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Don't want a dog or a cat? Try a gerbil, a guinea pig or another animal

If your family isn't ready for a dog or cat, don't worry, there are options. Last week, we looked at some alternative domesticated animals that would make good pets. We continue with a guide to some more animals. Chicago Tribune

Rat/hamster/gerbil/mice

Activity level: Sometimes leaves cage/tank; leaves cage/tank daily

Good for ages: 8 and up

Kid's daily commitment: Keep a constant supply of food and water. Clean cage and change bedding weekly, more often as needed. No grooming necessary. Play with pet daily if you want to have a relationship.

Initial cost: $10-$20 for animal alone; $100-150 for other startup costs

Yearly upkeep cost: $200-$300

They eat: Specially formulated pellets and chow. Can eat some grains, veggies, fruits and timothy hay as treats.

Life expectancy: 2 to 3 years

Pros and cons: Clean, active, take up little room. Gerbils are fun to watch. Rats are smart, interactive and can be taught tricks Hamsters are nocturnal and sleep most of the day. Cages can smell if not cleaned diligently. Some may bite.

Guinea pig

Activity level: Sometimes leaves cage/tank

Good for ages: 8 and up (with supervision)

Kid's daily commitment: Keep a constant supply of food and water. Clean cage and change bedding weekly, or more often as needed. No grooming necessary. Play with pet daily if you want a relationship.

Initial cost: $35 for the guinea pig alone; $200 for other startup costs (cage)

Yearly upkeep cost: $635

They eat: Special guinea pig food, timothy hay, fresh veggies, fruit, plus a regular supplement of vitamin C.

Life expectancy: 5 to 7 years

Pros and cons: Tame, responsive, make cute noises, can go outside on a harness and leash. Easier to care for than rabbits or chinchillas. But need more housekeeping than some other pets. Generally less interactive than rabbits and rats.

Snake

(Recommended for kids: corn snake, king snake, ball python)

Activity level: Depending on snake, some will leave the tank/cage, some won't.

Good for ages: 12 and up

Kid's daily commitment: Depending on type of snake, twice a week, once a week or twice every two weeks. Replace water daily. Clean feces daily and wash tank once a week. Observe daily to make sure it's safe and healthy.

Initial cost: Over $50 for the snake itself; $100-$200 for other startup costs (tank, heat source)

Yearly upkeep cost: $250-$450 (food, annual vet visit)

They eat: Live or dead mice (big snakes eat rats, guinea pigs, chickens and rabbits).

Life expectancy: 15 to 30 years

Pros and cons: Clean, quiet, take up little room. Can carry salmonella, not interactive, should not be handled a lot.

Rabbit

Activity level: Sometimes leaves cage/tank; leaves cage/tank daily.

Good for ages: 5 and up (though not so young as primary caretakers)

Kid's daily commitment: Food and water daily. Clean habitat and change bedding one to two times per week. One to two hours of play per day.

Initial cost: $25-$75 for the rabbit alone; $325 for other startup costs (spay/neuter, cage, litter box)

Yearly upkeep cost: $200-$300 (food, annual vet checkup)

They eat: Hay, parsley, spinach, kale and special rabbit pellets, with apples and carrots in small quantities as treats.

Life expectancy: 7 to 10 years

Pros and cons: Quiet, clean, can be potty trained, good companions. Not a lap pet and do not like to be picked up and cuddled unless properly socialized. They chew a lot, so house should be rabbit-proofed. May bite.

Sources: PetSmart.com; Petco.com; ASPCA.org; petplace.com; Holly Nash, staff veterinarian at Drs. Foster and Smith, and Scott McKay, staff vet at Drs. Foster and Smith, Rhinelander, Wis.; Jay Hreiz, district officer at American Rabbit Breeders Association, Bloomington, Ill.; Lisa Vible, education director at the American Ferret Association, Annapolis, Md.; Mike Selig, staff vet at Barberton Veterinary Clinic in Norton, Ohio; Richard Nye, vet at Nye Veterinary Services in Batavia, Ill., and consultant at Ness Exotic Wellness Center in Lisle, Ill.

Don't want a dog or a cat? Try a gerbil, a guinea pig or another animal 06/28/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 28, 2010 7:31pm]

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