Choosing the Perfect Small Pet – Take the Quiz

IMG_6176Sometimes it is hard to find the perfect pet. They all look so cute sleeping in their hammocks, running in their wheels, or just snuggling with pals. So which critter should you take home from the pet store? The questions in this short fun quiz should help give you an idea of your small pet personality match, but remember to do additional research before making the final decision! You’ll find the best pets to suit your lifestyle in the answers section below.

1.) During my days off, you can often find me ____.

a.) Hanging out at home – whether it’s to finish the laundry or catch up on all my recorded shows!

b.) Away on a mini vacation with the family. See you Monday!

c.) Having a bunch of friends over for a cook-out. The more the merrier!

2.) How much time do I want to spend grooming my pet?

a.) As little time as possible

b.) I don’t mind a little brushing here and there

c.) I could start my own pet salon with the time I will spend grooming!

3.) How many animals do I want?

a.) Just one will do

b.) A pair of pals

c.) A whole family!

4.) I will get around to cleaning my pet’s cage ____ times a week.

a.) 1-2

b.) 2-3

c.) 5-7

5.) I prefer to _____ my pet!

a.) Cuddle with

b.) Play with

c.) Just watch

d.) Do a little of everything

IMG_3001Answers

Question 1

a.) If you’re home a lot, you can spend a lot of time playing with or just watching your pets play outside the confines of their cages. Think about ferrets, guinea pigs, rabbits, or rats. These animals love interacting with their owners!

b.) If you prefer to spend as much time away from home as possible, a highly social or active animal may not be a good choice. Think about hamsters, gerbils, or chinchillas. These little guys do well without a lot of handling, but always be sure there is plenty of food and water.

c.) Have a big family or like to have lots of parties? Think about animals that are not bothered by a lot of noise and are not spooked by kids and strangers. The social ferret will want to join in the festivities while sensitive critters like rabbits and guinea pigs won’t appreciate a lot of ruckus! Then again, keeping the pet’s cage in a private room where guests or unattended children will not be entering works well for any small pet.

Question 2

a.) Hamsters, gerbils, rats, and mice are very good at keeping themselves clean, so you will not need to brush or bathe them. They also generally will not need their nails clipped since they spend a lot of time wearing them down by digging. You can, however, offer a dust bath once and a while to hamsters and gerbils now and then!

b.) If you don’t mind the occasional grooming session, most short haired rabbits and guinea pigs will need to be brushed once a week or so to remove dead hair and knots. However, if your breed of guinea pig or rabbit has long hair, you will need to do this more often. Chinchillas need no more than a roll in the dust once or twice a week to keep clean. Rabbits and guinea pigs usually need a nail trimming once a month.

c.) If you love nothing more than pampering your pet, a long haired breed of guinea pig or rabbit will require daily brushing to keep knots from building up as well as monthly nail trimming. Ferrets will need to have their ears cleaned and nails clipped once every two weeks, and can be bathed once a month if their body oil buildup becomes too smelly to handle.

Question 3

a.) Animals that do well housed alone include hamsters, chinchillas, and rabbits, but remember they will still need attention from you and plenty of toys and activities to keep busy.

b.) Chinchillas, gerbils, mice, rabbits, and guinea pigs do well in pairs but remember to get two of the same sex animal or have your animals spayed or neutered before introducing them to prevent unwanted litters. It is usually a good idea to buy pairs of animals at the same time so they can grow up already accustomed to each other.

c.) Gerbils love company! In the wild they live in small groups dominated by one female. If you opt for gerbils, think about getting males as they do not fight for dominance as much as females do. Guinea pigs also live in groups, but females tend to get along better than males do. Rabbits in the wild will live in groups until the breeding season, when the males will fight for mating rights and the females will fight for nesting areas. If you keep bunnies, be sure to spay and neuter them to eliminate these behaviors. Rats and mice live in huge colonies together in the wild, and as long as there is ample food and space, should get along well in groups at home.

IMG_3686Question 4

a.) Small rodents, like hamsters, mice, gerbils, and rats are clean and generally do not need to have their cage totally cleaned more than once or twice a week. Remember, the more animals you keep, the more they will need their cage cleaned.

b.) Guinea pigs, rabbits, and chinchillas have constantly moving digestive systems, so you can imagine the amount of poop they make in a week! If you scoop or dump their cage pans every few days and scrub the entire thing once a week, smells and bacteria will not take over your life.

c.) Ferrets are known for being messy, and they poop a LOT. Once you get them trained, their litter pans will need to be cleaned every day or every other day and the toys, towels, and hammocks will need thrown in the laundry or the smell from their body oils will build up. Along with their grooming, if you keep up on this chore it will become a trivial task, but put it off for too long and P.U.! No one wants to spend all day scrubbing cages. If you are diligent, you won’t have to!

Question 5

a.) You can’t get any cuddlier than a rabbit or guinea pig!

b.) Ferrets and rats will go crazy for playtime…literally!

c.) Hamsters, mice, chinchillas and gerbils can entertain themselves while you watch.

d.) There is a fourth category reserved here just for….everybody! Most animals will benefit from a bit of cuddling, a bit of playtime, and a bit of just being left alone, and it will depend on the personality of your individual animal. Remember that no animal perfectly fits the mold for what the general temperament is for its species. I’ve seen social hamsters and shy ferrets. I’ve seen solitary gerbils and mellow guinea pigs. Try out all of the above activities with your pet and see what he or she prefers. Read your pet’s body language and act accordingly, and do not be offended if your normally cuddly rabbit decides he doesn’t want to be picked up today. Just watch him for now. If your ferret is all tuckered out from playing, engage in a cuddle session! Whatever pet you choose, if you respect his or her boundaries, the relationship between you will flourish!

Ten Tips to Discourage Destructive Behavior in Dogs

destructive dogsFor those of you following this blog, you may have read some of my previous posts about Gatsby, my incredibly destructive, adopted German Shepherd mix. I’d like to share some of the techniques I used to help curb Gatsby’s destructive tendencies.

If you have a destructive pet, the first thing you have to do is find the root of the behavior. Does he have separation anxiety? Is he under-stimulated? Or maybe there was a recent change in routine or environment? All of these can be common triggers of destructive dog behavior. Your ‘treatment’ of the bad behavior will depend on the cause, and you may require some professional help if you are dealing with dangerous or extreme destruction in your home.
Read More »

Dog Friendly Vacation Destinations – the Mid-Atlantic

dog on surfboardSummer is swiftly approaching and many of our readers may be looking for dog-friendly vacation spots. Read on for a list (which is by no means is comprehensive) of pet friendly stops near Central PA. Whether you’re looking to spend a few days hiking the trails with your furry friend or just a day trip in the summer sun your family is bound to enjoy these fun summer destinations.

Cape Henlopen State Park – Located on the Delaware seashore you can take Fluffy for a dip on non-lifeguarded beaches as long she is kept on a leash 6 ft or shorter. No dogs are permitted on the lifeguarded beaches, sailboarding beaches or shorebird nesting areas during peak season (May 1- September 30). Read More »

Balanced Diet – Feeding Guinea Pigs and Rabbits

As popular as these pets are, understanding the proper diet of our guinea pigs and rabbits is often cause for confusion, especially in first time owners. I thought it would be beneficial to compose a break down of the foods required of guinea pigs and rabbits for the overall health of these fuzzy little eating machines!

Hays and Grasses

Pellets used to be the main (if not the only) food offered to guinea pigs and rabbits. Studies have shown however, that feeding only pellets can affect the health of the animal. Rabbits and guinea pigs are grazing animals that spend a lot of their day eating. So why aren’t they all round as watermelons? The grasses and shrubs that these animals feed on in the wild are very low in nutrition, so they must eat a lot of them to obtain the amount of nutrients needed each day. Since this grazing behavior is instinctive, our furry friends from the pet store continue to eat all day long just like their wild cousins, except captive animals are eating nutrient-concentrated pellets that can cause obesity if consumed in large amounts. This is why the main diet of any guinea pig or rabbit should be hay, primarily Timothy Hay, which is closest to what they would be feeding on in the wild. Large handfuls of hay every day will help keep your pet in grazing mode which will aid in alleviating boredom, wearing down teeth, and keeping the weight off. You can also occasionally offer Brome, Orchard Grass, Meadow Mix, and Alfalfa to mix things up. Fresh grasses from the yard are also OK (in small amounts) as long as the grass is collected from an area free of pesticides, runoff and pet waste. Be sure the picked grasses do not contain wild mushrooms or berries, and rinse it thoroughly before giving to your pets. Read More »

Litter Box Training for Newbies – The Basics

Most cat owners know the ins and outs of their cat’s litter box habits. When I got my first cat, I didn’t have a clue how to teach her to use the litter box. Here are some helpful hints and suggestions to jump start your litter box training and keep them from relieving themselves in your potted plants!  Read More »

Unsung Heroes – Remembering Military Service Dogs on Memorial Day

My eyes are your eyes, to watch and protect you and yours. My ear are your ears to hear and detect evil minds in the dark. My nose is your nose to scent the invader of your domain. And so you may live, my life is also yours.”

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Reese and his military working dog GrekThese words, by an unknown author, are the referred to as the K-9 Promise.  They are inscribed on many of the memorials and tributes dedicated to War Dogs and K-9 units across our nation – memorials created to remember the thousands of canines who served with American handlers in all branches of the U.S. Military and in all wars foreign and domestic.  When you remember servicemen who have given their lives for their country this Memorial Day, remember that many who returned home may owe their lives to these four-pawed heroes and friends. Read More »

Small Pets for Your Children – Choosing His or Her First Pet- Part 3

Leopard GeckoI want to conclude this look at popular first pets for kids with two common reptiles chosen for children and a word on setting up a child’s first aquarium. Though they may not be fuzzy and cuddly like other animals, these pets can be very fun and interesting for children and they can be terrific options for kids with allergies or those that like to look more than to touch. Read More »

A 140 Pound Guinea Pig?…Capybaras and other “Zoo Pets”

Life as a zookeeper provided me with countless unforgettable experiences.  I place rearing orphaned mammals – creatures I never expected to see up close, much less handle – right at the top of my list.  I’ve had the great fortune to have raised a number of species (i.e. Snow Leopards, Gorillas, Wolves, Red Pandas), but it is the good-natured Capybara that I remember most fondly.

Observations in Venezuela

Largest of the world’s rodents, Capybaras inhabit river edges and flooded grasslands from Panama to northern Argentina.  Quite common on a cattle ranch in the Venezuelan llanos where I was involved in Green Anaconda research (please see Hunting Anacondas in the Venezuelan Llanos), I was able to spend a great deal of time observing them.

Near the ranch buildings, they were quite tame, even wandering through open doors on occasion.  The Capybaras that lived further out on the llanos, however, were entirely different creatures.  Their meat is considered a delicacy, and they have learned to charge headfirst into the water, uttering their strange “barks”, upon sighting people.

A Capybara Ruins my Film…

The Capybara is a highly social animal.  Females are very protective of their

young (I’ve seen them stand between intruders and their litter on many occasions), and the dominant male will try to hold off a threat while his harem flees.

Well, not always…while explaining this very behavior during the filming of a sequence on Capybaras, I was made to look foolish by a male who considered chivalry quite dead.  Approaching a group by boat and with my back to the Capybaras, I rambled on about the male’s soon-to-be-seen valor.  Noticing my colleagues laughing hysterically, I turned to see him disappearing into the brush, leaving his females and offspring unprotected and confused!

Capybaras as “Pets”

Baby Capybaras, or “Chiguires”, as they are known in Venezuela, are often taken in and raised until their care becomes too much of a burden (multiply your Guinea Pig’s droppings a thousand-fold, add the need for a pond, and you’ll see why they are not ideal house pets!).  After that, they are kept at semi-liberty – feeding largely on their own but returning to their adopted families regularly.  On many Venezuelan ranches, Jaguar, Puma, Caiman and Anacondas render life dangerous for a solitary Capybara unschooled in the ways of the wild, and I imagine that some meet their end when they wander too far afield.

I cannot recommend a Capybara as a pet – their teeth are not to be believed, and throughout their range stories persist of hunters and horses killed by bites that severed leg arteries.  And no matter how well adjusted, any wild animal remains wild – those that become very calm are in a sense all the more dangerous, as it is easy to forget that they are not domesticated.  However, cared for in a zoo setting, by well-experienced keepers, Capybaras make ideal animals for use in educational programs.  They are just as responsive as their cousins, the Guinea Pigs, and readily bond to people who care for them…and it’s hard to put into words the looks on the faces of children when a “tame” Capybara enters the classroom!

Learning More

If you are interested in working with wild mammals, consider becoming a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator.  Learn more here.

I was surprised to learn that a small population of Capybaras – released pets, no doubt – thrives in northern Florida.  For more info, please see this article.

 

Barks and Bites – Pets and Snake Encounters

I love being outdoors. Walking, hiking, gardening, exploring, I do it all and it’s usually with at least one dog to accompany me. My pets and I can become pretty oblivious as we meander through grassy meadows and majestic forests as we try to take it all in. But, as we wander, it’s important to keep potential dangers to pets (and to yourself) in mind to avoid what could be a fatal encounter – particularly encounters with one of the various venomous snakes native to North America. I don’t believe that snakes are malicious or evil creatures, and I know that they won’t seek me or my dog out to attack, but the thought of a chance meeting in a remote field or woodland can be a distinct possibility when you explore the wild. In such a situation it pays to be informed. Read More »

Flea and Tick Treatments – Use Caution

Spring has (finally) arrived and fleas have returned along with it. You may have heard recently in the news that there has been an increase of the number of adverse reactions to over-the-counter “spot on” flea and tick treatments. The EPA has taken notice and they are starting to take action.

What was the problem?

Flea and tick preventative maintenance is an important part of your pet’s health. Small dogs and cats were the most likely to be affected by spot-on flea treatmentsIt’s important to safe guard your pet against pests that can carry deadly diseases like Lyme disease. However, it is also important to remember that these medications are still pesticides and should be handled with care. The EPA found that some dogs, usually smaller breeds, and cats could have potentially harmful reactions to spot-on flea and tick treatments. Reactions ranged from skin irritation to more severe medical conditions like seizures, and in a few cases, even death.  Most of the reactions were caused by “overdose” or using too much of the topical product for the size of the pet. Reactions in cats were typically the result of exposure to a dog- specific formula, either accidentally or through incorrect usage of the product.  While the EPA mainly investigated “spot-on” flea and tick treatments, they recommend using caution with all flea and tick products, including shampoos, collars, and sprays/powders.

What are they going to do to solve it?

To reduce the number of reactions and eliminate misuse of the products, the EPA is now enforcing tighter restrictions on ingredients and pursuing labeling changes and guidelines. The most significant change they are suggesting is making more dose sizes available. Instead of 3 different sizes of the medication, there might be 5, introducing a narrower pet weight range per medication.  They are also pushing to make the packaging vastly different on dog and cat products to eliminate confusion, and other labeling changes to eliminate confusion. The EPA is also going to start requiring clinical trials and observations on new formulas.

What can I do to ensure my pets’ safety?

Consult your vet. Find out which brand they recommend for your pets and situation. This is extremely Look for alternative methods of flea and tick erradicationimportant if your pet is weak, elderly, sick, on medication, pregnant or nursing. You should also carefully read all instructions before applying flea and tick treatments, especially if you have not used the product before. When purchasing a flea and tick treatments be sure to know the current weight of your pets to select the correct product.

There are some precautions you can take to help control your pet’s exposure to fleas and ticks, too. Vacuuming regularly and washing both you and your pet’s bedding regularly can help to prevent populations from establishing in your house. You can alter your yard to be less tick-friendly and discourage deer from visiting.

See the EPA’s article on taking care of fleas and ticks on your pet for more information on safety and what to do if you suspect your pet is having a reaction to flea and tick medication.

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