Small furries: rabbits, Guinea pigs and hamsters

Small furries are those little pets like hamsters, guinea pigs, rats and rabbits. They’re particularly popular as pets among people who don’t have the space needed for a dog or cat, and they are relatively easy to care for.

Small furries have essential needs

Like all pets, small furries have particular needs to live healthily and happily. Knowing what each species needs to thrive makes the choice of which of the small furries you want for your family a lot easier.

All small furries need large enough cages that they can move around in easily and comfortably. The bigger the better is true for all of these animals. Cages need to be safe (so small enough space between bars that hamsters and rats can’t escape), easy to clean (permeable wooden floors are not a good idea) and have space for the animal to hide or burrow.

Environmental enrichment is also essential i.e. solid floored hamster wheels, material such as newspaper, straw or wood shavings to burrow in, tunnels, and toys such as the cardboard tubes.  All of these prevent boredom and self trauma. Animals that are bored, incorrectly housed or lonely will frequently self-mutilate causing injuries that require veterinary treatment.

Before adopting your small furry, it’s important to be aware of the size of animal and its needs or you’ll be spending thousands of Rands at your vet as your unhappy, unhealthy pet fails to thrive.

Here’s what you need to know:


Size: Rabbits differ in size from small dwarf rabbits (ie, Netherlands Dwarf rabbit) which weigh 0.5 -1.5kg to giant breeds like the Flemish Giant which can weigh more than 10kg.

Lifespan: A well-cared for rabbit can live, on average, for 8 – 12 years.

Health care: Rabbits should be sterilised as spayed or castrated rabbits live longer, are healthier and have fewer obnoxious behaviours. Like dogs and cats, they should have annual veterinary checkups.

Companionship: Rabbits can be kept alone (but then you as the owner need to provide companionship) but do better as small family groups or bonded pairs.  Veterinary care is also essential. Spayed or castrated rabbits live longer and are healthier, have fewer obnoxious behaviours and make better companions.

Food: The correct feed is essentail i.e commercial hamster/ rabbit pellets, fresh vegetables and hay because the wrong diet can cause a host of ailments.

Sterilisation: Veterinary care is also essential as I.e. spayed or castrated rabbits live longer and are healthier, have less obnoxious behaviors and make better companions.

For more info on rabbit care, read this…you-need-to-know/


There are 2 species of hamsters, and their lifespans are no more than 2 – 3 years. The larger Syrian hamster (with an approximate adult weight of 140g) are solitary and should not be kept in groups, whereas the smaller dwarf hamsters (adult weight about 50g) need companionship and do well in small family groups. Be careful of giving to0 many treats i.e oily seeds to hamsters as they will quickly become obese and preferentially eat these treats.

Read more about hamster care here

Guinea pigs

Size: These little guys usually weight between 800g and 1kg as adults.

Lifespan: their average lifespan is 5 -7 years but again well cared for guinea pigs can live up to 10 years.

Companionship: Guinea pigs are social animals and should not be kept alone but always in small social groups.

Sterilisation: male and female guinea pigs can be kept together without contributing to the overpopulation.


Size: Various

Lifespan: Average 18 to 36 months

Companionship: Rats are social creatures so they do best if kept with another rat or a group of rats.

Sterilisation: Male rats are sexually mature by 6 to 10 weeks; female rats are sexually mature by eight to 12 weeks. They shouldn’t be bred this young though, so make sure males and females are separated before they reach this age.

As with all pet ownership, it is your duty as a pet owner to learn as much about your pet as possible and provide him or her with the best possible care. Understanding his needs, and his potential lifespan, are vital as they will determine whether or not you are able to provide the best care.



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