Set up cage or habitat - Obtain everything on your habitat shopping list. Assemble the habitat and place it in the best possible location. You'll be certain everything is in good order and won't have to make-do on arrival day.
Create a pet first aid kit - For a complete list of recommended items, read Making a First Aid Kit for Your Small Pet. A basic kit should include the following, plus any species-appropriate medications:
Pet-proof your home - Small animals will chew and sample everything they encounter, including electrical cords, so be sure to protect them. Be sure to store away toxic materials like antifreeze or household cleaners, as well as pesticides and medications. Remove any poisonous house plants, including dieffenbachia, philodendron, and hyacinth.
Prepare your family members - Everyone in your household must be on the same page when it comes to understanding your small pet's needs. They need to allow her time to adjust, and must resist over-handling. Talk to your children before you bring your new pet home. Explain that she may be a little fearful for a while and that they'll have to be very quiet and gentle with her. Caution them about allowing your new pet to have contact with other household pets. Supervise your children as they interact initially with your pet. Apprise everyone of the location of the first aid kit and veterinarian contact information. Lay down rules and assignments for providing food and water. Set up a care schedule so that everyone knows who does what – feeding, cleaning, water changes, and so on – and when.
The first day home
Once home, the first few days may be stressful on your pet. Ease her into her new situation as gently as possible. Small animals can be placed in their new cage and left alone with food and water. Make sure there is a hide box in the cage. This will give your pet a chance to explore her new surroundings and learn that she's safe. Look in on her every once in a while, but, if possible, let her indicate when it is time to meet with you and others. She'll be at the front of the cage, willing to make eye contact. With most animals this doesn't take more than a few hours. Then, allow family members to approach the cage quietly.
If possible bring home the diet that was fed to your pet where you purchased her. Keep her on that diet at first, and discuss the diet with your veterinarian. If changes need to be made, make them very gradually.
Introducing your new pet to other animals in your household takes special care and patience. Dogs and cats can coexist with other small animals, but always require supervision.
The next few days
Within the first month
The keys to success with small animal pets are preparation and patience. Your care and affection will be rewarded.