it can damage internal organs.

Habitat Maintenance
Guinea pigs have a natural urge to keep their homes clean and often can be trained to potty boxes in their cages. These and other wet areas should be cleaned daily, and the entire substrate replaced once a week.

Health Concerns
Common ailments in domestic guinea pigs include the above mentioned bumblefoot, respiratory infections, diarrhea, scurvy (vitamin C deficiency, typically characterized by sluggishness), and abscesses due to infection.

Nov 162011
 
Ferret

Ferret, Mustela putorius furo

Download this care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
Males range from 14 to 17 inches long & weigh 3-5 pounds. Females range from 12 to 14 inches and weigh 1-3 pounds.

Life Span
Anywhere from 7 to 10 years.

Male/Female Differences
One can usually tell whether a ferret is a male/female by their size and weight. Males are easily distinguished since they have their urethra in the center of their belly.

Compatibility
Ferrets are incredibly social animals. Interaction and socialization are important in the development of a young ferret to eliminate behavioral problems later. If possible consider getting a pair so that you are not the only source of interaction the ferret receives.

Origin
Europe, Africa

Climate
Woodlands, prairies, wetlands

Day Cycle
Crepuscular

Temperature
A large well-ventilated cage. An average household temperature of 70 degrees F is proper.

Lighting
Room lighting should not be too bright as it could hurt their eyes. Their cage should not be in direct sunlight.

Humidity
Dry/low.

Habitat/Territory
Ferrets live in burrows in diverse habitats; some live in marshlands and feed off of frogs, others in farmlands and feed off of mice.

Substrate/Bedding
Comfortable towels/blankets make great beds for ferrets. Wash the towels at least once a week and spray with conditioning spray or deodorizer every other day. For litter shredded, pelleted aspen or recycled paper litters will suffice.

Hiding Place/Den
Chew safe toys and non-toxic hiding places will increase their level of interaction when they are left alone. Hammocks and tunnels are also fun toys for your ferret.

Cage Type
Wire cages are the only option since aquarium style enclosures do not provide sufficient ventilation and are not meant for house ferrets. Multi-level cages are the best for keeping the ferret well exercised and interested. Make sure the cage is escape-proof. The bigger the cage the better.

Diet
A ferret should be fed twice a day but food and water should always be accessible. Their diet should be high in protein and relatively high in fat to fuel their energetic lifestyle. There are many high quality dry foods specially made for ferrets. Also consider frozen and raw foods because it closely duplicates their natural diet and because frozen/raw still retain the nutrients and enzymes unlike processed kibble. Sweets such as raisins and treats should be given scarcely because of their high sugar content.

Supplements
Freeze dried cat supplements, fatty acids, and vitamins can aid in their digestion, a healthier looking coat, and less of a musky odor.

Diet Precautions
Some veterinarians discourage feeding raisins or treats with high sugar since they have a tendency to hide their food, and could stockpile the treats and consume them in a short amount of time. Hard treats like bones or peanuts should never be given because they can become lodged in their intestinal tract.

Feeding
A ferret’s stomach is about half the size of their head so try not to overfeed. Some ferrets tend to tip their food bowl, to remedy this you can get a ceramic or a heavy bowl.

Water Source
Most ferrets are used to water bottles, but they will happily drink from a bowl. Rinse and wash both and supply fresh water each day.

Grooming
You can bathe your ferret with ferret or cat/dog shampoo. Ferrets should be bathed at least once a month. Another alternative is getting pet safe wipes and wiping them down.

Oral and Foot Care
Ferrets need their nails clipped at least once a month. Use cat safe nail clippers.

Proper Handling
Unless your ferret is young they usually do not bite with any pressure involved. Pick them up with both hands and make sure to support their body. Most ferrets are very friendly and will welcome any interaction with you.
Habitat Maintenance Ferrets tend to go to the bathroom in the same spot. Depending on the size of the cage one or two litter pans are appropriate. Spot clean their cage twice a day.

Health Concerns
Diarrhea due to poor diet. Hair/intestinal blockage is common because of ferret’s grooming and affinity towards chewing. Loss of appetite and lack of stools in their litter are symptoms of these serious problems. Anti-sociable ferrets due to neglect or abuse. Ear-mites that cause itchiness and a brown discharge from their ears. They can also catch and transmit influenza to/from humans so wash your hands before and after handling. The best remedy is plenty of fluids and rest. Ferrets are prone to congenital cancers like insulinoma and adrenal disease, especially in their later years. Symptoms of both can be hair loss, lethargy, and seizures. Seek medical help if you notice any symptom.

Nov 162011
 
Dwarf Hamster

Dwarf Hamster, Phodopus roborovskii

Download this care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
1 inch

Life Span
3 to 3.5 years

Male/Female Differences
Sexing is done by observing distance between anus and genitals – it’s slightly greater in males, although sexing these small animals can be difficult.

Compatibility
Dwarf hamsters are most compatible when they are from the same litter. Females live well together, but males can fight.

Origin
Gobi Desert, throughout Mongolia’s desert steppe and parts of northern China.
Climate Most home environments suit dwarf hamsters well.

Day Cycle
No cycle, play and sleep 24/7

Temperature
60 – 70 degrees.

Lighting
Most household lighting is suitable for dwarf hamsters; as these animals usually spend a great deal of time underground, they have sensitive eyes, so bright lights should be avoided.

Humidity
Drier is preferred, but they are comfortable in the average household humidity.

Habitat/Territory
In the wild dwarf hamsters live in burrows in the arid steppes. Plastic hamster tubes can recreate these burrows in their cages, and dwarf hamsters will also burrow into their substrate.

Substrate/Bedding
Supply a safe and soft bedding. The lest dusty the bedding the better. Cedar bedding can be toxic and pine is too dusty. Good litters are shredded or pelleted aspen or recycled paper litters. Supply nesting materials and dry hays.

Hiding Place/Den
Hiding places provide comfort and security. Wooden tubes with holes also provide surfaces to chew upon. Dwarf hamsters like to sleep together, so any hiding place needs to be just large enough to house all your animals.

Cage Type
Regular hamster habitats should not be used to house dwarf hamsters, as they are often small enough to squeeze between the bars. Aquariums make great homes – safe, secure, and easy to clean. They can have limited ventilation, so care must be taken to allow adequate air flow. Plastic cages with tubes meet their instinct for burrowing.

Diet
A few critter cubes and 1-2 tablespoons of high quality hamster seed mix is given as a staple. Supply a variety of leafy greens and vegetables in small quantities. Avoid spoilage. Fruits should be given sparingly to avoid diarrhea. Timothy hay should be given at all times to aid in digestion. Try not to focus on one thing, give a good variety. A tiny bit of yoghurt is good for intestinal health.

Supplements
Vitamins in water help supply nutrients missing from captive diets. Dwarf hamsters are natural insect eaters. Offer occasional mealworms, crickets, and/or cat and dog kibble, or small dog biscuits. Bland proteins like boiled egg are good.

Diet Precautions
Do not give chocolate, candy, or anything with caffeine. Keep it bland and healthy. Giving too much greens can cause impaction or intestinal disorders.

Feeding
Placing food in a bowl will help over feeding. Dwarf hamsters will move most of their food into their nest and bury it for later.

Water Source
Water bottles are best. Wash the bottle in between refills. Supply fresh filtered, non-chlorinated water at all times.

Grooming
Offer chinchilla dust to dwarf hamsters for them to bathe themselves. They use this fine powder to remove excess oils from their coats. Minimal grooming is necessary.

Oral and Foot Care
Dwarf hamsters have incisors that they need to constantly down. Keep soft wood chews, pumice stones, and treat sticks in the cage. Rotate different types to keep them interested. Use safe ramps and running wheels that will prevent leg injury.

Proper Handling
Dwarf hamsters are sweet tempered animals that rarely bite. They do need to be handled very regularly to keep them social. When first getting to know each other, a bathtub makes a safe and secure place to hold them, as they can be easily startled and quick.

Habitat Maintenance
Dwarf hamsters tend to eliminate in the same area of the cage. Spot clean the cage daily, and change litter once per week and wash cage thoroughly with warm soapy water.

Health Concerns
Diarrhea due to poor diet, stress, or unclean cages. Respiratory distress can be due to poor ventilation, drafts, noxious odors, and/or dusty litter. Over grown teeth can be due to poor chewing stimulation. Congenital cancers can also occur. Maintain healthy environment and diet to help prevent disease.

Nov 162011
 
Degu, Brush-Tailed Rat

Degu, Octodon degu

Download this care sheet (pdf)

Degu, Brush-Tailed Rat

Adult Size
About 5 inches, not including the tail. Life Span 5 to 8 years on average, up to 15.

Male/Female Differences
Sexing can be difficult, especially on young degus. On females, the anus and urethra are spaced closer together than they are on males.

Compatibility
Female degus can be housed together in groups, keeping at most one male. Degus can be housed singly, but they need more interaction with you.

Origin
Mountains of Chile

Climate
Cool and dry, so most home conditions are great for degus. Air condition is great for preventing overheating.

Day Cycle
Diurnal, awake during the day, although they often are crepuscular, playing at dusk and dawn.

Temperature
Avoid extremes. Degus are well suited to home temperatures.

Lighting
Normal room lighting is fine; degus do not need any special lights.

Humidity
Drier is better, but they adapt to indoor humidity well. Avoid excessive humidity.

Habitat/Territory
Dry and cool mountains of Chile, living in communal burrows that all members of the community dig.

Substrate/Bedding
Provide a safe and soft bedding, the less dusty the better. Cedar bedding can be toxic and pine too dusty. Good litters are shredded or pelleted aspen or recycled paper products. Supply nesting materials and dry hays.

Hiding Place/Den
A wooden hut sized for guinea pigs is ideal for degus, offering both shelter and a chewing toy.

Cage Type
Degus will chew and destroy all plastics! Degu cages can be wire, which allows for plenty of ventilation, or aquariums, which are easy to clean. Degus love to run and climb, so the cage must be large enough for ropes or wood perches and a (metal!) running wheel. Use a heavy duty screen as degus will chew plastic rims and meshes.

Diet
Pelleted degu food should form the basis of the diet. Offer either alfalfa or timothy hay to aid digestion. Offer occasional broccoli, tomatoes, and cucumber skins, and wheat grass.

Supplements
Degus properly fed rarely need supplements. Calcium and vitamin C can be added to their water, but a vet should be consulted before doing so, as excessive vitamins are not healthy.

Diet Precautions
Do not feed any sugars, either processed or natural, as degus cannot digest them and are very prone to diabetes. Avoid peanuts, raisins, carrots, and fruits. Check pellet ingredients for molasses. Avoid sunflowers and other seeds, as these can cause obesity. Hard shelled nuts, in limited amounts, make great treats. Avoid rabbit pellets as this lacks vitamin C and can contain ingredients toxic to degus.

Feeding
Feed a few tablespoons twice a day. Overfeeding will cause the degus to hide and store their food.

Water Source
Water bowls tend to get filled with substrate and make poor choices for degus. Plastic water bottles will be chewed through very quickly, so either place it in a protective metal sleeve or use an external bottle. Provide fresh water daily.

Grooming
Degus take dust baths like their cousins, the chinchillas. Use the same style of dust weekly to allow them to clean themselves, and remove after they are done as the tend to soil it later.

Oral and Foot Care
Use metal safety wheels to avoid trapping and injuring feet and tails. A degu’s teeth are continually growing , so they must chew. Wooden houses, wooden treats, and pumice stones keep their teeth trim.

Proper Handling
Do not pick degus up by their tails. They weigh more than gerbils and their tails are very fragile. Doing so can cause it to break off. Pick them up gently around the waist or scoop up from below.

Habitat Maintenance
Daily spot clean their litter pan or soiled areas. Weekly cleaning suffices, removing and replacing the substrate.

Health Concerns
Diabetes and the subsequent blindness. Obesity due to improper diet and overfeeding.

Nov 162011
 

Download this care sheet (pdf)

African dwarf hedgehog, white bellied hedgehog

Atelerix sp.

Adult Size
1 pound, 6 inches Life Span 8 – 10 years

Male/Female Differences
A penis sheath is present and testes can be obvious in males. In young hedgehogs, sexing is done by eyeing the distance between the urethra and the anus; the distance is further apart in males.

Compatibility
Hedgehogs are solitary animals. Males will fight by lowering the spines over their eyes as a sort of visor and charge each other. House all hedgehogs, males and females, separately.

Origin
Senegal in west Africa east to southern Somalia and Tanzania on the continent’s eastern edge

Climate
Average house temperatures are fine. Avoid extremes; high heat can cause strokes and low temperatures can lead to hibernation, a state the animal is not prepared for that can be fatal.

Day Cycle
Normally nocturnal, can switch to days.

Temperature
60 – 75 Degrees is ideal.

Lighting
Normally lighting is not an issue, as these animals are nocturnal. If switched to a diurnal cycle, avoid intense lighting, as hedgehogs have sensitive eyes.

Humidity
Being from such a dry climate, hedgehogs prefer lower humidity but can tolerate most indoor conditions.

Habitat/Territory
Native to arid scrub- and grassland in northern Africa, these animals are also burrowers. They will root and dig around their cages in the substrate.

Substrate/Bedding
Low dust litters, such as recycled paper products and pelleted litter, can be used. Avoid shaved aspen, sand, or small grained litter as this can get under the spines and cause irritation. Corn cob should not be used as it can harbor mold spores.

Hiding Place/Den
Wooden house make great, safe, and secure sleeping places – mimicking their natural burrows.

Cage Type
Cages with easily cleaned plastic bottoms and airy wire tops make great homes. The larger the better – There should be room for the larger plastic exercise wheels. Hedgehogs love to climb (despite their squat, bulky shape), so ramps or ladders allow for more exercise and fun. Cat toys can be used for toys.

Diet
Naturally insectivorous in the wild, most of their nutritional needs can be met with pelleted foods made specifically for hedgehogs . Live insects such as wax worms, super worms, and crickets offer fresh nutrition (especially gut loaded insects.)

Supplements
Extra protein in the form of soft scrambled eggs, canned dog or cat food, or freeze dried treats can be offered. Dark leafy greens, vegetables, and soft fruits, offered sparingly, can add variety to their diet, as can small amounts of cooked meat. Prepackaged pasta mixes and vegetable mixes can be served dry or warm. Enzymes help hedgehogs get more nutrition out of their foods.

Diet Precautions
Obesity can occur from over feeding and lack of exercise. Even though hedgehogs love milk and cheese, these should never be fed as these animals are lactose intolerant. Meal worms can cause obesity.

Feeding
Hedgehogs are awake when their food is awake. In the wild, this is at night. By removing food at night and replacing it during the day at home switches their schedule to match yours. Food should be served room temperature or warmed; cold food from the refrigerator can cause digestive upset.

Water Source
Water bottles stay cleaner than water dishes, as hedgehogs can kick substrate into it.

Grooming
Hedgehogs groom themselves. The need a bath once or twice a year, using mild baby shampoo.

Oral and Foot Care
Long nails need to be trimmed, a tricky task that should be done by someone with experience (your vet or Wilmette Pet). Hedgehogs have no real oral problems.

Proper Handling
Startled or scared hedgehogs are so defensive that handling them is uncomfortable. They can be then scooped up with a flat spatula or towel. Calm, relaxed hedgehogs are active and very handlable and seem to enjoy climbing over and around your hand. When startled they can roll up and raise their spines, making it likely they will be dropped, so keep them close to the ground. Do not use gloves, as this prevents the hedgehog from becoming accustomed to your scent.

Habitat Maintenance
Being desert animals hedgehogs are fairly clean. Spot clean daily and replace substrate weekly. Hedgehogs can be trained to the litter pan in their cage; place soiled bedding for scent.

Health Concerns
Check new hedgehogs for signs of fleas or mites. Hedgehogs are pretty hardy animals. Respiratory problems can result from lack of ventilation and unclean homes. A condition hedgehog breeders must watch out for is called Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS), a neurological condition similar to MS in humans. Hedgehogs can occasionally suffer from congenital cancers.

Nov 162011
 
Gerbil Care and Feeding

Gerbil, Meriones unguiculatus

Download this care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
6 – 12 inches, including tail

Life Span
2 – 4 years

Male/Female Differences
Sexing gerbils is done by eyeing the distance between the urethra and the anus; the distance is further apart than females. Both are equally handleable. Females may be more defensive while trying to nest or raise its young.

Compatibility
Gerbils from the same litters are most compatible. Males mix together well. Females may fight to establish dominance as they are more territorial than males.

Origin B
reeding groups originally exported from Mongolia

Climate
Home temperature is preferred.

Day Cycle
Diurnal (awake during the day)

Temperature
60 – 75 degrees, avoid extremes.

Lighting
Low to normal lights are preferred, as bright lights can hurt sensitive eyes.

Humidity
Drier is better, but adapt to indoor humidity. Avoid extreme humidity, as it can lead to health problems.

Habitat/Territory
Semi-desert and arid steppes, in burrows. Plastic tubes recreate these in the cage.

Substrate/Bedding
Provide a safe and soft bedding, the less dusty the better. Cedar bedding can be toxic and pine too dusty. Good litters are shredded or pelleted aspen or recycled paper products. Supply nesting materials and dry hays.

Hiding Place/Den
Wooden house and coconut huts offer hiding places and the chance to chew. Plastic hamster tubes can be used, but will eventually be destroyed.

Cage Type
Aquariums, plastic cages with tube accessories, or wire. All should be escape proof, ventilated, and easy to clean. Gerbils love to wander at night. Supply the largest cage that’s possible.

Diet
A few critter cubes and 1-2 tbls of high quality hamster seed mix is given as a staple. Being desert animals, fruits and vegetables may be too rich for their diets and should be offered sparingly. Sunflower seeds are favorites and can be used as rewards (pick out of seed mixes and save for later.)

Supplements
Vitamins in water help supply nutrients missing from captive diets. Treat sticks made of seeds and honey are good treats. Yoghurt-covered fruit bits can help maintain intestinal florae.

Diet Precautions
Overfeeding and lack of exercise can lead to obesity. Vitamin supplements only need to offered to unhealthy gerbils or to ones with restricted diets.
Feeding Placing food in a bowl will help prevent over feeding. Gerbils will move most of their food into their nest and bury it for later.

Water Source
Water dishes can easily become soiled, so water bottles are preferred. As gerbils can quickly chew most plastic bottles, rounded bottles or metal sleeves will last longer.

Grooming
These desert animals are relatively clean, and, when kept in groups, groom each other as part of their social interaction. Offer chinchilla dust for bathing; they use this to remove excess oils from their fur.

Oral and Foot Care
The gerbil’s teeth continue to grow. Malocclusion can occur when opportunities to gnaw are not offered. Care with wheels needs to be taken, as wire wheels can trap and seriously injure tails and feet; plastic or safety wheels should be used.

Proper Handling
Social animals, they love to be handled, and are very curious about people. Care needs to be taken initially as startled gerbils are quick and can jump quite high. Tame gerbils rarely bite unprovoked. Do not pick a gerbil up by its tail. Their tails are fragile and this could cause damage.

Habitat Maintenance
Weekly cleaning of the cage is needed, with daily spot cleaning of toilet areas. Being desert animals, they produce little waste and usually eliminate in the same area.

Health Concerns
Diarrhea can be a problem. This can be caused by improper diet or dirty cages. Respiratory problems can be due to improper ventilation and dirty bedding. Obesity can be a problem when fed unhealthy, unbalanced diets.