Do Prairie Dogs Make Good Pets?

Prairie dogs can make adorable, suitable pets, but there are many factors to consider before taking one home.

Sep 29, 2023byJane Kenney
do prairie dogs make good pets

For those in search of something unique and interesting, a prairie dog might be the perfect pet. From their cheerful dispositions to their charming appearance, these furry little creatures make excellent companions. However, before you make this commitment, it’s important to examine both the pros and cons of having a prairie dog in your family. This article will delve into these points and help guide your decision.

The Legality of Owning a Prairie Dog

prairie dog

Prior to owning a pet prairie dog, it is important to learn about the laws in your state. Prairie dogs have, in the past, been associated with public health risks such as monkeypox, which caused the five-year ban of the species as pets in the United States from 2003-2008. In 2016, a plague connected to prairie dogs emerged and heightened the debate over their ownership as pets. To remain compliant with state and local laws, make sure to research the regulations prior to obtaining a pet prairie dog.

Are You Able to Care for Your Prairie Dog?

baby prairie dog

Before getting a prairie dog as a pet, it is important to consider if one has the time, energy, and financial resources available to provide the proper care. Prairie dogs require considerable attention and love, and as they are social creatures, they do better if one obtains two or more, which will cost more money. It’s essential that you understand the dedication required before moving forward. When taken care of in the right way, a prairie dog could be an incredible addition to your family.

Get Acquainted with Their Behavior

prairie dog animals

Prairie dogs are diurnal—active during the day and sleeping at night. They need a lot of attention and can become depressed or sick without it, so if you cannot provide at least six hours of attention a day, you should not own one. But if you can, they can be leash trained using a specially designed harness, and with instruction, they can even learn to respond to their own name! There is no difference between male and female when deciding which will make a better pet, even though the male may have a stronger smell. All prairie dogs should be spayed or neutered to avoid potential health issues in later life; failure to do so may lead to a female entering her “rut” which can result in aggression and temporarily changing behaviors.

Can You Provide the Proper Housing?

prairie dog in the wild

In order for a pet prairie dog to have a strong and happy life, they need to have the ability to burrow and forage in a natural setting. If you cannot provide this kind of environment, a protective dog-sized cage should be used indoors for safety. It is important to note, however, that depriving them of the opportunity to burrow can cause them serious distress. To create an enjoyable habitat, offer them box and tunnel hideaways to take refuge in, so they can feel secure. Additionally, a 10-foot by 10-foot concrete-bordered pit filled with dirt three feet deep would give them the perfect spot to burrow and explore.

Common Health Issues in Prairie Dogs

prairie dog up close

Prairie dogs may experience drastic changes in personality during their annual rutting period, which can sometimes lead to defensive or aggressive behavior. They are also vulnerable to plague, which has caused the closure of some parks to protect humans from illnesses. In captivity, prairie dogs may develop dietary problems, dental issues, obesity, and heart and respiratory diseases if they are not provided with a proper habitat and nutrition. Seeing a veterinarian for routine examinations is essential to ensure the overall well-being of a pet prairie dog, and to discuss issues such as diet, housing, and husbandry.

The Cost of a Prairie Dog

prairie dogs bonding

When choosing to adopt a prairie dog, it is essential to consider the upfront cost, which could easily cost up to a couple hundred dollars, and the ongoing cost to maintain their care. Food, habitat, and cleaning supplies are just a few of the expenses associated with taking care of a prairie dog that quickly adds up. Young prairie dogs are going for $400 right now, so it’s important to do your research and check your finances and ensure you can really handle the financial aspect of owning one of these exotic animals.

Getting More Than One Prairie Dog

prairie dog pets

Prairie dogs are highly social animals and tend to live in large groups. With this being said, it’s actually recommended that you get more than one unless you are able to give them undivided, constant attention throughout the day. If the males are going to be housed together, it is recommended that they be neutered. Females can live in groups with or without being spayed. Looking back at the cost of a single prairie dog, this means that if you’re looking at getting a second one, it also means more money. Ensure this is a financial decision you can realistically take on.

Jane Kenney
byJane Kenney

Jane is a lover of all things animals and animal welfare. She has two guinea pigs that are her pride and joy, Rick and Morty, a baby ball python named Kaa, and a leopard gecko named Gary. She and her partner plan to develop a “guinea pig room” in their house, a room dedicated to housing and caring for guinea pigs of all breeds and ages.