While the more common pets, such as dogs and cats, roam and live freely in your home, others need to be kept in their own environments within your home to ensure their comfort, care and safety. Birds, fish, reptiles and other pet animals are all best kept (or have to be kept!) in their own special home within your home. Here are a few tips for selecting the perfect choice for their animal type and needs:
For birds: A lot of bird owners make the mistake of purchasing cages that are a little too small, which can limit your bird’s comfort and natural, instinctive activities such as climbing or spreading its wings. You’ll want to choose a cage that allows your bird to spread its wings, climb and stand comfortably with plenty of room. There are a range of cage styles, from those that allow enough room for small birds to fly (often known as “flight cages”) to those with extra height for your bird to climb. Be extra considerate of your bird’s size and type when making your selection, and always ensure that latches, feeders, and other construction of the cage are in solid, working order and quality (no rust, sharp edges, etc.). Extra features that can be helpful to bird owners include removable trays, attached feeders and other functionalities, so be sure to look around. If you’ll have more than one bird, be sure to accommodate for both of them! Or, provide them with separate cages. Be sure it enables you to provide water source easily.
For fish: This is another enclosure that people often buy too small for their fish. Fish need and should have plenty of space to swim around actively and enjoy its habitat. If you can’t accommodate or provide the minimum size for the fish to do so, including any items you’ll include in its tank, consider another fish or less fish in number. Your home must also be able to withstand the weight of the tank! So be sure to do your homework before you purchase your fish so that you can ensure you can provide them with the space that it needs. You’ll also want to consider what type of material — glass can be less scratch resistant, but can be easier to break. Acrylic is more likely to scratch, but can be easily repaired and you often get more interesting shapes with acrylic.
For rabbits: Many people make the mistake of purchasing rabbit enclosures that are too small for their rabbit. While yours won’t need an enormous amount of space, it should enable your rabbit to sit comfortably without having to hunch its body, stand easily, stretch, and move around with enough room. You also do not want to get an enclosure that has cage flooring — rabbit feet are not designed for this, and can get sores as a result. Rabbit homes often have different types of bars — coated, metal, etc. This can be a matter of preference, but be sure that the enclosure as a whole including the bars are free of rust, sharp edges, etc. If you purchase your rabbit as a baby, it’ll likely need a larger enclosure within 6-8 weeks. Be sure it enables you to provide a water source easily.
For hamsters, gerbils, mice, ferrets and guinea pigs: Small animals of this nature have among the largest amount of options when it comes to enclosures. But just because they’re small doesn’t mean the cage can be too! For mice, hamsters and gerbils it is recommended to roughly allow for five gallons PER animal — so if you’ve got a few, you’ll want the enclosure to be larger. For larger animals such as ferrets and guinea pigs, much of the guidance for rabbits (above) can also apply — the enclosure should have plenty of room for the animals to do what they do naturally, including burrow, play, move around, stand and sit comfortably. With small animals of this nature, you can utilize a range of different types of enclosures — cages are most common, but hutches for larger sizes can work, as well as aquariums, and plastic enclosures. However, with an aquarium, you’ll need to make sure you have a wire mesh lid that is very secure. Plastic enclosures look cool, but they can provide little ventilation for your pet, potentially chewed through and need to be cleaned more frequently due to retaining scents. Be sure that the enclosure can include an exercise wheel, the ability to provide a constant water supply, and pay attention to its construction, quality and cleaning ease.
For snakes and lizards: Unlike many small animals, with snakes and lizards, a bigger home is not always better! In fact, a large enclosure for these types of pets can frighten it and cause it to feel anxious when in it. You’ll want to keep your snake or reptile in what’s called a ‘terrarium,’ versus a cage or aquarium, which are better designed for a their needs. A 20-long terrarium is most common, but your pet may need larger or smaller depending on its species and size. You’ll want to give yours a habitat that enables it to move around and stretch out when it wants or needs to. Remember, snakes are escape artists! So ensure that your terrarium has a very secure lid for yours. You’ll also want to include a hiding spot, bedding and for some snakes and lizards, items to climb on and around. While not all reptiles require artificial lighting, most do so be sure to check and ensure you’re providing this adequately. These types of animals also need proper heat and humidity! This doesn’t just include basking lights or other heat pads alone. Floor heating and other heat or humidity sources can be very key. You’ll also need a water source that you can provide constant water for their drinking needs. Be absolutely sure the habitat you create for your pet snake or lizard adequately provides all of these things. Also be sure that you are aware that your snake or lizard’s home has to grow as it grows! As it gets larger, so should it’s habitat.
For turtles: It might seem that you can just purchase a turtle and keep it in any old aquarium, but in reality, turtles have very special habitat needs. Depending on the type of turtle, the habitat needs are generally fairly specific. Regardless your turtle will need enough space. For aquatic turtles, it’s recommended that the habitat be 4-5 times wider and longer than the turtle at every size/stage of its life, and at least 1.5 deeper than it’s length head to tail. Anything less or water that is too shallow can harm or injure your turtle. Of course, you will want to make the habitat larger if you’ve got more than one. With land turtles, it’s recommended a 40-gallon or larger glass terrarium with screen top for ventilation. You’ll need to include enough room for a dry hiding place and shallow water dish for drinking and soaking in. Both aquatic and land turtles need UV light for their health, and they also need basking light to keep their body temperature regulated, so be sure their habitat includes both regardless of type of turtle. Some turtles need humidity — some do not. It’s important to know what your turtle’s species needs so you can be sure to provide it as all of these elements are critical to the turtle’s health. In addition, both land and aquatic turtles need to have rocks to bask on, so make sure they’ve got something that fits their size and needs to do so. Aquatic turtles will need proper water heating and filtration, and both types of animals have ideal temperatures you’ll want to make sure to check and monitor daily. When it comes to decorating your turtle’s environment, a hiding spot and items that match their natural habitat are ideal.
With all animals that require their own habitat:
- ALWAYS keep your animal’s habitat in a common area of your home! This is not just so that you can enjoy and ensure that they are safe. Many animals, such as birds, are highly social and benefit from being within the family environment. The kitchen, a bedroom, or living room are often most ideal. Do not put your habitat pet in a dark basement, garage or other area alone and without interaction. Not only is it not ideal for the pet, it doesn’t allow you to enjoy your pet, which is why you have it in the first place! It can also contribute to disease, illness and other issues.
- Be careful of light, temperature, drafts and other elements! While some reptile pets can endure some sunlight, most birds, rabbits, etc. should be kept in areas that protect them from natural elements, weather, etc.
- Purchase the proper monitoring equipment, filtration, water sources, and other items to meet your pet’s needs. You can ensure the best environment for your habitat pet with many tools and testing items, which are designed to maintain the balanced environment that is essential to their health and well being.
- Keep your pets habitat clean! It can be easy to let habitat pet areas go uncleaned or unattended to, but avoid doing this. Not only can it contribute to disease and other issues, it is not comfortable for your pet. They deserve and need proper hygiene and since you’ve taken them in as their caregiver, they can not provide it for themselves as they would in their natural environments. You are all they have to provide it! If you’re not sure how to clean your pets habitat, or do not have the time, there are plenty of services available that can do the work for you.
- Be sure to provide activity and space. All of the animals mentioned above need space and activity to do what they naturally do. Be sure to keep these items regularly stocked and cared for as they may wear down with age, need replacement, etc.
- Don’t forget to socialize! Now for some animals, such as fish, socialization with you isn’t going to require you take them out of their tank. Others may be content just being in their own world with your careful watch to make sure they’re okay. But others absolutely need your attention! For those that do, be sure to take time every day if you can, or at least several times a week, to socialize your habitat animals that need it. Some bird species are often notorious for this and will pick away at their feathers or become depressed, stressed, etc. without it.
As with all animals, make sure that you have the time, money, space, and ability to provide for their lifelong care. That can be upwards of 10 and 15 years or longer. So if you are not able to be 100% sure that you are their owner and provider for life, do not adopt the pet! You can find other ways to enjoy pets that can require less commitment, such as fostering, helping socialize animals at a rescue or no-kill animal shelter, pet sit, and other means.
Did we forget a habitat for an animal you might want or own? You can ask questions about animal habitats, what your animal may need, and other questions about its health and care on Kuddly any time. We’re happy to help you and your pet’s needs!