Garanimals Blog

June 29th, 2011 at 5:00 am

What the heck is a Pocket Pet?

Pocket pets, as you might guess, are pets that are literally small enough to fit in your pocket. While some reptiles, amphibians, arachnids and even birds might also fit this description, the term generally applies to small mammals. Cute and fuzzy, these tiny animals are the biggest thing in pets these days.

Here’s a brief list of animals generally considered to be pocket pets; some are pretty familiar, but others may be brand new to you:

Degu — this small animal looks a lot like a large gerbil. It is from the same family as the guinea pig and is not a rodent. They are social animals that live best in groups or at least pairs and, because they are climbers, require a multi-level habitat.

Dormouse — domice look more like tiny squirresl than mice, and are actually marsupials, which means they carry their young in a pouch, like a kangaroo. Dormice are climbers and should be housed in a multi-level habitat.

Duprasi — this little guy looks like a tiny chinchilla and grows to about 3-5 inches, not including it’s fluffy, 2-inch tail. The duprasi is quite docile and makes a good family pet that can be housed in the same habitat you would use for a gerbil or hamster.

Gerbil — gerbils are small rodents that make good pets, but are extremely fast, so should only be handled by children under adult supervision. They are best housed in a small glass tank with a tight-fitting mesh top. They are quite active and need an exercise wheel made of a solid material, so its long tail doesn’t get caught.

Hamster — hamsters grow up to five inches long and are cute and fuzzy, like gerbils, but remember that hamsters are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and are awake when you (and your children) are asleep. Young hamsters that are handled frequently and socialized well make the best pets.

Hedgehog — docile and friendly, the African pygmy hedgehog has been bred as a pet. They grow to about six inches long and are inquisitive pets with good memories. Some families with allergies have found the pygmy hedgehog to be a good choice, but you should check with your allergist first.

Jird — not a bird, a jird is a large member of the gerbil family. Their larger size may make them more comfortable for small children to handle and they are generally friendly and easy going. They require the same kind of housing, bedding, food and care as a gerbil.

Mouse — pet mice (or “fancy” mice) have been bred to be calm and friendly. They are social and should be kept in groups or at least pairs, but don’t put two males together unless you get them when they are very young. Mice are very tiny and easily hurt, so aren’t usually the best choice for very young children.

Pygmy opossum — these tiny marsupials have opposable thumbs and prehensile tails that make them good climbers. They are generally nocturnal loners and need a tall cage with a climbing branch.

Rat — domestic pet rats are curious, interactive with humans and highly trainable. They are friendly and unlikely to bite if they have been handled and well socialized as babies. Rats can make excellent family pets.

Sugar glider — these marsupials are named for their love of sweet fruits and nectar. Though tiny and cute, gliders need a lot of human attention, as well as a lot of room for such a small animal. They are best housed in a large bird cage with close bars (no more than 1/4-inch apart).

Pocket pets can make a great addition to your family. For more information on caring for pocket pets, check out this article from the American Animal Hospital Association.

Susan Bearman also writes at Two Kinds of People, Mike&Ollie: 24-weekers Who Beat the Odds and The Animal Store Blog, as well as being a regular contributor to The Chicago Moms and Technorati.


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