Ask a Veterinarian

I wanted to ask a veterinarian about keeping small mammals as pets and specifically I was interested in Hamsters but found a great site with some pertinent information. The group of small mammals comprised of hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, mice and rats are commonly found at pets stores, and favorites as family pets. While they are all rodents (with the possible exception of the guinea pig, whose classification as a rodent is disputed in the scientific community), they have varied requirements for space and social interaction, and have differing qualities as pets. The following comparison can help you decide which of these rodents might be the right pet for you.
Syrian or golden hamsters live on average about 2-3 years. Adults are about 6 inches in length. They are solitary animals that should be kept one to a cage. A basic minimum cage size is 12 x 18 inches (and 12 inches tall), but since hamsters are quite active, the bigger the better (and those cute modular plastic hamster cages are often too small for hamsters).
Syrian hamsters that are handled from a young age usually have an agreeable temperament, but if not handled much they can be defensive and can deliver a painful bite (they are also nocturnal and can be difficult to wake or act grumpy if woken during the day). Overall hamsters are widely available and make good pets, with the advantage that they can be kept single. Also, several species of dwarf hamster are becoming more widely available. These are smaller than Syrian hamsters and are often more social, at least with others of their species. Some have a reputation as biters, although that depends a bit on the species and how much they are handled. I still have some questions that I want to ask a veterinarian about before I get some of these cute little animals for myself.

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