The rise and rise of pocket pets
Why people love rabbits, guinea pigs and mice
New Zealand is a nation of pet owners. In fact a 2016 report by the Companion Animal Council found that 64% of us share our home with a pet — that’s the second highest rate ownership rate in the world. But we’re no longer a cats and dogs nation. Pocket pets have captured our hearts.
The lovely catch-all term for rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats and chinchillas is thoroughly fitting given their compact size and sweet natures. Just like a cat or dog, they require daily care without the need for our constant attention. That special relationship between human and animal can absolutely exist with a pocket pet. Which is probably why they’re fast becoming trusted companions to New Zealanders.
These little mammals are a perfect starter pet for children. The daily tasks of cleaning the cage or hutch and giving fresh food and water are small and achievable for those starting to take on responsibility around the house. Having a small pet whose survival is entirely dependent on them teaches empathy and care for others, as well as respect for animals.
It’s not just ‘care and chore’ on offer however – there are fun and games to be had. Bonding with their humans is important for pocket pets. So they love being picked up and cuddled, as well as having free rein to explore an area (safely contained of course).
Children enjoy playing and interacting with them and learning about how their pet communicates with them. If you’ve ever seen a guinea pig ‘popcorning’ with excitement, you’ll know it’s the equivalent of a dog rolling on its back in happiness. Rabbits can show affection to humans by ‘grooming’ them and chinchillas make chattering sounds when happy or excited.
Pocket pets are just as enriching for adult lives too. These little guys have loving natures, respond to interaction and reveal distinctive personalities once trust is gained. It may come as a surprise that training them is actually quite easily. Rabbits for example, naturally prefer to toilet in the same area so can be trained to go in a kitty litter tray. Guinea pigs can be trained to come on command using treats while rats are highly intelligent, capable of learning various tasks.
Pocket pets do need regular interaction with humans to build a bond and, as with any pet, they require time and patience to begin with. Check their dietary needs carefully before taking one home too. They have very specific diets and should only be given high quality pet food that replicates their natural diet as closely as possible.
Quite simply, pocket pets are easy to care for, live happily in small houses and are affectionate, mellow companions. Perhaps a pocket pet is the one for you?