Prairie dogs are becoming a popular pet option all over the world, especially in regions of America, Canada, and Mexico. Before you make them a part of your family, it is important for you to gain some basic information. Firstly, the trade and selling of prairie dogs in the United States and Europe was banned after the spread of monkey flu in 2003. In September 2008, the ban was removed, however, there are still some states that consider it to be an illegal activity. Therefore, your first and foremost step should be to check with your local state authorities if you are allowed to keep them.
If the authorities give you a green signal, remember that these adorable creatures should be kept as pets from the time they are young pups. This helps them bond with their owner and makes it a lot easier for the owner to take care of them. Considering the fact that they are wild animals, they tend to bite at times, the experience of which can be really painful. Therefore, if you have small children in your house, these creatures would not be a good choice to keep. However, if taken proper care of, they can be one of the most loving and affectionate pets you can ever have.
Points to Consider Beforehand
Prairie dogs are very energetic and socializing creatures. If you are aware of their natural habitat, you would know that they live in huge colonies which can spread to almost 100 acres of land. They need a lot of attention and care, and cannot be kept isolated. They are usually 12 to 16 inches in height and weigh between 1 to 3 pounds. The males appear bigger than females and have a stronger scent.
Their usual lifespan varies between 8 to 12 years. Also, every year they enter the rut period wherein they are highly active, sexually. It really doesn't matter if they are neutered or not, their behavior tends to change drastically during this period, they become very aggressive and tend to bite. This is why, it is discouraged to keep them as pets if you have kids in the house. Apart from this, mentioned below are some more factors that need to be considered before making a decision.
They are very socializing creatures and cannot live in isolation. Which is why, only those people who can give them a lot of care and attention should consider getting them in the first place. Also, if left alone in the cage for hours altogether, they might develop behavioral symptoms and go into depression. This can also make them sick and may also lead to death, in some cases.
They would need a spacious cage that should be ideally around 24x24x36 inches and have 2 floors. They should have a lot of room to play. Including some chewable toys or a rope dog chew may be a good idea, as prairie dogs love to bite! Their another favorite hobby is to dig, therefore adding a sand box in the cage would also make them feel at home. The placement of the cage is also very important. You should place it in an important area of your house and not in any random corner. Do not place the cage under direct sunlight. Also make sure that you include an untreated wooden nesting box in the cage, and keep the ciders, perfumes, and other chemical concentrates away from these pets.
You also need to take proper care of their nutrition and diet. Include a lot of hay grass, such as oat, timothy, or orchard. Not only are these highly nutritional, but they also cater to the chewing needs of prairie dogs for the normal wearing of teeth. You can also give them some extra treats in between, which may include some fresh green leafy vegetables, timothy hay cubes, mulberry, rose petals, etc. Avoid feeding too much of cauliflower or broccoli, as these food items may cause gas in their stomach.
Be sure that you have a good vet in your locality as these adorable creatures are prone to suffer from respiratory problems. This makes it essential for you to be sure about the dust and humidity levels in the surroundings. Clipping off their toenail tips is important to avoid many health issues. Another thing to keep an eye on, are their front teeth that continue to grow throughout their lifespan. Therefore, you must allow them to gnaw as much as possible for the natural wearing off. Prairie dogs are also prone to get bubonic plague and zoonosis. So, make sure you have a vet available to take care of these issues.
Due to their aggressive behavior, it is advisable to spay or neuter them at a young age itself. This is known to curb the aggressiveness to some extent. If you think you are ready to take up the responsibilities mentioned above, then the rewards are well guaranteed. Once these creatures have developed a bonding with you, they can be very entertaining pets. Experts believe that they also speak in a certain language of their own. They will play with you, respond when you call out their names, and run all over the house showing their adorable cute selves.