How to Keep Prairie Dogs as Pets

Prairie dogs can make wonderful household pets.
Prairie dogs can make wonderful household pets. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Before deciding to adopt a prairie dog, it is important to understand the demands associated with bringing these highly social animals into your home. With the proper care and love, prairie dogs can made excellent pets -- but they do require a high degree of care and social interaction to thrive. It is up to you and your family to integrate these loving creatures into your family and provide the same loving environment the prairie dog would have had in the wild.

Make sure you have the time and desire to care for a prairie dog properly. Prairie dogs require spacious cages in the center of the family living space, to nurture their need for community and socialization. It is not enough to keep your prairie dog in the presence of people, however. You must allow your prairie dog to interact with the family outside of its cage -- and allow it to roam freely -- while under your close supervision.

House your prairie dog. Create a hospitable living space for your prairie dog, that is at least 24 by 24 by 36 inches. The cage must allow plenty of room to play, a litter box and a nesting box. Because prairie dog nails rip easily, it is important to select a cage with a strong wire floor and spacing that is no larger than one-half inch by one-half inch. Wire ramps for climbing must be avoided.

Other items to include in your prairie dog's cage include piles of fresh hay and tubes for hiding and playing.

Include a sandbox or a box of shredded paper that your prairie dog can dig and burrow in. A rough brick or cinder block will help keep your prairie dog's nails worn down. Chew toys such as rope dog chews -- or those designed for pet parrots are also important.

Maintain a clean, allergen-free environment, to support prairie dog's sensitive respiratory systems. Lint, inappropriate humidity levels, dust, perfumes, paint fumes and soiled bedding can all cause respiratory disease in your pet.

Provide fresh water, hay and grasses for your pet prairie dog to eat. In addition to these diet mainstays, you can give your prairie dog moderate amounts of leafy greens, certain vegetables and rolled oats. Change the water daily, and clean the drinking bottle at least once a week.

Neuter your male prairie dog. Use a veterinarian who specializes in small animals. Neutering not only prevents reproduction, but curbs aggressive tendencies that are typical of male prairie dogs in the wild. To ensure these tendencies don't become habit, make sure the surgery is performed during the fall or the spring of the animal's first year. Spaying female prairie dogs is completely optional and has no specific benefits.

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