Pocket Pets

Pocket pets are as cute and cuddly as the name implies, yet caring for them involves, admittedly, more than a cozy pocket.

Family Pet Hospital in Longmont recently added pocket pet veterinary care to their services and offered the following tips to those considering adopting or purchasing a diminutive creature as their very own.

Pocket pets are defined as a small mammal that is not a dog or cat. Dr. Tara Dedolph, associate veterinarian at Family Pet Hospital with a specialty in pocket pets, explained, “They include rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, chinchillas and ferrets. The term can be a bit misleading though, as many breeds of rabbits can be close to 10 pounds and don’t fit in any pockets.”

Dedolph said pocket pets are “ideal for people that are looking for a quiet animal that may not take up as much space or training time as a dog or cat.” Busy families may want to consider a hamster or gerbil, which can be housed in a comparatively small enclosure and “don’t require as much day-to-day interaction as other species,” she said. Hamsters and gerbils live about one to three years. Rabbits, in contrast,
“require a considerable degree of social interaction, are very sensitive to noise and changes in their environments and can live up to 15 years,” Dedolph said. Rabbits must be delicately handled or risk a broken bone.

As with many pets, “care for these animals can seem simple at first, but it is usually quite involved and unique to each
species,” she said. Guinea pigs and rabbits must be fed at least every 12 hours. Some can be litter box trained, but most require frequent cleaning of their enclosure. 

Given the distinct needs of pocket pets, Dedolph urged potential pet owners to take time to learn about the animal they are considering before purchasing or adopting. She suggested, “The best places to obtain information from are your local exotics’ veterinarian and local species-specific rescues. There are many rescues and organizations locally that cater to rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, ferrets and more.”

After selecting a pocket pet to purchase or adopt, a potential pet owner will need to obtain their new pet’s food and enclosure. According to Dedolph, “this can vary a lot between species.” For example, she said, “Rabbits require entire bedrooms or exercise pens, rats require multi-leveled metal cages and hamsters require large glass terrariums with deep bedding.” As for toys, since animals typically chew their toys and may ingest tiny toy pieces, Dedolph recommends pet toys without artificial coloring or small plastics.

Finally, all pets benefit from routine veterinary care. Family Pet Hospital’s expansion from treating mostly dogs and cats to pocket pets is a reflection of the needs of the community and the growth of pocket pet ownership. Sarah Puccetti Kinzer, office manager at the hospital, said, “Dr. Dedolph brings with her a deep passion for pocket pets, and we are thrilled to be able to extend our practice philosophies to the pocket pets of Longmont.”

She continued, “Our clients’ family pets are our pets. We care about them deeply and are honored to serve such a wonderfully loving community of animal lovers here in Longmont.” 

By Sarah Huber, Longmont Magazine