Keeping your smaller indoor pets happy and healthy – Part 1

Please note that The Ralph Site very strongly encourages people to only bring new companion animals into their home that they have re-homed from a rescue centre or that are otherwise unwanted or being subjected to mistreatment; with so much over-supply of unwanted animals, we cannot condone private breeding or indeed removing non-domesticated animals from their natural outdoor environment to be kept as pets.

According to the latest set of UK figures published by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA), 46% of British households share their homes with a pet. And whilst cats and dogs are our nation’s most popular companions, considerable numbers of us have plenty of love to give our smaller furred, feathered and scaled friends:

  • The indoor fish population is estimated at a massive 19,900,000, living in around 9% of UK homes
  • There are 500,000 indoor birds
  • 400,000 hamsters
  • 300,000 lizards
  • 300,000 snakes
  • 200,000 tortoises and turtles

Those of you who care for these smaller indoor pets will know that providing a suitably stimulating and safe living environment is essential for their health and well being, and just as important as offering the right diet. We thought it might be helpful to look at some of the key considerations when looking after smaller pets, for those of you who may be at the beginning of your friendship with an indoor pet. Of course, the introductory information included here is necessarily basic – we always recommend researching the needs of your pets fully before you welcome them home, along with speaking with the re-homing centre in order to ensure that you’re comfortable with the level of responsibility required and can accommodate the established routine of your new pet.

This week we take a look at the basic needs of birds and hamsters:


  • Budgies and canaries can live up to 15 years, with large parrots clocking up as many as 60 years
  • Birds flourish with lots of time and attention and will create strong bonds with their carer, developing their own unique personality traits. They also pick up on your mood and can become depressed if not given sufficient attention, becoming prone to stress-related conditions such as pulling out feathers
  • Most birds enjoy company from their own kind, so it’s always best to provide an avian friend
  • Good quality birdseed forms the basis of a domestic bird’s diet and is widely available -depending on your pet’s species, additional supplements are often recommended (such as iodine for budgies)
  • Buy the largest cage you can afford and make sure it’s appropriate for your bird’s adult size. Furnish it with plenty of toys and perches, as well as a birdbath, and use bird-friendly cleaning products to keep the cage fresh. Always give your pet the opportunity to spread his / her wings for lengthy periods each day
  • Make sure to cover any mirrors and windows when your bird is exercising out of the cage each day – flying into these can injure your pet severely

Keeping your smaller indoor pets happy and healthy pinterest


  • Typically hamsters live for up to 2 years. As nocturnal animals, they are the ideal pet for anyone who works a ‘normal’ week, as they will sleep whilst you’re out during the day
  • The most popular species in the UK are Syrians, the Russian dwarf Campbell and the Roborovski
  • Hamsters need lots of room so buy a cage that’s as large as possible. Multi-levels and tunnels are great for exercise and exploration, and cages with wire sides and tops will provide your hamster with plenty of climbing opportunities! A wheel will provide endless fun, and cardboard tubes and wooden chewing blocks will help keep your pet’s teeth in check, as well as providing stimulation.
  • Although hamster balls are popular and offering animals the opportunity to exercise is important, there are concerns that such products may, in fact, be stressful for hamsters and the RSPCA for example does not recommend their use.
  • Provide plenty of bedding and litter material for your hamster to burrow in and make his / her bed from. Dust-free wood shavings and shredded paper are great options
  • As with all pets, your hamster will need access to a continual supply of fresh water.
  • Commercially produced hamster food is the best diet, supplemented with small quantities of green vegetables and apples. Avoid grapes and rhubarb as these can be poisonous for hamsters.
  • Hamsters are generally solitary animals with their own kind but are sociable with us humans, so it will be easy to get into a routine of handling your pet every day to form strong bonds.

Next week we’ll look at keeping rescued reptiles and amphibians, so until then, best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team

The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support

Please note: The Ralph Site is not affiliated with the third-party organisations in any of the links shared here, and the views, ideas and suggestions expressed in this and other blogs are simply shared with the intention of helping you, our friends, take care of the special animals in your lives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *