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Tips for Socializing Your New Rodent

July 1, 2015
You’re about to add a small rodent to your home’s pet contingent. Although you haven’t decided between a pet rat or hamster, either pet would make a welcome companion. You’ve gathered information on each species’ living environment, nutritional needs, and often-quirky behaviors. When you bring your rodent home, he’ll visit Fairfield Animal Hospital, your Cypress, TX pet clinic, for a new patient exam. The vet will prescribe a tasty, species-appropriate food. She’ll also provide essential socialization guidelines.

Low-Key Meeting Tone

Your first interaction will establish the tone for your pet ownership experience. Schedule plenty of time for your “meet and greet” session. Don’t sandwich the meeting between two other commitments. You’ll feel the time pressure, and your rodent will likely sense your stress. Remember that a younger pet will adapt well to a shorter session. Build in snack and toilet break time. If your pet becomes nervous, and briefly goes to his “safe” place, relax until he scurries back to you.

Non-Threatening Introduction

If you hover above your pet’s enclosure, he might think you’re ready to nab him for dinner. Defuse his anxiety by sitting on the floor. If that’s not feasible, raise the cage so you’re on the same level with your little companion. Don’t shove your hand into his enclosure. Instead, slowly gather him into a non-threatening object, such as a small cup. When he’s ready, he’ll walk onto your hand. This demonstrates that you respect him and want a low-stress encounter.

Avoid the Punishment

Although you’ve structured a positive interaction, your tiny pet might remain anxious, causing him to nip or scratch your hand. Remember, he’s acting from instinct, and he doesn’t intend to hurt you. Don’t hit, slap, or otherwise discipline this tiny animal. You could easily injure him. Also, if you set a negative tone during your first meeting, you’ll find it difficult to turn that around. Instead of punishing him, offer a small chew toy; or distract him with a soft puff of air.

Regular Socialization Activities

Schedule follow-up socialization sessions at least every other day. For smaller animals, plan slightly longer than 10 minutes; while larger pets might accept a 20-minute interaction. Your little rodent should gradually become more comfortable, perhaps concluding that you’ve given him a cushy home. To give your pocket pet a great start, contact Fairfield Animal Hospital, your Cypress, TX pet clinic, for expert advice.
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