Are Prairie Dogs Good Pets [Can You Keep One As A Pet?]

are prairie dogs good pets

Prairie dogs are cute, clever animals with charming personalities. These furry rodents might make rewarding companions, but can you keep one as a pet? 

Prairie dogs are fun and lovable pets you can keep at home. However, prairie dogs are not ideal for everyone because they sometimes behave aggressively and have high maintenance requirements. 

If you’ve ever seen prairie dogs in the wild, you may have wondered if having one in your home is possible. 

Let’s learn about the possibility and requirements for keeping a prairie dog as a pet, but first, let’s take a closer look at what they are. 

What Are Prairie Dogs?

A prairie dog is a small burrowing rodent native to the grasslands of North America. They are social animals living in large colonies called towns, which cover hundreds of acres. 

They are known for their distinctive barks, which is how they communicate. Prairie dogs are herbivores whose diet consists primarily of grasses and other vegetation. 

They’re an essential part of the ecosystem as their behavior helps aerate the soil, providing food for predators such as; coyotes, eagles, and hawks. 

Keeping Prairie Dogs As Pets: Is This Possible Or Worthwhile?

Prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) are highly-intelligent rodents with an exceedingly complex communication system. 

It is possible to keep these wild animals in your home as pets. Indeed, anyone who has one of these delightful creatures will tell you that prairie dogs make fantastic pets. 

People usually adopt or purchase a prairie dog from animal rescue organizations or exotic pet retailers.

But why would you want one of these rodents as a pet?

The Joys Of Having A Prairie Dog As A Pet

Prairie dogs are lovable animals with all the qualities one might seek in a furry companion. Here are some traits associated with and keeping prairie dogs as pets. 


Prairie dogs are energetic animals who enjoy interacting with each other and their owners. 

These animals are fun to play with and observe. They like climbing on peoples’ shoulders and play-wrestling.

Full Of Personality

Prairie dogs are highly social animals with complex personalities. Like dogs, they are known for their playful and curious nature and spend time wrestling and playing with each other.

These family-oriented pests do best in a close-knit family environment within their colonies. In addition, they are intelligent and have a vocal communication system that is more complex than that of a dolphin. 

Watching and interacting with prairie dogs is also intriguing because they are expressive and have unique and identifiable personalities. 


In addition, prairie dogs make wonderful pets because they are affectionate animals. 

Prairie dogs naturally form strong bonds with their owners and other C. ludovicianus. When properly cared for, prairie dogs are generally loving and lovable additions to a human family.

The Challenges Of Having A Prairie Dog As A Pet

Prairie dogs may not be suitable pets for everyone. They are not domesticated in the conventional sense and have specialized care requirements. In addition, it may be illegal to own them, depending on the state you live in. 

Therefore, it is essential to consider the following factors carefully before you bring a prairie dog home as a pet.  

Nipping And Scratching

Prairie dogs have nervous dispositions and long, sharp teeth and claws that help them survive in the wild. Unfortunately, this leads to behaviors such as nipping and clawing. 

While this behavior is usually limited to occasions when prairie dogs feel defensive or annoyed. 

While this behavior does not pose a grave danger, it could be problematic if you have other small pets or young children.

Social Interaction

Due to their social nature, prairie dogs need regular interaction. This means they need constant physical interaction; you must talk and play with them daily. 

Before you get a prairie dog for a pet, ensure you can meet its social interaction needs. Without proper social interaction, they can become depressed and even violent. 

Keeping prairie dogs in pairs or small groups is also beneficial. Still, owners must also interact with the animals to establish and maintain trust and rapport.

Escape Artists 

Prairie dogs are unbelievably fast and agile and have an impressive ability to escape from their enclosures. 

If prairie dogs get out of their cages and run around, they might get injured or potentially harm other small animals or children in the home. 

Be confident you can safely and securely contain a prairie dog before getting one for a pet.

On a related note, prairie dogs have limited depth perception and sometimes climb to high and precarious places without realizing the danger!

Health Issues 

One of the common challenges of caring for prairie dogs is that they are prone to health problems.

Prairie dogs’ front teeth can become excessively long and misaligned if not cared for properly. This tooth condition causes prairie dogs discomfort and makes eating difficult for them to eat. 

Prairie dogs are also prone to obesity if fed incorrect types of foods and do not get enough exercise. 

Be mindful of these potential medical issues if you are considering getting a prairie dog.

How Do You Care For A Pet Prairie Dog?

Here are some basic guidelines for prairie dog care if you are still interested in keeping these charming rodents.

Provide Suitable Enclosure

A large enclosure with strong bars is necessary for housing a prairie dog. Avoid cages with plastic coatings because the animals may gnaw this outer layer. 

The enclosure must contain loose materials so the animals can fulfill their need to burrow. 

Feed Appropriate Diet

Prairie dogs are notoriously picky eaters, primarily due to their delicate digestive systems.

To ensure their physical wellness, feed prairie dogs Timothy hay (Brome hay and orchard grass are also suitable). Always avoid giving them alfalfa hay because this can make them ill. 

Raw oats are also suitable food for prairie dogs.

Young prairie dogs can receive puppy dog food until they are one year old. 

Avoid overfeeding prairie dogs to prevent them from becoming obese.

Maintain Health And Hygiene

Pay attention to the way your prairie dog’s teeth are growing. If their teeth seem to be growing too long or out of alignment, take them to a vet with experience working with prairie dogs.

Though prairie dogs are relatively clean creatures, they need occasional baths to keep their fur and skin hygienic.  

Caring for prairie dogs usually also entails nail clipping every few months. This hygiene routine is not always essential but might be necessary if the animals’ nails are so long that they are causing discomfort. 

Bear in mind that prairie dogs might not enjoy bathing or having their nails clipped, and they might resist by nipping and scratching. 

Meet Social Needs

Prairie dogs need you to spend at least 30 minutes (preferably an hour) per day interacting with them outside their cages for their mental and emotional health. 

Ideally, keep more than one prairie dog (if possible). 

It is possible to have multiple neutered males living together. An all-female population also works harmoniously. 

You can keep males and females in the same cage, but ensure the males are neutered to prevent territorial conflicts and the arrival of a new generation of prairie dog pups!

What To Expect?

Prairie dogs are not your normal domesticated pet. They are wild animals meant to live in colonies and not bred as pets. However, people who love exotic pets have learned to live with them. 

Here’s a video of Doug, the domesticated prairie dog who loves to cuddle and travel. 

Final Word

It is possible to have one or more prairie dogs as pets. These clever, social rodents make excellent domestic companions. 

Prairie dogs are not the perfect pet for everyone because they sometimes behave aggressively and have demanding social, dietary, and health needs.

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