The small mammals include the familiar smaller furry caged pets like hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, mice, rats, rabbits and ferrets but some more exotic pets like chinchillas and sugar gliders fall into this category too. Most make good first pets for the younger pet owner but the ferrets, chinchillas and sugar gliders are better suited to teen or young adult owners.
The diets of these little guys vary depending on the species. Ferrets are carnivores that require a meat-based diet. Sugar gliders are omnivores eating insects, small animals, plant saps and nectars in the wild. Guinea pigs, rabbits and chinchillas eat a hay and grass based diet and the rest are seed and grain eaters by nature. There are specialized commercial feeds available for all that help ensure a balanced diet.
All pets in this group should be provided with their own secure living space for their safety if nothing else. Accidentally stepping or sitting on a dog or cat usually has much less consequence than it does for these little guys. They also tend to seek out dark small spaces and can fit through tiny openings that are not a concern for larger pets making an escape more likely to result in the loss of your pet.
Caring for this group is pretty easy consisting of regular feeding, providing ample fresh water and bedding changes.Behavioral concerns for these guys are a little different. Because most interaction involves holding them biting is usually the main behavioral issue. Since these animals are often used as a first pet for children this can be a major concern. Learning and teaching proper handling techniques is the best way to address this issue.
Most of these animals are quiet and noise is generally not a concern, except for the squeaky wheel, however guinea pigs probably tend to vocalize the most. Ferrets are probably the best escape artist of this group and their larger size and unending inquisitiveness can sometimes lead to problems when they get loose.