Forty percent of all mammal species are rodents. They are found all over the world except in Antarctica. Some of them are considered pests when they share the same habitat as humans and compete directly with them. These rodents eat up to 40 million metric tons of human food every year, contaminate food with their urine and faeces, and may transmit more than 20 disease-causing germs.
Their high birth rate makes it possible for rodents to maintain stable population levels even under adverse conditions. They can breed when only a few weeks old, have several litters every year, and a high number of pups in each one. But the truth is that only a few of the 1700 existing rodent species may be considered pests. Most of them do not bother us and are even beneficial.
Nowadays many rodents are considered excellent pets. They are the first option for many families due to their simple care and few needs. But, which rodent to choose?
Without counting rabbits, which belong to a different group, the most usual pet rodents are hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, rats and mice, chipmunks and chinchillas. When making a decision among these possibilities you should keep several things in mind, such as the very different life expectancies of the different animals: hamsters may live up to two or three years, while chinchillas may live to be twenty years old.
On the other hand, you must know their habits. Some of them, including chinchillas, hamsters and mice, are nocturnal, and the rest are diurnal. This is very important to know if you want to be able to enjoy your pet during the day or if you are going to have to count on its scurrying around and making other noises during the night.
Finally, and if you cannot consult a veterinary surgeon before acquiring your pet, you should make sure that the eyes of your chosen animal are clean and sparkling, and that there is no discharge from them. Its back haunches should not be dirty, which could be a clear sign of diarrhoea. Its skin should be glossy, without bald spots, scabs or injuries and the rodent should be neither too fat nor too thin.
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Colegio Oficial de Veterinarios de Alicante
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