Which Small Rodents Make Good Pets?

We have a lot of love for mice on this site as you are fully aware. However, they are not the only the only rodents that make good pets. I am often asked which small rodents make good pets, and there are a few.

Each spices have different traits and behaviors. They all require some different care and attention, you cannot enter into owning any pet without doing your research first. I will give you a good look at several different members of the rodent family. Giving you an idea of what they are like as pets, and you can decide if you think they are for you.

Gerbils

Pet gerbil

General Appearance

Gerbils look a lot like hamsters, although there are some differences to the trained eye. Their heads are wider, they have smaller ears, a more slender body, and a longer tail. They move more like mice do, with arched backs and some rapid bursts of movement. They measure around 8″ from tail to head.

Their fur is short and slightly coarse, and come in the main colors of:

  • Orange
  • Gray
  • Brown
  • White
  • Black

Personality

Gerbils are fun pets, they provide you with lots to watch and interact with. However, they are not recommended for young children. They do have a tendency to bite a little, and this can be startling for a child. With a lot of attention and handling while they are young this can be avoided, they will be tamed.

They love to investigate, climb, and burrow. Give them plenty of toys to interact with in their cage and they’ll be happy. They power nap a lot to counteract all the bursts of energy they release. Put an exercise wheel in their cage too, they will use it.

Interesting Facts

  • Gerbils get lonely on their own, always own more than one.
  • Their life expectancy is around 3-4 years.
  • They will shed their tail if they are picked up by it or feel threatened.
  • Gerbils can be trained to do tricks.

More information over at the National Gerbils Society.

Guinea Pigs

Pet Guinea Pig

General Appearance

These are cute little creatures and come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and hair types. They
are on the podgy side and get to about 2lbs when fully grown. Their appearance is round eyes, blunt noses, and small ears resembling a flower petal. They can have short or long hair, each giving quite a different look. There are quite a few different breeds, so if your buying one do some research into its background.

Personality

Guinea Pigs are great pets for people of all ages, they really don;t bite often unless they are forced into an extreme position. They have a pleasant nature, loving, social creatures. Enjoying fussing and attention from people and other pets. They will even make a whistling noise when they see you approaching when they are familiar with you.

They like to keep active and have plenty of space to play in. So aim for a big cage, and let them run freely when possible. It’s fun watching them too, they will hop and jump around and look perfectly content.

Interesting Facts

  • Guinea Pigs love the social interaction of others, so hook them up with a cage mate.
  • Their life expectancy is 6-8 years.
  • They are different to most rodents in appearance and activity, there is some debate if they are true ‘rodents’.
  • Guinea pigs are vegetarians.

Fin more information about guinea pigs over at the British Cavy Council.

Hamsters

Pet hamster

General Appearance

There are a few different breeds of hamsters kept as pets. But the Syrian hamster is by far the most popular, and likey the breed you see in pet stores and such. They are short rodents, usually around 5″ long. They have short tails, large eye, and ears standing upright.

Syrian hamsters come in a range of colors, not just the orange you’d usually expect:

  • White
  • Gold
  • Cinnamon
  • Cream
  • Black
  • Sable
  • Grey

Personality

Hamsters make great pets for people of all ages, although they are not as keen to be held as you may think. They can have a little nip too unless they are tamed well while they are young. For children, they are more of an observational pet that can be transferred into an exercise ball to wander around in.

They are nocturnal creatures, so don’t keep their cage in the bedroom if you’re a light sleeper. They love running on exercise wheels and this can be quite noisy. Make sure they have some chewy items to gnaw on, they need to keep their teeth trim.

Interesting Facts

  • Syrian hamsters are perfectly happy living alone.
  • Their life expectancy is 2-3 years.
  • Hamsters store food in their cheeks.
  • Hamsters are color blind.

Find out more information about hamsters over at the National Hamster Council.

Mice

Which Small Rodents Make Good Pets

General Appearance

There is plenty of information on mice throughout this site. But to summarize, they grow to around 4″ long, sometimes longer for show breeds of fancy mice. They have long tails, large ears in proportion to their bodies, and come in a wide range of colors.
If you need more information you can read about housing, feeding, and behavior here.

Personality

Regarding which small rodents make good pets based on personality, i may be a little bias but I have to say mice are great. They are busy little creatures and fun to watch going about their business.

Domesticated mice are known as fancy mice, and are very tame around humans. You need to put in the time handling them, but they will become a lot more tame. They are nocturnal like hamsters, so expect activity overnight. Their teeth need regular gnawing too, so put some cardboard or chew toys in with them.

Interesting Facts

  • Females are a lot happier living together than males, males will often fight.
  • The life expectancy of a mouse is 1-2 years.
  • Mice communicate to each other with facial expressions.
  • Mice can jump 3-4 meters.

Rats

Pet Rat

General Appearance

Rats look similar to mice, they are certainly closer in appearance than other rodents. The average rat grows to around 17″ however, which is considerably larger than a mouse.

Rats coats are glossy and smooth, and fancy rats bred for captivity are very docile and friendly. They come in shades of grey, beige, brown, black, and more. There are also various patterns to their fur, giving quite a wide range of looks.

Personality

Fancy rats make wonderful pets, and have quite a following and range of fan clubs. They require a high degree of mental stimulation and interaction, not a pet for just observing. They are extremely intelligent, and will learn and adapt to their environment.

They can be trained to perform some basic tricks, and the males will happily sit and be a lap pet for owners. Females are more active and less inclined to sit peacefully for long periods of time, but still make great pets.

Although they are nocturnal creatures, their sleep cycle will change to suit the pattern you have, if it means more time spent interacting with you. As with all rodents, don’t forget to provide something to chew on, otherwise rats can do a considerable amount of damage to anything they come across.

Interesting Facts

  • Their life expectancy of a fancy rat is 2-3 years.
  • Rats don’t smell or bite like most people think.
  • The average lifespan is two to three years.
  • Rats are omnivores, they eat anything.

Find out more information over at the National Fancy Rat Society.

Chinchillas

Pet Chinchilla

General Appearance

Chinchillas are interesting rodents, they have extremely dense and soft coats and furry tails. Their eyes are round and large, and they have large ears. They are about the same size as a Guinea pig, reaching about 15″ in length from nose to tail.
They are predominately grey, with lighter shades on their underside. In the wild they live in large packs, so they are very adept at being social and love to have a cage mate or two.

Personality

Domestic chinchillas are good pets for children and adults. They do need to be handled carefully however, so younger children will need to take extra care. They suffer from stress if they are put in stressful conditions, or if there is a lot of noise around them.

This means positioning their cage carefully, no noisy or draft places. They are nocturnal animals, becoming most active around dusk. You can let them out of their cage if you have a chinchilla friendly apartment. They can be hard to catch if they get away,

Making them more tame is a matter of time and patience. As their trust in you grows, they will become a lot more friendly with you. Tame chinchillas will approach you and take food out of your hand, they can have a nibble on fingers though so be careful.

Interesting Facts

  • Female chinchillas are the more dominant of the two genders.
  • Chinchillas love social activity, play with them regularly and have a cage mate.
  • Life expectancy is at least 10 years, so it’s a long living rodent.
  • They take dust baths to clean their fur, rolling around in a bath of sand.

Find out more information over at the National Chinchilla Society.

Which Small Rodents Make Good Pets for You?

Hopefully this information has helped you to decide which rodent is best for you, and your lifestyle. If your busy, a hamster or gerbil, if you like hanging out with your pet, a male rat will be ideal, if you like long living pets then choose a chinchilla, and if you want a fluffy unique looking rodent go for a guinea pig.

As always, good luck and I hope you find the ideal pet for you that you can care for, and love for a long time.

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