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Enrichment for Small Animals

Posted on May 03, 2016 | 1 comment


Small pets can be so much fun but how can you make sure that they’re enjoying themselves too? As well as always ensuring they have large, spacious homes, there are lots of things you can do to enrich your pet’s environment and help keep them stimulated and happy.

Rabbits

A happy bunny is one that can display its natural behaviour and you can find ways to help them do this. They need to be able to hop, stretch and play and because rabbits live together in the wild it’s important to keep them in a pair or compatible group otherwise they’re likely to get very depressed. Make sure your rabbits are neutered – this is important even if they’re in a same-sex group to avoid them fighting.

Rabbits’ favourite things include climbing, tunnelling and digging and their instinct is to run and hide if they sense danger. There are lots of things you can do to allow them to do this. Make sure they have plenty of space and a private compartment so they can get a bit of privacy. Give them tubes to run through and hide in and a cardboard box, filled with shredded paper and with an entrance and an exit they can hop in and out of. They love a good piece of dirt that they can burrow into so they’ll really appreciate a digging pit.

Did you know that rabbits spend 70 percent of their waking hours feeding? You can make this fun by encouraging them to forage – hang some root vegetables on a string for them to nibble and scatter their food to encourage them to search for it. You can also put their hay in hanging baskets which they can reach up and nibble at like they would do in the wild.

You can give your rabbit safe things to chew, like apple wood or willow, or buy edible wooden chews from a good pet supplier.

Guinea pigs

Guinea pigs are curious critters and love to watch what’s going on around them. As well as a roomy indoor hutch they also need an outdoor run so they can have a bit of a nose and a good graze. Because they’re quite shy they always need something to hide in when they’re out in their run in case they get scared. Cardboard boxes, tubes or pipes are great for this and also lots of fun. They enjoy running free indoors too – make sure they’re supervised and there are no escape holes!

Guinea pigs aren’t actually big fans of toys as a rule but hiding small amounts of food for them to search for can also keep them entertained.

Guinea pigs love company of their own kind but not of others, like rabbits, so keep them in a same-sex or neutered pair or small group.

Hamsters

While you’re busy enriching your life during the day, most hamsters are snoozing happily but at night-time they’re ready for action. They need lots of exercise and are well-known for merrily running on their wheels but don’t get one with spokes because it can cause an injury. Instead, get a solid, wide wheel. People think they like exercise balls but they are really exhausting for hamsters and there’s no way of escape for them, so it’s actually more stressful than fun.

You’ll have a happy hamster if you give them cardboard tubes to run through and chew and they love to climb so wooden ledges will definitely go down well. They also adore rolling around in a sand bath – you can get special sand for this from pet shops.

Some hamsters love to live with their pals while others are quite the opposite so make sure you know what type yours is. A Syrian hamster is happy on its own and will fight with another one. But dwarf hamsters like company and can be kept in same-sex pairs or small groups.

Gerbils

Gerbils are happiest when they’re hanging out in tunnels, like they do in the wild. So make sure they have lots of material to dig and tunnel to their heart’s content, like dust-extracted bedding, dried peat moss or a mixture of the two. The thicker the better as far as they’re concerned. You can create a tunnel-environment by giving them cardboard tubes, like finished toilet rolls, which they’ll have a whale of a time running through and chewing.

Gerbils quite like to see what’s going on so if you put a flat rock in the tank, you may find they use it as a lookout point. They also love climbing on fruit tree branches. They enjoy having a good roll around so a sand bath using special sand, which you can get from pet shops, will be popular. Gerbils are very sociable and would be unhappy on their own so make sure they’ve got at least one gerbil pal or live in a group of the same sex.

Rats

Rats are busy bees and they’re happiest when they’re on the go. They look forward to play-time so it’s important that you give them at least an hour outside their cage every day so they can stretch their legs and do some serious exploring (make sure the room is safe and rat-proof first though – rats are also skilled escape artists!).

Some rats love toys, like pieces of plastic drainpipe or cardboard boxes so try it out and see what they think. They might fancy themselves as a bit of a hamster and enjoy running on a wheel too but make sure you avoid one with spokes as they can cause a serious injury – get a solid, wide wheel instead.

Just like most of the small pets, rats are very sociable and live in groups so keep them in a same-sex pair or group.

Mice

Mice love anything that they can climb so lengths of rope suspended from the top of their tank or fruit tree branches will be a big hit. They like going through tunnels so give them some plastic or cardboard tubes to explore. You’ll also be popular if you half fill a cardboard box with compost and let the mice have supervised tunnelling sessions.

Mice love company of their own kind and are happiest when kept in same- sex groups, ideally from the same litter to prevent fights.

Degus

Degus are very active and they need lots of enrichment to keep them happy. Exercise wheels will help them to get the daily exercise they need and wooden branches are brilliant because they’re three fun things in one – an obstacle course, more levels to climb on and something tasty to chew. Safe woods to use include apple, hazelnut and hawthorn.

Degus need a supply of hay but you can make it fun for them by filling up a box and letting them forage for it. Grass boxes are also great fun for degus and a natural way for them to forage. They love to dig so they’ll love it if you make them their own digging box using organic soil and sand. Degus like to have a sand bath every day and after they’ve been handled, using special sand that you can get from pet shops.

Other great ways to keep degus entertained are a treatball, which is both fun and great exercise, and toys like jingly balls, sisal and corn toys. A solid exercise wheel, 25cm in diameter will help them exercise and clay piping can also provide a tunnelling system for them to explore.

Like most of their small pet cousins, degus are very sociable so they should never be kept alone as this can make them very stressed. They should live in same-sex groups.

Chinchillas

Like hamsters, chinchillas are nocturnal so while you’re playing, they’re snoring. But once the early evening sets in they’ll be feeling sprightly so this is a great time to let them out for a run – make sure they’re supervised as they are natural explorers and love a nibble, especially electrical wires. Chinchillas are really active so they need plenty of space and asw much supervised exercise as possible. They also love shelves at different heights.

In the wild chinchillas use fine sand to keep their coats clean so offer them a dust bath for 20 minutes every day using special chinchilla dust which is large and deep enough for them to have fun rolling around without getting injured.

Chinchillas also need company of their own kind and will be much happier with a playmate and someone to snuggle up to.

Article Provided by Blue Cross for Pets

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Fleece vs. Small Pet Bedding

Posted on February 27, 2016 | 0 comments

Fleece bedding is a popular alternative to other types of small animal bedding, with not only guinea pig owners, but for other types of pocket pets such as rats. This type of bedding is wonderfully soft as well as warm and cuddly for your pets, but it must be cared for properly for it to be a good alternative to regular bedding.  

Tips For Using Fabric Bedding

1) Wash Frequently - a warm, damp environment created by urine can be the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.  Fabric bedding must be kept dry to ensure that your pet is not sitting / sleeping on bedding soaked with urine. It is advisable to use newspaper underneath the fabric to help absorb urine.  Bedding should be washed at regular intervals, every other day is a good rule of thumb as this will ensure that it stays dry and doesn't start to smell. 

2) Best Temperature for Disinfecting - bedding should be washed at a minimum of 140 degrees fahrenheit, but 194 degrees fahrenheit is better. Using a temperature that is too low will not destroy all the germs and bacteria. Remember that most disease is passed by direct contact or from living in an unsanitary environment. 

3) Best Detergent - Laundry detergent should be non-biological. Other types of detergent can cause skin irritation to pets coming in contact with fabric that has been washed in other types of detergent. Heavily perfumed detergent or fabric softner should be avoided as these can also cause skin irritation as well as respiratory problems.

4) Have Extra Bedding - If you choose to use fleece, be sure that you have plenty of extra sets so your pets do not have to sit on soiled bedding. 

We all love the beautiful cage decor that fleece gives our special pets, but this type of bedding does require additional care to ensure our furry friends live in a sanitary and comfortable environment.

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WHAT MAKES PET RATS HAPPY?

Posted on February 06, 2016 | 0 comments

Rats enjoy fresh fruit and toys in their habitats.Rats enjoy fresh fruit and toys in their habitats.

Rat and apple image by Yodanet Company from Fotolia.com

Many folks think of rats only as pests, but domesticated rats have brought joy to their owners as pets for generations. Rats are intelligent animals. They enjoy showing affection to their furry companions as well as their human ones. They're also relatively low-maintenance, needing little to stay happy.

Space

Your rat will be happy in a variety of home environments, from a used screen-top aquarium to a high-end, powder-coated rat cage with moveable shelves, as long as the habitat has a few necessary items. Rats like to move around, so a larger space is better -- plan for at least 2 square feet per rat. They like to make nests and beds, so put rat-safe materials in the cage for them to rip and gather as they see fit. Use materials such as hardwood shavings, unused paper or old blankets, although you can also buy bedding specifically designed for rats. Stay away from cedar or pine shavings, which are toxic to rats. Contrary to belief popular among those who don't own them, rats like clean environments, so clean the cage often to remove their waste. A sliding plastic drawer at the bottom of the cage can help with this.

Food

Rats tend to graze a bit, so leave laboratory blocks or pellets out most of the time, along with a drip-style water bottle that dispenses water on demand. They appreciate fresh fruits and vegetables, especially green vegetables, cooked or raw. Wash them well first, then cut them into small pieces before placing them in your rats' food bowl. Your pet might enjoy a pinch of whole-grain bread or cooked pasta on occasion.

Companionship

Rats are social animals, so once their basic needs of housing and food are met, what they need most is some loving. It's best to keep more than one rat at a time so they can keep each other company. The gender doesn't typically matter unless you're interested in breeding -- or not breeding -- although males tend to be a bit more aggressive than females. Rats bond well with their owners and often enjoy hanging out in their laps for some quality petting time, so make your rat happy by spending plenty of one-on-one time with him.

Toys

You might be your rat's favorite toy, but you can't be with him all the time. Create a labyrinth of fun in his cage with shelves, hammocks or large PVC pipes to crawl over and through. Add ladders or ramps, as well as an exercise wheel to let your rats burn off energy. Rats often love to chew, so give them unbleached cardboard items such as an empty toilet paper roll or tissue box, which does double duty as a hideout and a chew toy. Place bird toys or cat toys in the cage for added fun.

by Rob Harris, Demand Media

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The Week Before Christmas

Posted on December 07, 2015 | 0 comments

The Week Before Christmas

 

As you bolt through your home –

You check all your lists as you talk on the phone. 

 

You have wrapped all the packages and baked till you’re blue.

But you have that funny feeling there is still something to do.

 

You made a list and checked it twice

And already decided who was naughty and nice.

 

Something is nagging, but what can it be?

There are packages for everyone under the tree.

 

When out runs the dog with the cat in pursuit.

Oh No! There’s something missing from Santa's loot.

 

The fog is lifted and now it is clear.

The thing that was forgotten had just zoomed through here!

 

The dog and the cat had no presents to see.

There was nothing for them under the tree.

 

This will not do. It cannot be.

The dog and the cat must have something under the tree.

 

You run to the computer and type as fast as can be

To order some presents for under the tree.

 

When Bunny's Furr and Feathers FunPacks appears on the screen, the answer is clear.

You know what do -order the presents – they’ll soon be here.

 

The dog and the cat will have presents to see

Wonderful pet presents under the tree! 

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Thanksgiving Safety Tips for Your Pet

Posted on October 31, 2015 | 0 comments

Tis the season for friends, family and holiday feasts—but also for possible distress for our animal companions. Pets won’t be so thankful if they munch on undercooked turkey or a pet-unfriendly floral arrangement, or if they stumble upon an unattended alcoholic drink.

Check out the following tips from ASPCA experts for a fulfilling Thanksgiving that your pets can enjoy, too.

Talkin’ Turkey 
If you decide to feed your pet a little nibble of turkey, make sure it’s boneless and well-cooked. Don't offer her raw or undercooked turkey, which may contain salmonella bacteria.

Sage Advice 
Sage can make your Thanksgiving stuffing taste delish, but it and many other herbs contain essential oils and resins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression to pets if eaten in large quantities. Cats are especially sensitive to the effects of certain essential oils.

No Bread Dough 
Don't spoil your pet’s holiday by giving him raw bread dough. According to ASPCA experts, when raw bread dough is ingested, an animal's body heat causes the dough to rise in his stomach. As it expands, the pet may experience vomiting, severe abdominal pain and bloating, which could become a life-threatening emergency, requiring surgery.

Don't Let Them Eat Cake 
If you’re baking up Thanksgiving cakes, be sure your pets keep their noses out of the batter, especially if it includes raw eggs—they could contain salmonella bacteria that may lead to food poisoning.

Too Much of a Good Thing 
A few small boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie shouldn’t pose a problem. However, don't allow your pets to overindulge, as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse—an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In fact, it’s best keep pets on their regular diets during the holidays.

A Feast Fit for a Kong 
While the humans are chowing down, give your cat and dog their own little feast. Offer them Nylabones or made-for-pet chew bones. Or stuff their usual dinner—perhaps with a few added tidbits of turkey, vegetables (try sweet potato or green beans) and dribbles of gravy—inside a Kong toy. They’ll be happily occupied for awhile, working hard to extract their dinner from the toy.

Contributed by the ASPCA

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Ten Top Tips for Rat Care.

Posted on July 23, 2015 | 0 comments
  • Rats are social animals who need to have at least one rat companion.
  • Cage mates are best introduced between 5 and 9 weeks of age, before they reach maturity.
  • Rats like a cage with plenty of hidey-holes and levels that they can climb up onto.
  • Don't feed your rats treats through their cage bars or they'll get used to biting anything put through the bars like fingers. 
  • Never pick a rat up by his/her tail. Use both hands to scoop the rat up. 
  • Give them a rich environment by putting tubes, paper towels, toys, small branches, rope ladders and anything else that looks fun to climb in, on or over.
  • Feed your rats a good diet and keep unhealthy treats to a minimum. Hide food in different areas around the cage so the rats have to hunt for it.
  • Gently handle your rats on a daily basis and make it a pleasant experience for them. 
  • Rats are more active during the evenings and early mornings ? they will particularly enjoy your attention then. 
  • Be mindful of how sensitive your rats' sense of smell is. Don't over clean your rats' cage with detergents which have an over-powerful smell

Provided by ratcare.com

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Top 10 4th of July Pet Safety Tips

Posted on June 29, 2015 | 0 comments

 

By Yahaira Cespedes

 

 

 

Like many Americans, you may be planning to have a festive Fourth of July. Along with barbeques and day at the beach, no July holiday celebration would be complete without enjoying the fireworks that celebrate the birth of our nation.

 

 

 

Perhaps you are considering staying at home and planning a get-together with friends and family. Or, you may want to go check out your local professional fireworks display. While putting the finishing touches on your planned celebration, take a moment to consider your pets.

 

 

 

Unlike people, pets don’t associate the noise, flashes, and burning smell of pyrotechnics with celebrations. Pets are terrified of fireworks, and often panic at the loud whizzes and bangs they produce.

 

 

 

Because of this, the American Humane Association reports that July 5 is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters. Why? In a 2005 press release the Indiana Proactive Animal Welfare, Inc. (PAW) stated that animal shelters the day after Fourth of July are “inundated with pets that panicked at the noise of firecrackers and fled into the night, winding up lost, injured or killed.”

 

 

 

Both the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and PAW have listed ways you can prevent your holiday celebration from turning into a tragedy. Here are 10 tips on how to keep your pet from panicking this Fourth of July weekend.

 

 

 

10. Keep your Pet Indoors at All Times!

 

 

It may seem obvious, but even if your pet is used to being outside, the resulting panic caused by fireworks or other loud noises may make them break their restraint or jump a fence in a terrified attempt to find safety.

 

 

 

9. Don’t Put Insect Repellant on Your Pet that isn’t Specifically for Pet Use

 

 

The same tip applies to applying “people” sunscreen on your pet. What isn’t toxic to humans can be toxic to animals. The ASPCA lists the poisonous effects of sunscreen on your pet as, “…drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy.” DEET, a common insecticide, may cause neurological issues.

 

 

 

8. Alcoholic Drinks Poison Pets

 

 

If your pet drinks alcohol, they can become dangerously intoxicated, go into a coma, or in severe cases, die from respiratory failure. Yes, even beer is toxic; fermented hops and ethanol are poisonous to dogs and cats.

 

 

 

7. Going to a Fireworks Display? Leave Your Pet at Home

 

 

The safest place for your pet is at home, not in a crowded, unfamiliar and noisy place. The combination of too many people and loud fireworks will make your beloved pet freak out and desperately seek shelter. Locking them in the car is also not an option; your pet may suffer brain damage and heat stroke.

 

 

 

6. Have Your Pet Properly Identified

 

 

If your pet manages to break loose and become lost, without proper identification it will be that much harder to get them back. Consider fitting your pet with microchip identification, ID tags with their name and your phone number, or both. It is also a good idea to have a recent picture of your pets in case you have to put up signs.

5. Keep Your Pet Away from Glow Jewelry

 

It might look cute, but your pet could chew up and swallow the plastic adornments. The ASPCA states that while not highly toxic, “excessive drooling and gastrointestinalirritation could still result from ingestions, and intestinal blockage could occur from swallowing large pieces of the plastic containers.”

 

4. NEVER Use Fireworks Around Pets

 

While lit fireworks can pose a danger to curious pets and potentially result in severe burns and/or trauma to the face and paws, even unused fireworks can be hazardous. Some fireworks contain potentially toxic substances such as arsenic, potassium nitrate, and other heavy metals.

 

3. Don’t Give Your Pet “Table Food”

 

If you are having a backyard barbeque, you may be tempted to slip some snacks to your pet. But like beer and chocolate, there are other festive foods that could harm your pet. Onions, coffee, avocado, grapes & raisins, salt and yeast dough are all possible hazards for dogs and cats.

 

2. Lighter Fluid and Matches Are Harmful to Pets.

 

The ASPCA lists chlorates as a harmful chemical substance found in some matches that, if ingested, can cause your pet difficulty in breathing, damage blood cells or even cause kidney disease. If exposed to lighter fluid, your pet may sustain skin irritation on contact, respiratory problems if inhaled, and gastric problems if ingested.

 

1. Citronella Insect Control Products Harm Pets, Too.

 

Oils, candles, insect coils and other citronella-based repellants are irritating toxins to pets, according to the ASPCA. The result of inhalation can cause severe respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, and ingestion can harm your pet’s nervous system.

 

***

 

The safest and best bet for celebrating this Fourth of July with your pets is to exclude them from holiday festivities, at least this time around. Instead, find a safe, secure spot in the home for your pets while you go out and enjoy the loud bangs, bright lights and spectator fun. Your pets will appreciate the quiet a lot more than you’ll enjoy the noise.

 

 

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Frozen Ice Cake by danedame.com

Posted on April 27, 2015 | 0 comments

Last week we rounded up some Easy Homemade Frozen Dog Treats which included the Frozen Ice Cake for dogs. When I first saw the frozen doggy ice cake I didn’t realize there was an actual kit to make it that you could buy called the Kool Dogz Ice Treat Maker! Although the kit is pretty neat I thought it would be easy to try out on my own by just grabbing a bowl and freezing some dog toys and treats in it for an easy, fun, challenging and delicious treat!

What you’ll Need:

  • an empty ice cream bucket of sorts or a bowl
  • water
  • chicken stock (optional)
  • dog’s own toys
  • new dollar store toys for your guests dogs to take home (optional)
  • your dog’s favorite treats, carrots, small frozen pupsicles (the sky’s the limit)
  • you could also freeze a rope or stake through the ice cake for hanging or sticking in the ground to give it height
  • freezer

How To:

Throw your chosen dog toys and treats into your bucket, fill with water and a bit of chicken stock for flavour. Don’t worry if some of the toys float they will still freeze as toppings on your cake. If you’d like to hang your frozen cake for your dogs, freeze a rope in it with the end hanging outside that way you can attach it to something to make it a bit more difficult for your dogs to reach (just a caution it will be heavy, so keep safety in mind). In the case of danes, you may want to have the frozen cake at their height so you can freeze a steak of sorts in the middle of the cake (if it will fit in your freezer) to stick it in the ground with the cake propped up on top. You could also set it on a chair for them for easier access.

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