Pocket Pets

These adorable creatures delight young children and are a great pet for the family. Here are some basic care tips and how Rockland can help you keep your little guy safe. Like all exotics, the best thing you can do for your little guy or gal is to provide them with clean bedding, clean water (watering bottles such as the one shown below are best), a pelleted diet and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. When handling your pet, look at his or her eyes, nose, mouth, ears, feet and coat. If your pet is ill, it is likely that you’ll see signs of the illness in these areas. Don’t hesitate to call us. Catching disease in small pocket pets at its earliest stage is essential to success and long term health.


Gerbils require a cage, access to fresh water, and food that includes block foods (designed to wear down the gerbils teeth) and vegetables like cucumber, carrot, pumpkin and fennel. You can also offer fruits like pear, melon, apple and orange). Never give your Gerbil grapes or rhubarb, these are poisonous to them. See these nutritional recommendations for Gerbils.

Their living space should also include a place to hide and to keep them safe from outside animals. It should be located in a draft free area. Provide them with a bedding of recycled newspaper or non aromatic wood shavings. Clean their cage weekly. Gerbils do best with other gerbils, but keep in mind that some may fight or even kill one another.

Never pick up a gerbil by its tail. Be mindful that gerbils are delicate and can be easily injured so always handle them carefully and gently. Remember to wash your hands after handling. Hamsters, guinea pigs and gerbils all benefit from alfalfa hay. Follow the package directions for feeding quantities.


There are two kinds of hamsters, the dwarf and the Syrian variety. Their housing requirements are a lot like those for a gerbil.They require a means to exercise (a hamster wheel), a quiet, safe, dark place to sleep, and clean bedding made of non-aromatic wood shavings or recycled paper.

Hamsters, sometimes known as desert rats, still require a fresh supply of water and a continuous supply of food (they are grazers by nature). Good diets for hamsters include a pelleted diet (75%) mixed with fresh vegetables (15%), fruits (5%) and treats like raisins and hay (5%). See these nutritional recommendations for Hamsters.

Guinea Pigs

Of the three animals in this group, Guinea pigs are probably the most sensitive. Highly social, they need interaction with you on a regular basis and they benefit from living with another guinea pig. Cage size should be large enough to accommodate two since these are social animals and will benefit from a fellow guinea pig as a companion.

Select a food SPECIFIC to your pocket pet like this brand made for guinea pigs. Though they fall under the umbrella ‘pocket pet’, each has their own unique nutritional requirements. See these nutritional recommendations for Guinea Pigs.


Rabbits are fragile and fearful. When you bring your rabbit to our practice, we’ll ensure that he or she feels. We’ll also restrain your rabbit properly so that he or she isn’t injured, something that happens too frequently at less veterinary centers will less experience treating lagomorphs (rabbits).

  • Health Concerns: Rabbits are frequently ill with dental disease, constipation, and mite or flea infestations.  Less commonly we see something called ‘head tilt’, a sad sight to behold in any rabbit.  In all cases, if you suspect something is wrong, don’t hesitate to bring your rabbit to our office.  We have all we need to accurately diagnose what’s going on with your bunny and map out a plan for him or her to get better.
  • Spay and Neuter: Please have your rabbit neutered or spayed, even if he or she will live alone.  Neutering or spaying your rabbit will decrease the likelihood of cancer and stave off any behavior issues that come along with sexual maturity.  Rockland veterinarians are experienced rabbit surgeons. We have a lot of experience spaying and neutering rabbits and understand how to anesthetize them safely.
  • Dental Care: They shouldn’t. Rabbits, as you probably know, have front teeth that grow continuously.  This is because rabbits are  used to gnawing and the continuously growing teeth resupply what the rabbit has worn down through chewing.  If you notice that your rabbits teeth are getting too long, bring him or her to see us.  This is not normal and needs to be treated by a veterinarian.  Do NOT attempt to cut the teeth using nail clippers.  You can risk splitting the tooth longitudinally and opening the rabbit up to oral infection.
  • Housing: Your rabbit should have a caged enclosure that provides him or her a place to hide.  Rabbits are preyed upon by many creatures and they have evolved to require a place of safety to feel good.  Ensure that your rabbit has a fresh supply of water (drip bottles work great for this) and grass hay including that made from Timothy, oat or Bermuda grass.  You can also treat your rabbit to dark leafy greens and vegetables, but not onions or avocados.  Use this link to visit the house rabbit society and for a full list of recommended veggies for your rabbit. You can train your rabbit to use a litter box and even allow your rabbit to run around the house.  Just make sure that you ‘bunny proof’ things by eliminating any cords or anything else dangerous that they might accidentally gnaw on.


Surprisingly the ferret is not a wild animal. It has been domesticated from as long ago as 63 BC and probably back to the ancient Egyptian times. They were referenced by a Greek author as being bred and trained in Libya to hunt rabbits and made their way to Europe for the same purpose during the Dark Ages. They came to America on ships where they were employed as mousers.

  • Vaccinations and Parasite Prevention: All ferrets should be vaccinated against distemper annually and rabies every three years. The rabies vaccine is required by law and is critical should your ferret bites a human. We also recommend tRevolution for the prevention of fleas, mites and heartworm disease. An annual stool sample confirms that your ferret is parasite free.
  • Health Concerns: Ferrets live between 6 and 10 years. They are especially prone to G.I. issues, skin conditions and cancers. As you handle your ferret, regularly inspect his or her eyes, ears, skin and feet and take note if they appear healthy. Lumps, bumps and hair loss should also be noted. If you see problems in any of these areas. use the button below to call us and book an appointment.
  • Spay and Neuter: Both male ferrets (called hobs) and female ferrets (called jills) must be spayed and neutered. Females that remain sexually intact will go into a perpetual heat cycle that causes them an excess loss of blood. Typically intact females, that remain unbred, die. Male ferrets that are left intact will develop an offensive musky odor that will be hard to eliminate from you home. Rockland veterinarians are experienced at both spaying and neutering ferrets. The procedure is safe and affordable.
  • Nutrition: Ferrets are strict carnivores and require a meat-only diet. Select a food especially formulated for ferrets or a cat food that contains at least 36% protein and 20% fats. Your ferret’s food should contain only a minimal amount of carbohydrates. Do not feed vegetables, fruits, nuts or starches. A ferret’s digestive system is not designed to break down complex carbohydrates. As a treat, you can feed meat-based baby foods that contain no vegetables. Freeze dried meats are also fine, but steer clear of preserved jerkies and rawhides.
  • Housing: Ferrets should have access to a clean water supply and meat based food. They are denning animals and  should have a private, dark, safe enclosure to crawl into. Cages should be at least 18 inches long, 18 inches tall and at least 30 inches wide. Cover the cage floor with a soft, cleanable material like linoleum or a washable piece of carpeting.  Wire cage floors can hurt your ferret’s feet. Want to learn more about ferrets and interact with other ferret owners? Visit the American Ferret Organization website!