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 »
Adopt from a Shelter There are so many unwanted animals already in the world waiting for loving homes. Bring home one of these loveable mutts rather than opting for a purebred dog – who was born and raised purely for profit.
Donate Clean out your closets, but before you toss away any old towels, leashes, or toys call your local animal shelter to see if they are in need of donations. You would be surprised by the variety of stuff shelters are in need of (even old computer equipment)! Read More »
The African Pygmy Mouse (Mus minutoides) is a charming little rodent suitable for those with some mammal-keeping experience…please see Part 1 of this article for more on its care and natural history.
Pygmy Mice burrow in the wild – provide yours with 3-4 inches of pine shavings into which they can dig. They will construct enclosed nests, often shared by several individuals, of dry grass or pet nesting material.
Self-constructed burrows are preferable to plastic caves or nest boxes. Pygmy Mice have high metabolisms – condensation from respiration can build up on shelter walls, causing a damp, unhealthy situation (this helps them gather water in the wild – please see Part 1). Read More »
At first glance, providing farmers with Karakachans, Kangals and other large, aggressive dogs might not seem an ideal conservation strategy. However, biologists based in Bulgaria and Namibia are doing just that – and both farmers and wildlife are reaping the benefits.
Why Use Dogs at All?
Farmers who use dogs to protect their flocks do not need to rely upon poison, which has for decades been the predator-control method of choice. Poison-laced-bait kills “target species” such as leopards, bears and other large predators as well as rodents, vultures and smaller animals. When the poisoned creature itself dies, scavengers that feed upon its corpse may in turn become victims. Read More »
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 »
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 »
Often, as I am observing owners and their dogs I notice that the owners ask for a particular behavior several times before the dog offers it. For example, you ask Fido to sit. He doesn’t immediately sit, so you say it again, “sit”, only to again repeat yourself until Fido actually sits. In such cases, what he has learned is that the command is not just “sit”, but he thinks it is “sit sit sit, Fido, sit”. We’re often frustrated by his apparent lack of obedience, wondering why the dog is choosing not to listen to us. In reality, he’s just plain confused. Without a clear-taught command, he doesn’t know what you are asking him to do! Read More »
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!
Cat owners quickly notice how closely their pets’ behavior follows that of their wild relatives…in fact, Domestic Cats are classified by many mammalogists as a subspecies of the Wildcat. Recent research has shed light on the Domestic Cat’s true ancestor and its original time and place of domestication.
Domestic Cats slide seamlessly from indoor to outdoor life, and their adaptability amazes biologists who study feral populations. Those living in one Australian desert never encounter standing water, yet get along quite well; a group shipwrecked on Marion Island, off the tip of South America, thrives in the shadow of Antarctica – further south than any other non-marine mammal!
Adaptability has helped the 5 subspecies of the Wildcat (Felis sylvestris) to survive in habitats ranging from Chinese deserts to African village outskirts (please see map).
Domestication Theory Overturned
The Near Eastern or African Wildcat (please see photo) has commonly been credited as the ancestor of the Domestic Cat. Because of its prominence in ancient Egyptian culture, it was believed that Wildcats were the first domesticated there. Based on archaeological studies, the time of domestication was given as approximately 4,000 years ago.
The discovery of a 9,500 year-old apparently Domestic Cat in a tomb in Cyprus set the domestication date much further back in time. Wildcats are not native to Cyprus – the animal is believed to be a Near Eastern Wildcat, taken there by people from Turkey (please see article below).
Each of the 5 Wildcat subspecies – the European, Near Eastern, South African, Central Asian and Chinese Desert – interbreed among themselves and with feral Domestic Cats, so the ancestor of our pets could have been any of these. Advances in genetic studies, however, has now given us a definitive answer.
Researchers at the US National Cancer Institute and the University of Oxford analyzed DNA from all 5 Wildcat subspecies, and determined that the Near Eastern Wildcat (Felis sylvestris lybica) gave rise to the modern day Domestic Cat, and that the site of original domestication, some 10,000 years ago, was in the area known as the “Fertile Crescent”, in what is now Iraq.
This finding coincides nicely with other evidence. The cat’s association with people came when grains were first being cultivated and stored…the cat’s prowess as a rodent killer would have made it a welcome guest. Interestingly, Near Eastern Wildcat kittens are relatively easy to tame and even today they often reside near people and interbreed with Domestic Cats. Not so with all Wildcats – colleagues of mine contend that the European Wildcat (please see photo) is impossible to tame, even when bottle-raised!
What is a Domestic Cat?
The traditional definition of a species is the ability to mate and produce fertile young – Domestic Cats do so with all Wildcat subspecies. Many taxonomists, therefore, classify the Domestic Cat as a Wildcat subspecies, Felis sylvestris catus, rather than as a distinct species (F. catus).
The odd appearance of a young Bobcat I once trapped led me to believe that one of its parents was a Domestic Cat, but experts are split on this possibility – more on that in the future.
Leopard Cat/Domestic Cat hybrids are popular pets; read more here.
European Wildcat image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Aconcagua
African Wildcat image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Sonelle
As we enter the cold and flu season for humans, we can sometimes forget that our pets can become sick, too. Canine influenza has become more and more prevalent over the past few years and can be devastating to some of our companions. So what is a loving pet owner to do? How can you boost your dog or cat’s immune system? With just a few simple changes in diet and behavior can build your pet’s immunity and general wellness. Read More »