Without being able to converse with animals, it can be hard to figure out what’s wrong if a small pet seems unhappy.
If you know that their homing, feeding and grooming needs are being taken care of – and their physical health seems fine – it could be a social issue.
Some animals prefer to be alone, or find that human attention is enough, while others adore company from their own species.
If you’re unsure, you can always come to see our vet nurses for advice about your particular pet (or if you’re thinking of getting one). Katie and the team can tell you more about your pet’s social needs and offer advice about companionship.
Some animals need company more than others
Your pet’s need for friendship partly depends on what type of animal they are, so here’s Cat & Rabbit Clinic's quick guide to the social needs of a few popular small pets:
It’s essential for rabbits to be kept in pairs, as a minimum, as they are sociable animals who need friendship to thrive. Opposite genders tend to get on best, but don’t forget to neuter both, unless you want lots of baby bunnies. Neutering will also make for a more relaxed friendship on both sides. Rabbits also appreciate their human owners, but often dislike being handled – and they ideally need a place to run and graze, as well as their hutch to live in. A constantly confined rabbit is more likely to feel stressed and threatened.
Like rabbits, guinea pigs get lonely if they are kept alone, so you should try to find them a compatible friend. If you have two that tend to fight, they will still appreciate each other’s company – so you can split their home with some mesh to avoid physical contact, rather than separate them completely. Guinea pigs are gentle, sociable animals that get on well with humans, which makes them ideal pets for children (with adequate supervision). However, bear in mind that they can live for 7 years, which can be a long time for a child to maintain interest.
Hamsters and rats
Whether or not hamsters need company depends on their breed, as dwarf hamsters enjoy socialising, while Syrian hamsters need to live alone. It’s also important to remember that hamsters are nocturnal, so you may not see the benefits of their friendship during daytime hours. Meanwhile, rats get depressed without attention, so it’s important that they get companionship from both other rats and their human owners.
If you have rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils or any other small furry creature – and you’d like more information – give us a call on 01604 478888 to check when our vet nurses are around to chat to you.