by Robin Russell, volunteer writer
Small Mammals are Special. As you’ll learn, Robyn Levy, current Dumb Friends League volunteer services training coordinator, former League adoptions counselor and one of the League’s resident small mammal experts certainly thinks that’s a true statement.
I recently interviewed Robyn and started with the basics: we hear the term “SMAM” used. What does that mean at the League? They are small mammals, and there are typically rabbits, guinea pigs (cavies), hamsters, rats, mice and less often, chinchillas, hedgehogs and ferrets available for adoption. Robyn told me many people are attracted to these animals because of their size and perceived ease of care because they are kept in a cage. She counsels that some of them have unique habits and needs that must be taken into consideration. For example rabbits need a lot of space, are crepuscular (most active during the dawn and dusk hours), can be litterbox trained, need fresh greens in addition to hay and pellets, can live for 10 to 13 years, and can be territorial. They need to be handled very carefully or can be injured. I also learned that being prey animals, they sleep with their eyes open – good to know for prospective owners. For more information about the care of these and other animals at the Dumb Friends League visit ddfl.org/resources-publications/pet-behavior-handouts/.
For first time adopters looking for a small mammal, Robyn suggests gerbils, hamsters, rats or mice. But they too have specific considerations: hamsters need to be kept single, and, if you are interested in a guinea pig, know that they demand very clean cages. Robyn said, “Small mammals are special because they are adorable and have adorable personalities. In order for those personalities to shine, adopters must make sure they provide them with the right environments. It’s really no different than for cats or dogs.”
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