Code of Small Animal Care
Good care begins before you ever get an animal. A conscientious prospective owner will learn as much as possible about the animal’s species and their requirements ahead of time. This ensures that proper supplies will be in place when the new pet arrives. Learning in advance also permits the caretaker to make an informed choice about readiness to commit to answering a animal’s needs for the length of its entire life.
Housing must provide height enough for the animal to stand upright unimpeded and adequate floor space for nesting, exercise, feeding and elimination areas. The floor should be solid and covered with safe, clean bedding. Any wet bedding (from a leaky water supply) should be removed immediately. The cage should be cleaned regularly. Some form of exercise should be available during the animal’s waking hours. Syrian hamsters must be housed alone after the age of about six weeks. Male mice must be housed alone after 5 weeks. Animals must be divided by sex or spayed/neutered to prevent breeding.
The animal should be provided with a continuously available supply of fresh commercial species-appropriate food mix, appropriately researched homemade diet, or lab blocks supplemented regularly with small amounts of fruits and vegetables. Any homemade diets should equal or surpass the nutritional values of commercial feed. Clean water (bottle, tube or high-water fruit or vegetable) should be available at all times.
Personal Contact and Taming
A new pet not given regular attention will be fearful and stressed. Taming will not only make for a better pet, but will also give the animal a better quality of life. Older, tamed animals that are neglected can become apathetic much like caged zoo animals. It is our responsibility to provide each pet with frequent contact, stimulation, and chances to explore.
Safety and Health
To protect your pet from danger, the cage should be as escape-proof as is reasonably possible. When out of the cage for play, it should be supervised at all times. Syrian hamsters should not have contact with other hamsters even during supervised play, neither should unaltered animals have access to each other, even briefly. Within the cage, there should be no excessive heights from which an animal could fall and no piece of equipment that is apt to cause injury. Stringy bedding and wood shavings high in aromatic oils (such as cedar) should never be used. Nontoxic wood blocks or hard biscuits should be supplied for chewing. Regular physical inspection of each animal should be made to ensure its health by spotting any problems early.
Illness and Injury
It is unethical to ignore suffering in an animal under your care. Disease and injury should be addressed as soon as they are noticed in whatever manner is possible or appropriate. This may range from seeking professional attention to simply keeping the animal comfortable, depending on the owner’s resources and the animal’s needs. Any new animal brought into the home should have a 10-day quarantine away from other animals with proper hygiene observed. This page is not meant to be a complete guide to animal care, but rather an outline of an owner’s basic responsibilities.