For the second installment in my ‘let’s talk about pets’ series, I’d like to tackle the subject of which pet is best for you and your family. I got alot of responses to my last post from people who were just considering their first family pet, or had recently opened their home to one. I’d like to give a brief overview of several popular choices, to maybe help you decide whether they’d be right for you.
I’ve had many GP’s over the years, and have always been fascinated by them. The wiry haired little cavies are naturally curious and friendly. I am yet to meet one that that is anything by even tempered. They don’t smell, so can be kept indoors, or in a covered area outside. If they are handled from the time they are young, they will continue to enjoy playing, and in my opinion are one of the best picks for smaller children, who can be fascinated but a little rough.
Hamsters or mice
I had a hamster as my first real pet. Like the GP, they are quite easy to tame, pretty clean, and don’t smell as long as they are cleaned out regularly. The two big differences between the hamster and the GP are the size, and their sleeping habits. A hamster is much smaller than a GP, which can be a positive or negative depending on how you look at it. If I were to add up the hours during my lifetime that I have spent looking solely for lost hamsters, I would have a free week with which to take a cruise or clean out the attic. This can make them an unwise choice for younger children for this reason, and because younger children do like to squeeze – something which the hammy does not appreciate, and can make it a little cranky and hard to handle. Hamsters are also nocturnal, so depending on where you have them in the house, you could quite possibly be listening to them in their squeaky wheel all night, while your frustrated child watches them sleep all day (or wakes them up – which really doesn’t please them either). I have put mice in the same field as hamsters (though trying to find either of them in a field would be a difficult task) purely because of their size and life span. A mouse is not nocturnal, and has a tail. It can be a little smaller. To my mind these are the main differences, and they still come with their ‘handle with care’ warning. I think both make excellent pets for an older child of perhaps 8+ who is able to appreciate that they don’t want to be handled all the time, and can get pretty cranky if this is expected of them.
The big stumbling block with these not so little fellows is the price. Chins can set you back around £100, with that again for the cage. A big investment to make if you’re not even sure if they’re the right pet for you. I actually adore Chins, and before owning…two, I loved looking at the big furled up balls of fur in the pet shops. I genuinely thought that was all they did. Me and the family went through a protracted stage of rehoming waifs and strays, and this was how we came to have these funny bundles of fur in our home. True to form they slept most of the day, but come the evening and it was a completely different story. Chins are very happy to run around in their monster cages, and are very comedic when ‘bathing’ in their special sand, but they really come to life when the suns sets and evening draws in. Yet another small mammal that is in fact nocturnal. Chins are pretty independent and quite hard to tame. Like a cat, it’s best if you let them come to you, and have a sneaky cuddle when they’re snuggled on your lap. Given the freedom of the front room, or any one room, they will leap from chair to chair like little grey Picachu and provide hours of entertainment. I have to say though, the relationship you have with Chin is more of a passive than an active one, so if you want cuddles on demand, they are not for you, unless that is you want one grumpy Chin.
Bunnies are a classic family staple, and much loved by adults and children alike. They are great for cutting the grass (ideally penned in, unless you are 100% sure your garden is secure) and amusing to look at. Their poos, like all those in the list here, are fairly inoffensive to the nose, and they will not smell if cleaned out regularly. If handled from young, rabbits are cute and cuddly, and fairly robust. As long as they are supported properly, they are happy to be held, and will rarely scratch. Younger children should be helped to support bunny to keep everyone happy. Like the GP’s, they can live inside or outdoors. In fact, a bunny and a GP make a very good in cage combination if they are paired when young. The phrase ‘breeding like rabbits’ does have a firm basis in reality, and if you are going to have more than one, make sure they are both the same sex. That really goes for all of the animals mentioned here. Do be cautious if you have allergies in the family, as rabbit fur is alot like cat fur in terms of allergies, and is very fine and plentiful.
And in true bunny style….that really is all folks. If you’d like to know any more about my experience with small mammals, please do comment. I will be following this up with information about other pet varieties shortly, so please let me know if there’s anything you’d specifically like to read about. As I’ve said, this is from my experience only, and is but a brief overview. Please do your research and talk to your vet before committing to give a forever home to any pet, or child….though your vet may not be less useful in that instance 😉