Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Pet Expert: Small Pet Myths Debunked

smallpetmyths270Exotic small mammals are unlike other types of pets. They’re cute, cuddly, and oftentimes misunderstood. Did you know that nine percent of Canadians own a small mammal: rabbit, guinea pig, chinchilla, rat, hamster, hedgehog, ferret, or other small pet?

In fact, sales of small mammal food in Canada has grown to over $12 million annually. Despite their growing popularity, there are still a lot of myths surrounding these adorable small pets.

Ferrets Stink

Sure, some ferrets smell. But that can be said about any animal, including humans. Ferrets do have a unique smell that, for some, takes a little time to get used to. Some would describe their body odour as a corn-chip or tortilla smell, others would describe it as smelling skunk-esque.

There are many factors that come into play with ferrets and their odour. Hormones are the biggest factor, especially during breeding season. Having a ferret ‘fixed’ should eliminate the vast majority of odour.

Diet is a huge contributor to smell as well. A low-quality diet will result in smellier bowel movements, and smellier body odour. It’s best to have a ferret on a high-quality, species-specific diet without artificial colours, preservatives, and other unnecessary ingredients.

Rabbits are Great Pets for Kids

Did you know? Four out of five rabbits purchased at Easter die within one year due to neglect.

Rabbits require a considerable amount of care, love, and attention. For kids who have been properly educated on responsible bunny ownership, yes, having a rabbit may be a wonderful pet. However, this is not the norm.

Bunnies require specific care. Proper nutrition, exercise, housing, and socialization are all factors that need to be considered to have a thriving pet.

Rabbits are sensitive animals, and are easily stressed. They are a prey species, and interact with their environment much differently than dogs and cats. The loud, and unpredictable noises that often come with a child-friendly environment can be frightening to a bunny, possibly leading to a variety of stress-related issues like negative behavioural changes, and digestive issues.

Guinea Pigs are Low Maintenance

While it’s true, guinea pigs don’t need to go for walks like dogs, they do need constant care – especially when it comes to waste control. Guinea pigs may defecate up to a dozen times per hour, so keeping their cage clean is a daily requirement. Litter, bedding, and accessories need to be changed and cleaned regularly to ensure a well-kept, sanitary environment.

Guinea pigs also have specific nutritional requirements. They need a diet consisting of unlimited fresh grass hays, fruits and veggies, and vitamin C supplementation.

Much like rabbits, guinea pigs are also prey animals and are generally not as outgoing as a dog or cat. Many things can cause undue stress: loud noises, improper handling, and lack of proper care can result in significant health problems. Most of them do not do well alone, either, so it’s best to have at least one other guinea pig companion.

Rats are Dirty and Carry Disease

When the average person pictures a rat in their mind, they may often imagine a New York City rat, with their long, gross tail, living in filthy conditions, and getting into everything. Just like in the movies.

Any animal living in those conditions will obviously be filthy. However, domesticated rats are among the cleanest pets you can own. They are constantly grooming and cleaning themselves in an effort to look their best.

Many people also associate rats with spread of the bubonic plague, or Black Death, which killed millions in the 14th Century. Recently, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science published research suggesting there is little historical and archaeological support to claim rats as the cause.

Rats are in fact a very loving, cuddly, and soft pet. They’re great for pet owners of all ages, and usually get along quite well with other rats, too. Like all pocket pets, rats have specific lifestyle requirements, so being an informed pet owner is the best kind of pet owner.

There are many misconceptions surrounding small pets. Before you bring a delicate small pet into your home, do plenty of research first. Talk to a pet professional for help finding the right type of pet for you and your family.

Brandon Forder – also known as The Pet Expert – is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, a family-owned and -operated business located in Meaford. He has over twenty-five years of experience specializing in pet nutrition, behaviour, and lifestyle. Canadian Pet Connection is an industry leader committed to providing their clients with the highest levels of personal, attentive service. Learn more at

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