Supplies to Buy Before Adopting a New Pet

The following will cover all the basic supplies you will need to buy before acquiring your new small pet. I have also included a table at the end which gives an average cost of the items on the list and how often they need to be purchased.

  1. Cage
  2. Bedding
  3. Diet
  4. Food Bowl & Water Bottle
  5. Nest House
  6. Exercise Wheel
  7. Miscellaneous Items
  8. Care Booklet
  9. Maintenance Schedule
  10. Shopping List

1. Cage:-

It is important to choose the right cage for the animal you wish to house in the cage, for instance Hamsters and Gerbil have different requirements. Providing the largest cage you can afford is also a good idea, considering how long your new pet will be in it. Most of the cages I use for my hamsters/gerbils are at least 24" x 12" and my rat/degu/chinchilla cages are much larger. I do not recommend any of the Habitril, Crittertrail or S.A.M cages because I have found them to be too small for an adult Syrian hamsters and too easy to chew through for gerbils. There are a number of cages on the market, many cages which say they are designed for hamsters are much too small, I usually prefer those cages designed for rats for my hamsters cages, below is a list of cages I either use or recommend (prices and measurements may differ slightly from those below), all the Martins Cages can be found on-line and the prices reflect powder coated cages not galvanised, which I do not recommend;

2. Bedding:-

Lining the cage with bedding performs many important tasks; it helps to absorb urine and odors, it is used in nest boxes to add warmth and Gerbil’s love to burrow in it, which is why they usually benefit from deeper amounts of bedding. The best bedding to use is either Carefresh or aspen. Cedar and pine shavings have been found to be harmful to many small animals and as such are not recommended. Carefresh is made from reclaimed wood pulp waste, its natural bedding, which controls odor and produces less dust. It is better to buy Carefresh bedding in bulk, most stores sell the 50 liter packet which is much more economical then the 10 liter packets.

3. Diet:-

Commercial Hamster & Gerbil food tend to offer a varied and well balanced diet for both Hamster and Gerbils. This food should be present in the cage at all times, a hamster may put a lot of food in his/her pouches which may look like he/she has eaten a lot of food but before replacing it check in the nest house, hamsters love to store their food next to where they sleep and if you keep filling up the food bowl, the house will be packed full of food, which will get wasted.

Commercial food should be supplemented with fresh food such as fruit and vegetables, which are very nutritious. However they also contain a lot of water, so only feed in small amounts to prevent diarrhea and then remove after 24 hours.

Good fruits and vegetables to feed include;

Foods to be avoided include;

Treat's can also be given to Hamsters and Gerbils, although should only make up 10% of their total diet. There are many small animal treats on the market, yogurt drops are always enjoyed as are sunflower seeds, although sunflower seeds are fattening so should be given sparingly and one of the first ingredients in yogurt drops is sugar. So if you want to give treats a small amount once a week is fine. Gerbils also appreciate small quantities of Timothy hay and there coats benefit from a dust bath once a week, just like those that are used for Chinchilla’s.

4. Food Bowl and Water Bottle:-

It is usually better to spend a little extra and get a ceramic food bowl, these are easier to clean, durable and can not be chewed or tipped over. A 3”or 4” diameter bowl is a good size for a Hamster or a pair of Gerbils. An 8oz or 16oz water bottle that can be attached to the outside the cage is preferred over a water bowl because it not only keeps the water cleaner but also gives the animal more room in the cage. With aquarium’s you will need to look for a water bottle that can either stick to the glass or hang from the top. If the water bottle is inside the cage it may need a water bottle guard to prevent it from being chewed and thereby rendering it useless.

5. Nest House:-

The nest house is vital for nocturnal pets, as it gives them a place to hide and sleep during the daytime hours, away from prying eyes. There are many nest houses on the market to choose from. The mini igloo made by Super Pet and the Timber Hideaway from Penn Plex come is a variety of sizes and colors. The mini igloo is plastic and therefore very easy to clean, the Timber Hideaway though is made of wood and can be difficult to clean, so should be replaced every two to three months.

6. Exercise Wheel:-

There are four ways small animals can get exercise; an exercise wheel, an exercise ball, a play pen or just by regular handling by their caregiver. Considering hamsters and gerbils are usually more active during the night, they must have an exercise wheel in their cage; it keeps them entertained as well as healthy. Usually an 8” wheel is the best size to buy for an adult hamster or gerbil, dwarf hamsters are better with a 5” wheels. It is important for all wheels to have a solid base like the Comfort wheel’s, which are made of plastic and are very easy to clean. These wheels come in a variety of colors and sizes and can be attached to a wire cage or free standing in an aquarium. Some gerbils chew on plastic wheels so a metal wheel may be better for them although look for either solid metal wheels or those that have a metal mesh for the small animal to run on (with these wheels I then add a colored duct tape onto the wheel to protect the little guys feet)..

7. Miscellaneous Items:-

There are a number of extra items you can buy for your small animal, these may include an exercise ball (mainly for dwarf hamster and gerbils) or a small animal carrier, just in case you need to take your pet to the vet. Rodents also need something to chew on because they have continuously growing teeth and gnawing on a chew toy can keep their teeth nice and trim. Rodents will chew on things so it is best to give them something to chew on which is safe. There are many different kinds of chew toys on the market, just make sure the chew toy fits the size of your rodent and it is safe.

Other items to include in your hamster or gerbils cage are play toys such as cardboard tubes, tunnels or boxes, these provide an ideal place for them to burrow and hide in. Gerbils especially love toilet or kitchen roll's, which is a great way to recycle and a lot cheaper than buying from the store, most will play with the toilet/kitchen roll's for a while, then they will rip them up and lastly it will be used as nest bedding.

8. Care Booklet:-

It is always important to read about an animal before buying or adopting one. A care booklet on the rodent of your choice will give you more knowledge on that pet and how suitable it will be for your household. If the animal is for a child going to the library to pick out the book is a good way for the child to get involved in the adoption process.

9. Maintenance Schedule:-

Maintaining a clean cage is the best way to keep a hamster or gerbil healthy. Bacteria can grow in wet bedding and after a while urine turns into ammonia, if you can smell ammonia you are leaving it too long in-between cleanings.

Below is a cleaning schedule to act as a reminder of what needs to be done and when;

Every 2 to 3 Days;

Once a Week:

10. Shopping List:-

Every 3 months
3lb Bag of Food
Every 3 weeks
Ceramic Food Bowl
Water Bottle
Nest House
Exercise Wheel
Chew/Play Toys
Every month
Care Booklet
Small Animal Carrier

(* The information provided in the table above is intended for a one cage family)