What are the signs of a stressed small pet

December 21, 2022

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We tend to be aware of causes of stress in dogs and cats, but may forget that small furry pets such as rabbits, guinea pig, hamsters, mice, gerbils, rats etc. may suffer from stress too. Most of the small animals we keep as pets are prey species. They have evolved to be constantly on alert for potential danger, meaning they are generally quite sensitive and susceptible to stress. In addition, caged animals are fully dependent on their owners to meet all their needs, and if these needs are not adequately met these pets can become unhappy and possibly unwell.

Our vets have some helpful advice on how to recognize and minimize stress in small animals…

Potential triggers

The housing on offer and seemingly small changes in environment or routine can all have a big impact on happiness and welfare. Triggers may include:

  • Housing that is too small
  • Housing that does not provide for all a pets needs
  • Housing that is not cleaned out too often
  • Housing that is cleaned out too often, particularly with very strong smelling disinfectants
  • Change of diet
  • Rough or excessive handling
  • Unsuitable cage mates or a lack of cage mates depending on the species.

Signs of stress

These will vary, dependant on the species, breed and personality of the pet, but may include:

  • Hiding
  • Fidgety when handled
  • Freezing when you approach
  • Decreased activity
  • Changes in appetite
  • Behaviour changes
  • Excessive grooming
  • Fighting with cage mates

A stressed pet may exhibit a number of these signs, and it is very important that these issues are addressed before it starts to impact their health. Stress should also be considered (along with physical illness) if there is a sudden change in your pet’s usual behaviour, so please do get in touch if you have nay concerns or questions.

Stress behaviours such as overgrooming or fighting can lead to injuries which can be very difficult to treat so helping to limit those behaviours is very important.

If you are concerned about your pet, then book a consultation with Clarendon Street Vets’ nursing team and they can help discuss potential causes of stress and how to limit its effects.

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