by Molly Kay RVN SQP, Ryedale Vets
Rabbits, Guinea pigs and other small furries can be very rewarding pets, but often require more attention than some owners realise! Small furries are very active, can be very social, and just like dogs and cats they have dietary requirements specific to them.
Both rabbits and guinea pigs are social animals, and require companionship with their own species- in the wild, both animals live in large herds (in Canada, a group of rabbits is called a fluffle!), and can become depressed if alone. Both animals also require larger spaces to exercise fully; the ideal minimum space for two guinea pigs is 10.5 square metres, while rabbits need around 24 square metres! While this space allows them to exercise, it also allows them to be happy; a space that is too small can cause a bonded pair to become aggressive towards one another, impacting both their wellbeing and health.
It is important that rabbits and guinea pigs don’t live together; as two different species, they cannot communicate well, which can lead to accidents and injury.
Both these creatures require fresh hay as 80% of their diet, fresh vegetables as 10-15%, and good quality nuggets as 5-10%. Hay is crucial for their gut and oral health, as well as providing enrichment through encouraging burrowing behaviours. Fresh vegetables are essential, and Guinea pigs in particular MUST be provided with a specific diet as they cannot synthesise their own Vitamin C.
Unlike rabbits and guinea pigs, hamsters are solitary and can fight if kept together. Hamsters also need more space than most conventional hamster cages provide – some hamsters have been known to run up to 9km in distance in a night! Hamster wheels that are too small have also been shown to lead to damage in a hamster’s spine, as well as risking lesions on the feet as a result of running with too much intensity. Adequate space is the best way to assure that an active hamster can have the best quality of life.
Keep an eye out for Rabbit Awareness Week in June and Guinea Pig Awareness Week in September- both events seek to improve the health and welfare of our small furry companions by encouraging education and raising awareness, and we as a practice will get involved in these.
Contact Ryedale Vets on 01439 771166 or 01751 472204 for help with your small furries.
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