Last updated 11 May 2003: added Gatto page and amended navigation.


Experiences, observations and knowledge

with an emphasis on rodents, but including rabbits, guinea pigs and others


First, a confession. I don't personally own any of the above pets. Or rather, my wife does: quite a few of them, in fact. She has several rodents, rabbits and guinea pigs, and two cats. I help her feed and clean them quite a bit, so I think I have picked up quite a bit about them, particularly the rodents. While they are not my primary interest, I think rodents (like reptiles) have gained a bit of an unfair reputation, and some actually make good pets. There are also some commonly sold which have one or two pitfalls, especially now some of the more exotic types are entering the market.

All of the animals covered in this section are mammals. The big advantage they have over reptiles is that for the most part they require no special heating or lighting, and can often be fed "ordinary" food, or food that is easily obtainable. Their comparative disadvantage for the same reason is that unlike reptiles they will normally eat at least once a day, if not more. If you've ever been pestered by your cat for another meal, you'll know what I mean. Their "warm bloodedness" (endothermy, as opposed to the ectothermy of fish, amphibians and reptiles) also means that small mammals lead somewhat short lives compared with, say, similar sized lizards. Few rodents live longer than four years, whereas a same sized leopard gecko will live for at least twenty.

Mammalian pets might be considered to be more lively than reptilian pets, but actually this is not strictly true. A lot depends on the species and the age of the pets. Also, mammals do spend a lot of time resting or sleeping when not eating or drinking - think of a cat lazing on the settee or a rodent curled up in the corner of its cage. Nevertheless, many of them do seem to have a concept of "play" which seems to be largely absent (for perfectly good reasons) from reptiles, and which may be linked with the fact that while reptiles are born almost as exact replicas of their parents, mammals need to acquire some skills through interaction with others or simply the motions of "play". Baby lizards and snakes are often born ready to hunt, whereas mammalian young learn this skill as they grow.

The following is a non-exhaustive guide, and a brief one, to keeping some of these creatures. Despite my love for the scaly rather than the furry, the latter have often delighted and fascinated me.

Keeping Rodents - A Quick Guide to Rats and other small furries
Lagomorphs - A Very Quick Guide to Rabbits
Observations on our cats:

Selected Bibliography
Selected Links to Mammalian Pet Sites on the Web

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