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Pet Tips Library

The Scoop On … Rabbits, Reptiles, Spiders, Oh My!

Although cats and dogs are typically the stars of the shelter, many other types of pets come to Tri-County Humane Society in need of loving homes.

Our Small Animal Room tends to be a catch-all for any pet we take in who is not a cat or dog. This includes small mammals, reptiles, birds, and other unique pets. On rare occasions, we may even get in a tarantula! These critters may make up a smaller area in the shelter, but they will certainly still fill your heart just the same!

‘Less work’? Not exactly

One misconception we sometimes hear is that a small animal pet such as a rabbit or guinea pig is “easier” or “less work” than a cat or dog. While they are not as demanding of our time and resources as cats or dogs may be, they still have specific housing, diet, medical, and social needs to be met. A great thing about adopting a unique pet species is the opportunity to learn about the biology of the animals and add to your knowledge of the natural world! The following is a brief list (not all-inclusive) of some of the small animals we rehome through TCHS. Keep in mind all animals should be given appropriate outlets to engage in the normal behaviors of their species.

Rabbits: Can live over 10 years with proper care; they are social with people once they are accustomed to them; they can be litter box-trained with the right steps and patience; do well with a large open enclosure or even a whole room to run around and exercise; if kept in a smaller cage/hutch they should get plenty of human social time and exercise outside of their cage.

Guinea pigs: Generally live 5-8 years; do best in same-sex pairs as they are highly social with one another; have a wide range of entertaining vocals; tend to be easygoing.

Hamsters: Generally live 1-3 years; solitary animals and should not live with other hamsters; develop interesting individual personalities.

Gerbils: Live about 2-4 years; often do well in same-sex small groups; need lots of bedding/substrate in which to tunnel and burrow; active and curious.

Mice & rats: Generally live 1-4 years; very social with their own species and humans; intelligent critters who have been scientifically shown to display empathy; do best in same-sex pairs or small groups.

Snakes & lizards: There are several varieties of snakes and lizards kept as pets, and each one has its own unique needs; reptiles are cold-blooded so proper temperatures are important; they can live many years.

Turtles & tortoises: Tend to have quite long lifespans depending on the type; generally easygoing; some are aquatic and some are land-based; each type has unique needs; they are reptiles and need heat control as well.

Birds: Many different types of birds are kept as pets and each type has different needs; very intelligent animals and certain parrot-type birds can learn words; often kept in cages and should be given safe flight options as well; varying lifespans, many can be quite long.

All creatures, great and small, deserve love, patience, and proper care. Consider adopting a unique pet today!

Rose Hegerle, CVT, is TCHS’ Animal Care Manager.

2023 Facts:

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  • Total Surgeries


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