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Good things come in small packages: How to interact with small animals

September 1, 2017

Plenty of people prefer their pets on a smaller scale, such as Guinea pigs, gerbils, hamsters or rats. When you’re interacting with small animals, it’s important to pay attention to them and their needs, says BC SPCA regional humane educator Alex Kelsch.

“When you’re interacting with small animals, like rats or other rodents, it’s important to let them come to you,” Kelsch notes in a Tip Tuesday video. “If they’re hiding in one of their houses or hammocks or under something, it’s best not to reach in and grab them or frighten them… ideally, they’ll run up onto your arm.”

Creating a nice platform for them – by folding your arms across your chest or middle – is key, so that they’re properly supported and don’t feel like they’re going to fall, Kelsch says.

“You want them to feel safe, so they know they’re not going to fall – that’s one reason they like to go up on people’s shoulders,” Kelsch says.

If you’re wearing a hoodie or have long hair, you might want to remove the hoodie or tie your hair up before interacting with a small pet, Kelsch says, as rodents like rats might treat the hood or hair as a great place to nest.

“When you’re putting the animal back in its cage, bring it right down to the ground and don’t let it jump or fall back into the cage,” Kelsch says. “You want to be careful at all times not to squeeze your pet – they’re very sensitive and squeezing can hurt them.”

Smaller animals can be quite social and fun to interact with, so long as we keep their feelings and needs in mind as well, says Kelsch. Respecting their wishes, rather than just grabbing or picking them up, goes a long way in building a relationship of trust.

Find out more about caring for small pets.

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