Adopting A Small Animal

Are you considering adopting a chinchilla, ferret, gerbil, guinea pig, hamster, mouse, rabbit, rat, lizard, or other small animal? Often when people think of adopting pets from shelters or other rescue organizations, they think of cats and dogs, but there are a lot of different animals out there looking for awesome homes! Though these types of pets are often thought to be easier to have around, they do need commitment and care, just like any other type of pet.

For example, you probably won’t be able to teach your lizard tricks or get him to obey a series of commands. Though we all know that reptiles are very different from furrier pets like dogs and cats, depending on the species and your individual reptile’s temperament, you may still be able to develop a closer relationship with your pet and get him to interact with you a bit. Remember, though, some reptiles will just never warm up to human interaction—they may bite you or run away, and some start out more friendly but get grouchier and less interested in human contact as they mature.

With a good bit of calm patience, though, you may find that your reptile likes being scratched or stroked on certain parts of the body, and some snakes are happy curled up in warm dark places like inside your t-shirt! These closer levels of interaction all begin by helping your reptile become desensitized to human contact so that he comes to see you less as a threat and more a normal part of his everyday life.

Do be aware that lizards do have some pretty specific requirements, so you might want to think about these issues:

  • Where will you keep your lizard? Most people recommend an aquarium that’s at least 10 gallons (depending on your specific type of lizard), with a screen on the top for ventilation and interaction. Remember that you’ll need to clean the cage regularly.
  • What will you use to line the floor of your lizard’s cage? Some choices are ceramic, vinyl, or linoleum tile; carpet made especially for reptiles that you can buy at pet stores; or paper towels, cardboard, or newspaper.
  • What will you use as a heat source? Most lizards need a heat source to keep them warm enough, and you’ll also need a thermometer to monitor the temperature.
  • How will you feed your lizard? What type of food does your specific lizard need—worms? crickets? something else such as a commercially prepared product? Will your lizard need any nutritional supplements? What type of food dish and water bowl will you get for your lizard? Remember to wash them regularly in hot water!
  • Most lizards need someplace to hide, so consider what type of hiding spots you can create in your new pal’s cage.
  • Will you get lighting for your lizard’s cage? How about plants and other fun stuff for the cage such as things for the lizard to climb on?
  • Are there veterinarians in your area with reptilian expertise?

Or maybe you’re considering adopting a rabbit. Once you get to know them, you’ll see that rabbits can make great pets (though, as with all animals, you need to consider their unique needs and how they would fit into your family before you decide to adopt; a lot of adoption sites have lists of questions for you to consider if you’re thinking of adopting a bunny)… they are often very intelligent and have great personalities!

Many people recommend “house rabbits,” that is, rabbits that you keep in the house rather than outside in a hutch. This way, you’re able to interact with them more, and they can really become part of the family. As with a lot of other pets, with a rabbit, you have to be ready to commit to daily care, vet visits, and a potentially long life.

Though they like companionship, most rabbits do not like to be held. They do, however, enjoy being in the same room with you and often like to sit beside their human family members. And rabbits can actually learn to use a litter box!