When looking to get your child’s first pet, many parents will automatically think, ‘small furry animal’. Whilst some small furries can be rewarding first pets, they also require a lot of dedication and commitment to make sure they are looked after appropriately. Read our advice on what to consider before buying a small mammal for your child.
Common small animals kept as pets include guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, mice, and rats. According to our Wiltshire and Somerset nursing team, they have many differences besides appearance, so it is crucial that you fully research the species and what their requirements are before committing to any of them. For example, guinea pigs are typically easier to handle than rabbits, meaning they might make a better option for your child.
Other things that need to be considered include:
- Home setup – what do you need?
- Who is responsible for cleaning them out and feeding?
- Lifespan of the animal?
- Do they need a companion?
- Are they nocturnal?
- Do they hibernate?
Having a good understanding of the above questions means that choosing the most suitable pet should be easier. Read our helpful guide on the different types of small furries you can keep as pets – download our Small Furry Pet Stats here.
Home setup needed for small furry pets
Some small animals need to be kept outside in a hutch (that can be brought inside a shed or indoors in very cold weather and has shade from the sun), whilst some need to be kept indoors in a suitable cage. Either way, they will need decent-sized housing with room to grow, especially if they need a companion. Small furries also need items inside their housing for enrichment, such as toys, hideouts, exercise equipment, and things to gnaw. All species need cleaning out regularly, so estimating how long this will take and deciding who is responsible is very important.
Some small animals may only have a life expectancy of 1-2 years while others may live 10+ years. This may be a deciding factor when choosing your child’s pet, as it will give you an idea of the long-term commitment that you are making.
Regular veterinary health checks will help our team to spot any problems that need addressing. Just like cats and dogs, each type of small furry pet comes with their own set of typical health problems you should make yourself aware of before buying one. For example, rabbits and guinea pigs can be prone to deadly flystrike if their housing is not kept clean. Some small furries have a higher risk of respiratory issues and lumps too.
Small furry pet companions
When it comes to companionship, some small animals may be happy to live on their own whilst others need a companion to be happy and healthy. Same or opposite sex pairings and groups will depend on the species (and the individual animal), as not all will get along – then comes the question of neutering. We advise that rabbits and male guinea pigs are typically neutered if living in same-sex pairs or groups. This is also important as multiple animals means more responsibilities and costs.
There are many places you can go to for advice on what small animal may suit your family most. These include speaking to our nursing team, experienced pet shops, reliable internet sources, and rescue centres. Doing the research at the beginning will make the whole process more rewarding and easier in the long run to ensure your pet is kept healthy and happy, and your child has a pet they can enjoy being responsible for.
Did you know that some animal rescue centres also have small furry pets in need of a loving home?
Remember to check out our helpful Pet Stats to aid your decision making:
Travelling with your dog can be a joy, especially when you reach your destination. Being able to travel with any pet is a necessity though, for visits to the vets or groomers, and taking them to a pet sitter or boarding facility.
Are you wondering how to travel safely, or how to stop travel sickness in dogs, cats, and other pets? To support National Pet Month, which promotes responsible pet ownership, our nurse Sarah has some helpful travel advice just in time for the summer holiday season.
Ensuring an incident-free journey
Pet travel sickness and safety go hand in hand – making sure your pets feel safe in the car can help to reduce their anxiety and sickness. Motion sickness is more commonly seen in puppies and other young pets because their ear structures used for balance aren’t fully developed yet. Stress can also lead to travel sickness, which can affect all pets so if you only ever drive your pets to the vets to be poked and prodded (we offer other services too), anxiety may lead to nausea and vomiting.
Practising safe car travel will not only help to keep your pets safe, it will also help to keep you out of trouble with the law – letting your pets be a distraction whilst driving is a fineable offence. Sarah has listed some important pet travel safety advice to help you below, and you can download our handy Pet Travel Sickness Guide too.
Cat & dog travel sickness symptoms and small furry stress
Pet owners should be aware of cat and dog travel sickness symptoms: inactivity (mostly dogs), yawning, whining/meowing, excessive drooling, vomiting, and smacking or licking lips. Stress in small furry pets presents in many ways including a reluctance to move, not eating or toileting, hiding, and aggression.
Travel safety tips for pets
- Never let your pet travel in the front passenger seat as they could be seriously injured if the airbag releases.
- Secure dogs on your back seat with a seatbelt and harness, or in a dog crate on the back seat or in the boot. If using a seatbelt, never clip it to your dog’s collar, and consider using a dog travel seat that keeps your dog contained and stops them from slipping into the footwell.
- Secure cats & small pets in a secure cat or small pet carrier either on the back seat (with a seat belt if possible) or in a foot well. A small pet carrier must have air holes, and it is advisable to add a deep bed of hay plus a shelter to hide in. Put some cucumber (or moist veggies) in with hamsters and guinea pigs so they have a water source on the journey.
- Lie crates and carriers as flat as possible and put comfortable bedding in them.
- Make sure nothing can fall on your pet or cause them harm i.e. avoid piling up suitcases, bags, tools, or other items next to them and keep food out of their reach.
- Reduce stress and avoid fighting by never putting pets in the same crate or carrier – pet fights whilst driving can be very dangerous for your pets, you, and other drivers. Plus, if you have an accident, your pets may bang into each other and cause further injury.
- In warm weather, use sunshades on your windows, try to avoid travelling at the hottest times of the day and long journeys, and never leave your pet in a parked car.
- Always take water and a bowl with you on car journeys and take regular breaks to check your pet is ok – avoid using cooling coats as these can dry out and trap the heat in.
- Reduce other distractions in the car such as music, so you can focus on driving first and foremost, and can hear anything concerning that you need to park up and address.
- Take extra care with your speed, as bumps and sudden stops will encourage you pet to be thrown around inside the car.
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about the dreaded travel sickness – you can get our tips for reducing this here in our handy guide:
Cats are very inquisitive creatures and often get themselves into trouble as a result.
It is always better to be prepared for cat emergencies – pop our number in your phone if you don’t have it already. You may want to give it to your neighbours, family, friends, and your holiday cat sitter too if you have one.
Dealing with Common Cat Emergencies
Some of the most common cat emergencies that we see include:
- Road traffic accidents
- Wounds / bleeding
- Broken bones
Below is some more information on each cat health problem and what you need to do in the event of an accident.
Cats and road traffic accidents
With many cats spending lots of time outdoors, road traffic accidents are always a possibility. Injuries can range from a gentle knock that gives the cat a mild concussion, to more severe broken bones, wounds, or impact to their organs. It is important to ensure that you follow DR ABC’S advice:
- Danger – keep safe from the environment or your pet; a scared dog or any other animal may lash out
- Response – check if your dog is responsive by calling their name
- Airway – is their airway clear?
- Breathing – are they breathing?
- Circulation – do they have a pulse or heartbeat?
- Send – send someone to go and find help
If there is an obvious bleed, you can use clean material and pressure to slow blood loss – read more about this below. Never try to ‘set’ or straighten a broken bone yourself. It is important that any cat suspected of being hit by a vehicle is checked over by a vet to ensure there is no internal damage or risk of shock from the trauma.
Wounds or any bleeds should be treated as a first-aid measure to reduce the amount of blood loss. If they are bleeding use a wound pad, a clean towel, or bandaging to press on the wound to help reduce the amount of blood loss and get them to a vet straight away. Contact us first to let the team prepare for your cat’s arrival and injury needs.
Burns often occur when cats jump onto hot cooking surfaces; they can also come from freshly tarred roads, surfaces treated with bleach or other chemicals, electrical sources, or being scalded by hot liquids. If your cat has a burn (not chemical), run cold water over it for a minimum of 5 minutes before getting them to the Vet – try placing a damp cloth over the burn and adding cold water, or immersing the burned area in cold water – be careful as most cats don’t like water. Do not apply any creams to the burn and ensure your cat is kept warm and calm to avoid shock. For chemical burns, wear gloves, goggles, and other safety gear and contact us for first aid advice.
There are many different poisons that can harm cats with some of the most common being antifreeze, rat poison, paracetamol, and lily plants. If your cat has potentially been poisoned move the item away from them immediately. Always call us straight away and be ready to take your cat there quickly so that treatment can commence without haste. Do not try to make your cat sick as this can make things worse. If they have rolled in something such as oil or have lily pollen on their fur, put a buster collar or shirt over them so that they can’t lick and ingest the poison and try to wipe it off with a damp cloth.
Cats can have seizures for many different reasons. If you ever see your cat having a seizure do not pick them up or put anything over the top of them. Turn off any stimulants such as TVs or Radios. Make the room dark and remove anything they may hurt themselves on. Timing the length of the seizure is always helpful when it comes to our vet making a medical treatment plan.
Heatstroke and your cat
Heatstroke is common in the summer months, particularly if your cat has managed to become trapped somewhere it is very hot, like a shed or greenhouse. If they are exposed to intense prolonged heat use tepid running water to help cool them down. Do not put any damp towels over them, keep them in a cool area, ensure they have access to plenty of water to drink and contact us.
Treating insect stings
Again, because of cats’ inquisitive nature, they often end up getting stung. If this has happened, pull (or scrape using a credit card) the sting out and apply either bicarbonate of soda to a bee sting or diluted vinegar to a wasp sting. The area may be very swollen and inflamed so apply an ice pack. If the sting is anywhere near your cat’s eyes, mouth, or throat contact us as any facial swelling can potentially close airways.
You will never stop cats from being adventurous and unfortunately, having accidents. But best thing you can do is to be prepared – know how to apply basic first aid techniques as described above and always have our number to hand.
Call us in an emergency on 01373 452225.