Small Pet Welfare Issues

The health and general well-being of these animals can be severely damaged by being kept in situations which have often been historically accepted as adequate- tiny cages, a life of solitude, sporadic care and attention. Fortunately, most people are now better educated and many breeders and sellers of small pets will advise correctly at the purchase stage, or refuse to sell to what they see as an unsuitable owner. Always read a dedicated book on the pet you are buying before you take the plunge, to avoid accidentally subjecting it to any of these common causes of suffering.

Inappropriate Housing

The tiny, box-like, hamster cage with a house and wheel is fortunately rarely available these days, but can still be acquired by ill-informed pet buyers. Compact and convenient for the owner, it is little more than a prison for small pets and a completely unsuitable environment. Small pets spend most of their lives in their cage and it should be as spacious and roomy as possible.

A browse on the net will reveal a variety of exciting housing options with different levels and tunnels, many tailored to the different small animals which can have very different needs. The expense related to buying a suitable cage is often one of the largest involved in acquiring and keeping these pets, but if the purchase is carefully chosen for quality, it is usually a one-off investment. A pet with a spacious, exciting habitat is often lots more fun to watch so selecting a good enclosure benefits both of you.

Being Kept Alone

Most small pets are highly social and keeping them by themselves as a solitary animal is very cruel. It can cause enough stress to result in illness and even a shortened life span. Imagine how you would feel if you spent your entire life without anyone to talk to.

Most small animals- guinea pigs, gerbils, mice, rats and dwarf hamsters to name a few, are happy living in same sex pairs- so no babies. In the case of the larger small animals like ferrets and rabbits, the males can easily be neutered, allowing them to live with a female life partner. Be aware that for most small pets, if you are thinking of getting one, you should be planning to acquire at least two, and buy accommodation which is spacious enough to suit.

Accidental Injury

Small pets often belong to children, and being so tiny, are all too easy to accidentally hurt. Particularly as younger children can be clumsy and find a wriggling little animal hard to keep hold of, crushing injuries may occur and such small bones are fragile.

They can also be hurt if they are dropped, which again, is regrettably not too uncommon. It’s not fair on the younger child or the small pet to be left unsupervised during handling sessions. Learn how your pet should be picked up and held, then carry and hold it for your child. It is easiest and safest for your child to sit in a chair and have the pet placed in their lap to cuddle.


Rabbits and Guinea pigs can have their filthy hutches locked in a shed or out of sight at the bottom of a garden and ignored. Similarly, it is not unheard of for a mouse or hamster shut in a rarely used room to be left without water long enough to die of thirst. Unlike a cat or dog, a small caged pet cannot come and pester its owner if it is hungry or thirsty, so it is all too easily forgotten.

It is vital that the new owner is willing from the start to keep a supply of fresh food and water readily available and the cage cleaned of their own volition. Never trust a small child to be solely responsible for the animal’s needs, as they are easily distracted and forgetful.

You must be willing to check it is being looked after yourself. A pet, even one promoted as an easy keeper, requires work in the form of time and attention each and every day of its life. If you do not feel you can supply this, do not buy one to begin with.

Insufficient Vet Care

Health problems are all too easy to ignore in such quiet animals and those which may come out more at night than in the day time- potentially going unseen and unchecked for weeks. Even if a health problem is identified, the substantial cost of veterinary attention versus the minimal purchase and maintenance cost of the pet can cause owners to be reluctant to seek help.

This condemns the ailing animal to a period of suffering which is cruel and unnecessary. Humane euthanasia is far kinder to any sick animal if the investigative tests to cure it are beyond your means, but try not to be in that position. Maintain a clean cage, fresh, healthy food, and only purchase a pet which is healthy to start with from a reputable source.

Also keep potential additional expenses in mind by putting a few pounds in an account regularly to pay for a vital health check. Really, vet costs should be part of the consideration before you make the commitment and buy your pet. If you can’t afford a vet, you can’t afford the pet either.