Small Furries

by Handy Mag
Published: Updated:
Photo by Leslie Soto on Unsplash

by Ella Smith RVN, Ryedale Vets

This month we are focusing on small furries! These are pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs, and, although being extremely cute and rewarding, their care should not be underestimated. First of all, they are a long-term commitment with rabbits being able to reach 8-12 years, and guinea pigs 5-8 years. As with all pets, they have specific needs including housing, diet and veterinary care.

Both rabbits and guinea pigs are very social animals with their wild cousins living in large groups in the wild. It is important that they have companionship from the same species so they are able to communicate with each other. It is also recommended to get them neutered, in order to prevent any unwanted pregnancies or fighting. Hamsters, conversely, are generally solitary animals and are quite happy with their own company!

Although these pets are very small, it is surprising how much room they need! The minimum dimensions for housing a pair of rabbits is 3m x 2m and 1m tall. There should be more than enough space to run, jump and play. A variety of enrichment is also crucial, to keep them occupied and allow them to exhibit natural behaviours. Many small furries love the chance to dig, hide and forage for their food.

Both rabbits and guinea pigs require 85% of their diet to be hay. This is to help keep their digestive system functioning properly and their teeth worn down. The remaining diet should consist of appropriate leafy greens and vegetables and good quality nuggets. Nuggets should be specific for your pet as different species have different requirements. For example, guinea pigs can’t synthesise their own vitamin C so need more in their diet.

It’s a good idea to have regular health checks at the vets. This way any issues can be identified. For example, overgrowth or misalignment of the teeth can be a common problem in our small furies. Fly strike is also a concern in rabbits, especially in the warmer months and owners are recommended to check daily for soiled fur and keep their housing clean. Rabbits are recommended to receive annual vaccines to protect them from common diseases, such as myxomatosis.

As a practice, we show support for both Rabbit Awareness Week in June, and Guinea Pig Awareness Week in September. Both events aim to raise awareness and improve the health and welfare of our small furry companions!

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