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Bringing Home Your Small Animal

By Craig Sernotti

So you have decided that you want to keep a small animal. You have narrowed down your choices and selected the one who interests you the most. You’ve researched how to care for that animal properly and are ready to build the best setup for your new pet. You want to bring your small animal home soon so that he can start his long and happy life under your care. But where can you purchase him? What’s the easiest and safest way to bring your small animal home?

Although you can buy all your supplies and your new pet at the same time, it is much better for the animal if everything is in place and ready for him before you bring him home.

Buy Him or Rescue Him, That Is the Question

Any pet store will offer several small animals for sale. Hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, mice, and rats are almost always available. For exotic small animals (like sugar gliders and hedgehogs), you will have to research a breeder or dealer who sells them. If your pet store cannot recommend one to you, search for one on the Internet.

Buying a small animal is perfectly fine, but many are available for adoption from rescue agencies. You can contact a local animal shelter to see if it is caring for any in need of a good home. If none are available, ask if the agency can recommend a rescue to you. You can also search for rescues on the Internet.

Enclosure and Setup

Your small animal will adjust to his new surroundings better if his cage is set up and waiting for him when you bring him home. This means that you must learn the proper size and type of enclosure your new pet requires. For example, hamsters and gerbils will be fine in a small aquarium or a wire cage, but sugar gliders need a large, tall cage.

Along with the cage, you need to buy everything that goes in it: a food bowl, a water bottle, bedding, a hide box, and toys. For a review of everything you need, see “Getting Started (Supplies).” HYPERLINK TO THAT ARTICLE?


Most small animals can primarily be fed dry pellets or a food mix made specifically for them. They should be given hay and fresh fruits and vegetables, items that are relatively easy to obtain.

Live foods are essential to the diets of some small animals, like hedgehogs. Because they are so important to certain small animals, you should have a trusted source available where you can buy all the live foods you need for your pet before you bring him home.

Crickets and mealworms, two of the most commonly available live foods, are usually sold in pet stores for reptiles. Constantly buying them, however, can get expensive over time. There is a simple remedy to this: It is possible for you to cultivate (grow) your own live foods. If this interests you, research the topic on the Internet and purchase some starter kits from your pet store or an online dealer. It will take some practice and some trial and error, but eventually you can have your own live food colonies. If you grow your own live foods, the colonies should be well established before you bring your pet home.

Welcome Home

You know what small animal you want and where you’re getting him from, his cage is set up and waiting for him, and you have lots of healthy, nutritious food ready to be offered. What are you waiting for? Go get your pet!

Your small animal will likely be placed in a temporary travel container (usually a cardboard box). Bring him home, gently take him out of this enclosure, and place him into his cage. He will most likely run around and disappear into the hide box once he discovers it. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see him for a while. A completely new environment, unfamiliar humans, new scents—wouldn’t you be scared, too?

As hard as it may be, don’t try to interact with your new pet right away. Let him come out of the hide box when he wants to, and allow him to roam around and explore his cage. Make sure that fresh food and water are available. Be gentle when you eventually handle your new pet, and do your best not to speak loudly or make any sudden movements. This will help tame your small animal and get him to trust you.