Picking the Right Pet

Think about the space you have and time you can spend caring for a pet before getting one. Small pets like rodents need big cages to move in. Birds need big cages too. Fish and reptiles need special tanks and lighting. Make sure you know what each kind of pet will need.



Hamsters sleep during the day. They need bedding to dig and hide in. Get the biggest plastic or wire cage you can for exercise and fun. Give them food made just for hamsters plus fruits, vegetables and insects as treats.

Guinea Pigs

How to Care for Small Pets? Pig

Guinea pigs should live together to be happy. They need lots of room, vitamin C from food/veggies and places to hide. Get them a big cage, food bowl, water bottle and timothy hay specifically for guinea pigs.


How to Care for Small Pets? Bunnies

Bunnies need the most space of common small pets. They should live in a large cage, pen or bunny proof room. Bunnies in small cages need daily play time to run. They can only eat certain foods like hay, greens and some veggies.

Proper Homes

How to Care for Small Pets? Proper Homes

A good home is important for small pets to be happy and healthy. Give them enough room, bedding, hiding spots and things to play with. Here is some housing information:

Aquariums & Terrariums

Fish need filtered tanks to swim in. Reptiles need setups with lighting and heating like terrariums. Follow all habitat setup directions.


Get good quality cages for small furry pets with room to play. Choose wire, plastic or metal cages. Attach food dishes, water bottles and toys. Keep cages clean.


Rodents do well in large plastic or glass tanks filled with bedding. Put tunnels, toys and exercise wheels in the tanks for them to play. Clean tanks every day.

Feeding Tips

How to Care for Small Pets? Feeding Tips

Give your small pet the right foods and water for health. Here are some feeding guidelines:

Fresh Water

Always make sure pets have full, clean water bottles or bowls. Change the water every day. Filtered water is best.

Balanced Diet

Follow package instructions for pet food amount. Also give vegetables, hay and limited fruits that are okay for your pet to eat. Give healthy treats in moderation.


Mix up food choices appropriately and slowly introduce new foods. Rotate treats. Time feedings for pets that nibble all day so they always have some food.

Limit People Food

Do not feed pets fatty people food or junk food that can make them gain weight or get sick. Keep sugar and fat low. Chocolate and caffeine are also bad for small pets.

Grooming & Nail Care

How to Care for Small Pets? Grooming

Regular grooming keeps small pets clean, healthy and their nails trimmed. Long-haired ones need more brushing. Here are some tips:


Use a soft pet brush and go in the direction the hair grows. Brush often to remove loose hair and make their coat nice. Look for skin issues when brushing.


Most small pets clean themselves. Only bathe long-haired ones occasionally. Use gentle shampoo and dry them fully after.

Nail Trims

Clip nails carefully every few weeks. Use special pet clippers. File any sharp edges. Be careful not to hit the quick which will hurt and bleed.


All furry pets shed more at seasonal changes. Brush often to remove loose hair and make their skin and coat better. Consider professional deshedding treatments during heavy shedding.


How to Care for Small Pets? Behaviour

Watching your pet closely helps you see any sickness signs early. Here are some basic health tips:


Learn what’s normal for your pet like how active or hungry they are. Call the vet if you notice decreased activity, less appetite or other weird behavior changes.

Physical Condition

Feel their body once or twice a week to check for lumps, bumps, injuries or sensitivity. Make sure they move around normally. Look at teeth.


Frequent brushing keeps their skin and coat clean. You can look for any parasites, skin problems, infections or other issues needing the vet.

Hoof Care

Rodent’s and rabbit’s nails should be clipped regularly to prevent injury and teeth problems. Check teeth length and see the vet for any issues.


Talk to exotic vet about what vaccines to get for your pet. Keep shots like distemper and rabies current. Guinea pigs may need respiratory vaccines.

Exercise & Play

How to Care for Small Pets? Exercise and Play

All small pets need daily play and exercise to be happy and healthy physically and mentally. Give them safe spaces and toys. Interact positively with them.

Play Spaces

Make safe play areas for them to play and run in for exercise outside their home cage. Use playpens, perches and tents depending on pet.

Exercise Wheels

Let small pets get exercise with solid running wheels sized appropriately for them. Wheels should have good traction.

Toys & Tunnels

Hide food inside cardboard tubes, tunnels and boxes for mental stimulation. Give them wood blocks or branches from safe trees to chew. Rotate new toys to keep things interesting for them.


Spend time every day gently interacting with pets that enjoy it like rodents, rabbits and birds. Supervise any children playing gently with pets.

Outdoor Time

Let rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas play outdoors supervised when safe in an enclosed area. Make sure they have water and shade. Watch for escape attempts and predators.

Cleaning Tips

How to Care for Small Pets? cleaning tips

Keeping your pet’s home clean is vital to their health. Do these cleaning tasks:

Spot Clean

Scoop poop, old food and dump water every day. Scrub and refill water bottles and bowls so water stays clean. Wash food bowls with hot water. Replace things as needed.

Deep Clean

Take everything out to fully wash, disinfect and air dry cages & tanks weekly to monthly depending on number of pets. Replace all soiled bedding, litter etc when cleaning.

Wash Bedding

Replace fabric bedding enclosures, liners, sleep sacks regularly or whenever dirty. Machine wash and completely dry them before giving back to pets.

Clean Toys

Throw away chewed up toys. Wash hard plastic toys, wood blocks etc with soap and water. Let toys air dry completely before giving back. Rotate new toys to keep pets interested.

Check for Pests

Look for mites, lice, fleas etc during cleaning and grooming. Treat pets and cages as necessary. If found, wash and disinfect everything really well.


How to Care for Small Pets? Travelling

Traveling with small pets takes planning but cuts down on stress for everyone. Here are some tips:


Use well ventilated plastic or fabric carriers designed for pets travel needs. Line carriers with familiar bedding. Attach food bowls and buckle carriers in securely.


Bring enough food, medicine, treats, potty pads, litter etc to last the whole trip. Pack favorite toys or blankets to reassure nervous pets.


Keep carriers shaded and cool. Use microwavable heating pads to keep small pets warm if needed. Prevent getting too hot or cold.

Limit Exposure

Cover cages to minimize unfamiliar stimuli and respiratory issues. Only open when necessary to offer food/water or change temporary litter trays. Try to limit stress.


Take short practice car rides first so pets get used to travel. Use favorite treats to positively reinforce car travel experiences. Adjust procedures to make pets comfortable.

Common Health Issues

How to Care for Small Pets? Common Health Issues

Catching health problems early allows for prompt vet treatment. Here are some common small pet illnesses:

Respiratory Infection

Stress, dusty air, temperature changes and other animals can cause respiratory infections. Look for nasal discharge, wheezing, sneezing and lethargy. See vet promptly.


Diarrhea lasting over 24 hours needs veterinary attention to check for dehydration, weight loss or other issues.

Skin Irritation

Ringworm fungal infections, mites, lice and fleas can cause scratching, hair loss and skin irritation. Get prompt parasite and infection treatment from vet.


Lack of exercise and too many fatty treats can quickly lead to overweight pets prone to illness. Stick to appropriate diets and limit junk food.

Broken Bones

Improperly handled small pets can suffer broken bones needing immobilization and surgical repair. Always handle delicate pets very gently to prevent injury.

Teeth Issues

Rodents and rabbits that don’t gnaw enough get overgrown misaligned teeth needing trimming or correction by vet. Provide plenty of chewing toys.

Exotic Vet Care

How to Care for Small Pets? Exotic Vet Care

Find veterinary clinics with exotic pet experience before getting your pet. Ask:


Do vets have training and expertise treating exotic pets? How many years have they treated pets like yours? Some vets only know cats and dogs.


Can they do checkups, vaccines, nail trims and give diet advice? What preventative care or minor injury help can they offer?

Emergency Care

Will someone be available for after hours emergency vet care? What emergency services can they provide?


Make sure the vet keeps exotics housed safely away from stress-causing dogs and cats. Do they know safe exotic medications and treatments?


Exotic vet care often costs more than cats and dogs. Discuss costs for procedures like exams, lab tests, dental cleanings beforehand so you can budget for adequate care.

Enjoying Your Small Pet

Do research to make sure you can realistically provide everything a pet needs to stay healthy and happy. Give them the appropriate housing, food, vet care. Gently interact with them positively every day. Enjoy getting to know your new small friend!

Frequently Asked Questions


What toys can I give my small pet to play with?

Appropriate toys include tunnels, cardboard boxes, untreated wood blocks, paper towel rolls, and hard plastic balls or chew toys. Rotate toys to keep things interesting.

How often should I clean my small pet’s water bottle or bowl?

Scrub water receptacles thoroughly every day with hot water and replace water to keep it clean and encourage drinking.

Can I use a wire cage for all small mammal pets?

Wire cages allow for ventilation but should have a solid bottom lined with appropriate bedding. Plastic cages or glass tanks also work well for many small pets.

What should I do if my pet stops eating or drinking?

Loss of appetite or decreased eating can signal illness in small pets. Call your exotic vet promptly if this lasts more than 24 hours.

How do I trim overgrown teeth in small mammals?

Use guillotine-style clippers made for rabbits, rodents or birds. Trim off a small bit at a time avoiding pulp exposure which is painful. Rotating chew toys helps wear teeth down.

Can different species of small pets live together?

No, they have different care needs. Also they may fight or spread contagious illnesses between species. Stick to same species pairs/groups.

How often should I take my small pet to the veterinarian?

Take small pets for wellness checkups 1-2 times per year. Seek vet attention as soon as you notice any behavior or health changes.

What signs indicate my pet may be in pain?

Decreased activity, appetite changes, lack of grooming, sensitivity to touch, visible injury, limping, trouble moving, and vocalizations can signify pain needing veterinary attention.

Are seeds and nuts good treats for small pets?

Occasional seeds and nuts make healthy low-fat treats for most rodents, rabbits and birds but give them in moderation due to high fat content. Avoid treats high in sugar.

What cleaning products are safe to use on small pet items?

Avoid harsh chemicals. Use gentle dish soap, vinegar, baking soda or pet-safe specialty cleaners. Completely rinse all items after washing.

Can I keep a single guinea pig or other social animal alone?

No, highly social small pets will get lonely and depressed without companions. Same species pairs or groups should be housed together.

What signs of illness should I watch for in small pets?

Decreased activity, appetite or grooming changes, nasal discharge, wheezing, limping, scratching, loose stool, sensitivity or trouble moving all need prompt exotic veterinary attention.