Choosing Your Child’s First Pocket Pet

Is your child asking for a pet? That can be a tricky request to navigate. Pets do benefit children in many ways. They help teach kids about empathy, kindness, and friendship, and they also make great playmates and cuddle buddies. However, it’s not uncommon for children to beg for a furry friend, only to soon lose interest, leaving the pet’s care to their parents. That’s one reason many people opt for something small, like a hamster, gerbil, or Guinea pig. A local Marin County, CA veterinarian discusses these adorable little furballs below.


Pocket pets have a lot in common. They can all sport a variety of coat colors, and need clean, comfy cages with hide boxes, lots of chew toys, and suitable substrates. They also need love and TLC to thrive, just like bigger pets.


Gerbils are very sociable, and need buddies to play with and snuggle up to. These tiny furballs can live up to 8 years with proper care. They are usually active during the day, and sleep at night. They love to burrow, and need deeper cages than hamsters. Gerbils are usually quite timid, and rarely bite.


Hamsters are pretty adorable. They are nocturnal, though, so if you keep Hammie in your child’s bedroom, he may keep your youngster up at night. Hamsters have a shorter lifespan than gerbils, usually living about 2-5 years. It’s worth noting that hamsters are more likely to bite than gerbils or cavies, though this is often a response to being startled, rather than a display of aggression. Most hamsters—particularly Syrian hamsters—do not enjoy roommates, and should live alone.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are larger than both gerbils and hamsters, so they do need more space. Like gerbils, they can live up to 8 years, and need buddies to be content. They are somewhat more charismatic and cuddly than gerbils and hamsters, however. Some can even learn simple tricks!


Although pocket pets are easier to care for than dogs or cats, there will be some daily tasks, such as providing fresh food and water and removing waste. Many children can handle these tasks, though you will need to monitor things. Also, supervise your child closely whenever they handle or play with their pet.

Do you have questions about pocket pets? Contact us, local your Marin County, CA animal clinic, today!

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