Seasoned small animal owners tend to bicker over the smallest of details when it comes to the care of their pet. From food to free time, no one seems to agree on just one thing. When it comes to bedding though, there seems to be an all out war over which is best. As a small pet owner, I’ve used just about every variety of bedding on the market, and even I get confused sometimes. One will claim to have the best odor control, but it’s really dusty. Another will be softer and cuddlier for your pet sleep in, but it smells bad even when it’s clean. There is no perfect small animal bedding…but, there is probably be one that is best for your particular situation. There are pros and cons to all the small animal bedding types available. Here’s my break down on what to expect from the most popular types available. Read More »
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Ferret Owners Beware – a Fatal Disease Common in Unmated Females
Female Domestic Ferrets that are not allowed to breed often contract a life-threatening disease known as Estrus-Associated Aplastic Anemia. Spaying your Ferret before she enters her first estrus cycle (the period during which she can become pregnant, also known as “heat”) is the best defense against this and other reproductive disorders.
A Unique Breeding Strategy
Ferrets and other members of the family Mustelidae (weasels, mink, otters and related species) have evolved a unique reproductive strategy known as induced ovulation. Unlike most mammals, female Ferrets do not ovulate (release eggs so that they may be fertilized) until the act of mating has occurred. Read More »
Animal Oddities – The Jackalope Disease
There is an old myth of a creature that roams the plains, a crazy lookin’ cryptid that rolls with the tumbleweeds through the frontier of the southwestern United States. It is only caught by the eyes of a fellow who’s been smiled on by Lady Luck, but it is well known by even those who’ve never been to the southwest. This wily critter has the body of the rabbit, but the antlers of the antelope. It’s been said that its milk is like medicine and its meat like lobster. It is best lured out by using whisky as bait, but it can mimic human voices in order to elude pesky hunters. Sometimes it has been known to be dangerous if cornered! This, my friends, is the jumpin’ jackalope! Or is it?? Read More »
Small Pet Health – Wet-Tail in Hamsters
We like to keep our little pets as happy and healthy as possible, but as with our own health there are some common illnesses that can occur despite our efforts to keep them away. Wet-tail describes a common illness found to affect most rodents, but it affects hamsters more often than others, as they seem to be the most susceptible to it. The symptoms of this illness include diarrhea (characterized by a wet tail area, hence the name), a bad odor, lack of appetite, unkempt appearance (from the hamster not cleaning itself), a hobbling walk with a hunched back, and an almost total lack of energy, though this is not to be confused with a hamster’s normal daytime sleep schedule. Read More »
Keeping and Breeding the African Pygmy Mouse – Part 1
The African Pygmy Mouse (Mus minutoides) is a delightful little creature that is sometimes available in the US pet trade. Its care differs slightly from that of its giant (by mouse standards!) cousin the House Mouse, but experience with House or Fancy Mice will be very useful should you decide to give these diminutive fellows a try.
Note: Be sure to check local laws before purchasing an exotic rodent, and ask your doctor if there are any health issues to consider. All animal bites and scratches, however minor, should be attended to by a physician. Read More »
Pets as Presents – Things to Do Before You Adopt an Animal as a Gift
The holidays are approaching and its time to go shopping! Around this time of year people come to That Fish Place – That Pet Place to begin scoping out pet possibilities for their kids. Nothing would please a little boy or girl more than to open up a box on Christmas morning to find that Santa has left them a real live animal for being so good all year! But what Santa (and parents!) need to remember is that an animal should be treated differently than most presents. Here is a checklist I’ve composed for prospective live gift givers to review before presenting a pet as a gift.
Is it OK with Mom and Dad?
Countless times right after Easter and Christmas I see animals being returned or surrendered to us because “Aunt Shirley” decided it would be nice to present her nephew with a living surprise without checking to see if it was OK with his family first. Most of the time, this happens because Mom and Dad simply were not ready or willing to take care of an animal they hadn’t been expecting. Although Aunt Shirley meant well, she should have discussed it with her nephew’s parents to make sure they also wanted a new pet to feed and care for in their house. Doing this would have spared everyone a lot of heartaches and headaches!
Have you done your research?
Never buy an animal on a whim and expect its young owner to know just what to do. Read, go online, and talk to employees at the pet store to make sure you are picking the right animal for your child and that you will be able to give it everything it needs to be happy and healthy.
Will the child be able to properly care for this animal?
Very young children may promise they will do all the work, but let’s face it; the job usually falls to Mom or Dad. Make sure the child will take an active role in the care of their pet before giving them one for Christmas, and make sure Mom and Dad won’t mind picking up the slack.
Do you have a plan for the animal before Christmas Day?
Animals cannot be kept in the box they came home in from the pet store all night long. Most of them will chew their way out before morning or their urine will possibly burn a hole through the box or cause them to get respiratory problems from breathing in the fumes all night. If you decide to pick up the animal on Christmas Eve or sooner, make sure you have a cage or a temporary set-up complete with food, water, and shelter until Christmas morning.
Did you put holes in the box?
This may seem obvious, but I have heard painful stories of animals being found suffocated after only a few minutes in an airtight box. If you are going to wrap the cage or box with the animal in it at the last minute before the child wakes up Christmas morning, be sure there are breathing holes in the box.
Do you have all the supplies ready along with the new pet?
Nothing is worse than opening up a new toy and realizing there are no batteries included with it. The same goes for a new pet. What good is your pet gerbil if you can’t put him in his new cage and watch him play right away! Be prepared to gift a cage, accessories, food, and bedding along with the new pet.
Do you have a “Safe Zone” for the new pet?
Holidays are hectic stressful times for pets and people alike, and it will be much worse for a brand new animal in a brand new home. Once the excitement has worn down over the opening of the live gift, place the animal in its cage and move it to a “safe zone” — a quiet room where friends, relatives, and other pets will not be able to bother it. It may be tempting for your child to parade around showing Grandma and Grandpa the new bunny she’s gotten, but for the bunny, this is a very scary experience! The best way to make a good impression on a new pet is to respect its boundaries and give it time to adjust to a new home. Save show-and-tell for another day, when the animal has had more time to adjust to his new home.
Have you considered gifting the supplies first?
Since the holidays are so hectic, it’s a good idea to buy the cage and accessories first and have your child open these on Christmas morning instead of a box with a live animal in it. First of all, this will keep things from getting too crazy what with setting up the animal in its cage and keeping intrigued relatives at bay. Second of all, this will extend the excitement for the child because now she has a chance to pick out her new animal and can look forward to going to the pet store the next day to get her REAL gift! And then she gets to pick out what she likes best without you having to guess which color or personality type she would prefer beforehand.
Will you commit to the gift?
This happens more with rabbits and chicks over Easter, but I’ve seen it happen with other animals at Christmas too. Sometimes families believe it is okay to get their son or daughter a baby animal to raise for a while with plans to get rid of it as soon as it is older or the weather gets nice. I have a big problem with this! First of all, you cannot always guarantee to find a home for your adult animal when you are ready to get rid of it and sadly, this sometimes results in animals being released into the wild or dumped on a farm somewhere. Secondly, this is teaching children that once something becomes too big, old, or expensive to care for, it is okay to abandon it. Owning a pet throughout its entire life is an educational and enriching experience that will help children learn about life and responsibility. If you plan on getting your kids a pet for Christmas, be prepared to care for that animal until the day it dies. Pets need proper housing, food, and veterinary care, and if you ever find yourself in a predicament that makes it impossible to continue providing these things for your animal make sure you have a suitable plan to re-home that animal with someone who can. Pets are not temporary. They are for life.
With all this in mind, try to enjoy preparing to bring a new pet into the family at Christmas time. Planning ahead will make things much easier, and it can be a warming experience to see that look in your child’s eye one he or she realizes you finally said yes to that pet they’ve been wanting so bad! Adding a new member to the family is a wonderful experience if done properly, so be smart, be safe, and always keep the animal’s best interests in mind. Happy Holidays!
A Hamster by Any Other Name (is still a Syrian Hamster)
Recently, I was approached by a woman in the mammal room. She asked me if we had “Black Bear” hamsters available for sale. I explained that some of the hamsters we have in the room were indeed black. The patron insisted that what she was looking for was a special breed of hamster, that were bigger and made better pets. She appeared rather annoyed that I didn’t seem to know what she was talking about.
Knowing this story all too well, and having heard it several times before, I was forced to politely explain that the “black bears” are not a different breed, just a plain old Syrian that happens to be black. She simply fell victim to a clever marketing strategy lots of pet stores use, naming hamsters and other pets in cute,clever ways to make them more appealing to unsuspecting customers.
The woman looked thoroughly surprised.
“You’re kidding! I paid $25 for the last one I had, and the pet store swore it was some kind of new and improved breed!”
The reality is that the five main types of hamsters sold in pet stores are the Cambell’s Dwarves (also known as Siberian or Russian Dwarves), Winter Whites, Chinese, Roborovskis, and Syrians. The most popular and largest pet hamster is the Syrian, but very few pet stores actually label them as such. They can be called anything the pet store wants to call them: Common, Golden, Black Bear, Teddy Bear, Angora, Honey Bear, Panda, European, Sable, or just plain Fancy. No matter what you call them, all these hamsters are all the same species.
Many hamster breeders and pet stores may claim to have developed a breed of hamster that is supposed to be healthier, friendlier, or larger than “regular” hamsters. In actuality, they breed Syrians for color (or even just pick that color out of a litter of several different colors) and give them nicknames that may be more enticing to consumers. Often the new title allows these animals to be advertised at higher prices, too.
In our small animal room, we often get requests for certain “breeds” of hamsters and it often takes some convincing about temperament, size, and rarity of said breed. I explain that we carry a variety of colors and patterns within our hamster selection that could technically be labeled in all sorts of exotic ways, but we choose the more generic term “Fancy” to avoid confusion. It seems to be quite a shock to those who’d been out on a desperate hunt for the one “rare breed” their child just has to have. All along they could have picked a perfectly good solid black hamster under the label of “Fancy” for half the price of what some other pet stores charge. Don’t be fooled, a hamster by any other name can still be just as sweet!
The common Syrian Hamster is the most common pet hamster on the market today, known for coming in many colors and patterns, in both long and short hair types. This hamster prefers living alone and can make a good companion for children and adults as long as it is handled gently and with regularity. An adult hamster will reach about 7 inches long and live anywhere from 2-4 years if given proper care. And of course, all hamsters enjoy a running wheel, chew toys, and plenty of tubing and hide-outs to explore and rest in. Hamsters can be great pets for the right person, no matter what the name.
Cruelty-Free Shopping – Finding Products that were not Tested on Animals
Animal enthusiasts often ask if there is any way to be sure that the cosmetics, personal care items and household goods they purchase have not been tested on animals. While many companies make these claims (sales usually rise in response), recent scandals have revealed that abuses abound.
Unfortunately, in the US, legal standards that must be met before the label “no animals were harmed” can be attached to a product do not exist. Frequently, distributors make such claims even though many of the product’s ingredients were tested on animals – after all, they reason, the seller itself did not test the final product on animals! Sad but true.
A group known as the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics was formed in response to the lack of effective laws and guidelines in this area. Many of the world’s best-known animal welfare organizations, including the 10.5 million-member Humane Society of the USA, are actively involved in its operation.
The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) inspects companies that wish to be certified as “cruelty-free”. In order to qualify, a company must prove that neither it nor any of its ingredient suppliers utilize animals for research. So, for example, if 2 dozen chemicals go into the making of a kitchen cleaner, the suppliers of all 2 dozen chemicals must utilize non-animal testing methods. In addition, all products carried by the company seeking certification must live up to the same standard.
Those passing the CCIC’s rigorous inspection are entitled to display the group’s “Leaping Bunny Logo” (please see photo). This symbol, which is used in the USA, Canada, Great Britain and the European Union, is widely-recognized as evidence that animals are not used in product testing. As of now, it is one of the few ways that a consumer can be absolutely certain of this fact (cosmetics testing on animals is banned in the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK; the European Union is in the process of following suit, but there are legal challenges).
How Consumers can Help
Animal welfare groups are growing in strength and influence, as more and more people become deeply affected by the plight of animals that are injured in the name of better eye creams and such.
The CCIC now provides support to stores that stock “cruelty-free” products. It also supplies information to consumers and sample letters for folks wishing to encourage stores and companies to deal only in products that have not been tested on animals. CCIC has also created an app for Iphone and Android users, where you can look up product information by barcode while shopping. Take the leap, and go cruelty-free, today.
Animal Shelter Volunteers – Having Fun While Helping Creatures In Need
Animal fans often have difficulty finding hands-on animal work, and most animal shelters are underfunded and cannot hire enough help. Volunteering at a shelter is, therefore, a win-win situation….as most who have volunteered at anything will attest, the helper benefits as much as the “helped”.
Typical Volunteer Duties
Hands-on animal work at shelters may involve walking, grooming or bathing dogs, cleaning cages and preparing food. Many volunteers find interacting with dogs, parrots, cats and other animals in need of human contact to be a very pleasurable aspect of their experience. In doing so, they make the residents’ stay more pleasant, and fulfill their desire for close contact with a variety of creatures.
People with other skills can often help out in office work, fund-raising or educational programs. Read More »
Pets and Disney – How Animated Movies Effect the Pet Trade
Like most people of my generation, I was raised on Disney. The characters, theme parks and merchandise were and are still part of my life. I’ve probably seen every one of their animated films at least twice. You could even go so far as to call us Disney nuts! When I come to work each day, I am reminded of how Disney has and continues to influence generations of children, their parents and grandparents, especially with some of the more recent movies. Animals have always been the main or supporting characters in Disney animation. These endearing characters tend to sway families towards new pets. You can bet that if an animal was recently featured in a popular kid’s movie, those animals are sure to be in high demand in the pet trade. While they fuel interest in the animals and bring revenue to the industry, the films can be detrimental to the well being of the animals. It is important to remember that the fun and cuddly critters on the big screen may not necessarily be true representatives of the animals they represent. Read More »