Vitakraft. With Love.
Vitakraft. With Love.
Buying & equipment
Rodents can be found all over the world in a wide range of different shapes and sizes suited to their individual living environments. Many species of rodents are already familiar to us as much-loved pets; a wide variety of others are only slowly growing in popularity. It is, however, important to remember that each rodent has its own particular requirements for a healthy diet, exercise and living environment.
Checklist for initial equipment
- A sufficiently large cage
- A sturdy, washable feeding bowl
- Hayrack for daily hay requirements
- Hay, e.g. products from the Vita Verde® range
- Water bottle with fresh water or VITA Fit® Aqua drink
- Sleeping box for sleeping and resting
- Soft, absorbent litter e.g. Comfort classic made from woodchips or Farmer´s Strohstreu made from pelleted straw
- Saltlicks to provide important minerals and trace elements
- Main food, e.g. Vitakraft Menu Vital
- Vitakraft Kräcker® sticks to keep your pet busy and wear down its teeth
Tips for buying rodents
Many animal lovers are well used to keeping hamsters or guinea pigs and eventually seek out other rodents whose appearance and behaviour they find particularly interesting. These animals can be bought from responsible breeders or good pet shops. Animal shelters and private rescue centres also often have rodents looking for a new home.
Signs of a healthy rodent:
- Lively, alert behaviour (remember that some species are nocturnal and sleep during the day!)
- A thick coat
- Clear, bright eyes
- A dry nose
- A clean behind
Caring for your pet
In addition to providing a good diet, ensuring that your rodent is housed in a suitable cage is essential for a long and healthy life. Rodents need a sufficiently large cage and entertainment that caters to their natural instincts. Depending on the species, they will need time outside of the cage, opportunities to climb, the company of their own kind or somewhere they can dig and excavate. Digging is particularly important for rodents that live in underground burrows in the wild.
Many rodents are happy grooming themselves. All that you will usually need to do is clean out the cage on a regular basis (especially the feeding and toilet areas) and, depending on the species, provide a sand bath or give your pet a brush from time to time.
Cleaning your rodent's cage
Depending on the species, cage size and number of animals, you will need to clean the cage and replace the litter about once a week. During the week, you should also clean out the toilet area several times. You must also clean the cage itself, together with accessories such as the food bowl, hay rack etc. on a regular basis. This is best done using warm water.
The cage also needs a thorough clean once every month: This involves giving the entire cage a good rinse out. Avoid using strong household detergents. If necessary, you can clean areas of heavy soiling using a hard brush and a little washing-up liquid or vinegar. Afterwards, rinse everything down well with fresh water and leave it to dry. You can then scatter around clean small animal litter and put your pet's accessories back inside. Following this cleaning regime ensures that your pet's cage remains clean and hygienic.
The perfect diet
Rodents have adapted to live in a number of different habitats across the entire world. As a result, they have a wide range of differing diets. In addition to herbivorous grain eaters and grazers that primarily eat grass, leaves and roots, you can also find omnivores who also seek out insects and other live food. Rodents kept as household pets must therefore be provided with a diet that meets their individual nutritional requirements.
- Provide a varied diet
- Provide small portions of food several times a day
- Place fresh hay in a rack for species that require this
- Ensure that fresh water or Vita Fit® Aqua drink is available at all times
- Provide succulent food such as fruit or vegetables (e.g. carrots, carrot tops, apples, bell peppers) on a daily basis
- Remove succulent food that has started to wilt
- To wear down their teeth, many species of rodent need something to gnaw on, such as Kräcker® sticks
Behaviour & familiarisation
A new member of your family
The best way to get your new housemate home from the pet shop or breeder is in a secure transport box.
Once your rodent arrives home and is placed in the cage you have set up in advance, it is best left alone for the first few days so that it can get used to its new surroundings in peace. After all, your new pet needs time to explore the unfamiliar environment.
Once your pet has settled in, you can start to get it used to being around people. The best way to do this is by providing a tasty treat, such as a crunchy Kräcker® stick or fragrant fresh food. While doing this, speak in a soft voice and avoid sudden movements. Remember never to reach for a rodent from above as rodents instinctively identify this motion with danger. After all, birds or prey and other predators usually attack from above!
In captivity, a number of colour variations, including pied, have been created alongside the traditional greyish brown. The hind legs are almost three times longer than the forelegs, allowing the gerbil to jump great distances. Weight: up to 120 g, size: between 10 and 13 cm (excluding tail), gestation: 24 to 26 days, litter size: 3-8 pups, age of sexual maturity: 40 to 85 days
The Mongolian gerbil evolved on the semi-deserts and steppes of Mongolia and bordering regions. In the wild, these gerbils live in interconnecting burrows in family groups.
Mongolian gerbils are very social animals that like to groom one another and cuddle together. They are alert, playful and inquisitive.
A fine seed mix, which also contains millet, should provide the main food source for gerbils. They should also be given fresh fruit and vegetables. Gerbils also occasionally eat live food, such as yoghurt or mealworms.
Gerbils should not be kept alone. They can often be aggressive towards newcomers, however, so careful introduction is necessary in order to allow them to get used to each other. This can be done, for example, by introducing the animals in neutral territory, such as a new rodent cage that has not yet been marked with the scent of any individual. Another method is to use a very small introduction box that is too small for the gerbil to mark out a territory. The gerbil cage should be designed to allow plenty of opportunity for burrowing and climbing.
Life with Mongolian gerbils is relatively straightforward. They do, however, require a regular sand bath. Simply place a tray of bath sand inside the gerbil cage. Once the gerbil has bathed, the tray should be removed again otherwise it will be used as a toilet and become soiled.
Selectively bred variations with different colours, hair length and structure are often referred to by separate names, such as the Rex mouse or Siamese mouse. From a scientific point of view, however, these are all simply variants of the grey house mouse.
Fancy (an old word meaning ‘hobby’) mouse is term used to describe mice that have been selectively bred for keeping as pets or showing at exhibitions. There are various colours of fancy mouse, including self (one solid colour) or piebald. Long and curly-haired (rex) variants are also available. Distinguishing features of the fancy mouse include a long tail and large ears. Weight: 50 to 60 g, size: up to 9 cm (excluding tail), gestation: 18 to 24 days, litter size: up to 20 pups, age of sexual maturity: 35 to 40 days
The fancy mouse is a descendant of the grey house mouse, which originated in east Asia. Today, however, because they are synanthropic (ecologically associated with humans), house mice are found wherever there are humans. Formerly kept predominantly as laboratory animals, mice have become a popular pet.
Mice are lively, social, intelligent and inquisitive, making them a popular, entertaining pet.
A mouse’s staple diet consists of fine seed mix, although fresh fruit and vegetables are also important. From time to time, you can also supplement their diet with live food, such as yoghurt or mealworms.
Mice are social creatures that should not be kept alone. They also require a secure, well-supervised and spacious cage that provides an interesting, stimulating environment, with plenty of space to exercise, run around and entertain themselves.
Mice are able to fit into the tightest of spaces, so choosing a cage they cannot escape from is vital. For example, the bars should not be too widely spaced. Terraria therefore make a good choice, provided they are well ventilated.
Brush-tailed rat, common degu
With hind legs that are longer than their forelegs, they are excellent jumpers. Degus have greyish brown fur with darker tips and a cream-coloured stomach. Albino and blue colour mutations do occur, but are very rare. Weight: 200 to 220 g, size: 15 to 20 cm (excluding tail), gestation: approx. 90 days, litter size: up to 10 pups, age of sexual maturity: approx. 3 months
Degus originate from Chile. A highly social rodent, in the wild, the degu lives in burrows in family groups. Degus are becoming increasingly popular as pets, although they are still quite rare compared to other rodents.
Degus are very social animals with a predisposition to chewing. They are alert, inquisitive creatures. Whilst not particularly cuddly, degus are easy to tame and readily bond with any person spending time with them.
Degus are strictly herbivorous. Throughout much of the year, forage is scarce and degus are specially adapted to a very high fibre intake. Their diet should reflect this when kept as a pet. Hay and a special plant-based food mix form their main diet. This can be supplemented by aromatic herbs and some vegetables, for example.
The Degu is a very sociable animal, and can get quite lonely and depressed on its own. It’s best, if possible, to keep at least two animals. Dominance fighting can break out, however, even amongst animals that have been together and have got on with one another for some time. If the fights become too serious, they may have to be separated, but only temporarily and should never be left alone permanently.
Degus are impulsive, high-energy rodents with incredibly strong teeth. It is therefore important to ensure they are kept in a sufficiently robust cage. A standard rodent cage may not last the distance and should be checked regularly for gnawing damage. Large glass terrariums that offer plenty of room for the degu to jump and climb are therefore an excellent choice.
There are a number of sub-species of the Siberian chipmunk, which is also known as the Common Chipmunk, or the Asian or Korean chipmunk or ground squirrel.
Its bright, beady eyes give the Siberian chipmunk its adorable appearance. In addition to the base colour, which can range from brownish grey to ochre yellow, a typical features of the Siberian chipmunk is the five white and dark stripes along the back. Chipmunks also have two large cheek pouches which they use to collect food. Adult chipmunks can grow to between 12 and 17 cm. Weight: approx. 90 to 130 g, size: up to 25 cm (including tail), gestation: 30 to 35 days, litter size: up to 10, age of sexual maturity: approx. 11 months
It lives in forested areas ranging from northern Japan to Central Russia.
Chipmunks are active creatures that enjoy climbing and jumping. If looked after correctly, they make lively, inquisitive pets.
They require a mixed diet of plant and animal material, which largely consists of seeds, fruit, vegetables and nuts. Their diet can be supplemented with live foods such as yoghurt and mealworms.
Chipmunks are wild animals that have not been bred for domesticity; this should be borne in mind when keeping one as a pet. For example, they need to be housed in a suitable environment that resembles their natural habitat, such as a large aviary. Whilst chipmunks may enjoy running freely around the home, it is only recommended for hand-tamed animals and under supervision. Wild chipmunks live in loose colonies, where every individual has its own territory. When kept as a pet, it is not usually possible to provide the space for more than one territory, meaning that they are best kept alone. They can, however, sometimes be kept as pairs.
Chipmunks hibernate in the wild from October to April, depending on temperature. They do, however, awaken from time to time to eat food they have stored. In captivity, they do not usually hibernate, but simply become less active.