Small furries companionship

Which small furries need a mate? Which ones don’t? Who should care for my pet when I go on holiday?

In this section we’ll look at:

  • Who should care for my pet if I go on holiday?
  • Chinchillas
  • Dwarf Hamsters
  • Ferrets
  • Gerbils
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Syrian Hamsters

Who should care for my pet if I go on holiday?

If you go on holiday, you need to arrange for someone responsible to care for your pet. A friend or professional “pet-sitter” could look after them. Make sure they know about your pet’s requirements. Leave a list of information, such as how much food and exercise your pet needs, any medication they might be on and how to give it – and your vet’s contact details for emergencies.

Chinchillas

Chinchillas are social animals. They need the company of other chinchillas. They can get lonely and stressed if they live on their own. Another chinchilla is best as a companion. As humans we are not a good substitute as a companion for a chinchilla: they have different needs and ways of communicating.

Choose littermates of the same sex to reduce the chance of chinchillas fighting. Only put them together if have grown up together – and make sure they are of the same sex – male with male, female with female.

Avoid unwanted litters. Keep male and female chinchillas apart well before eight months old, as this is when they become sexually mature. Unless neutered, they will breed and usually produce a litter of two babies. It can be difficult to find homes for their young.


Dwarf Hamsters

Check the type of hamster you have and whether it should be kept alone or with a partner.
Dwarf hamsters will often live happily in pairs. Syrian hamsters must be housed on their own.


Ferrets

Ferrets need another furry ferret as a companion. They are social animals and can get lonely and stressed if they live on their own.

Choose littermates of the same sex to reduce the chance of ferrets fighting. Only put them together if have grown up together – and make sure they are of the same sex – male with male, female with female.

Avoid unwanted litters
. Keep unneutered male and female ferrets apart as they will breed. It can be hard to find homes for their young.


Gerbils

Gerbils need to be with two or three other gerbils they have grown up with as this minimises the chance of them fighting. Gerbils are likely to fight if they are over 10 weeks old when they meet each other.

Avoid unwanted litters
. Keep males and females apart as they can breed from about 10 weeks of age. Each litter can produce three to six babies, which can be hard to find a home for.


Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs need other guinea pigs as playmates as they are very social animals. They will get lonely and stressed if they live on their own. As humans we are not a good substitute for living with another guinea pig: they have different needs and ways of communicating. Imagine how lonely you would feel if you lived in a home full of guinea pigs. So another guinea pig is best as a companion. If they do live alone, let them interact with you and other people they trust for several hours a day.

Choose littermates of the same sex to reduce the chance of guinea pigs fighting. Only put them together if have grown up together – and make sure they are of the same sex – male with male, female with female.

Avoid unwanted litters. Keep male and female guinea pigs apart unless they are neutered. Males can father babies at around nine weeks of age – and females as young as three weeks old. They will breed litters, usually of one to six babies, which can be hard to find homes for.

Keep rabbits and guinea pigs apart. Rabbits can bully and injure guinea pigs. They need their own kind for company.


Mice

Mice need other mice as mates. But choosing the right one is key. It’s best to keep mice together who have grown up together as they are less likely to fight – males with males, females with females.

Avoid unwanted litters. Keep male and female mice apart from before six weeks old. After that they become sexually mature, they will breed and produce an average litter of 5 to 12 babies, which can be difficult to find homes for.

Rats

Rats need another rat as a playmate, companion and to huddle together for warmth, reassurance and to have a good quality of life. Research shows that rats kept together tend to be less fearful and recover faster from illnesses. As humans we are not a good substitute for living with another rat: they have different needs and ways of communicating. So another rat is best as a companion.

If they do live alone, let them interact with you and other people they trust every day.

How to put rats together

  • It’s best to put littermates together who have grown up together – males with males, females with females – as they are less likely to fight. 

  • Females are less likely to fight each other than males living together.

  • Keep males and females apart to avoid unwanted litters. 

  • To put two males together, it may be better to make one of them a baby male, as the older one will be more likely to accept them.


How to introduce unrelated rats

  • Always introduce unrelated rats on neutral territory, as rats can be very territorial. 

  • Initially let them meet for a small amount of time. Gradually extend the time, until they show signs of getting along. Give them a couple of weeks to learn to get along: after that, they usually become the best of friends. They can then move into a cage together that neither have lived in for a week or so – or the smell of the other rat will be there and rats will become territorial.

  • Keep a close eye on them and if there is bullying behaviour or fighting, it’s best to keep them apart. You need to remain calm too: rats are very good at picking up signs of stress. 


Avoid unwanted litters. Keep male and female rats apart from five weeks old. They become sexually mature between six to eight weeks old and can produce litters of between 8 to 18 babies.

How do I know if my rats are being aggressively fighting or just play-fighting?
Look for the signs below. Rats often play with each other, even as adults. Some owners confuse harmless play fighting with true aggression – and make them live alone unnecessarily. Squeaking doesn’t always mean a rat is harmed: they do this with both play fighting and aggressive fighting.


Signs of aggressive fighting:

  • One of the rats’ fur stands on end during the fighting

  • Injuries are caused

  • One rat attempts to bite the other’s bottom or sides

  • One of the rats – the weaker one – hides a lot, or creeps nervously around the cage


Signs of play fighting:

  • Both rats take turns in chasing and pinning the other rat

  • The “bites” – which don’t cause injury – are aimed at the back of the neck


Separate rats who frequently fight each other aggressively, to avoid stress and injury.

Syrian Hamsters

Check the type of hamster you have and whether it should be kept alone or with a partner.
Syrian hamsters must be housed alone or they will fight if kept together. Dwarf hamsters will often live happily in pairs.

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