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Article By Carol Smith
Our male springhaas is about 1 year old and is one of the best pets we’ve had. They are medium-small animals in the rodent family that hop like a kangaroo and use their short forearms for food manipulation. The positive attributes of owning a springhaas are:
Springhaas can be kept indoors or outdoors, but they are sensitive to low temperatures, so be careful outdoors. I don’t know what their temperature range is, but we keep ours indoors to avoid any problems. We live in the Pacific Northwest where nights are cool to cold much of the year. Because springhaas are native to the warm semi-desert areas of Africa, they are not adapted to cold temperatures, certainly not the temperatures we typically have. We also keep ours indoors so that we don’t have to worry about predator attacks or escapes. They are outstanding diggers and hoppers, and an outdoor enclosure must be fully enclosed, including wire that is underground to prevent a digging escape. The full enclosure will also reduce the risk of predators.
Another reason we like to have Zippy indoors is to increase the ease of interacting with him. He is free to hop around certain rooms of the house in the evening when we supervise. That interaction would be greatly reduced if he were kept outdoors. His cage is a large metal cage, the largest we could find, and we’ve placed a wooden “burrow” (box with an opened end) inside the cage for him to use for sleeping, which he does. In their native environments, they sleep in burrows.
We’ve had to work with him to develop good interaction. While springhaas are naturally gentle, ours did not arrive with a lot of socialization. He would prefer to stay to himself. Luckily, ours loves sweet potatoes and yams so much, that he will do about anything for it. We use that as a training tool, and so does he. We’ve bribed him to become affectionate, spending time cuddled up in our arms, while he has trained us to give him potato when he stomps his feet or when he begs by stretching tall and reaching his hands out, wriggling them.
We’ve read where springhaas live for around 15 years in captivity. So far, ours has been very healthy with no problems. Keeping them indoors would reduce health problems too, as the environment is more controlled. Ours eats about 1/3 cup of oats a day, 1/3 cup of seed based food (especially with sunflower seeds, which they love), such as rodent chow or gerbil food, and several moderately thick slices of sweet potato, yam, or carrot. It is very important to provide the tubers because that is how they get their fluid intake. They rarely drink water, as they are adapted to a dry desert environment. Ours has only drunk water one time that we know of, and then it was a small amount.
Their bodies recycle urine, and they urinate only a small amount (a tablespoon or so) every 2-3 days, and ours does so shortly after eating his tuber pieces. The feces are small and relatively hard making cleanup very easy. Most of his “business” is done at night when he is active. In the morning, I use a small hand broom and dustpan to sweep up all of the feces and seed hulls in and around his cage, taking about 5 minutes/day, and then his area stays clean all day long as he sleeps. Twice a week, I move his cage for a more thorough cleaning along with washing the plastic floor of his cage.
He does have an odor if not regularly bathed, and I’m not sure whether it comes from scent glands or the small bit of urine that is released. There is often stickiness on his fur above the base of the tail. Because of that, I bathe him twice a week in the sink. He is very easy to bathe, as he knows he will get a sweet potato piece afterwards. A twice a week bathing keeps him fairly nice smelling.
They have two destructive habits. Like a rabbit, they are well known for snipping electrical cords. Supervision is important, but it is more important to put cords out of reach. Even with supervision, ours quickly snipped a cell phone charger cord right in front of us. The other habit is that they chew wood. They have large front teeth similar to a beaver and must have access to non-toxic wood in order to keep their growing teeth in a healthy state. We keep non-toxic tree branches in his cage, which he chews at night, often turning a large branch into sawdust in a short period. Be sure to research to find out what types of branches are okay to use in your area. Also, without access to branches, apparently they will chew other wooden objects such as furniture. Ours has ready access to branches, and has never tried to chew any household object.