Rodents:  More Than Just Vermin

Dec 05 , 2019

Rodents: More Than Just Vermin

When you think of the word “rodent,” do you think of something nasty rooting around in the trash or scurrying along the dark underbelly of a subway tunnel?  The word “rodent” has a very negative connotation to most people.  In actuality, many rodents are adorable, fuzzy, and familiar household pets.  Here are 5 common rodents which are more than just vermin:


  • Guinea pigs: Guinea pigs are small, fairly low-maintenance animals that make great first-time pets for families.  They don’t require a lot of space, are very responsive to their owners (they even purr when you pet them), and can live up to 8 years with proper care.  They do require a great deal of hay to chew on so that they can wear down their continuously growing teeth.  They can also eat/chew on commercial guinea pig pellets and fresh vegetables.  They also need a daily vitamin C supplement, since their bodies don’t make vitamin C naturally.  They come in different coat colors and lengths and love to interact with their owners and be petted.
  • Rats: Most people don’t think of rats as pets, but talk to any rat owner, and they’ll tell you what phenomenal pets rats can make.  Perhaps the smartest rodents, rats can learn tricks, love to hang out with their owners, and are extremely affectionate.  They actually respond to their owners when their name is called.  They require a modest sized living space and a simple diet of rodent pellet and fresh vegetables daily.  They come in various colors and coat lengths.  The only down side of rats is that they are short-lived, with most surviving only 2-3 years.
  • Degus: Degus are very similar to rats.  They are also called brush-tailed rats, but they look like an oversized gerbil.  Intelligent like their rat cousins, degus are very social and full of personality.  They communicate through an extensive vocabulary of sounds and are very active during the day, unlike many other rodents that are nocturnal, making degus more attractive as pets.  Degus thrive on a diet very similar to rats’.  They are also fairly long-lived with an average lifespan of 7 years, but have been known to live up to 13 years.  They are perhaps one of the less well-known but highly recommended rodents as pets.
  • Chinchillas: Chinchillas are cute, cuddly, soft, and fluffy; but can be extremely skittish.  They live to an average of 8-10 years, but there have been reports of up to 20 years.  Their tiny noses and whiskers twitch continuously, and they often dart around very fast.  When grabbed by a predator, they actually escape by releasing a large clump of fur—a defense mechanism called a fur slip.  So, it’s very important to never hold them by their skin.  Like guinea pigs, they must chew hay constantly to wear down their ever-growing teeth that can become impacted if they don’t frequently chew.  They also come in a variety of colors and they keep clean and oil-free by rolling around rapidly in a bath of finely ground pumice stone.
  • Small rodents (Hamsters, gerbils, mice): Hamsters, gerbils, and mice are less demanding than some larger rodents.  While these 3 species look different from each other, they are similar in that they generally fit in the palm of your hand and typically require smaller cages/living spaces.  They are low maintenance and require a daily diet of rodent pellets and/or fresh vegetables.  They generally live 1-2 years.  As adorable as these small rodents can be, they can also be a bit nippy; so please be careful.


Chinchillas Degus Gerbils Guinea pigs Hamsters Mice Rats

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