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What Pet Should I Get? – Choosing a Small Pet


We’ve all been there, seeing a picture of a cute puppy, or a floppy-eared rabbit and imagining what life would be like if we had our own small pet. We haven’t all got the budget or the space for a Tibetan Mastiff, but when it comes to our furry friends it’s not the size that matters.

So, to celebrate National Pet Day which took place on the 11th of April, 2021, we thought we’d put together a guide on what to consider when it comes to buying small pets. From the amount of maintenance they need, to the kinds of costs you’ll need to look out for, it’s good to know what you’re in for when it comes to your cute little companion.

Pet Hamsters

They’re cute little creatures that love to keep active in their cages. They generally don’t need a ton of attention, so they’re a perfect pet if you don’t have a huge amount of time to dedicate to them. They’re also a great starter pet for the kids, and while they can be cute and cuddly, they’re agile and like to explore, so you’ll need to be alert.

Small Pets: Small hamster with its hands by its mouth.

They keep active in their wheel and give themselves plenty of exercise. Unfortunately, as they’re nocturnal animals, they like to sleep during the day, so they aren’t always up for playing. It also means they can be a little noisy at night time, so that’s something to prepare for. You’ll also need to clean out their cage once a week to keep their hygiene in check.

How Much are Hamsters?

Hamsters typically cost between £10 and £20, so they’re a great pet for those on a tight budget. Depending on the personality of the hamster, sometimes it’s best to buy them with their brother or sister.

How Long do Hamsters Live?

A hamster live for around 2 years. However, some live for up to 3 years, with Chinese dwarf hamsters living for around 2 years and Roborovski dwarf hamsters living for up to 4 years.

What do Pet Hamsters Eat?

Hamsters love fresh fruit and vegetables. With leafy greens, pears, carrots and cabbage being a favourite. For a little bit of protein, you can treat them to some boiled egg, but remember that they only have tiny stomachs so don’t give them too much! You can also grab bags of dry food from pet stores and supermarkets that usually contain all the necessary bits and pieces to keep them happy and healthy.

What Do Hamsters Need?

They need a cage that’s big enough for them to run around in. A wheel is a must for exercise, and a ball is great for giving them a little time away from the enclosure. They’ll need a water bottle, a food bowl and a hideaway spot for them to build their home. You’ll also need some wood shavings to scatter in their cage. It’s generally safe for hamsters and it’s perfect for them to build their beds out of, but always check before you buy. You can find everything you need to know about owning a hamster on the RSPA website.

Pet Guinea Pigs

They’re gentle creatures that love being social. They need time out of their cage every day, so they need an owner that can keep an eye on them. They also need regular grooming. With short-haired guinea pigs needing their hair brushed once a week, and longer haired varieties needing daily brushing.

Small Pets: Brown and white guinea pig looking at the sky in a patch of grass.

You’ll need to clean the cage every week, and it’s good to spot check it every couple of days to clean up any messy spots. Other than that, they’re cuddly critters that love to be held, and when they’re really happy, they’ll show off some popcorning. Popcorning is an adorable way that guinea pigs show joy, where they’ll jump in the air suddenly without warning. But it’s nothing to worry about, they’re smiling on the inside.

How Much are Guinea Pigs?

Guinea Pigs typically cost around £20, and a perfect place to buy them is from an adoption home. While the adoption fee sits at around £20, you can take comfort knowing you’re giving your furry friend a new home. They are social creatures, so it’s best to buy them with a friend.

How Long do Guinea Pigs Live?

A Guinea pig tends to live for between 4 and 8 years so caring for them is a long-term commitment compared to domesticated rats and hamsters.

What do Pet Guinea Pigs Eat?

Guinea pigs are herbivores so they love some leafy greens and fresh vegetables. Spinach, broccoli, kale and parsley are firm favourites of theirs. You’ll want to keep them stocked up on hay and grass as it makes up for about 80% of their diet. To top it off, you can get them some dry guinea pig nuggets from your pet store.

What Do Guinea Pigs Need?

They’ll need a large cage so they’ve got plenty of space, and ideally you’ll want to fill it with paper bedding. They’ll need the standard issue water bottle and a food dish and a small box for them to hide in when they need a little alone time. It’s a great idea to give them a few toys to get their teeth into as well. For some more insight into guinea pig essentials, check out the Blue Cross guinea pig care guide.

Pet Rabbits

There’s not much cuter than a floppy eared rabbit. They’re quiet, fluffy creatures that like to be social and get plenty of exercise. They do like their space, so it’s a good idea to put their enclosure in a quiet area, but make sure it’s not completely secluded from the family so they get plenty of face time with folks.

Small Pet: Brown rabbit sat in some grass.

They do like to chew, so you’ll need to rabbit-proof your home and make sure things are out of their way. Unfortunately, rabbits aren’t a huge fan of being held in most cases, but rabbits have different personalities, so there are going to be bunnies that fit in with the family better than others. They’ll need a loving home, and because they’re a long-term commitment, you’ll want to make sure you can give them the love they need over time.

How Much are Rabbits?

Depending on the breed of rabbit, you’ll find them between £15 and £55. At adoption centres, you’ll find the fees usually sit between £25 and £60 depending on if the rabbit has been vaccinated and neutered.

How Long do Rabbits Live?

Rabbits can live for between 8 and 14 years. This varies based on the breed of rabbit you buy. Smaller breeds of rabbit tend to live longer than their giant counterparts.

What do Pet Rabbits Eat?

Good quality hay is a must in a rabbits diet. Much like guinea pigs, they love to graze, and hay makes up a good chunk of their diet. They need it to keep their digestive systems in tip-top condition. You can give them pellets, but don’t give them too much as you want them to stick to the hay for the most part. They also love their leafy greens, and you can treat them to some carrots and fruit as a small treat.

What Do Rabbits Need?

They’ll need a secure enclosure with a lot of space, and you’ll need to fill it with some nice dry bedding. It’s good to pack it with absorbent materials like newspaper and bedding hay to keep them toasty and dry. They’ll need a litter tray, a food bowl and a bottle or a bowl for their water. And don’t forget to treat your little friend to a few toys. Pets at Home have some more insight into what’ll need to be on your shopping list when you buy a rabbit.

Pet Rats

The first thing to know about rats is that they need company. While they do enjoy human company, you’ll want to make sure they’ve got some fellow rats in there with them. Otherwise they’re very clean and intelligent creatures and as long as they’ve been brought up right, they won’t be aggressive or have any diseases.

Small Pets: Pet rat climbing some glass.

They love playtime, so giving them an hour outside of the cage is a must. You’ll need to make your home rat-proof and keep an eye on them. Once they get used to you, they’ll love being handled, and if you teach your kids to hold them properly, they’re a great pet for the little ones to enjoy.

How Much are Rats?

Rats typically cost between £10 and £25, but they do prefer to live in company, so it’s best to buy them with a friend. Luckily, taking care of a couple of rats isn’t likely to cost much more than owning one rat.

How Long do Rats Live?

Typically, rats will live for around 2 years, but they can live for up to 3.  Compared to a lot of pets, they’re a relatively short commitment.

What do Pet Rats Eat?

You can grab a bag of rat nuggets from your pet shop, and small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables are one of their favourite dishes. You can occasionally treat them small bits of lean meat, eggs, lentils or beans to give them their protein fix.

What Do Rats Need?

They’ll need a large cage with plenty of levels so they can crack on with some climbing. You’ll need to keep them warm so a nest box is a must for them to get some sleep in. You’ll also want to keep it well ventilated to avoid them having breathing problems. They’ll need bedding for their cage, a spot for their food, and a water bottle. For some additional information on keeping rats, PDSA have a dedicated guide to building the ideal home for your rats.

Where to Buy Pets

In the UK, a great place to buy pets is at Pets at Home. They’ve got a wide range of pets and all the gear and food you need to take care of them. They also offer advice and information on how to care for your small pet, so you can give your new furry friend the best life possible.

Where to Buy Pet Food

Monster Pet Supplies have got a dedicated section for small pet food. They’ve also got bedding and health supplies. Fetch are another retailer with sections dedicated to each pet, so if you need rabbit, guinea pig, hamster or rat products, they’ve got you covered.

You can also find pet supplies at supermarkets like Asda, and Waitrose have their own dedicated branch with Pet by Waitrose. So, you don’t have to go to a dedicated pet store to grab the essentials.

Pick Your Small Pet Wisely

So, we hope this guide has helped you decide on a small pet. It’s important to remember that a pet is for life, and that can mean anything from a couple of years to a couple of decades. And while we may be spending a lot of time at home right now thanks to the Coronavirus, that doesn’t mean things aren’t going to change soon.

They all have different personalities, and need different levels of attention, so it’s important to take your situation into account before you buy. So, from budget, to diet, we hope this article has helped shine a little light on what to expect from small pets.