Insurance for Pets

Small animals: Tips for keeping them appropriately – Insurance for Pets

Author: online editorial team ÖKO-TEST | Category: Leisure and Technology | 07/29/2020

Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / scym

Not only dogs and cats, but also guinea pigs and gerbils, rabbits, fish and birds have their animal needs as pets. We give tips for the correct keeping of small animals.

A pet not only makes children happy, it can also become a permanent member of the family for the grown-ups. We have put together tips for you on the right food, animal welfare and care so that guinea pigs and co. Feel comfortable with you.

We present these five small animal species in detail:

  • Guinea pig
  • Gerbils
  • Rabbits
  • Birds
  • fishes

Guinea pig

Guinea pigs are ideal for city apartments: they are quiet, do not disturb the neighbors and can be kept without the landlord’s permission. But guinea pigs also make demands on keeping and care. As clan animals, they must always be kept together at least in twos, or better still in threes, otherwise they suffer from loneliness. You like to move and need a lot of space. For two to three animals you should buy or build a cage with a base area of ​​at least 1.50 by 0.75 meters.

In addition to a sleeping house, one or two feeders, drinking bottles or water bowls are part of the equipment. Cork tubes, roots and branches provide protection and security for the frightened rodents. Rough stones are suitable for sharpening claws, unsprayed fruit tree branches for gnawing. The teeth are constantly growing back and have to be worn down through gnawing. Chewing hay also keeps teeth short. Old bread is unsuitable; it often contains mold spores.

Guinea pigs feel much more comfortable in twos or threes than alone. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / furbymama)


Guinea pigs are herbivores, in the wild they search for food all day. The animals should therefore always have hay available, which stimulates the intestinal activity, and also receive green fodder such as dandelions and meadow herbs, fruit and vegetables. A daily ration per animal, divided into two to three servings, could consist of a quarter of an apple, a small carrot, a piece of fennel and a large tuft of grass. Give little or no dry food, it is high in carbohydrates. Drinking water should always be available and changed daily.

Guinea Pig Grooming

If the guinea pigs have the opportunity to sharpen their claws (climbing opportunities, obstacles), they wear out naturally. If the claws get too long, they have to be cut. The first time you should let the vet or an experienced owner show you how to do it. Grooming does not play a role in common species such as smooth-haired or rosette guinea pigs. Guinea pigs should not be bathed. Have your teeth checked by the vet every three months if possible. If the teeth are worn too long and irregularly, they grow pointed into the mouth. That hurts, the animal can no longer eat properly and becomes emaciated.


Mongolian gerbils are usually kept as pets. The animals are active during the day and at night, like to climb and jump and are extremely afraid of water. Gerbils have to be kept at least in pairs. To get started, choose a same-sex couple, preferably littermates. If you keep a female and a male, you have to be prepared for a lot of offspring, so it’s best to castrate the bucks.

The right mouse cage

The cage for the gerbils should be bright but not in direct sunlight. In addition, the rodents cannot tolerate drafts and noise. Indispensable equipment for the cage or terrarium are sand baths, in which the animals wallow to remove moisture and glandular secretions from their fur. Ceramic flower bowls or candy jars are ideal for this, as the mice cannot dig the sand out of them so quickly. Objects made of plastic have no place in the gerbil shelter, the mice gnaw them off. Replace or sift the sand, preferably bird or chinchilla sand, at least every two days. In addition, the animals need a house to sleep or to hide, stones and branches to lay out corridors, material such as straw or hay to nest and wood or cardboard to gnaw.

Gerbils should be kept in a sufficiently large cage by at least two people. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / nidan)

Diet: This is what gerbils like to eat

The basic feed made from seeds is bought as a ready-made mixture. You can also offer hay, vegetables and animal protein (eggs, cheese) two to three times a week. The dry feed can be distributed in the litter, the animals look for it.


Never pull or pick up gerbils by the tail, it could tear off. In order not to frighten the mice, they can initially be taken out of the cage with a tube, for example from a kitchen towel. The mice secrete a secretion of sebum and fragrances via their scent or ventral glands on the abdomen. This is how gerbils mark their territory, their conspecifics and sometimes their owners. Humans can neither see nor smell it. It happens that this gland becomes inflamed, then it is worth going to the vet.


Rabbits love company. It is best to get at least two animals, preferably a female rabbit and a neutered bull or two females from the same litter. This prevents territorial and hierarchy battles. In addition to a sufficiently large enclosure, the animals need to run free in their home or in an outdoor enclosure every day. In cages that are too small, their muscles atrophy and they develop behavioral disorders (gnawing of the bars, constant scratching in the corner of the cage or even biting).

Every animal needs its own sleeping house as a shelter and hiding place. Since rabbits are cave dwellers, the enclosure must not be visible from all sides. Non-toxic branches to gnaw at, rhizomes to hide, flower bowls filled with sand provide variety in the cage. The equipment also includes two toilets with litter and heavy food and drinking bowls, for example made of earthenware.

Proper nutrition for rabbits

Good hay is the basis of nutrition and should always be available. In addition, the animals need fruit (apples, pears), vegetables (carrots, celery, broccoli) and green fodder (dandelions, parsley). The rabbit needs drinking water constantly, it has to be changed daily.


Rabbit teeth constantly grow back and have to be worn down by chewing on hard objects. The animals like to use unsprayed branches from fruit trees, willows and beeches, pieces of bark and roots. If the teeth are still too long, they will interfere with eating and the vet will have to shorten them. Healthy animals groom and clean themselves, they shouldn’t be bathed. When the hair is changing, you can remove shed hair with a rabbit brush. With good care and maintenance, the nails should be short and wear naturally. If this is not the case, have the veterinarian cut it.

Rabbits like to eat hay, green fodder, fruit and vegetables. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / castleguard)


The ornamental fish is a very popular pet in Germany. 85 million fish paddled in the home aquariums in 2011. The wide range and the magnificent colors of the fish often tempt you to make spontaneous purchases without having been adequately informed beforehand. Mistakes are made, for example, in the composition of species, water quality and feeding. Even the smallest disturbance in the biotope aquarium – and the fish die.

Fish in the aquarium – the right tank is what counts

The smaller the pelvis, the more difficult it is to create a stable balance. Fluctuations in temperature or excessive amounts of feed, for example, quickly affect plants and animals. To get started, you should therefore start with a 100-liter basin that is equipped with a filter system, lighting and heating. Aquariums need smooth, level surfaces on a stable base cabinet. Unevenness and the pressure on the glass can be leveled out with a foam pad. Water transmits sound and vibrations, so choose a location that is not constantly walked by. In addition, avoid exposure to the sun, as it allows the algae to grow. Before the fish can move in, the tank must be « retracted ». Under no circumstances should you simply put the animals in the pool before a stable equilibrium has been established. This takes about two to three weeks.

When designing the aquarium with stones, wood and plants, one is guided by the natural habitats of the fish. Hiding places and retreats should not be missing. For the oxygen supply and the biological balance, the tank should be adequately planted. The better the plants grow, the less the algae grow. Good lighting of the aquarium is particularly important. The water should be changed once a week. To do this, you renew about a third of the amount of water and make sure that the pH value, hardness and temperature are correct. The water quality can also be checked by taking a sample at a specialist retailer.

The right choice of fish

Schooling fish cannot be kept individually. Not only do you get scared and pale, but you get sick more quickly. The minimum for neons or guppies is about six to ten animals. Pair-forming fish such as cichlids are more difficult to keep than schooling fish. In general, one should make sure that the fish are roughly the same size, prefer the same water quality and temperature and similar food and do not hunt each other in nature.

Fish like to eat that

It is best to feed several times a day and only as much as the animals can eat away at a time. Too much feed spoils the water quality. When choosing the feed, one is guided by the fish species.

Birds as pets: canary and budgie

Canaries or budgies are usually kept as pets. The latter originally come from the grass steppes and forest areas of Australia, where they live in large schools. The wild form of the canary, the Canary Girlitz, is at home in the Canary Islands and is also a flock of birds. Both species of birds should therefore be kept at least in pairs. When choosing the animals from the breeder or dealer, pay attention to whether pairs have already been found and then buy both animals.

Budgies need several feeding and watering points in their cage. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / Didgeman)

A generous cage

The birds need enough space to fly. Commercially available cages are often too small. Round cages are not suitable, the birds cannot orient themselves. A bright, draft-free place at table height on the wall is a perfect location. The room temperature should be as constant as possible between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius; birds do not like large fluctuations. Therefore, do not place the cage on the windowsill or close to the heater. The bottom of the cage should be covered with bird sand.

In addition, the birds need several feeding and watering places, bathing bowls or bathing houses, branches to sit on, selected toys and poles for hopping and climbing. Branches of unsprayed trees from nature are also suitable. Before you put them in the cage at different heights, you should let them dry well. The birds can get diarrhea from fresh twigs. There must be at least one hour of free flight per day. The birds also like a climbing tree in the room, which you can easily build yourself from a few larger branches.

The right bird seed

A commercial grain mix is ​​sufficient as a basic feed. The food bowl must always be full, otherwise the birds could starve to death. Do not feed treats and fatty seeds more than once or twice a week. Fresh green fodder and fruit are also on the menu. Quickly remove leftovers from the cage so that the birds do not eat anything that is spoiled. Offer bird grit (small pieces of lime and mussels) in an extra bowl, this supports digestion. Birds need fresh water all the time.

If you want to make the birds happy in your own garden or in front of the balcony in winter, you can also read: Make your own tit dumpling – simple instructions.

Care tips for budgies and canaries

The annual change of plumage usually begins in the summer months and lasts up to eight weeks. The bird now needs more rest and a daily bath. It is also important to pay attention to a particularly balanced diet. Too long claws must be trimmed. If you are unsure, let the vet show you. You should also check whether rings are growing into the leg or constricting the foot.