Hamsters, mice, rats, gerbils, guinea pigs, chinchillas and other small rodents can be entertaining and engaging pets. The downside of pet rodents is that their cages can take up a significant amount of room in your home, especially if you have multiple pets. It can be tempting to put different rodents in the same cage to save on space and cage cleaning time, but it is in your pets' best interest if you resist the urge to combine their living environments.
Types of Rodents
The type of rodent you own plays a major part in determining whether that rodent can live in the same cage as any other pet rodents. For example, mice are relatively social and can live in groups, but Syrian hamsters are extremely territorial and will attack one another if you put two adults in the same cage. Dwarf hamsters can live in small same species groups if introduced to one another early in life, but will likely attack any other animal, hamster or not, who is introduced as an adult. Gerbils are social and can live with other gerbils, but may be viewed as prey by more aggressive species. Guinea pigs are social but need to be introduced carefully because some individuals are quite territorial and may attack any animal they view as invading their territory. Rats can live together with other rats, but they will kill and eat mice as well as other small rodents. Any rodent who is considered territorial or who is a predator (omnivore or carnivorous) should not be housed with other species due to the high risk of predatory behavior occurring.
The first part in determining whether or not your rodents can live together is researching the exact species of rodent you own and seeing whether animal experts say they can live with others of their own kind or if they have to live alone. If you cannot find anything specific about your type of rodent, contact your veterinarian or an experienced breeder to find out whether your rodents are social enough to live among their own kind or other types of rodents. Rodents who are not social should not be housed with other animals, regardless of individual personality. In most situations, you will be best served by adopting social animals who are the same species and same gender if you truly want to have multiple rodents in the same cage.
Rodent Housing Concerns
If your rodent can live with members of his own kind, then he may be able to live with others. If he cannot live with members of his own kind, he absolutely cannot live with any other species either. In most cases, combined species housing is not going to work out very well due to the different needs of the animals. Different species of animals will require different types and amounts of food. Some foods that are safe for one species may be toxic to another. Rodents who are fed foods that are not formulated for them can develop health problems over time due to too much or too little of certain nutrients. A rodent who is small and timid may not be able to get enough food to eat when living in a social group, especially when housed with a more aggressive cage mate. Toys and supplies that are safe for one type of rodent may pose a hazard to others, depending on the size of the items and the material they are made of. For example, dust baths can be used for chinchillas and larger rodents, but are not considered safe for hamsters because the dust can cause respiratory problems.
Two Species In The Same Cage
Your pet rodents will be better off if they live independently in their cages rather than in a combined cage due to the high chances of conflict between animals of different species. If you absolutely feel you must introduce two normally social types of rodents to one another so that they can be housed in the same cage, you are going to have to spend a significant amount of time introducing the individual animals to one another. Allow them to interact through the bars of their individual cages and then try putting them together in a neutral location. Make sure your cage is more than large enough for multiple animals with ample supplies of food, water, toys and bedding. Remember that individual animals may be territorial or aggressive, even if they are members of a species that is supposed to be social. Supervise your pets closely and separate them if you see any possible conflicts developing.
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Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.