Saturday, March 22, 2014
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Guinea pigs need vitamin C daily. Here is a great way to ensure yours gets enough. As a supplement to regular food, serve no more than once a day. If fruit isn't very juicy, add 1 tsp (5 mL) juice.
- 4 strawberries, chopped (or 1 kiwifruit, peeled and chopped)
- 4 tsp (18 mL) unsweetened pure cranberry juice, or 100% pure orange juice
- 1 cup (250 mL) chopped romaine lettuce, or leaf lettuce (not iceberg)
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh parsley sprigs
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped carrots
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped sweet red peppers, or green peppers
Your rats will be spending a lot of time in their cages. You need to add accessories that will make your rats comfortable and secure. Another very important reason to provide cage accessories is to keep them occupied. It has been proven that mental stimulation actually can increase intelligence.
Fortunately there are many ways to outfit a rat cage to turn it into a comfortable and interesting environment using both home made and store bought items. When shopping at the pet stores check out the accessories for other animals besides rats such as ferrets, chinchillas, birds, etc. Even the local hardware store and the dollar store can be a source of cage accessories. Creativity is the key to setting up a happy and safe environment for your rats.
Beds and NestsRats spend quite a bit of time sleeping and lounging around. Warm cozy beds and lofty sleeping spots are both equally important for your rat.
Warm and cozy bedsYou will need to provide your rat with a nest box that he can hide in to sleep. You can find items at the pet store such as large igloos, chinchilla bathhouses, roll-a-nest beds, ferret ball connectors, roll-a-nest balls, and log cabin homes among others. On a more creative side you can use plastic bowls turned upside down with a large hole drilled in it, 4” PVC pipe, sturdy cardboard boxes, and even plastic storage boxes with holes notched into them. There are many possibilities.
Once you have the bed/s provide your rat with material that he can make a nest with. Some rats are very avid nest builders and will enjoy setting up their beds. Some good suggestions are non-stringy fabric, CareFRESH bedding, shredded paper, paper towels. Etc.
Be sure to change the nesting material often. Ammonia resulting from urine can be harmful to the rat especially in a small confined area such as a nesting bed.
Lofty loungesRats love to get up high off the ground. This is one of the reasons that so many companies and individuals are offering hammocks, soft sleeping tubes, and hanging hideaways. Hammocks are a must for a rat cage. They come in many sizes and styles. You can purchase cozy fleece lined hammocks, ones with pockets, or lightweight lounge hammocks. Many pet stores offer ferret cage accessories, these can be used and are particularly good for larger rats. One of the advantages to having a wire cage is that it provides a good place where you can hang these versatile beds.
Making your own hammocks and soft tubes is easy. If you sew it is possible to really go all out and design fancy ones. If you aren’t able to sew you can fashion hammocks out of towels, scrap fabric, cloth place mats, cloth diapers, or old clothes. Tubes can be fashioned from pant legs cut off and hung within the cage.
Home made hammocks and soft tubes can be hung with safety pins, diaper pins, grommets, chains, hooks, or any other method that holds them secure. Lining the hammock or soft tube with a towel after it is hung will allow you to change the surface without having to change out the hammock in-between cleanings.
Hard tubes can be bought in the ferret section. These tubes connect and hang with chains. They come in different colors and are transparent so that you can view the rat. PVC pipe and drainage pipe will also work and can be drilled and hung..
ToysRats just want to have fun so provide them with things to play with. The best toy they will have, of course, is you. Interaction, hand wrestling, training and play time out of their cage with you are the most important activities that your rats can have. During the times that you are not around though, other toys will make the rat’s life more fun.
WheelsAn exercise wheel is a great cage accessory if your rat will use it. Typically females are more inclined to be wheel runners, but that isn’t always the case. Some males will use them, too.
Be sure to provide only a non wire wheel to prevent injury such as the plastic Wodent Wheel or one of the solid metal type wheels.
Treat ToysTreat toys are always a big hit. You can find toys that hold treats at your pet store such as hanging treat balls, the Bunny Ka-Bob, Boredom Busters, the Pick-a-Peanut, and the Bounce Back Pet Rat toy.
For a simple home made treat toy you can put treats in a small cardboard box and watch as your rats busily demolish it to get their treat. You can also attach fruit or hard treats with holes drilled into them to a large binder ring and attach it to the side of the cage.
ClimbingRats love to climb. You can outfit your cage with such things as ladders, ropes, wooden bird branches, and climbing tubes. You will find many good climbing toys in the ferret and bird department of the pet store. Take care to not use climbing toys in the cages of elderly or ill rats.
Digging BoxesIn the wild rats forage and dig. Giving them a digging box is a safe way to let them indulge in this natural behavior.
To create a digging box all you need is a plastic box, such as a litter box for cats or a low plastic storage box, and a bag of sterile potting soil. Make sure the soil has no fertilizers or other additives.
You can add seeds to grow oat grass, wheat grass, millet, rye, or even use birdseed. Add enough moisture to grow the grass, but not enough to cause fungus or mold growth. Assorted rocks and a PVC tunnel partially buried create an even more interesting environment. For fun you can hide treats in the digging box for your rat.
Your rats digging box can either be in or outside of the cage. If you leave it in the cage you will have to clean it and replace the soil regularly.
Cage FlooringIf your floors are made from wire mesh you should cover most, if not all, of the floor with something to protect your rats’ feet. Too often rats get sprains or breaks from getting their feet caught in the cage floor. Having a floor that wire spacing is ½” x ½” will help to reduce injury. The other problem with wire floors is that it can aggravate bumble foot if your rat is predisposed to it.
There are many good options for making the cage floors safe. One very good one is linoleum (non-glued for easy cleaning) cut to the size of the floor. It cleans easily and looks attractive. Other floor covering options are placemats (cloth or plastic, needlepoint canvas, and non-stick rubber shelf liner.
Cardboard, plywood, and carpet are all poor flooring choices. These are too hard to keep clean and can not be wiped down.
Feeding & Water BottlesRats are free feeders and require a constant supply of food. Food dishes need to be heavy and low so that they can not be spilled. Two other options are food dishes that mount to the side of the cage and food hoppers that dispense food. Any wet or perishable food should go in a separate food dish.If you have rats that stash their food be sure to not overfeed them and remove any perishable food before they begin to decompose.
Water is the most important thing your rat needs. Always make sure that clean water is available. Do not put water in an open bowl. Your rat will either tip it over or fill it up with bedding. There are several good types of water bottles. Most mount on the outside of the cage with a sipper tube that fits in-between the bars. If your rats have an open cage it may be necessary to protect the top of the plastic water bottles from chewers. You can do this by putting an empty can or a small plastic bowl over the top of it.
Multiple water bottles are a good idea so that if one bottle leaks or is empty they will still have another to drink from. When using an aquarium you can get a water bottle holder that hangs from the side of the cage and protects the water bottle from chewing. Always make sure that the bottle’s seal or gasket is in place and that the bottle does not drip. Be sure to clean and sanitize the bottle thoroughly each week.
Shelves & LedgesRats enjoy multiple levels in their cages. A few products that can add levels are movable bird platforms, hanging baskets, and level sized ferret hammocks. Ferret tubes connected together can be attached to the side (both inside and out) or top of the cage and used as a way to get from one platform to the next. You can also cut coated wire shelving to size and attach it to the cage using wire ties.
Another good idea is to use wire baskets. The tiered baskets that hold fruit can be suspended from the center of a large open cage. For smaller cages wire baskets can be attached with cable ties.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Salt Licks for Rabbits
A very common question people ask of me when they purchase a New Pet Rabbit from Pet Rabbit Ridge is, "Does my new pet rabbit need a salt lick to help them stay healthy?"
With this question in mind, I decided to do a little research on the subject so I could make an informed decission on the subject... When you annalize the ingredients found in common small animal Salt Licks, you will find that the vast majority of the ingredients is mineral based with only a small percentage of sodium or "Salt" in the product you choose.
I always recommend that you give your rabbit a balanced diet by using a top quality Pellet Feed such as Nutrena Brand Naturewise Rabbit Pellets. This will insure your new pet's overall health above anything else you can do. The ingredients in this type of feed meets or exceeds your rabbit's nutritional needs, so there is really no need to use a Salt Lick as well...
If you are the type person that insists on giving your pet rabbit an all natural diet with fresh vegetables every day, you may want to invest in a small salt lick to place in your pets cage near the watering system to provide the extra minerals and nutrients they may be missing in their diet, but the main reason for the Salt Lick is the minerals it contains and not the salt...
To maintain a healthy diet for your new pet rabbit, I recommend using natural foods such as celery, apples, carrots and even fresh garden greens as treats to be used a couple of times a week... Pellet feeds are formulated with all the vitamins and minerals your rabbit really needs to lead a long and healthy life, but an occasional treat between feeding times is always welcomed by your pet.
Friday, March 14, 2014
Monday, March 3, 2014
Perhaps the biggest and most widely held misconception about dogs is the belief that they will be healthy and happy living only in the backyard. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Current studies in dog psychology show that dogs isolated in backyards are highly likely to develop serious behavioral problems that often result in euthanasia for the animal.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
DOGS ARE PACK ANIMALS THAT THRIVE ON COMPANIONSHIP. Much like their wolf ancestors, dogs are very social. In fact, dogs are more social than humans and need to be part of human families. When you own a dog, you become the dog's pack and he wants to be with his pack. Forcing a dog to live outside with little or no human companionship is one of the most psychological damaging things a pet owner can do to a dog.
DOGS ARE ALSO DEN ANIMALS, meaning they like to have a safe, quiet, and secure place to sleep, rest, and hang out, such as your house. Your dog has a wonderful ability to learn and therefore to be housetrained. A dog who resides more in your house than in the yard is a much happier, content animal, because of the security of a den and your companionship.
BACKYARD DOGS HAVE MORE BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS. Since all your dog's instincts are telling him it is not good to be left alone or isolated from his pack, your dog can become very stressed or anxious. A dog exhibits stress by digging, barking, howling or whining, chewing, escaping, and exhibiting hyperactivity. These problems can become so troublesome that your neighbors may complain about the barking, howling, property destruction, or your dog escaping.
BACKYARD DOGS ARE HARDER TO TRAIN. Considering a backyard dog does not develop a strong bond toward your family, he is harder to train than a dog allowed to be in the house with your family. This also makes him less responsive to commands.
BACKYARD DOGS MAKE LOUSY GUARD DOGS. As a dog becomes naturally protective of where he lives (his territory or turf), he will only defend the place he lives in. If he is never allowed in the house, then the house will not become a place to protect. Most people keep their valuables inside their houses, so why wouldn't you want your dog to protect the inside of your house? Unless allowed to live inside, your dog will not develop that sense of territory. He will not sound the alarm when someone tries to invade your house. It is not uncommon to hear stories of families being robbed while their backyard dog snoozed through the whole episode.
BACKYARD DOGS HAVE HIGHER RATES OF EUTHANASIA. Backyard dogs are more often given up than house dogs because they were never looked upon as family by their human pack. Sadly, that means they are easier to dispose of. Backyard dogs do not have the opportunity to become socialized to people and other dogs, and may become so fearful or even vicious that they may have to be euthanized.
WHAT CAN YOU DO:
KEEP YOUR DOG WITH YOU! At a minimum, your dog should have access to your living space whenever you are home, including sleeping inside your house at night. You do not have to spend every waking moment actively playing and talking to your dog; just the fact that your dog can lay quietly at your feet while you watch TV, work at your computer or sleep, is very important to his mental well-being.
NEVER TIE OR CHAIN YOUR DOG UP OUTSIDE. Dogs that are tied up or chained outside suffer extreme frustration which can result in hyperactivity and/or aggression against you, your family or friends. Dogs that are tied up cannot escape from other animals or people who mean to do them harm. They can also easily become entangled and do bodily harm to themselves. It has been a sad tale to hear of a dog tied outside because he was a fence jumper, only to hang himself while trying to do so! If you must keep your dog outside, provide a secure, high fence or an enclosed chain link dog run, with a top for those fence jumpers or climbers. Panels of chain link (that can be easily bolted together to provide a dog run) can be found at reasonable prices at your larger home supply stores, such as Home Depot. Provide a top with shade, a dog house for rainy weather, items to chew on, and plenty of fresh water. A dog should always be exercised before being left for the day in an enclosed area, such as a dog run or even your backyard.
THINK ABOUT HOW MUCH TIME YOU'LL DEVOTE TO YOUR DOG. People who keep their dogs outside constantly rationalize it. They insist that they do spend time with their dogs, they do feed them, they do walk them. Spending an hour a day with your dog is not enough for his mental welfare. Be realistic! What about when it is rainy, windy, cold, or just plain too hot? Are you still spending that hour daily with your dog no matter what? Making the backyard your dog's only home does not make him a real part of the family.
DO YOU FIT THE STATISTICS? Our lives have changed. It used to be that most people did spend a lot of time in the yard; playing, working, gardening, and socializing. Now with the age of computers, televisions, and hectic schedules, we actually spend about 75% less time outdoors in our yards, and therefore less time with our devoted friend, the dog.
TRAIN YOUR DOG! If your dog is untrained, take him to training class so you can develop better communication skills and teach him how to act appropriately in the house. If you have a young puppy, get him into a puppy training and socialization class as soon as he turns 12 weeks old. Don't wait until he is six months old and has already acquired a taste for tipping over the garbage can or chewing on your rug. If you acquire an older dog, training him as soon as possible will help him adjust to his new household and your family (his new pack).
GIVE YOUR DOG A CHANCE TO BE YOUR BEST FRIEND! Don't kick him out because you think he is untrainable, unruly, or because it is good for him to be outside. Instead, take the time to make him a part of your family, a part of your pack.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
As a guinea pig owner you may want to train your wee piggy to do tricks to entertain or show off to your friends and family. Or it may be that you just want a well ‘behaved’ guinea pig. Teaching your guinea pig tricks is neither harmful or damaging to your wee friend. When performed in a nurturing relaxed manner, working together and socializing in this way can be fun for both you and your guinea pig.
The Principles Of Guinea Pig Training
Training your guinea pig is similar to all pet training; It takes patience, consistency, persistence and most of all edible treats.
For all you psychology buffs out there we use “classical conditioning” to reinforce the behavior we want our beloved pet to exhibit. Basically we take a naturally occurring behavior and associate it with a stimulus (whistle, clicker, word) then reward our pet when they do what we want.
Take the time to observe your guinea pigs ‘natural’ behaviors as these are going to be the starting points for teaching more complicated behaviors or “tricks”. You are going to introduce a cue for these naturally occurring behaviors then build on them.
Training works best when in a quiet space once you have established a solid relationship with your guinea pig and he or she trusts you. Ideally this will have been established during the first few weeks of coming home.
You are going to need to be well prepared for your training session. Have ready, your whistle or clicker, a good supply of treat food and a quiet room to train in before getting your guinea pig. You both need to be in a calm relaxed frame of mind so if either one of you are uptight postpone the session until both of you are in sync.
Guinea pigs don’t like to be loomed over so either place your pet on a table, desk or bench that brings him up to head height or lie on the floor face down in front of him.
Whenever your guinea pig does what you want to do, click your clicker or blow your whistle, then reward them with a piece of food. Initially the sound may startle your little piggy but keep repeating the process and it won’t be long before she will come to realize that the sound means she has done something right.
You don’t have to use a clicker or whistle but it helps establish the association: noise = behavior = food
A Hungry Guinea Pig Learns Best
Like all animals, food is the best reward and motivator for your guinea pig. Although guinea pigs are social animals and like company, praise and hugs is not going to motivate your guinea pig to do what you want. Have a handful of food treats at the ready though and your hungry guinea pig will do almost anything.
Now I am not saying that you should starve your pet… that would be cruel. However if you set up a regular feeding routine you can incorporate your training sessions with the daily meal times.
What’s the best treat to give your pet? His favorite fresh food… carrot, capsicum, celery, tomato etc; whatever makes him dance for joy when he smells it. Make it a habit to hand feed half inch squares of fresh veges and you will establish a positive association between you and good food. (You will also avoid fouling his home with unwanted rotting vegetables)
Teaching Your Guinea Pig Its Name
When ever you approach your guinea pig’s home announce your presence by saying their name. When they come to greet you give them a treat while saying their name again. Call them by name whenever you feed them a treat and it won’t be long before they will recognize their name as a “come here” sound and will rush to meet you in the hopes of a tasty treat.
Your First Guinea Pig Trick.
Remember how I said earlier to observe what your guinea pig does naturally? Well this first trick is simple because guinea pigs naturally turn all the time; mostly to be on the look out for predators, and to scurry back into their hidey-hole. Now we want our guinea pig to turn clockwise on command…
Place your guinea pig facing you and say the word “Turn”. If by chance your guinea pig turns her head slightly to the right, click or whistle then give her a treat to eat. Let her finish eating then return her back to the starting position and say “Turn”. Again if she turns her head to the right, click and reward. As your piggy learns the signal make it progressively harder to earn the reward. Where as you rewarded for a slight head turn, wait until she has turned her head 45 degrees, 90 degrees, 180 degrees and so on until she does a full 360 before giving your guinea pig her treat.
Be patient, it may take several weeks of daily training before she learns the complete trick. And don’t over do it either, no more than 10 minutes a day spent training or you both will find it tiresome. All work and no play makes for a dull day. Remember this is supposed to be fun and a way to bond with each other.
Besides, once you and your guinea pig has learned the principles of learning a new trick it gets easier to add more complicated tricks to their repertoire. More complex tricks may need to be broken down into smaller steps to learn then combine them to complete the trick.
Making Your Guinea Pig Jump Through Hoops
Believe it or not guinea pigs can climb and jump. In fact giving them the opportunity to do so is essential for their health and fitness, so asking them to jump through a hoop is not beyond their natural ability. Just be aware that they are not dogs and the maximum height you should train for is only an inch off the ground.
For the Hoop Trick you will need a hoop or ring, your clicker and treat food.
Begin by holding the hoop vertically touching the floor in front of your guinea pig. With a treat in your other hand, pass you hand through hoop from the side opposite to your guinea pig; say “through the hoop” or “jump” (whatever command you choose for this trick) and lead him through the hoop. Click once he is through and let him have his treat. Swap Hands and lead him back through the hoop back to the starting side using your command phrase.
Once your guinea pig has got the idea, hold his treat on the opposite side of the hoop and give your command. If he doesn’t understand what to do, lead him through the hoop a few more times extending the distance between him and the treat food in your hand. Try holding the food on the other side again and when he walks through the hoop on his own click and reward.
Once your clever piggy can walk through the hoop on command raise the hoop off the floor a 1/8 inch or so and gradually increase the height until he will comfortably jump through the hoop one inch off the floor.
Congratulations! You now have the beginnings of your very own Guinea Pig Show!