Direct4Pet Guide: Caring for your small animal

If you’re considering buying a pet but don’t have the time, space or commitment for an animal that requires more attention, such as a dog or a cat, then smaller animals such as a hamsters, guinea pig, or rabbits may be more suitable for your family. Offering the same feelings of love and companionship a larger pet would, these palm-sized friendly pets are a great choice of pet for the whole family to care for. Easy to care for and a lot less maintenance than your traditional cat or dog, small animals are a great way to care for a pet on a small-scale. Looking for more information on caring for a small animal? Find first-rate small pet supplies and learn more about the best ways to take care of your hamsters, guinea pigs, rats and more below. 

What is the easiest small animal to take care of?

The easiest small animal to take care of are generally rodents, such as a hamster or rat. Hamsters and rats are nocturnal animals, meaning they are most active during the night and asleep for most of the day, in turn, this often means that they do not require much playful attention, which is great if your family is busy during the day. By simply replenishing their food, water and cleaning their living space once or twice a week depending on enclosure size, your small rodent will be kept happy and healthy. Of course, if you are wanting to engage in more playful activities with your pet outside of their cage, that is also possible and can be beneficial to them as they become more familiar with you. 

Hamsters tend to keep themselves occupied with toys such as hamster climbing frames, tunnels and balls - if you are wishing to handle them, be wary that they can take a while to warm up to being handled by humans, however, once accustomed, they will begin to seek out human attention naturally and you can improve your bond. 

If you’re looking for a small pet that is a lot more sociable, rats are just as low maintenance and are laid back, easy going pets to keep.  As relaxed as they are smart, rats are one of the smartest species of small animals and enjoy being socialised with humans. Their high level of intelligence allows them to figure out complex problems, respond to their name and learn basic tasks and tricks.

If rodents aren’t the kind of pet you’re looking for but you still want something small, a rabbit or guinea pig is an excellent option. Cuddly and cute, rabbits and guinea pigs can be low maintenance to care for as they are generally happy running about outside in a garden and sleeping in their cages. Guinea pigs are similar to hamsters but have more of an expressive personality and like to live with a friend to prevent loneliness, whether that’s another guinea pig or a rabbit, so it’s important to consider whether or not your family can comfortably look after two pets. And, while rabbits are social and curious animals, they do require a few more specific needs than those of a guinea pig or hamster. 

Rabbits need a lot of attention when it comes to their housing, food and handling, and it’s imperative that they are given enough stimulating activities daily. Due to the nature of them enjoying burrowing and living in small enclosures, they often require frequent cleaning of their living quarters, food and water to be topped up twice daily, occasional feeding of fruit and vegetables and plenty of exercise. Rabbits also thrive from companionships, if possible, they should also have another rabbit or a guinea pig to live with in order to improve their quality of life. 

Interested in caring for a small animal? Keep reading as we walk you through the best small animal food to invest in, pet health supplements, small animal grooming products, living spaces and more - each available to purchase online at Direct4Pet. 

What food and supplements do small animals need?

Recommended food for rabbits 

The diet for rabbits should mainly consist of good quality hay, grass and the occasional treat of vegetables and fruits, however their diet can also be supplemented with nutrient dense food pellets. It’s important that your rabbits are fed the correct type of food as their teeth continuously grow and need to be kept in shape either through the chewing of grass, hay or leafy plants. Selective feeding can occur if rabbits are being fed too many different food options as opposed to the grass and hay they should be eating, therefore it’s vital to feed them the correct foods in regular controlled portions.

Harrington’s Optimum rabbit food helps prevent selective rabbit feeding and it’s fortified with essential vitamins and high quality ingredients to provide excellent nutritional value. This rabbit food, in particular, is a great choice to help promote healthy digestion alongside a consistent diet of fresh hay, grass and water. The Supreme Science Nutritional rabbit food also offers rabbit owners a  great source of balanced nutrients for your pet and is designed to help prevent dental problems, selective feeding and excessive weight gain. 

While rabbits do not naturally graze on carrots or other root vegetables, if you do choose to give your rabbits these foods as a treat every so often, please ensure you only do so as infrequently. Rabbits are notoriously susceptible to putting on weight easily, so it’s important that they are being fed the right amount of nutritional food alongside the occasional treat so that they do not become overweight. 

Recommended food for Guinea pigs 

Similar to rabbits, the diet of a guinea pig should be primarily made up of fresh grass and hay, which should be readily available to them on a daily basis. Grazing on hay, grass and other herbs can also help guinea pigs keep their digestive system healthy and aids in wearing down their teeth to the correct length to prevent any infections. 

Most guinea pigs food pellets, such as x and x, include Vitamin C as it is an essential part of their dietary needs and can also be provided through feeding them leafy greens such as kale and broccoli. The Supreme Guinea Pig Science Selective food pellets and the Supreme Tiny Friends Tasty Nuggets are a perfect option to give your guinea a tasty balanced diet made with natural ingredients. High in fibre, vitamin C and omega 3, this guinea pig friendly food is designed to keep your guinea’s teeth and tummy happy, all while helping them maintain a healthy, shiny coat of fur.

Recommended food for hamsters

Naturally hamsters eat a mixture of seeds, cereals and insects when in the wild, therefore as a domesticated pet it’s recommended pet owners feed them pellets that incorporate all of the essential nutrients they may need. Compound food pellets such as the Supreme Tiny Friends Hamster food and Hazel Hamster fruit flavoured treats are formulated with natural ingredients and vitamins to meet their needs for a healthy, balanced diet.

You will likely notice that your hamster will choose to pick up their food and store it in their cheeks to take to their resting space, this is completely normal hamster behaviour and nothing to be worried about. Though, it’s important to check your hamster's resting place for amounts of food, as hamster owners often make the mistake of overfeeding their pet thinking that the food bowls are empty, but this is usually just transported elsewhere. To ensure you're not overfeeding your hamster, feed them pellets once per day and small amounts of fruits and vegetables to help them maintain a healthy diet.

Recommended food for rats

Unlike other small animals, rats follow an omnivore diet, and so it’s important that they are offered food made specifically for them and not just generic pellets for small animals. It’s essential that they are fed a healthy balanced diet which consists of fruits, vegetables, grains and eggs and should avoid any foods that are high in sugar or fat. The Supreme Science and Tiny Friends rat food pellets are designed with natural ingredients to assist in keeping their cardiovascular system, skin and coat as healthy as possible.

As rats naturally feed just after the sun sets and before the sun rises, it’s important that they are fed twice a day. Ensuring their food is placed in ceramic bowls only, as the noise of a metal bowl can bother rats, it’s important to try to encourage their natural foraging behaviours, so by allowing them to carry food around and play with it they are stimulating their natural instincts.

Small Animal Food Supplements

If you’re worried your small pet is not getting enough of the essential nutrients they need then you can also consider feeding them a variety of pet-friendly supplements. The Oxbow Natural Science supplements are designed to give small animals a little extra support with digestion, joint support, vitamin C and more. However, if this is something you’re considering implementing into your pet’s diet, it’s important to consult your vet so that they can best advise you on which type and amount is best for them.

Small Animal Grooming Products

Looking after your small animal's fur coat, skin and nails is essential to ensuring they are kept healthy on the outside with grooming products as well as the inside with a healthy diet. Supplements such as the Oxbow Natural Skin & Coat Fibre Supplements help promote skin and coat health from the inside for rabbits, rats, guinea pigs and more.  

Small animals should not be bathed in water as it can disrupt the natural oils in their fur and can also be bad for their health if they get wet, as they will get cold very quickly. Instead, hamsters, gerbils and chinchillas like to bathe in dust or sand as a way to remove grease or dirt from their fur and keep their coat clean. Regular sand bathing also allows small animals to execute innate wild behaviours such as digging and foraging, which can help keep them mentally stimulated and happy. 

Small Animal Healthcare

Just like cats and dogs, small animals can also be susceptible to fleas, ticks, worms and other diseases, however there are products that can help you effectively deal with these as they happen. When treating your small animals it’s important to first always consult your veterinarian so that you can make sure you’re providing the correct care and products. 

Rabbits can be just as likely to get fleas, ticks and worms as your cats and dogs are, therefore it’s important to be aware of the products available to help treat them. The Advantage 40 Spot-On treatment is made to help tackle, prevent and control fleas and ticks on your rabbits, killing 98-100% of fleas within 12 hours. Treating fleas as soon as they are spotted is vital in preventing the development of Myxomatosis, which is a very common disease amongst rabbits. Just like other animals, rabbits may also be at risk of contracting worms, if this happens, then a product such as the Panacur oral paste is a great treatment to help with the removal of worms and other parasites.

All small animals are at risk of developing many different diseases unique to their species, therefore it’s important that you are regularly checking up on their health and paying attention to any noticeable changes in behaviour and appearance that may be a sign that something isn’t quite right. One of the best ways to prevent any potential illnesses for your small animals is to make sure you are frequently cleaning their cages and living spaces. Using an animal friendly disinfectant such as the Johnson’s Veterinary Antibacterial Spray will help kill any harmful bacteria or viruses and keep your pet safe. 

If you are concerned about the health and wellbeing of your small animal, contact your vet or get in touch with us for ways to help. 

Need more advice on how to care for your small animal?

If you’re unsure about which small animal is right for you or want to know more about the correct ways to care for them, simply contact our team of friendly pet experts at Direct4Pet for more information. E-mail us with any questions or concerns you have about your small animal and we will be more than happy to help point you in the right direction of recommended products.