Tell me about pet rodents.

I know about hamsters and rats but what about gerbils, chinchillas and other less popular pet rodents.
Anyone have experiance in raising them?

I wish I could own a chinchilla, but what is their personality like?

I’ve never owned one, but I considered buying a chinch once and was told they can be pretty calm and friendly. I only opted out 'cause of the…you know…cats. :smack:

The amazing thing about a chinch is that their fur is so soft that when you pick one up it feels like a tribble should feel. Like there are no bones in there, just fur.

Ferrets are also very cool.

My dad brought home a pair of chinchillas for my brother and me when I was a kid. We had never asked for them, we had never heard of chinchillas. They were just like what I always imagined hamsters to be like; mostly inert and never showing any affectionate behavior. The first female died, and her replacement was pure evil. She was an enthusiastic biter, and after a while she would spray urine on any human within range.

If you can’t get a pet that at least pretends to like you, an aquarium screen saver would be more satisfying.

But they aren’t rodents, FTR.

I tried to love a ferret (not in the karnal sense, mind you) and just couldn’t do it. It’s one step above a “flushible friend” and chinchillas and other small mammals are no better. I need an exchange of affection, minus a gamey odor. I will stick with cats, thanks.

I have friends who have a house full of guinea pigs, and they’re the cutest damn things you’ve seen. They make these “Wheek Wheek” piggie noises when you come in to visit, and depending on how well they’ve been socialized, they do like being held and stroked. We piggie-sit every so often, and they’re a little higher maintenance than, say rats, but not bad. If I wasn’t allergic to anything with fur, I’d totally consider getting a pair of them.

Ferrets are better than cool. Ferrets are intelligent, inquisitive, energetic, playful, and quiet (when they aren’t knocking stuff down, that is). I’ll take a ferret over a cat anyday and twice on Sundays. I’ve never encountered a tempermental ferret (and a tempermental cat is more of a “flushible friend” than any fish I’ve ever owned). They do take more care than a cat, though, so if you are looking for something very easy, a ferret isn’t it. I can’t speak for rodents (and Spectre is 100% correct, ferrets aren’t rodents) and the proper care they require.

I have nine chinchillas. And no, they’re not easy to take care of. They’re exotic pets, so everything about them is expensive. The animal is expensive. They’re food needs to be special ordered (you could buy the crap in a pet store, but then your chin will die a lot quicker), vet bills are astronomical and they have a lot of needs - like dust baths, etc. They need daily exercise and daily interaction. Without it they bite and get mean, or sit in one place and don’t show any interest. Chins, when properly taken care of, are very social and affectionate animals. They rarely like to be held or fussed with, despite the fuzzy coats. Not a pet to buy for a gift or on a whim. They make an incredible mess, having (literally) poop throwing contests. It takes a special kind of person to care enough and to have enough patience to make a chin a good pet. Check out for more information.

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I actually knew that. :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack: :smack:

Guinea pigs are just the sweetest things ever. Darcy is sitting on my lap as I type, happily nibbling away on a lemon leaf (his crack). They’re so cute and fuzzy and they follow you around and they talk to yoouuuu :3 My favourite widdle rodents. There’s a pair of wild parrots in our neighbourhood that have learned the guinea pig wheek. It’s so cute to watch their reactions to them :stuck_out_tongue:

I love gerbils. They are very active and social. Ours loved to climb all over any available human, poking whiskery noses against ears and cheeks and under your neck.

Gerbs are very clean and unsmelly. They need at least one other gerb because they are very social. They rarely bite. They chew like crazy and cannot be kept in plastic cages (unlike a hamster). They also have problems with wood bedding; the paper stuff is best.

I’ve heard good things about rats, but gerbils are my favorite because of the frenetic activity and good nature.

Don’t breed 'em because you’ll be overrun, but baby gerbils are the cutest thing on the planet.

I am a guinea pig girl. :slight_smile: In general, they’re not the brightest, but they’re very sweet. Even if they’re skittish (which is understandable, being a prey animal), I’ve run across very very very few snippy or mean pigs (and those were mistreated by their owners).

My pigs:

Magdalena: (c’mon, look at that lil mouth!)

Penelope: She kind of looks like a furry baby rhino

I got Maggie first and then Penny, and this is a picture from the first hour or so that they were introduced to each other: (Mags keeps hogging the castle, so I have to get another one for Penny)

Guinea pigs are herd animals naturally so they do better in pairs or small groups (boys with boys and girls with girls only, please ;)). Even if they don’t become bestest friends ever, they’re happier with another pig there.

Like I said, they’re generally not very smart but there are exceptions (my first guinea pig, Lucy, was damn smart for any animal). Each pig I’ve had has had a distinct personality, though; their personalities come through a lot more when there’s another pig to interact with. Lucy and Ethel were my first pair. Lucy was very smart and curious and nicely dominant while Ethel was very shy and quiet and submissive. I had Trixie next (by herself, unfortunately), who was almost cat-like: she was reserved and sometimes a touch snippy, but loved being held and being hand-fed veggies. Maggie and Penny are quite different. Mags is the dominant pig who’s a bit of a bitch but is the one that dashes to hide when someone comes in the room ;). Penny is the submissive one (although part of that is that she’s younger) but she’s braver and has an extremely inquisitive personality and loves climbing into my hair.

Pigs rule! :slight_smile:

Cute! Cutecute!

Have you considered (don’t squeal) rats? They’re cheap, easy to maintain, self-cleaning, tend to be hardier than most pet-type rodents, and undoubtedly the smartest of the bunch. White “lab” rats tend to be of a very gentle disposition–we had one that had a gerbil as a pet, whom he used to chase down and clean. A young rat, handled properly, will be easily handled and they can be taught a number of tricks. There are some current pet rat owners around–IIRC, Amazon Floozy Goddess has a few–who can give you more pointers, but at a few bucks a pop (compared to hundreds for a ferret) they’re a bargin.

Just don’t get a breeding pair unless you’re going to sell the babies to snake owners for food.


We have a chinchilla. Like everything else, the more effort you put into a pet, the more you’ll get out of the experience.

If we were to just lock him away in a hutch, of course he’d bite and spray urine.

I’m still learning about chins, but they seem to have certain natural behaviors, based on their lifestyle high in the dry mountains of South America.

They love climbing, hopping, running, and tunneling. They explore. In the wild, I think they live in rocky terrain, and knowing all the escape paths is as important as sitting up on an elevation to spot predators.

They have a very sparse diet – they eat plants growing in arid mountains, mostly dried grass. You can’t feed them rich foods, they’ll get ill. So treats have to be limited.

As prey animals, they generally hate to be held/grabbed/restrained. That’s a shame, because a chin is so much fun to hold.

So you can’t hold 'em, can’t feed em much, can’t lock 'em away – what do you do with a chin?

Well, they actually do seem to be affectionate – except for not liking being held. Our boy gets let out every night to run around and explore and climb. He has a very characteristic pattern of behavior at first --he approaches us, then runs away. Then approaches, then flees. Over and over. It can be maddening if i want to catch him quickly. But he rpeates it, getting a little bolder each time.

I can’t say for sure, but I believe he’s testing to see if we’ll chase him. When he’s satisfied we won’t, he comes over and sniffs us and nudges us. He likes to be petted on the front of his face, have his ears rubbed, have is cheeks and chin rubbed.

Usually we get down on the floor with him, and he climbs on us, perches, balances, and hops off. He’ll run under you if you make a tunnel or opening (he’s compelled to check out all tunnels). On, off, around, bounce off the wall, sniff, climb, hop, on, off…he just does stuff like that.

He chews, but we shoo him away from stuff and give him toys in his cage/play area. he will very politely graze my skin with his teeth to see if it’s worth a nibble, but if I flinch or move, he desists without biting…it’s like he’s purely vegetarian and won’t eat anything clearly alive.

There’s not much more to interacting with him – he is a rodent, after all. Fear aside, his interactions with the world are largely driven by “Can I eat this? Climb it? Hide in it? Hump it?”

After a long time, we finally became consistent enough in OUR behavior to teach him to return to his cage at the same time in the evening by putting his food dish noisily into place, and giving him a rare treat (one raisin or SMALL fragment of dried apple) when he went in of his own accord. This is MUCH better than the former chase-catch-squeal-tremble traumas we used to go through.

When we let him stay out a bit longer, sometimes, late at night, when I’m at the computer, he comes over and just leans companionably on my foot.


Another vote for Guinea Pigs (aka cavies) although less independently mobile than some of the other rodents (they can’t climb or jump) they are awake and active in the daytime and there ‘chattering’ is a friendly sound, they are also fairly long lived - mine averaged 4 or 5 years although I had one who reached 7! They also smell far less than mice.

No one has mentioned rabbits really - I have friends who have a rabbit they take for outings to the park on a lead, he hops happily round their flat and can leap up onto your lap.

[hijack] Question for the Guinea Pig folk, mine lived in a large hutch outside (in all weathers) - it sounds as if a few of you have them roaming wild in the house ? how do you / can you house train them ? [/hijack]

I’ve had hampsters, gerbils and mice as a kid. All bought for me (though the mice weren’t mine), not because I asked for them. I don’t like any of them. They’re too little, too fragile, and move too quickly. Nor are they very interesting or cuddly, which would be redeeming qualities. If I were to ever get another rodent, it’d be a rat because they’re bigger and smarter too.

Cat Jones, you know rabbits aren’t rodents either, right? Probably why no one mentioned them… Ferrets are weasels and rabbits are lagomorphs.

Um no, I didn’t - I’d always thought of rabbits as rodents and hares as lagomorphs but you have fought the good fight against my ignorance :slight_smile:

Another vote for rats.

The big thing about rats is that they’re omnivores, not herbivores. While they are to some degree prey animals, it doesn’t rule their lives the way it seems to with many rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, etc. They’re very smart, very curious, and quite bold. Of the rodents (and lagomorphs) I’ve met, they’re the likliest to be very comfortable interacting with and being handled by humans. While I haven’t had guinea pigs myself, I have had rabbits, mice, hamsters, and gerbils, and my experience is that very few, if any, of them *enjoy * being handled, although they may tolerate it.

I’ve come to the conclusion that prey animals don’t make the best pets. Hunters and scavengers do better: dogs, cats, ferrets, rats. At least for me.

My wife and I currently have two rats (we’ve had as many as five at one time), and a ferret. Ike, our white lab rat (with only three legs and no tail) is the sweetest animal I’ve ever encountered. Our ferret is also very very gentle and a great pet.

The rats are by far the easiest to care for, and they are extremely intelligent. However, if you have extra time and energy to dedicate to caring for a ferret, they are more fun to play with.