Herbivore owners need to be keen observers
In addition to their herbivorous diet of fibre rich plant material such as grasses, these small pet herbivores, rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas, are also prey species in the wild which means they need to be housed and handled so they feel secure. They also have the ability to hide illness until they are really quite sick indeed, a technique used in the wild to help prevent them being singled out by a predator.
Stress leads to illness
All small pet herbivores and rodents are easily stressed by being handled, transported, extremes of temperature, damp, draughts and the presence of predators including other domestic pets such as cats and dogs. Time and care are needed to gain the trust of pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs (or cavies as they are also known), chinchillas & degus. Knowing how to house and care for them correctly is the best way of ensuring they have a long and happy life with you.
The importance of a fibre-rich plant diet
The most important thing to remember is that herbivores are designed to eat grass, herbs and other plant material. They are used to taking in moisture as part of the food they eat, grinding that plant material down for a lot of the day keeping their teeth in good order and using the long, indigestible fibre in the plant material to keep their digestive system healthy. In the wild they can also have ready access to plants with medicinal properties that we will eat only if they have a digestive upset for example.
It is important to research the needs of these animals before deciding to take them on as pets. Rescues up and down the country are full with unwanted small furries bought on impulse from a pet store because they were ‘cute and fluffy’ without their prospective owners doing their homework.
We hope the information provided on these sites will help you not only in your choice of pet but also act as a reference guide to general care and what to do if your pet becomes unwell.