Small Rodents

Small Rodents

Monday, October 5, 2015 | NhS Behavior Department

Rodents come in a variety of sizes and shapes, with each preferring their own form of habitat. All rodents have teeth that continually grow. They are primarily nocturnal animals. With the proper amount of care and handling, these animals can make a great pet.


These animals primarily require a single-level cage. Aquarium tanks with a mesh lid provide for optimal housing conditions. However, there is a variety of commercial caging available to the rodent pet-owner. High temperatures and high humidity must be avoided. Do not place in direct sunlight. 


These animals require no additional grooming, unless major concerns arise.


A variety of commercial diets are available. Select the appropriate species-based diet, as each diet is formulated differently. You may supplement diet with produce and small amounts of hay.


Rodents’ incisor teeth will grow throughout the life of the animal. Provide plenty of options for chewing to help keep their teeth worn down. A variety of options are available. Always check any enrichment item to make sure that it is safe for your animal.

While rodents are social, a limit does exist on how many animals can peacefully coexist together. It’s important that each animal has equal access to food, water and space. It’s also important that each animal can display appropriate species specific behaviors, such as burrowing.

Providing an exercise wheel is essential to allow small rodents to burn off extra energy. Make sure that the wheel is large enough for the rodent to comfortably fit. 


Most rodent species will learn to tolerate human handling. Rats and gerbils are less likely to bite humans; however, any animal is capable of inflicting a nasty bite. 


All rodent species will benefit from a variety of opportunities to display natural behaviors, such as digging, burrowing and foraging. The possibilities to provide stimulation are endless. Some examples include:

  • Paper towel tubes stuffed with food
  • Small box filled with sand
  • Untreated wood blocks
  • Variety of nesting materials, such as wood, wool and shredded newspaper
  • Sturdy, hard plastic toys

Scent-marking is common among these animals. Each species possesses scent glands on various parts of their body. For example, gerbils have glands on their stomachs. They will slide their bellies across a surface to mark their territory. 

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