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So many critters

So Many CrittersRabit in a cage

By Jenny Anderson

                Most people think of dogs and cats when they picture the guests at the Western Arizona Humane Society.  Yes, there are mostly cats and dogs, but you will frequently see a variety of other pets needing a new home.  Just last week I saw two rabbits, a guinea pig, and a very observant and friendly rat in the cat adoption room.  Sometimes there will be a ferret or two, hamsters, lizards, parrots, and an occasional desert tortoise.  It is surprising what animals are surrendered to the shelter.

                Many of these pets are not specifically suitable for a small child, but can still be great family additions.  Although bunnies, ferrets, and other smaller furry creatures are cute, they are definitely not for everyone.  Anyone interested in adopting one as a pet should first research them, rather than make an impulse purchase.  Just as there are some drawbacks to cat and dog ownership, each type of animal carries with it some specific requirements   For example, a ferret is extremely smart and social.  They are not rodents, like mice and hamsters, but are from the weasel family.  Ferrets need a large cage, but should be able to have at least 4 (supervised) hours outside the kennel.  They can coexist quite well with dogs and cats, but some pet-proofing will definitely be required.  They are very inquisitive and able to squeeze into any area the size of their head. It’s also important to note any folding furniture, such as a recliner chair, can prove deadly.

                Some small animals may have a relatively short life span.  This can be very upsetting for young children who are attached to them.  Other small animals tend to reproduce easily, which can cause a pint-sized population explosion and complicate care.  I remember quite clearly the large number of offspring we had from our hamsters, Henry and Henrietta.  It can be challenging to keep the tiny offspring, as well as male and female separated.

                Many veterinarians do not focus on the more specialized care required for reptiles, birds, and other small animals.  It may be smart to check with your vet before adding one of these critters to your family mix.  Almost all animals will eventually require some veterinary care.  It is also interesting to note there are specific disease issues with most classes of animal.

                As long as we are well-informed, bringing one of these animals into our home can be a joyful event.  Each kind of animal will have its own fascinating personality.  When in the market for a pet, we should consider some of these little critters.  .  A good way to learn about them is to contact a person who already enjoys the company of a bunny, ferret or other critter.

                The Western Arizona Humane Society is open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., with kennel hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 855-5083 for details. For found or lost pets, call 855-4111. View animals found at

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