Our small pets are naturally nervous creatures and it is very important that you learn to handle them in as gentle and as conﬁdent a way as possible. Rough and inappropriate handling is one of the most likely
causes of being bitten. This is a totally understandable reaction for our pets, as if they believe they are in danger and feel they cannot run away, then they have nothing to lose by attacking with tooth and claw.
When you ﬁrst start to handle your pet, it is important that this is done at ground level, as nervous pets can jump in fear. Even a seemingly small fall can cause fatal injuries. It is best to place your pet’s cage on the ﬂoor and handle your pet over a container such as a washing up bowl with a towel inside. The towel will help to cushion your pet’s fall and the bowl will help to prevent your pet from escaping.
If you need to handle your pet before it has learned to accept being handled then it is important to make this as stress free as possible. Using a cardboard toilet roll tube, most pets need little encouragement to scuttle inside. Once inside the tube, you can then easily transport them from one location to another. If you need to examine your pet or give them some essential treatment, you can attach a sock to one end
of the tube with some holes cut in it. It is likely your small pet will run from the tube into the darkness of the sock, where you can then examine or medicate your pet through the holes cut into the sides.
You can build a larger version of this set up for guinea pigs and rats using a piece of pipe and the sleeve from a jumper or a tea towel sewed on the end of the pipe. Guinea pigs especially are renowned for their nervous nature and any device that reduces the stress of handling can only be a good thing.
Rats can be in handled in much the same way as mice but extra care needs to be taken to avoid being bitten. Although all animals can bite, rats have very large teeth that can inﬂict a very deep wound. Most rats would never dream of biting and you are far more likely to be bitten by a grumpy hamster than a rat but care should still be taken.
Rabbits require even more careful handling than the animals already covered. Due to their large size and power, the potential for them to injure you and themselves is great. Rabbits are bottom heavy creatures and are known to have a weak point at the base of their spine. This weak area can be easily damaged if your rabbit kicks too violently. Rabbits should only be handled if absolutely necessary as they ﬁnd handling very stressful. It has been shown that rabbits become far more conﬁdent and trusting when all interaction is mindful and as much at ground level as possible. In this way they don’t learn to associate people with fear. Life isn’t all a bed of roses and there are times when you will need to handle your pet;
routine health checks and vaccinations are essential. Using a large towel, cover your pet completely, including its head. Wrap the towel under your pet so that it is enveloped in the towel completely. Pick up the bundle, hold it to your chest securely and transfer it to a ﬁ rm but soft surface such as a large cushion. You can now medicate or check your pet’s health in as stress free a way as possible.
When placing your pet back in its enclosure, keep it wrapped up and place it down, hind feet ﬁrst. It is important to place them down in this manner in order to minimize any potential for damage to the spine.