For those of you who know me you probably have heard me say how wonderful guinea pigs are as pets. I believe they are the best starter pets for children. Easy to care for, these little guys are hardy, gentle, and fun. Making noises to let you know how they are feeling, a purr when they are held to show they are content, a high pitched squeal to let you know they are irritated, guinea pigs are highly interactive and enjoy being a regular part of any family. The guinea pig is actually not a pig at all. They are called a Cavy which is part of the rodent family. Speaking of rodents, one of the other mammals that I love are domestic rats. Now you might be thinking, “eek, not in my home,” but I’m here to tell you that they are awesome. Rats are one of the smartest mammals; they are trainable, and can learn and understand concepts. They are super clean, often found grooming themselves and others, and are extremely social pets who love contact with their owners.
Critters, as they are called, are great alternative pets especially if you feel that you don’t have the space or time for a dog or a cat. You can share your home with a bird that sings beautiful songs and flies through the house making you wish you could soar too. Or a rabbit that will make you laugh and can play in agility courses. Or, how about getting a reptile that will challenge your science knowledge and help any enthusiast to learn more about nature? And, of course, there are fish that will bring you an air of peace and tranquility as you watch them intently. All of these animals will offer you hours, and in some cases a life-time, of joy, companionship and friendship.
Every critter has a unique personality and care needs so do your research before making a selection. Create a pro and con list prior to getting one. Ask yourself questions about your family’s desires with a pet. Do you want an animal that will interact with you? How much time are you willing to put into cleaning, training, and socialization? How much money and effort are you willing to put into finding appropriate housing? Does your housing situation allow a pet? Sometimes homes that don’t allow dogs and cats will allow a small animal that lives in a habitat. How long do you want to have a pet? Hamsters can live only a few years, but reptiles can live up to 80 years depending on the species. And, of course, to what extent are you willing to put effort into providing a natural environment and allow for natural behaviors? Some of the animals we keep as pets are actually wild animals that have been somewhat domesticated; reptiles and some birds are great examples of this.
“Where are you going to get your critter?” is another question to ask. I fully recommend that you consider adoption rather than purchasing at a pet store for many reasons. First, you are saving a life of a homeless animal. Right now, the Pasadena Humane Society alone has 15 animals in their critter room waiting for families including rabbits, guinea pigs, and rats. Studies have shown that rescuing a pet helps you bond stronger with it because you have a sense of purpose towards its care. Secondly, critters sold in pet stores are often bred in mills or illegally caught in the wild, and when you purchase them, you are supporting a questionable, and in some case, an inhumane industry. Some pet stores partner with local animal shelters to adopt critters instead of sell them. Consider frequenting those businesses to show your support. Finally, animal shelters will vet the animal that you adopt to ensure, to the best of their ability, its health and often provide some continued veterinary care, support, and resources.
I encourage everyone to consider adding a critter to your household today. From a person who has had hamsters, guinea pigs, turtles, and now a bearded dragon, you won’t regret it.
Come visit the Pasadena Humane Society critter room or visit pasadenahumane.org to see pictures of available critters.