For a lot of people the idea of critters, especially rodents, making great pets is new. There is a lot of misinformation and confusion surrounding them that we at Minnesota Pocket Pet Rescue are working hard to change such as these three commonly asked questions:
Question: Are domesticated pocket pets the same as their wild cousins?
While some species are newer than others to being companion animals all pocket pets have been bred for generations to be domesticated, just like dogs and cats. They have very different behaviors from their wild cousins and even different genetics. Years of domestication has expanded their types, colors, and breeds.
Fun Fact: The domesticated or 'fancy' rat can trace it's history all the way back to the 1800's when rat catchers in England began keeping and breeding the most unique rats they came upon. By 1901 it was popular for ladies to keep them in gilded cages and there was even a National Mouse and Rat Club.
Question: Are they dirty or disease carriers?
Pocket pets are extremely fastidious in their grooming habits. While some bath themselves and others like to roll in a nice dust bath they all work hard to stay clean. If you ever see a pocket pet that looks unkempt it is a sign that they are either sick or don't have access to the appropriate food, water, or habitat. Most pocket pets can even be trained to use a litter box to keep their cage cleaner. As for diseases it is far more likely that they will catch a cold from you than you will catch anything from them.
Question: Do they bite?
Answer: Anything with teeth can bite
Like all animals pocket pets may use their mouths for more than just eating. When playing with other animals small nips can be an important method of communicating. It's less often used to hurt each other and more often used to say 'I'm hungry' or 'don't do that' or 'back off'. Unfortunately this method of communicating doesn't translate well to humans and hurts, so we work hard to make sure all of the pocket pets that come to us feel safe enough around humans that they don't feel the need to bite.
Special Tip: If you are working with a pocket pet that uses their teeth for communication don't yell at them, instead make a high pitch yelp-like noise (I usually say ow). That way they understand what they did hurt you.
Question: Can they live outside?
The outdoors can be a dangerous and inhospitable place for pocket pets. It is filled with predators that want to eat them, poison's that may kill them, weather conditions that they are unsuited for, and most importantly it lacks the companionship of the people they love. Pocket pet's are both safer and happier living in indoor habitats.