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Buying a small mammal as a pet

Advice and guidance if you're buying a small mammal as a pet

Small mammals

This guidance is for anyone buying a small mammal as a pet, such as:

  • guinea pigs
  • rabbits
  • ferrets
  • rodents

If you purchase a small mammal from a licensed pet shop, they should have their licence on display at the premises. And you should receive:

  • advice specific to the species
  • literature to take home

They should provide information on the appropriate care of the animal, including information about:

  • feeding
  • housing
  • handling
  • husbandry
  • life expectancy

You should be informed of the:

  • country of origin and the species
  • age
  • sex
  • veterinary record

Important information

Small mammals must be fully weaned at point of sale.

Ferrets and rabbits must be aged over eight weeks at point of sale.

Ferrets should be vaccinated against canine distemper between 6-8 weeks and again at 10-12 weeks.

What you should consider

Consider the space requirements and particular enclosure sizes for the breed of mammal. Also consider:

  • if they look healthy 
  • if the enclosures are clean
  • if they look like they have adequate space, food, clean water and heating (if applicable)

Small mammals are sometimes purchased from non-licensable sources. Due to the relatively low costs, and sometimes lack of advertising, these premises would not come under the business test.

You can find out further information on the DEFRA selling animals as pets guidance page.