Dogs and cats remain the top pets in the U.K., a position they have held for many years, with dogs currently in the top spot. However, many people find that modern lifestyles make it difficult to commit to a dog or cat. Longer working hours, living alone, and smaller, often shared or rented homes all cut down on the time we can spend on our pets, and the facilities we have for looking after them.
Dogs need regular exercise, usually several times a day, which can be hard to fit around a busy working life. Cats are happiest if they can go outdoors, but busy, urban streets or upper floor flats make this difficult. Small pets, like hamsters and mice, caged birds, or tanks of fish have always provided an alternative to cats and dogs, but many of us would like a larger animal we can cuddle and play with.
Fortunately, there are several options. Rabbits and ferrets are two of the most popular choices, and both can be kept indoors, although they are usually thought of as outdoor pets. Rabbits can be litter trained, and will enjoy roaming the house under supervision, although they should have their own area where they can go to feel secure. This should be large enough to contain them when you go out. Ideally, you will have access to a garden or grassy area where your rabbit can graze. If that’s not possible, you can grow grass in a tray or window box. House rabbits can live for up to 12 years, and make happy, confident pets who love to be stroked and fussed.
Ferrets need a secure enclosure, and will snooze the day away until you come home to play with them. They love games, and require supervision when they’re loose in your home, as everything is a toy for them. They are also experts at wriggling into small spaces, so you will need to block off any holes or gaps. Female ferrets, or neutered males, make the best indoor pets, since unneutered males tend to smell strongly.
Next time you visit your vets in Sutton, Surrey, don’t be surprised if you’re sharing the waiting room with one or two more unusual species.
What’s a ferret?, www.bluecross.org.uk