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Eva's Pet Care Disagreement

Differing views on pet care:

I think it is very interesting that people have so many different views on the topic of pet care. I have been thinking about this a lot. Some people I know use the smallest cages they possibly can and they give their animals the cheapest and easiest-to-feed kind of food, in order to be able to keep as many animals as possible for breeding purposes. Some of these people, when asked, of course have totally other views on pet care than the person with just a few highly beloved pets.

This is exactly as with dog owners. Some dog owners think it is totally ok to leave the dog alone all day, and take it out on a 5 minute pee walk once in a while. Other dog owners would feel that it is totally unthinkable to leave such a highly social animal as a dog alone all day, and would also take the dog out for long walks every day.

Some dog owner's fool themselves by getting two dogs and think that two dogs may be happier together in the absence of their owner. But two lonely dogs are just two lonely dogs, waiting for their owner. It is better to pay somebody to walk the dog during the day, or even pay somebody (a human companion) to keep the dog company during the day, than getting two dogs. Two dogs will mainly have the benefit of eachother's company in the presence of a nice human, on their own they are just as bored as one lonely dog.

Even if I could find ten different views on how to best care for, for example a rat, I cannot believe that all these differing views are just as good for rats.

What is good for the animal?

My personal opinion is that when it comes to pet care what is best for the animal is what is best, period. For example I think that any pet shall have the possibility to act out its natural behaviour. Digging animals needs something to dig in, climbing animals need things to climb, animals that sleep in some kind of nest need some kind of cover or nest to sleep in. And so on. This is the rule whether it is convenient for the owner or not!

Thus I put the animal species and its behavoural and nutritional needs up front and not human ideas. But even if a particular animal live in a pile of dirt in the wild it does not have to do so as pets. Wild rats are thought of as extremely unsanitary animals, still rats obviously do not mind having clean cages and fresh food when kept as pets. But they are social animals in nature, and need other rats as friends when kept as pets. In the same way they live in holes in the ground or whatever and need some kind of cover or protection (a wooden house or whatever your rats prefer) when kept as pets. They are curious and move about over great distances in the wild, exploring new things every day, so they need new stimuli all the time as pets too. And so on.

This means that you will have to make a scientific evaluation on what the needs are of a particular animal. The animal that lives in dirt in nature may not have the need to be "living in dirt" but may need to have a big cage, or a nest to sleep in. You will have to find out which!

How to form an opinion:
Different animal owners base their opinions - about good pet care - on different assumptions.
Some only want to breed a lot of animals to sell. Then any kind of "care" will do as long as enough many babies are born and weaned - and sold.

Some only breed to show, then it can be important to quickly cull all individuals that are not good enough to be shown. And also all individuals that already have been shown and won all they possibly could win, and thus are of no more use, may be killed to leave room for new individuals.

Some have their animals only as pets, and would never kill an "ugly" baby, these people have them to pet and not to show, and would not kill on the ground of appearance.

Some pet owners would kill their pets instead of paying the vet.

Some kill their pets when they go vacation...

When it comes to cage size and kind of food to feed the views on this is also based on what the animals are supposed to be used as. And on the degree of knowledge about the animal that the owner may have. A pet owner that bought a pet in a pet shop usually do not know much about the care of the animal and therefore the animal may be kept in a too small cage and fed something that might make the animal sick. Also a social animal might be kept solitary - if that's what was tought at the pet shop!

Many pet owners know better, they read a lot about the species they have and and try to do their best. Sometimes not even this is enough since so many books about pets contains so much desinformation (=facts that are totally wrong).

What about the needs of the animal then?

One thing is certain and that is that too few pet owners base their care on the actual needs of the animal. And that too many base their care on "bad" information lack of real interest in getting to know more.

What can we learn from different views?
A pet owner that have the view that small cages and easy-to-use food is best probably have too many animals and too little time and place.
A pet owner that use big cages and really makes an effort to give fresh food, high in nutrients, probably keep these animals as pets mainly and may also have a true interrest in getting more knowledge about the animals and their care.
Sometimes you find many animals in big cages, given quite good food, but where all the cages only contains some bedding/litter, the animals, and nothing else. Then you may guess that this owner have lots of place but no interest or knowledge about what other needs these animals may have. Maybe the animals need to climb, to explore or to have a nest, or all of these things...

What do you think?

What about beginners?
Someone who just bought their very first pet may get confused over all different ways to keep the pet, all differing advice. The pet shop person saying "this cage is big enough, this animal can be kept alone, this food from this company is really the best, trust me, I know, since I do this for a living".
Then maybe they meet someone else who owns a pet and this person says "that cage is too small, this animal is social and need a friend, that food is just expensive but absolutely not good"...
Who would this poor pet owner believe in? In most cases they believe in the pet shop person! Because most people think that pet shops are all about care of animals, and that the persons working in the pet shops have been educated in pet keeping!

If you instead of saying "that cage is too small" say "the pet shops do not have room for bigger cages, and a bigger cage bought in a pet shop would be extremely expensive" and then you offer to help building a bigger cage for the poor animal, then who will this person believe?
If you instead of just saying "this animal is social and need a friend" tell everything you know about how this species live in the wild - and let this person realize that the animal is social - and need a friend. Maybe you could recommend a book about how this animal lives in the wild. Then who will this person believe?

Or even better, try to talk about ALL the different ways you have heard that people may care for this animal, and explain why one kind of animal can be cared for in so many different ways. I use to ask what they want the animal for. And then tell them how breeders keep them, how pet owners keep them, what pet shop personnel usually say about them and so on. So that this person will know that the different ways to keep animals usually are based on the USE of the animal, and then he or she can decide how to care for their own animal based upon this knowledge.

A pure pet dog sleeps in your bed, stays near you most of the day, gets long daily walks and are seldom alone. A breeder's dog or a hunter's dog may sleep in a kennel, pee and poo in a kennel, live in a kennel and be alone all the time!

The same kind of differencies in the care of the animal can be found when it comes to small pets like rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, mice, gerbils, hamsters and so on.

To agree about views and opinions:
I have been told that it must be impossible to collect all different views on how to care for small pets in one place, since so many peopole really believe that their way of caring for an animal is the best way! But this says more about the war of opinions among pet owners than about what the care of the animal this is all about! Totally unnecessary!

The worst thing in this war of opinions is when you start to dislike people just because their opinions are not your opinions! These people may be very nice people, so it is better to realize that you have differing opinions, which does not mean that you have to dislike eachother.

I have been told that there could never be a book about rats covering the care of rats that all rat owners could agree on. But if all different ways to care for rats are covered in the book, then? If this book covered how to keep rats for breeding, for showing, as pets, and so on. Then anyone reading this book could decide would suit them, what kind of caring for their own rats they want.
This book should clearly state what the known natural behaviour and nutritional needs are. There may be several different ways to care for rats that let the rats fulfill these needs. All these ways to care for rats will be good for rats!

Pellets is a subject that makes some people very emotional. I am trying to stay out of that, and keep to facts.


  • Pellets are easy to use, you always know what to
    feed and where to buy it.
  • If you own or breed rabbits pellets are good, rabbit pellets have no bad side effects on the rabbits, we say that rabbits tolerate pellets well. (This is true in Sweden, I've heard it may not be in the US, maybe due to the fact that so many pet shops in the US sells alfalfa hay instead of timothy or grass hay).
  • If you own or breed mice the case is the same - no bad side effects and mice tolerate mouse pellets well. In Sweden we have two kinds of mouse pellets - mouse pellets especially made for breeding (only sold at labs and companies that sells to labs) and common mouse pellets made for mice that are not breeding - sold at any pet shop, often under the name "rat pellets". If you breed mice and want to use pellets, you should use mouse pellets especially made for breeding, if you want to use pellets at all, not the other kind. There is one more interesting point to this though: mouse pellets sold in pet shops is often sold without the original packing, and it does not keep its nutritional values that long - how can you be sure that it is not too old?
  • If you breed guinea pigs and do not want to care for many elderly guinea pigs, then guinea pig pellets are a blessing since their high calcium content kills many older guinea pigs. (I must add that I never give pellets to my guinea pigs.) Anyway, today you can buy timothy based pellets from Oxbow (in the US) if you want your guinea pigs to live longer... These timothy based pellets can be bought here in Sweden today, from a company called Chalimac, and that is a blessing since so many people like to feed their animals pelleted feeds.
  • For rat owners or breeders mouse pellets are easy to use (just like dog food...) but not right for rats (again just like dog food...!). There are no special rat pellets, and what is often sold as rat pellets is in fact mouse pellets.
    Remember that rats do not have the same nutritional needs as mice or dogs.


  • Pellets are highly processed. Processed food stuffs are generally accepted by scientists not to be good for anyone, neither humans nor animals.
  • For pet guinea pig owners and breeders guinea pig pellets are only good if you do not want to keep you guinea pigs as long as possible. Since most guinea pig owners actually do want to keep their pets as long as possible they should never give pellets (unless they get 100% timothy based pellets from Oxbow).
  • For rat owners and breeders there are no rat pellets, only mouse pellets that are not well liked by the rats, and not really suitable for rats. You can give some mouse pellets once in a while, as long as you remember that they are much to high in protein for rats. Some rat breeders here in Sweden have been known to use pellets for calves or swine, since those are cheaper than mouse pellets... Which tells a lot about what they use their rats for. Not really a good idea, if you ask me!
  • There are no pellets for hamsters, even lab hamsters do not eat pellets (or they may get some guinea pig pellets in a mix with wheat germs, sun flower seeds and dried carrots...).
  • There are no pellets for gerbils.

Pet care books:
When it comes to pet books we have to come back to what purpose you have for keeping animals. The pet owner need books about pets, with correct info on caring for the animals. The breeder may want a book with photos of different breeds/varieties and breeding tips. Some breeders want genetic info, too.
Naturally all this information is not contained in one book. Also some books are old and incorrect since much have been learned about the animal since the book was written. I can't really say that there excist many really good books about small animals, not in any language! Peter Gurney's guinea pig books are highly recommended, but only for info on the subjects of care and diseases.
I also know of a mouse pet book that has some good info on the caring for mice. I know good books about genetics and interesting books with photos of breeds and varieties, mainly on mice, guinea pigs and rabbits.
But I must add that most books about small pets contain an enormous amount of bad info (incorrect facts).

So: show me how you care for your animals and I will tell you what you know about them and your reason for keeping them!

Written by Eva Johansson.

(Detta är en gammal text jag skrev för länge sedan, postad på min hemsida 18 januari 2008.)