Thinking About Adopting a Pet?

Check out our guide to choosing the right pet for you!

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Ferrets
  • Birds
  • Rabbits
  • Reptiles and Amphibians
  • Rodents
  • Porcupine


There is a reason why they say dogs are man’s best friend; nothing beats coming home to a wagging tail and friendly face. Prior to dog ownership, however, it is important to understand the responsibilities that coincide with being a canine owner. Before choosing a breed of dog, it is important to recognize: the effect a dog’s size will have on your personal space; how much attention a dog requires; costs associated with owning a dog, including veterinarian expenses and food; and the potential that residents within the home may be allergic to dogs. 

The average lifespan for dogs is between 8 and 16 years. During their lifetimes, dogs will require breed-specific grooming, including nail-trimming and bathing, which should be routinely performed multiple times throughout the year. Also, in most cities, pets are required to be licensed and can only receive a licence after meeting certain health requirements, typically regarding vaccination. Be sure to check with local government agencies about their particular requirements, prior to getting your dog.

Supplies a new dog owner will need

  • Collar with ID tags
  • Dog bed
  • Dog brush
  • Food bowl
  • Leash
  • Pet urine cleaner
  • Sturdy and safe toys
  • Training crate
  • Water bowl

Selecting the right breed

When selecting your new dog, its breed will play a large role in the dog’s temperament and needs. The following AKC groups give information about each classification: 

  • Herding Group possesses the ability to control other animals and are often used on farms. For pet owners not needing other animals herded, these dogs are very easy to train and will often herd people or children if other animals are not present. They make great family dogs.
  • Hound Group skilled at hunting because of their remarkable scenting ability. Have great stamina and can run long distances. Some breeds bay and potential owners should consider the baying noise prior to purchasing one of these dogs.
  • Miscellaneous Group various other breeds that the AKC recognizes but does not classify further. Temperaments vary.
  • Non-sporting Group varied personalities but are generally strong dogs. Not as active as the sporting group.
  • Sporting Group instinctively active and highly alert. Skilled at finding game in water, woods, or brush. Ideal for hunting. Require regular, high-energy exercise.
  • Terrier Group has a large amount of energy. Were originally bred to hunt and kill rodents. Require a strong-willed owner to properly train them and keep them in line.
  • Toy Group small and are perfect for families living in tight spaces. Some breeds can be aggressive and intimidating towards a potential threat. Much easier to control than large dogs.
  • Working Group generally used for pulling sleds, executing water rescue, or guarding an owner’s property. Highly intelligent and are fast learners. Most are large to very large in size which should be taken into consideration by potential owners.

Common Dog Behaviours 

A dog’s temperament is genetic; dogs have a fixed personality based on their breeding. Because of this, it is very important to fully understand a breed before purchasing a particular puppy. With training, a dog’s temperament can be altered, but they will still be inclined to revert back to their innate disposition. When purchasing an older dog or adopting one from a shelter, consider the dog’s behavioural characteristics and be sure they coincide with what you can handle. Dogs communicate similarly and have several gestures that have very specific meaning: 

  • Barking dogs bark to alarm the owner of a present threat or to scare away the menace. A dog may also bark when they are scared or angry. Anxious or excited barking is not uncommon either.
  • Biting like barking is a form of communicating with a human. Dogs bite when they are nervous, scared, or angry.
  • Chewing it is normal for puppies to chew through anything and everything. Puppies chew to relieve the pain of incoming adult teeth. Chewing beyond the puppy phase can indicate separation anxiety.
  • Digging most dogs dig to hide food. On occasion, they will be uncovering hidden food, usually small game such as rodents or rabbits. A dog may also dig to uncover a cool surface of dirt on which they want to lay.
  • Jumping when a dog jumps up on a human, it’s an attempt to proclaim their dominance.
  • Panting dogs sweat very differently than humans. Heat is released through their feet and by panting; panting also helps a hot dog regulate their body temperature. 

As with any pet, prior research and understanding of a pet’s needs ensure a happy life together.


Cats are one of the most common domestic pets. They are exceptionally intelligent creatures that can provide affection and entertainment. The average feline lifespan ranges from 13 to 17 years, so anyone considering the purchase of a cat should be prepared for a long-term commitment. Cats have extraordinary hearing capabilities and have eyes that are well-adapted to low light situations. In deciding to purchase a cat, you first have to determine whether you want an adult cat or a kitten. Adult cats tend to be easier because they are typically litter box trained; they have already developed their personality so you know upon purchasing what temperament your cat is going to have, and they readily adapt to a new home just as easily as kittens do. Most new pet owners desire a kitten because they’re small and cute. Kittens require more veterinary care, need extra attention to litter box train, and don’t have fully developed personalities, so you don’t know what kind of cat your kitten will grow to be.

Supplies every cat owner needs

  • Break-away cat collar
  • Cat carrier
  • Cat litter
  • Cat toys
  • Food dish
  • Litter box scoop
  • Litter box
  • Quality cat or kitten food
  • Water dish

The difference in cats breeds

When selecting a cat, it is important to choose a breed that fits in with your lifestyle. Different breeds have distinct temperaments and needs: long-haired cats require more grooming, and some breeds are more independent while others prefer to sit in your lap. The following are some of the most common cat breeds along with specific personality traits: 

  • Bengal – affectionate, but very lively and playful. Not a lap cat. Need a lot of space so they are better kept as outdoor cats. Love water and are skilled hunters.
  • Cornish Rex – a very active cat with impressive agility. Playful throughout adulthood and eager to play games and fetch.
  • Maine Coon – curious and affectionate, these cats are great companions. Can be trained to fetch and walk in a harness. Fur requires brushing and grooming.
  • Persian – perfect cat for a family because they adapt well to their environment. Is the most mellow breed of cat and is also very loving. Are very quiet, but do require a lot of grooming and maintenance.
  • Ragdoll – must be kept as an indoor cat because of its incredibly mild temperament. Very intelligent and affectionate, can even fetch and learn tricks much like a puppy. Considered a lap cat, but like to be active. Will even come when called!
  • Siamese a very loving cat that thrives on human attention. Can be demanding, so if you do not want a cat that requires a lot of attention, a Siamese is not for you. Stay near their owner and are a great cat for families.
  • Tonkinese – have a short, thick coat and are an extremely intelligent cat. They enjoy attention and companionship and are great for multi-pet households or families with children. 

What does a cat eat?

  • Cheese (in small amounts)
  • Dry commercial cat food
  • Fish (in small amounts)
  • Vegetables (carrots, broccoli, green beans)
  • Wet commercial cat food

Cat Behaviour 

Congratulations on your new kitten! Thank you for choosing us to help protect and care for your new addition to your family. Our kitten wellness program is designed to help get your kitten started on the right path to a long and healthy life. The first few months are a critical period in your kitten’s development, and we can give you the support and tools necessary to help him or her grow into a well-mannered, healthy cat, including information and advice on nutrition, litterbox training, and behaviour. Schedule your kitten for his or her first exam as soon as possible.

Until your kitten has received a series of vaccines, he or she is susceptible to many serious but preventable diseases. We will vaccinate your new pet against rabies and panleukopenia (distemper). Depending on your cat’s risk, we may also advise vaccinating him or her against other diseases, such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). In addition, your kitten will need to be tested and treated for parasites, which are common in young cats. Most kittens have roundworms, which are intestinal worms that can cause coughing, weight loss, and a potbellied appearance in cats (although they may not cause any symptoms). It is important for kittens to be treated for roundworms, not only to help rid them of the infection but also to prevent you and the rest of your family from becoming infected. Roundworms are a zoonotic parasite, which means they can be transmitted from pets to people. By ensuring that your kitten is treated, you can keep your entire family safe.

Cats are usually very independent beings and do not crave attention, though some breeds do want to remain close to their owner at all times. Typical cat behaviours include purring, hissing, kneading, and ear or tail motion. Purring indicates contentment with their current surroundings. Hissing is a defence mechanism meant to scare off a predator. Kneading is a sign of happiness. Fear can be noted when a cat pins their ears back towards the sides of their head. The tail has various movements that denote meaning: a tail held up is a sign of welcoming; an upright tail with the sway of the tip is an invitation to play, and a fully swaying tail is a sign of annoyance.

Cats are instinctual hunters and usually do not hunt because they are hungry; they see hunting as an adventure and usually do it at night or in the early morning. Occasionally, your cat will bring you back their game, either dead or alive, as a sign of affection. Wild mother cats do this for their young to feed them and teach them how to hunt. Your pet cat is possibly trying to do the same. Cats also enjoy scratching. Frequent scratching can ruin furniture, so provide a scratching post and encourage them to use it.

One of the biggest challenges with cats is managing their heat cycles. Getting cats spayed or neutered is a good way to avoid having to deal with these annoyances. Female cats are known to scream in search of a mate, which can become aggravating. They are also prone to running away when in heat. Male cats spray odorous urine on walls, furniture, and carpeting to mark their territory and notify potential mates. The smell can be overwhelming and make your home an undesirable place to be.

As with any pet, prior research and understanding of a pet’s needs ensures a happy life together.


You can help keep your ferret healthy by bringing him or her in for an exam once a year. That way, we can monitor any changes that occur in your pet and help prevent or catch diseases early, when they’re easier to treat. As ferrets age, they may need additional testing and dental care.Ferrets can benefit from preventive care, requiring certain vaccinations and parasite prevention based on lifestyle, which we can discuss with you during your visit. Hormonal therapy is now included in said preventive care, as the incidence of adrenal disorder can be decreased significantly. As most ferrets are sterilised (and deglanded for males) before sale, this is rarely an owner responsibility. However should circumstances be exceptional we can help you at Hudson Veterinary Hospital.Common problems associated with ferrets include gastrointestinal disease, endocrinological problems and cancer. In addition, ferrets are inquisitive creatures by nature and frequently ingest objects they shouldn’t. Regular blood tests can help determine whether your ferret has any problems with the kidneys, liver, or pancreas.Please contact us right away if your ferret develops any unusual symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, lack of appetite, trouble breathing, black ear wax, discharge from the eyes or nose, lumps, swelling, or an increase in aggression or sexual behaviour (especially in neutered males).

Before bringing your pet ferret home, you will have to ferret-proof your house by:

  • Covering the carpet around doors with floor guards
  • Covering wire cords
  • Placing locks on cabinet doors
  • Placing Plexiglass® around open staircase spindles
  • Removing any recliners from the home
  • Sealing any crack, hole, or crevice that a ferret could squeeze through

Pet supplies – Similar to most pets, there are numerous supplies available for ferrets ? bedding, toys, and enclosures. Some supplies are essential while others are optional. An enclosure, food dish, water dish, bed, and litter box are all essential items.

  • Bedding – Ferrets are burrowing animals and need bedding that allows them to tunnel into a dark, warm, enclosed area. There are special-made ferret beds that are rolled-up fabric tubes or hammock-like swings that ferrets especially enjoy, or you can create a bed from cut off sweatshirt sleeves or pant legs. Ferrets also enjoy cat beds with a cover fashioned over them. Multiple ferrets enjoy sharing one bed where they can snuggle together and create their own private nest.
  • Dishes – Food and water dishes should be deep, ceramic dishes. Because ferrets enjoy digging, a deep dish prevents them from being able to pitch food and water everywhere and creates less opportunity for them to make a mess. A ferret’s water supply should be constant, especially in warmer weather, but be sure to change out the water frequently as ferrets like to frolic in water so it can get polluted.
  • Enclosure – Most ferret owners opt for a spacious, multi-level enclosure that allows their pet to get ample exercise and also provides enough room for multiple ferrets should an owner decide to purchase more in the future.
  • Litter box – Unlike cats, ferrets are not inclined to use a litter box: they must be continually trained. With positive reinforcement and awarding proper use of the litter box with treats, a ferret can be trained to understand how to use their litter box. Discouraging your ferret from using other areas of their enclosure for bathroom activities by placing bedding, toys, and food dishes scattered around, can create the notion that the litter box is the only “logical” place to go to the bathroom.

What do ferrets eat?

  • Banana
  • Commercial ferret food
  • Cooked eggs
  • Fresh cooked chicken
  • Mice
  • Mutton
  • Raisins

Foods that are poisonous to ferrets:

  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Dairy
  • Onion
  • Soda
  • Tobacco

The ferret personality

Ferrets are very social animals and need several hours of human interaction per day. They also benefit when part of a multiple ferret household and have other ferrets to mingle with. Ferrets can get along with other pets, such as cats or dogs, when raised alongside them; however, their patience with other pets is usually very short, so a bothersome pet may irritate a ferret. When not given enough attention, a pet ferret can get depressed, so be sure that you have enough time to dedicate to a ferret before purchasing one. Aside from enjoying attention, ferrets can be very sneaky and devious. They love to slide along walls and creep around, getting into things or sneaking under furniture. Often, pet owners lose ferrets when they scurry out front doors that were mistakenly left open, or ferrets get out of their enclosures in similar ways. Be sure to never stand with a door open while a ferret is loose in your house.

How is a ferret groomed? 

Bathing a ferret is similar to bathing a dog or cat. Using ferret-specific shampoo: rinse your ferret with warm water; work the shampoo into a lather; and rinse the shampoo out with warm water. If any shampoo is not rinsed away, the ferret could end up with dry, itchy skin. Either towel-dry your ferret or allow them to run around and dry off on their own. While ferrets do need a little length on their nails to perform daily tasks, nails should still be trimmed monthly, as extra length can get in the way and cause pain. To trim nails, take fingernail clippers and blunt the tips of the nails, avoiding the pink areas at the base of the nail. Properly researching ferret ownership can help you decide whether this is the right pet for you. If you feel that a ferret is the perfect fit, proper care and affection for your ferret can lead to an awarding friendship.


Knowing Your Bird

Beak Trims
Beaks continue growing throughout birds’ lives. Although birds’ beaks usually wear evenly, some birds develop beak problems and require veterinary assistance. This is often associated with underlying health problems, a facet which is important to address with a health exam. Trimming a beak incorrectly can cause your bird pain and may prevent it from eating, which is why we recommend having your bird’s beak professionally trimmed. Do not attempt to trim your bird’s beak at home. Call us to schedule an appointment.

Unfortunately, relying on physical appearance is not an accurate method of determining the sex of many birds. We can reliably tell you your bird’s sex by performing a blood test. Some birds may require anaesthesia to securely perform the blood draw, however this is extremely rare considering the small quantity for blood required.

Wing size
Clipping a bird’s feathers can protect your bird and your home. Wing clipping is a nonpainful procedure that ensures the safety of your bird in its environment by limiting your bird’s ability to fly (while maintaining its ability to glide), thus removing the risk of injury from flying into a ceiling fan, onto a hot stovetop, or into (or out) a window.

Having your bird’s feathers professionally clipped helps ensure that the right feathers are removed without irritating the skin. Improperly clipped wings can cause your bird to pluck or chew its feathers, affect balance and gliding which can lead to accidents. Inexperienced wing clipping can result in a blood feather being accidentally trimmed, a situation that can become life-threatening. We can perform this procedure safely while preserving the aesthetic appearance of your bird. Please feel free to call us to discuss this option, as well as any concerns you might have, or to set up an appointment.

Toenails Trim 
Most birds need to have their nails trimmed regularly. However, the process can be detrimental to your bird if its nails are trimmed too short. We can take care of this procedure for you so that you don’t have to worry about nicking the blood vessels inside the nails. Call us if you’d like to schedule an appointment.

Be careful if you perform this procedure at home. In fact, we only suggest that you attempt this at home if your bird is small and has white nails (which allow you to see the blood vessels). We also suggest you keep a caustic agent, such as styptic powder, on hand in case a nail bleeds. Any heavy-metal based cauterising powder (such as silver nitrate) should be avoided at all cost.

Providing perches with rough surfaces can help reduce the frequency of nail trimming, but do not use sandpaper perches. They don’t wear down the nails and can cause skin problems.

Birds have many different qualities that make them an ideal pet. Some species make great companions and model first pets, teaching both responsibility and caretaking. Other types are very high-maintenance and require careful grooming, meticulous handling, and special diets. When choosing a bird, it is important to research the types that interest you prior to taking a trip to the pet store; doing so will protect your future pet’s long-term well-being and your peace-of-mind. 

Choosing a bird 

You want to choose the bird that is right for your lifestyle and fulfills what you want from a pet. You may also want to consider a bird’s lifespan before making your purchasing decision, which can range from twenty-five to over one hundred years! The following is a list of various birds and the personalities they offer: 

  • Canaries – one of the most popular pet birds. Very vocal and bright in color. Female canaries don’t sing, while males are very vocal. Great bird for someone new to bird ownership, because they are less maintenance than other birds.
  • Finches – prefers not to be handled too much. Very lively. Enjoy the company of other finches within the same enclosure. Flutter around and do not climb around their cage. If too many are in a single enclosure, fights may break out.
  • Parakeets – initially very timid, but form a very close bond with their pet owner when carefully handled and attended to. Must be given consistent and respectful handling.
  • Cockatiels – a popular pet bird. Very loving and desire a lot of attention and handling. With a patient owner, they can learn to talk.
  • Amazon Parrots – the bright, large, talkative birds that are the most well-known. Very entertaining and intelligent and feed off of attention. Because of their intelligence, these birds require a lot of attention, socialization, and intellectual stimulation. They also require a fair amount of exercise.
  • Peach-Faced Lovebirds – Playful and active. Thrive on attention and socialization and love to be handled and carried around. Very affectionate and not too noisy.
  • Doves – Very gentle and loving. May initially be nervous, but with proper socialization will be very outgoing. Bond strongly with their owner. Because of their gentility, doves are a great bird for younger children. 


An important thing to consider before purchasing your pet bird is cage size. Whether your future pet is large or small, all birds enjoy the flexibility of a large cage. Extra space allows smaller birds to exercise within their containment. Larger birds need even larger cages; some very large birds, such as parrots will even require a space outside of their cage like a stand or play gym for extra entertainment. 

What do birds eat? 

A bird’s diet differs depending on the species. Some birds eat seed while others eat nectar and fruit. The following list includes the various foods a bird might eat:

  • Fresh greens
  • Fruit
  • Grains
  • Nectar
  • Pellets
  • Pollen
  • Sprouted seeds


Different types of birds have different socialization needs. Companion birds view your family as their flock and long to be near family activity at all times, while solitary birds prefer to be left alone. Some species will screech for attention, others will sing only at specific times throughout the day. For future bird owners who aren’t able or willing to take their pet out of the cage for a minimum of two hours per day to socialize, a Finch or Canary might be best. Birds that have a hookbill, such as a Parrot, long for daily interaction and exercise, so a pet owner willing to handle their bird is necessary. Our veterinary facility wishes all pet owners success in choosing their pet. If you have any questions about bird ownership, please feel free to contact our office; we would be happy to assist you!


Rabbits are susceptible to a variety of diseases and conditions, including overgrown teeth, hairballs, respiratory and ocular disease, and gastrointestinal disorders. They also tend to hide signs of illness or pain.

Contact us if your rabbit:

  • Has discharge from the eyes or nose, runny stool, or a gurgling stomach
  • Begins drooling, scratching at the ears, or sneezing
  • Starts tilting his or her head
  • Develops bald patches in his or her fur
  • Stops eating, appears quieter than normal, or shows other abnormal behaviour
  • In addition, your rabbit can benefit from regular dental checkups. We can help make sure problems with your rabbit’s teeth don’t turn into serious, potentially life-threatening conditions.

We also strongly suggest that you have your rabbit spayed or neutered. Not only can rabbits potentially give birth once a month, but they can also have up to 14 babies at a time! Even in households with a single rabbit, spaying or neutering has benefits: It can protect your rabbit from several types of cancer and reduce or eliminate aggression, as well as other undesirable behaviour, such as spraying, mounting, destructive chewing, and biting. Spaying or neutering will not change your rabbit’s personality.If you have any questions about how to care for your rabbit, we can discuss diet, housing, grooming, and even litterbox training.


Rabbits have unique personalities; however, most are initially timid and shy. Daily interaction and play with your pet rabbit alongside hand-feeding is a proven way to get your pet rabbit comfortable and allow them to open up to you. There are many similar qualities rabbits share with cats and dogs. Cats and rabbits can both be trained to use a litter box and prefer to do so. Pay close attention to your rabbit to learn where their ”restroom area” is within their enclosure, and place their litter box in that same area. Be sure to use rabbit-specific litter, as cat litter can cause major health concerns. Rabbits and dogs are both easily bored and resort to chewing and digging for entertainment. Rabbits are very good diggers, so you cannot leave them in a yard unattended, even for a short period of time. To help rabbits who are very apt to chewing and digging, provide toys such as chew sticks and old telephone books. 

What do pet rabbits eat?

Initially, a rabbit’s digestive system requires extra fibre, which they can obtain from rabbit pellets, but as a rabbit ages, the number of pellets they need lessens. Diet should primarily consist of grass hay and fresh green vegetables, including collard greens, lettuce, and turnip greens. 

Rabbit housing 

Most often, a new rabbit owner thinks their pet wants to be outside and places their cage accordingly. Contrary to this belief, rabbit enclosures should be kept indoors, because rabbits are very social animals and require a lot of human interaction. Keeping a rabbit inside allows you to continually see and meet their needs. Also, having a pet rabbit outside exposes them to potential harm, such as parasites, animal attacks, or unforgiving weather. Multiple rabbit owners should contain each rabbit within their own enclosure unless all rabbits have been spayed or neutered. Also, before placing multiple rabbits in one cage, an owner must appropriately introduce the animals to one another and ensure they get along. Rabbit enclosures should be quite large, especially if multiple rabbits are to be housed together. The smallest recommended enclosure size is 3 feet by 4 feet, but a larger space is always acceptable.

What does my pet rabbit need?

  • A feeding rack with ceramic water bowl
  • Digging box
  • Enclosure or cage with a solid bottom
  • Grooming brush – bristled, not metal
  • High-quality rabbit pellets
  • Litter box with rabbit-specific bedding
  • Rabbit-safe chew toys


Because rabbits are exceptionally clean animals, grooming them is quite simple. Weekly to daily brushing, depending on the type of rabbit, is required, and occasional professional grooming is needed for certain rabbit types in order to keep their hair length manageable. When rabbits are not regularly brushed, their hair can become matted and hairballs become frequent, both of which can cause pain and health issues. If your rabbit’s fur does get matted, do not try removing the mat with scissors; it is very easy to slip and cut through your pet’s thin, fragile skin. Instead, take them to a professional groomer who can remove the mat with special clippers. Rabbits, like cats, clean and bathe themselves. Most pet rabbits experience traumatizing anxiety when bathed, so it is not recommended.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Nutrition and husbandry-related disorders and diseases are common in reptiles. We can help you avoid these problems. Call us to set up a consultation so we can discuss how to help keep your reptile healthy.
We also offer medical and surgical services for sick reptiles. It is important to ensure that your reptile maintains its eating and voiding habits, activity levels and healthy appearance. Changes in any of these may indicate and medical problem.

What pets are reptiles or amphibians?

  • Snakes – Corn Snake, King Snake, Ball Python
  • Turtles/Tortoises – African Desert Tortoise, Red-Eared Slider, Box Turtle
  • Lizards – Green Iguana, Chameleon, Leopard Gecko, Bearded Dragon
  • Frogs/Toads – African Dwarf Frog, Firebellied Toad, White’s Tree Frog

Children are not suitable pet owners for reptiles or amphibians and require adult supervision whenever they handle one. Kids should also be advised of the health risks associated with handling a reptile and should be compelled to wash their hands thoroughly after holding one. In addition to children, reptiles or amphibians are not suitable pets for: anyone with HIV, AIDS, or another immunodeficiency disorder; pregnant women; elderly people; or anyone in poor health, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy patients.

What do reptiles and amphibians eat?

Depending on the reptile or amphibian you choose to purchase, dietary needs will vary. Keep in mind the following information when purchasing your pet.

Carnivores eat fresh, whole prey including:

  • Beetle larvae
  • Crickets
  • Mice
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Worms

If you cannot humanely kill the prey yourself, then a carnivorous reptile is not a good pet for you.

Herbivores eat foods such as:

  • Green, leafy vegetables
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potato
  • Corn
  • Carnations
  • Chives
  • Hibiscus
  • Mango
  • Apple
  • Banana

Herbivores clearly have a more versatile diet and are an easier reptile to feed; however, there are not herbivorous snakes, and there are very few herbivorous lizards, which limits the types of herbivorous reptiles to choose from.

Most reptiles and amphibians need supplements in addition to their diet, including calcium. Such considerations should be investigated and known prior to purchasing a new pet.

Reptile housing

Housing a reptile is one of the biggest complications pet owners run into. Many unsuspecting owners will purchase a terrarium for their new reptile, unknowing that within one year, they could be ten times their current size. In fact, very few reptiles are meant for vivarium enclosures (indoor, enclosed living space). Before purchasing a reptile, consider the standard adult size for your particular animal of interest.

Whether housing your pet indoors or outdoors, their enclosure needs to be escape-proof. Similar to all other animals and pets, reptiles can escape their enclosure and flee. An enclosure also needs to be considerate of your reptile’s optimal body temperature. Often a heat lamp will need to be set up on one side of the enclosure so a reptile can obtain heat when necessary but still has part of their enclosure to escape the heat if it becomes too warm. Heat lamps along with UV lights allow a reptile’s enclosure to simulate being outdoors. A day lamp, or UV light, enables pets to maintain regularity. Occasionally, a reptile can obtain the heat it requires from their UV light, so only one lamp is necessary, but read species-specific information prior to purchasing. Reptiles also need humidity. Depending on an animal’s size and needs, a simple water dish may suffice, while other reptiles need aquatic filtration built into their tank.


Just because they’re small doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from veterinary attention. Teeth, which grow continuously in rodents, often require trimming. Parasites such as lice, mites, and fleas can infest your pet. In addition, these companion animals can suffer from other health issues, often prevented with adequate husbandry which we are well-positioned to counsel you on using the most current medical information. Call us if your pet stops eating, loses weight, appears quieter than normal, has discharge from the eyes or nose, or develops a lump on its body. We can provide treatment that fits your budget.

The following species-specific facts offer a little insight into owning various species of pet rodents

  • Gerbils – Gerbils are very social pets that need companionship with other gerbils. Having a few same-sex gerbils within a single enclosure is good for their health. When regularly handled, gerbils can become very tame and make a perfect companion. Their average lifespan ranges from 2 to 3 years.
  • Guinea Pigs – Guinea pigs are also social and benefit from having a same-sex friend within the same enclosure. Guinea pigs are known for their gentility and very rarely bite, even when anxious or frightened. Guinea pigs are quite skittish and should be kept in a quiet area of your home. Because of their backs, guinea pigs cannot run in a wheel or ball and can injure themselves if attempted. Their average lifespan is around 5 to 7 years.
  • Hamsters – Hamsters are a pet best left observed. They are known to be fairly aggressive and can often bite. Multiple hamsters cannot be placed in the same enclosure, as they will fight to the death. As nocturnal animals, hamsters remain very active at night which could keep an owner awake if they are kept in the same room. Typically, hamsters live for 2 to 3 years.
  • Mice – Like hamsters, mice are better left watched rather than handled. They are very timid, often shying away from human interaction and are very quick and skittish, allowing them to easily escape when held. Mice are one of the easiest pets to own because they have minimal space needs and do not require attention. They do, however, enjoy companionship with other mice, so purchasing multiple can keep your pet happy. A pet mouse will usually live for 1 to 3 years.
  • Rats – Rats enjoy the company of other rats as well as attention from their owners; they very rarely bite. Rats also have the capacity to be litter box trained and can be taught to perform simple tricks. A rat’s lifespan is between 2 and 4 years. 

Rodent housing 

Rodents need to be housed in an escape-proof enclosure, preferably with a solid floor to prevent foot injuries. The floor of an enclosure should be covered with bedding material made of shredded paper or newspaper, fabric, or aspen shavings. Do not use pine or cedar bedding for rodents as they can cause health issues. Also, do not place rodents in glass enclosures, because they heat too quickly and can cause sudden death. 

What do rodents eat?

  • Species-specific pellets
  • Hay and greens
  • Supplements (when necessary)

When introducing a new food, be sure to gradually incorporate it into your rodent’s diet. Abrupt changes could cause gastrointestinal pain. Also, be sure to keep a constant water supply using a sipper bottle on the side of the cage. Please remember that seed diets are not recommended and can lead to malnutrition and starvation.

How to handle a rodent 

Pet owners get bitten most often when trying to pick up or handle their rodent. Properly lifting a rodent can prevent pain and allows your pet to be more relaxed thus less likely to bite. Pick up your rodent by gently squeezing around their body along the ribcage area just below the neck, or pick them up by gently scooping underneath them with two hands. Avoid pulling up on the skin above their necks and do not pull their tails; both are very painful and could cause an animal to get frightened or angry and bite. Additionally, guinea pigs prefer to be held close to your body as it makes them feel sheltered and secure. Without holding them close, they may wriggle away or squeal with nervousness.


Porcupines are prone to many illnesses such as obesity and dental problems, as well as a variety of skin and quill issues. Contact us for information about the best environmental conditions and to address any health concerns which may arise. Please note that it may be necessary to anesthetize your porcupine to perform a full physical exam, this is assessed on a case by case basis.