Nominate your pet's care takers: Match your child's maturity to the pet they will care for. For instance, gerbils are great beginner pets because they are gentle, social and enjoy the companionship of another gerbil. Or, your child may prefer a chinchilla as they have perky personalities and will bond with their pet parent through regular, gentle handling.
Understand the pet's habits: Some small pets are nocturnal and are most likely to be active at night -- which means you might not get as much daytime play time as you like. Ask about special care needs for your small pet, too. Chinchillas, which are known for their especially soft fur, need dust baths to clean themselves, and Syrian hamsters require grooming products like brushes and wipes help them look and smell good.
Provide proper nutrition: Each animal has its own nutritional needs. Guinea pigs and chinchillas are herbivores so they need diets that include at least 75 percent high-fiber hay. Guinea pigs also need vitamin C supplements. Many rodents' teeth never stop growing, so providing wood chews or edible houses offers not only a yummy surprise but also helps keep teeth trimmed.
Talk to experts: Take a family trip to a store such as PetSmart, where associates can help with pet selection and walk you through the basics of habitat cleaning, feeding schedules and how to properly and safely handle small pets. Each store's book section also carries pet health manuals and pet-specific handbooks.
For additional information on choosing and caring for small pets, visit www.petsmart.com.
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