Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Great First Pets For Kids

If you're a parent, and your child is old enough to talk, chances are you've heard the phrase "Can we get a [cat/dog/hamster/elephant]? Please, please, pretty please?" In general, this request inspires a sense of impending doom. No matter what kind of pet you have, it's going to be a lot of work. And, no matter how much your kid tries to convince you that they'll do everything, you'll have to shoulder a certain amount of responsibility. Pet ownership means adoption fees, vet bills, food, toys, grooming, cleanup -- and who knows what else. It's not something to take lightly.

But the right kid paired with the right pet can actually mean great things for everybody. Taking on the care of an animal can teach your child how to be responsible and aware of the needs of others. A pet is a live-in nature lesson. The bond with a pet can provide immeasurable fulfillment for everyone in your family, not just your child.

But how to pick the right pet? Not to worry, this is the place to start. 

Hermit Crabs

Hermit crabs are interesting, low-maintenance pets. Their name comes from the shells they squeeze into, leaving only their front claws and eyes peeking out at the world. These small crustaceans require a daily diet of fresh food and water, plus a misting of water to keep them moist. Housing is pretty simple, too: A tank with gravel on the bottom will do nicely. Your child will need to be attentive to the hermit crab's behavior, since they do molt regularly and require progressively larger shells to wear as they grow. Hermit crabs are a great way to introduce your child to the world of responsible pet ownership.

Small Lizards

Small lizards can make for very interesting pets. But not every kind of lizard will work well for the novice pet owner. Iguanas and Savannah monitors start out cute and small, but they grow into lizards several feet in length -- and they're also capable of inflicting nasty bites.

Instead, consider a leopard gecko or bearded dragon. These reptiles are good starter pets due to their docile nature, low-maintenance lifestyle and small size. Though delicate in their infancy, once they reach adulthood, they're resilient and hardy creatures.

Small Birds

There are a few types of small birds that can make for a good introduction to the world of pet care. Canaries, for example, don't require a lot of one-on-one time, and a pair of society finches will happily keep one another entertained.

All birds require regular cage cleaning and fresh food and water, along with a cage roomy enough for a bit of flying and some toys for amusement. Small birds don't like sudden movements or unexpected noises, so they're best cared for by older, calmer children.

Guinea Pigs

Often overlooked in favor of their smaller cousins, these gentle rodents actually make great pets for kids. They rarely bite, they love to play hide and seek, and they'll squeak with excitement when their humans put in an appearance.

Since they prefer to live in groups, consider adopting two female guinea pigs. (Two males will be prone to fighting, unless they come from the same litter, and a male/female pair will result in lots of tiny guinea pigs.)

Guinea pigs also provide good practice for responsible pet ownership. If you're thinking about getting a bigger pet somewhere down the road, for example, longer-haired varieties are good preview for dog or cat ownership, since they need to be groomed daily in order to prevent tangles.

The 'downside' is that they need large cages. The storebought cages are often too small, so it's best to go with C&C cages or pens instead.(www.guineapigcages.com)


Interested in an intelligent, affectionate, self-cleaning pet that's suitable for your child? Get a rat.

No, really. While their sewer-dwelling, dumpster diving cousins have a bad reputation, domesticated (or "fancy") rats shouldn't be tarred with the same brush. Fancy rats easily learn tricks, love to play with their humans, and meticulously groom themselves. Like guinea pigs, they're very social, so getting a pair is probably your best option. Older kids can play with their pet rats unsupervised; younger kids should be attended, though that's more for the rats' safety than the child's (rats rarely bite). And they're decidedly low-maintenance: Aside from cage upkeep and daily feeding, rats just need regular play time outside of the cage.

Betta Fish

A fish is another classic first pet, provided you pick the right one. Goldfish are the archetypal choice, but they're notoriously fragile and require a fairly elaborate tank-and-filter setup.

Betta fish, however, are happiest in smaller bowls, no filter necessary. Bettas are beautiful fish, often jewel-toned, with long flowing fins. The bowl will need regular cleaning and water changes; consider adding an aquatic snail to your bowl, which will help keep the algae at bay. (They're fun to watch, too.) Your child can have fun decorating the bowl with gravel, plants and other accessories. A word to the wise: This is one pet that's best purchased singly, because two bettas in the same bowl will fight to the death. But a healthy, well-tended betta can live for two or three years.

An Older Dog or Cat

Though you might be tempted by the overwhelming cuteness of puppies and kittens, young animals usually don't make great starter pets. They require a lot of patience and training in order to grow into well-adjusted pets, and kids generally don't have the experience to pull that off. Instead, adopt an adult dog or cat from an animal shelter. On the whole, older animals will be much more tolerant with kids, and pets that are already trained will make it easier for your child to learn what it takes to care for them. But even the gentlest of dogs and cats require a lot of work, so be sure to help your child understand what the animal needs.

Small Snakes

Don't freak out! Like rats, snakes are often misunderstood. Stay away from larger snake varieties -- and, of course, anything poisonous -- and you'll find that snakes can actually be pretty cool pets for kids. The most popular variety is the corn snake, which is nonvenomous and will only grow to about 4 or 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) in length. If you adopt a young corn snake, it'll become accustomed to you very quickly, happily curling up in your hands for warmth. Your pet snake will need an aquarium (make sure there are no weak spots, to prevent escape), fresh water and a heat source. And, of course, they have to eat -- which is where some people get tripped up. Snakes are carnivores, consuming a rodent about once a week. Most captive-bred snakes are fine with pre-killed prey, which can be easily procured at a pet store. If that aspect of snake ownership isn't a problem, then the snake can offer your child many happy years of reptilian fun.

Exotic Pet Issues

Making the commitment to own any pet takes a lot of careful thought and consideration. Unfortunately, with some exotic pets it is easy to get caught in the trap of thinking they are easy to care for, or less of a commitment than dogs and cats. Some exotic pets represent an enormous commitment of time and money, so it is important to really research and prepare if you decide on an exotic pet.

1. Impulsive Adoptions

When you spot an amazing, adorable creature at the pet store (or elsewhere) it is tempting to bring him or her home right away. However, resist this urge. Instead, go home and find out everything you can about this kind of pet. Then, give yourself a couple of days to decide with certainty that this is right pet for you and make sure you are not making any of the following mistakes. Also make sure you have the proper housing set up before getting the pet (see mistake number two).
2. Not Preparing a Home Before Getting a Pet
Coming home to a new environment is stressful and scary, and it will only be harder if your new pet has to stay in temporary housing while you get a cage or tank set up. Find out everything you will need, and get it all set up. Make sure temperatures and humidity are right, and when your new pet gets home, it can go directly into a proper environment. At this point, let your new pet settle in and explore its new home for a couple of days before trying to tame or handle your new pet.

3. Underestimating the Cost of Owning a Pet

You might find that some exotic pets do not cost a lot. However, you need to accurately assess the true cost including housing, equipment, and ongoing costs like food and supplies. Also do not forget to factor in veterinary care. Considering the full cost is especially important for reptiles, which are often inexpensive themselves. However, they often need large terrariums, heating, and lights (including expensive UVA/UVB lamps which must be replaced regularly).

4. Neglecting Veterinary Care

Many people have not factored in the cost of veterinary care and may try to avoid vet visits because of the cost. Many exotic pets are experts at hiding illness until they are in serious trouble (remember, not showing weakness is a natural defense mechanism), so if your pet is showing signs of illness you are best off getting to a vet as soon as possible. Routine check ups are ideal, and it is best to have a relationship with a vet before an emergency situation arises.

5. Not Researching the Legal Status of Pets

I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. You risk losing your pets if you do not do your research on this one. Start locally and work up to the state/provincial level, then nationally. Do not rely on word of mouth or Internet sites (even this one!), as this is too important not to confirm in person. Sometimes the laws are outdated or unfair, but that does not help if your pet is seized. Advice on how to find out the correct information is found in the link above.

6. Rescuing a Sick or Mistreated Animal from a Pet Store

This one is really hard to avoid so is a really easy mistake to make. You might be tempted to ignore the above advice if you come across an animal in distress and feel the need to rescue it. Unfortunately, trying to rescue a sick animal may cost a lot in vet bills and emotional distress if you are unsuccessful. Additionally, the pet store, buoyed by the sale they just made, will likely just bring in more animals and treat them the same way. If at all possible, report animals in distress to your local humane society or authorities rather than taking them in yourself.

7. Not Planning Ahead

This one encompasses many of the previous points, but bears repeating. Owners need to consider how long their pet might live, and how they will cope with their pet's needs over their whole life span. This includes lining up veterinarians and pet-sitters, and being able to provide proper housing, food and care for the pet's entire life. Other things to consider what you will do with your pet during life's transitions including college, moves, marriages, and children.

8. Thinking Someone Will Take Your Pets if You Can't Care for Them

Finding a new home for an exotic pet is not as easy as many people think it will be, and the more "exotic" the pet the harder it will be. Most zoos are unwilling or unable to take former pets. Most shelters are not equipped to take exotics, and sanctuaries specifically for exotic pets are rare and often full to capacity already. Never assume that if you can't keep your pets, you will be able to find someone else to commit to caring for your exotic pets (and never just let them go, either!).

(I'm back! Finally!) How Should I House My Hedgehog?

Still there? You are? Thank you very much, if you are. If you aren't the patient-y type...meh. Maybe you'll check back later or something.

First of all, I'd like to apologize for my absence. I feel very terrible about it. I wasn't really gone, I just wasn't able to publish posts for a while. So, while I have been typing out posts to publish later, I simply could not publish them. Sorry, friends. I've luckily been able to improvise and have finally been able to publish a big post I wrote a while back that just WOULDN'T publish! 

 Also...I'm going to be buying the Rabbits USA 2014 magazine very soon, so look out for that review! ;)  

Today's post, I'm going to be talking about housing hedgehogs. The problem with housing your hedgies is that pet stores don't typically sell storebought cages for hedgehogs.

There is some debate on ideal housing for pet hedgehogs, but for any hedgehog cage, the most important considerations are size, safety, ventilation, and ease of cleaning. There are pros and cons for different types of cages, and it is important to find a cage that meets the unique requirements of hedgehogs as well as fitting your budget and preferences.

Hedgehogs in the wild usually cover a lot of ground in their search for food. Pet hedgehogs need lots of room to move about too. Two square feet (e.g. 1 foot by 2 feet) is sometime quoted as the minimum floor space for a hedgehog, but this should be considered an absolute bare minimum, and only used if you have a wheel and give your hedgehog ample time to roam around outside the cage for exercise. It would be much better to aim for a minimum of about four square feet (e.g. 2 feet by 2 feet).

A hedgehog cage needs to have a solid floor, so avoid any cages with wire or wire mesh flooring (hedgehogs may catch and injure their legs or feet on wire floors). Cages should not have any sharp edges or spaces in which a hedgehog could get his or her head stuck. The cage must also be secure to prevent escapes.

Good ventilation is necessary to keep humidity levels down and to prevent ammonia (from urine) and odor from building up in the cage. Wire cages offer the best ventilation.

Ease of Cleaning 
This one is fairly self-explanaorty, but do not underestimate its importance. Your hedgehog's cage will need frequent cleaning, and a large, heavy or awkward cage will make this chore very unpleasant.

Wire Cages 
Many owners use wire cages since they are quite readily available and these have the the advantage of good ventilation. In addition, they are usually pretty lightweight and easy to clean. However, few are made specifically for hedgehogs so you need to be very particular when choosing a cage. Avoid any cages with wire flooring (or if absolutely necessary, cover the wire with wood, plastic, or a Vellux blanket cut to fit securely). Additionally, cages large enough for hedgehogs might have wire spacing that is too large for safely housing hedgehogs (look for ferret or rabbit cages with spacing of 1 inch or less). There are a couple of manufacturers producing wire cages particularly for hedgehogs: Martin's Cages (choose from the larger ones - the Hedgehog Home is very small) and Hedgehogs by Vicki. Some people recommend multilevel ferret cages, but the height of these cages and the platforms make me nervous about falls (from the platforms or from climbing the sides of the cages).

Aquariums are okay, but you need a large aquarium (i.e. 30 gallon is a good minimum) and a wire mesh top. The major disadvantages are the lack of ventilation, and aquariums are heavy and awkward to clean.

Plastic Containers 
Many owners have gotten quite creative with creating cages out of plastic storage bins. With some slight modifications, you can make a large cage for little money out of clear plastic storage containers (solid color containers would be quite dark for a hedgehog). The biggest downside is again ventilation. Holes can be made in the sides and lid with a soldering iron or drill, but it is difficult to provide enough holes to provide great ventilation. If you get a deep enough container and don't have anything (including water bottles) around the walls that the hedgehog can use for climbing, you may be able to get away with having no lid. Alternatively, you can fashion a lid out of hardware wire mesh or screen material, either on its own, or attached to a large opening cut in the lid of the storage container. The Michigan Hedgehog Owners Group site has an ingenious idea for a two-container home with instructions. Hedgehog Valley suggests cutting panels in the sides of the container and fixing wire mesh or plastic canvas over the openings to aid ventilation in this type of home. With creativity, these homes can work quite well.

Other Options 
I have seen other ideas for cages, such as wading pools (solid plastic with high sides) and home-made wooden cages. As long as a cage is large enough, escape proof and safe, ventilated and easy to clean, then your imagination is the limit.

Review of Mega Munch Sticks and CareFRESH Complete Menu Guinea Pig Diet

Two new piggy items, guys!

First, we have a new brand of food to try out. I've mixed in the rest of Ignatius's old food into his serving so he can get used to it. This is what it looks like from the package:

You can already see some bits of fruits and seeds, so let's take a closer look.

Hm...there's also some nuggets that aren't normally good for cavies, so I need to make sure that the ingredients are indeed natural. If I see any artificial dyes, I might not feed this to Ignatius.

The ingredients state that there is all natural coloring, and there doesn't seem to be any nuts, either.

There is several types of things in here.

Dried Peas: These are usually alright for pigs. Too much can be a problem, though. The bag has only a handful of peas scattered in here, so I'm not concerned about this.

Timothy Hay: This is kind of disappointing. The hay isn't as fresh as it seems it would be. I'm going to pick out as much as I can.

Nuggets: These are soft, natural, and all around pretty safe. I'm just worried Ignatius will gravitate towards these rather than the vitamin-enriched pellets he should be eating.

Dried Carrots: These are also okay in small quantities. They are very small, so I'm guessing he might just pick over these.

Pellets: These are thick, easy to break, and fresh-smelling. Hopefully the little guy thinks so as well.

Dried Raisins: This is the main thing I'm concerned about here. Fruit is very fattening for piggies, so I will also pick these out. 

So, overall...I'm giving this 3.5 stars. I don't like it as much as Selective, but it's not that bad.

Likes: Pellets, the overall, freshness of the food, major pig appeal.

Dislikes: The dried fruit and the not so fresh hay. Also, I just found the dried peas to be very hard, so I'm definitely going to remove them all together.

Pig Appeal

So, what does Ignatius think of it?

"Is it feeding time?"

"This is new!"

"Is it okay to eat?"

(The feeding amount using this food)

"Mm! Tastes yummy!"

Overall, CareFRESH Menu Guinea Pig Diet passed. It's not the best of the best, but it's good enough for me to approve. Next time, though, I think I'll go back to Selective. I still like using that food very much, and it's Iggy's favorite as well.

Next up,

This is a cute toy for guinea pigs and rabbits 'made out of 100% natural willow bark.'
It smells very natural, and looks like a good chew toy.
At first I was a bit confused as to how you gave it to your pet. 

Two of the sticks were so thin I could slip them out, but then I realized the sticks were meant to stay as one large piece and it was up to the pet to slip them out. There is no glue of any kind on this to hold it together, which is very safe for our furry friends.

When analyzing new products for pets, I always look at it all over, read the ingredients, and do a little research.

This chew toy is very simple to examine, and I think I am finished checking it out. It is definitely alright for guinea pigs.

The question is...will Ignatius like it?

A tentative sniff...

He seems to be more interested in eating than his new toy.

He finally musters up the courage to nibble it, then playfully toss it with his nose. He apparently is interested.

After a short period of nudging and nibbling the little guy is used to his huge thing longer than he is. Iggy approves. (:



Monday, April 14, 2014

How to Stop a Dwarf Hamster from Biting

  • 1

    Adjust your dwarf hamster to its surroundings. If you have recently purchased the hamster and brought it into your home, it may still be frightened from the move. This may make your hamster more nervous and defensive, and therefore more likely to bite. Give the hamster some space. Leave it alone without trying to handle it, but visit it and speak to it throughout the day. Make sure there are no loud noises or other disturbances in the room where you keep the hamster.

  • 2

    Try to handle your dwarf hamster only when it accepts your attention. If it acts aggressively when you try to pet it, remove your hand from the cage and leave it alone. Wait until your dwarf hamster approaches your hand without fear or aggression to hold it. Your pet will be the least likely to bite you after it has become comfortable around you.

  • 3

    Approach your hamster carefully. Don't surprise your hamster when you attempt to handle it. Try stroking your hamster gently while it sleeps without jostling it awake. Do not intentionally wake up your hamster to handle it, as this might upset it and cause it to bite you. Also, don't pick up your hamster from behind or from above, as any sudden or unexpected handling might upset it and cause it to bite you.

  • 4

    Offer your dwarf hamster a treat such as a piece of fruit or a vegetable before attempting to handle it. Hold the treat in your hand and see if the hamster will allow you to pet it before giving it the treat. Do this regularly, but not so often that you are over-feeding your pet.

  • 5

    Wash your hands with soap and water before every attempt to handle your dwarf hamster when you are not offering it food. You may have food smells on your hand, which can cause your pet to mistake your fingers for a treat, resulting in biting .

  • 6

    Handle your dwarf hamster on a daily basis once it has become accustomed to being held. If you neglect your hamster, it may fall back into more aggressive behavior, meaning you will have to try to socialize it again.

  • 7

    Wear gardening gloves if you have to pick up and carry an aggressive hamster in an emergency situation. Use your gloves to direct or place your hamster into a container such as a mug or a measuring cup to safely handle your dwarf hamster. This will prevent your pet from biting you, and you won't have to worry about keeping a firm hold on your dwarf hamster's body.

  • 8

    Take your dwarf hamster to the vet if it shows signs of lethargy, decreased appetite or other signs of illness. Aggression as well as other symptoms may indicate a more serious illness.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bunnies For Easter?

Why am I talking about Easter? Well, the truth is, I'm going to post this just a little bit before Easter just so I can get the message to everyone beforehand. 
Are you thinking of getting a pet rabbit for your child as an Easter gift? Please, don't do it.
There are so many reasons why getting a live pet rabbit as an Easter gift is N-O-T, not, a good idea. 


.......Pet rabbits can live from 8 to 15 years old.
.......Young children and bunnies are not a good match.
........Pet rabbits aren't "low maintenance" pets - they have specific dietary needs and must be handled with extreme care.
........Rabbits must live indoors with the family(see all posts tagged rabbitsindoor, and housing)
.......Bunnies should visit the vet at least yearly.

Bunnies and Children

Rabbits are commonly thought of as wonderful pets for children. After all, who can look at a cute, fluffy bunny and not feel a child-like sense of love for it? Unfortunately, though, rabbits are actually very poorly suited to being pets just for children. Of course, there are exceptions if the adult is the primary caretaker and supervises bunny and child interaction at all times.

 Many people are surprised and disappointed to find that rabbits rarely conform to the cute-n-cuddly stereotype in children’s stories. Baby bunnies (and many young adult rabbits) are too busy dashing madly about, squeezing behind furniture, and chewing baseboards and rugs to be held. Also, rabbits are physically delicate animals which means they can be hurt by children picking them up. Because rabbits feel frightened when people pick them up, they kick and struggle which means children can also get hurt. Rabbits are also built to react to sudden changes which means they may either run away or try to bite when approached too quickly and too loudly. Stress-related illnesses are common. For these reasons, many children, especially young children, will find it difficult to interact with a rabbit and soon lose interest.

So why do they make good house pets? Rabbits...

  • are quiet can learn near-perfect litterbox habits
  • are fun to watch
  • have different personalities just as individual dogs and cats do
  • are affectionate, loving if given plenty of indoor, open exercise space and proper love and care.

In addition, rabbits are social animals, meaning they need the companionship of humans or other rabbits, although the need may vary among individual rabbits. They play, some more than others. Many can get along with most cats and some dogs when properly introduced. Many enjoy being with people, but your family must have patience, understanding, and an acceptance of individual differences to earn their trust.

In order for a family and a rabbit to get to know each other (and for the rabbit’s best health), the rabbit needs to be an indoor pet with as much out-of-cage time with the family as possible. If you relegate your rabbit to an outdoor hutch (or even to an indoor cage for most of the day), your family will miss getting to know the special personality of the rabbit.

As the adult, you need to get used to this idea:

The rabbit will be your pet.

If your family already has a rabbit whom “my child was supposed to care for” and there are problems with this, then try to reconcile yourself to the fact that a rabbit is an adult’s responsibility. Rabbits are very sensitive to changes to their feeding, cleaning, and exercise routines. Changes are stressful and may lead to illness. Symptoms of illness are often subtle changes in appetite, behavior, and/or droppings that even mature children will miss. It is unreasonable to expect a child of any age to take responsibility for care of a rabbit (or any pet). The rabbit and your children, as well as the family peace, will benefit greatly from you accepting this notion.

If your family is considering adopting a rabbit, decide how you and the other adults in the household feel about taking on the responsibility of a rabbit. Do the adults want a rabbit as a member of the family? If the rabbit is an all-around family member (lives indoors, gets regular out-of-cage time) and play with the rabbit is supervised, then a child and rabbit can get to know each other and live together happily. Do the adults have an understanding of the basic nature of rabbits and what to expect in terms of time, training, and cost? Or, are you open to finding out? Are the adults willing to make a 5 to 10 yr. commitment?

Unless the adults of the household are enthusiastic, informed, and committed about the work involved, a stuffed animal rabbit is a better choice.


You don’t have to be “Super-Adult” to have peaceful coexistence between rabbit and children. But, do you want another “toddler”? Rabbits are a lot like 2 yr. old children - they can be a joy to live with, but:

  • You will need to spend time in toilet-training i.e.: litterbox training and have tolerance for accidents. Most rabbit people take occasional scattered droppings in stride. There may be an occasional puddle, usually done to mark new territory.

  • You will need to bunny-proof the parts of your house where the rabbit is allowed to run somewhat similar to toddler-proofing.

  • You will need to check on your rabbit often and supervise child/rabbit interactions when the rabbit is out for exercise. Three to four hours per day of out-of-cage time is the minimum.

  • Some of your things may be partially ruined. The amount of chewing and digging  that your rabbit does will depend on age, personality, whether spayed/neutered, as well as on what toys you provide him.

  • Your rabbit will need toys but these can be homemade.

  • Just like human toddlers, rabbits respond to routines for feeding, playing, and cleaning up. The main thing is to find a routine that is easy for you. If the routine is too difficult, you will begin to look at the rabbit as one more mess-maker. 

  • You will need to recognize and learn your rabbits desires and needs and fulfill them, not decide you will when you feel like it.

  • A rabbit, like a child, responds best to situations that are set up so he will do the right things and receive praise for doing right instead of punishment for doing wrong.


If your child is generally easy-going, calm, gentle, and cooperative, you may enjoy having a rabbit as a member of the family. If your child is generally on the loud side, very active, tends to interact physically/aggressively, or frequently seems to need reminders about or challenges rules(which most young children are), s/he may find it difficult to build a relationship with a rabbit and you may find that a rabbit is an additional stress.


Contrary to Easter-time hype, rabbits are rarely a good choice for a small child (younger than 7 yrs.). The natural exuberance, rambunctiousness, and decibel-level of the average toddler is stressful for most rabbits. Children want a companion they can hold and cuddle; Rabbits need someone who understands that they are ground-loving creatures.

The guidelines below are based on what children of varying ages are genuinely like while keeping in mind the type of household most rabbits do well in. Of course, rabbits and children do vary and there may be exceptions to these guidelines. The most important factor is most likely the adults’ attitude and knowledge level (see previous section “The Rabbit Will Be Your Pet”

 A Child Younger Than 7 Years -  Probably shouldn’t get a rabbit unless your child fits the calm” description and you are an informed adult who wants to deal with another toddler. It can be done though, if you have the time and patience.

One or More Younger than 7 Years - Probably shouldn’t get a rabbit. You are likely very busy with active children who need a lot of your attention which will probably leave you little time for managing a rabbit.

One Younger than & One Older than 7 Years - Perhaps. Your time, the children’s personalities, and the general noise/activity level of your household should be considered. If your younger child is “on the move and into everything, it may be difficult for you & rabbit to live happily even if the older child is of the “calm” type.

1 or More Older than 7 Years - Perhaps. Again, your time, the children’s personalities, and the general noise/activity level of your household should be considered. Lots of friends coming & going will probably stress out a rabbit. Your children may also be involved in quite a few activities (music lessons, sports, etc.) which may leave little time for the rabbit & family to get to know each other.

One Younger and 1 or More Older than 7 Years - Probably shouldn’t get a rabbit. Consider the information in 3. & 4. above, but your household is most likely too busy and noisy to build a friendship with a rabbit. Caring for and training a rabbit may be “just one more thing” that the adults have to do. 

Two or More Younger than & One or More Older than 7 Years -Probably shouldn’t get a rabbit. Consider the information in 2.-5. above.

  • One Child 7 Years or Older - If you are enthusiastic about accepting responsibility for a rabbit and if your child is the calm type or at least generally accepting of rules for behavior, you and a rabbit would probably find it a joy to live together. If your child is of the loud/active/ challenging rules variety, a rabbit may just increase your stress level and the rabbit will suffer.


As with any pet, rabbits require a commitment in terms of housing, feeding, and medical care for their natural lives. The biggest initial expenses will be a pen or cage ($100 and up) and a spay ($80-200) or neuter ($75-150) operation if this was not done prior to adoption or purchase. Rabbits do not need annual shots (in the USA at least) but you will usually need to make several visits to a veterinarian when she is sick. You will need to keep supplies of litter, food pellets, fresh vegetables, and hay on hand.


Rabbits should be kept indoors for health, safety, and socialization. You will need space for at least a 30″ x 30″ or 24″ x 36″ cage. The cage should be away from TV’s, stereos and high noise areas, but not completely isolated from people. Consider which area is most easily bunny-proofed for your rabbit’s out-of-cage time.


If any of your family has allergies, you should have testing done to see if there is an allergy to rabbits before you get a rabbit.

New Baby in the House?

If a baby is coming, or has come, to your rabbit’s house, your rabbit will probably be getting less of your attention for awhile, but neither of you needs to suffer. You may not have time for lots of petting and playing, but focus on maintaining the rabbit’s daily care routine. It can be relaxing to have some petting time with your rabbit when baby sleeps. Rabbits will adjust! Your rabbit will be infinitely happier with you than if he is given away to adjust to a new home. Shelters and rescue groups overflowing with dogs, cats, and yes, rabbits, are constant reminders of how difficult it is to find people willing to give an animal a good home for life. Many are initially enthusiastic about getting a new pet, but when the newness wears off and the reality of care sets in, many animals find themselves disposed of for the owners convenience.

Remember! - When baby gets older, rabbit will have added attention from your child (and you) which can be a good thing if you are committed to teaching your child about the rabbit.

Teaching Children to be Rabbit People

Whether you have brought a baby home to your rabbit’s house or have brought a rabbit home to your child’s house, it is well to remember to:

  • Learn about rabbit behavior/language so you can point out the rabbits feelings about your child’s actions.
  • Choose a time of day when your child is on “low ebb” for teaching your child about the rabbit and for play with the rabbit.
  • Set your child and the rabbit up for success. Try to anticipate and prevent inappropriate interaction by often showing your child how to interact.
  • Try not to get into a pattern of always saying “Don’t…” and “Stop…” to your child about the rabbit. If your child does something inappropriate, show and talk about what the child can do with the rabbit. Offer choices for behavior and ask “What could you do…?”. Otherwise, your child may see the rabbit as something he is always getting in trouble for.
  • Keep the child away from the rabbit for a short time if the child refuses to stop a behavior that may hurt the rabbit.
  • Set up the cage so rabbit can get away from the children-”a safe zone”. Use child gates in doorways and or turn the cage so the door faces the wall with enough room for rabbit but not the child.
  • Put the rabbit in a closed-off room when there are lots of playmates or parties. It is often better if the guests “don’t know the rabbit exists”. – Refrain from having children’s friends in to “see the new rabbit” since this can frighten them. Children have different rules, and most likely they have not been taught proper rabbit care and will just want to cuddle and hold it. Once your bunny is settled in and does not seem to be frightened around the child, then when the child's friends come again, hold the rabbit and let them gently stoke it. NEVER let the children go off to the rabbits cage unsupervised, or let him out during the children's playtime.
  • Show children’s friends where rabbit lives and how to pet at times when only 1 or 2 friends visit, then make sure the rabbit is safe during the visit.

What You Can Do with Different Ages

Sitting/Crawling Infants (6-12 months)

Start teaching the idea that the rabbit is to be respected and treated carefully.
BUNNY-RULE #l: Gentle petting.
Sit on the floor with child in your lap while you pet and talk to the rabbit. Guide her hand over the rabbit’s head, ears, and upper back. To prevent fur-grabbing, hold her hand flat or use the back of her hand. Do this frequently but no longer than 5 mins. at a time.
BUNNY-RULE #2: Leave the rabbit alone when he hops away or goes in his cage.
Interpret rabbit’s body language for the child ( you can say.. "Oops, he didn’t want anymore petting. He wants to eat or take a nap.) Prevent the tendencies to chase a rabbit who has had enough and to bang/poke on the cage by explaining: “Chasing him will make him scared of you.” or “Banging on his house scares him.” Watch your child carefully and make such explanations at the moment before it looks like the child may engage in such behaviors. Explaining, then redirecting the child’s attention works best for this age when inappropriate behavior seems imminent or occurs.
BUNNY-RULE #3: Don’t touch droppings and litter.
Teach the child that the litterbox and droppings that may be found on floor are “dirt”. You may have no problem with picking up the dry droppings with your hand, but you don’t stick your fingers in your mouth! You may have to change your habits for awhile to teach this concept. A box with a cage floor wire grate works well.

Toddlers (1-2 yrs.)

Continue reinforcing or teach BUNNY-RULES 1-3 and add #4. Although unintentional, toddlers are capable of doing real harm to a rabbit. They will need constant supervision and frequent gentle reminders of appropriate behavior. See below for additional notes on rules.
Due to still-developing muscle coordination, toddlers have a hard time keeping fingers out of rabbits’ eyes so you may have to insist on two-finger petting or back-of-hand petting.
Closely supervise children’s interactions with the rabbit. This is the stage of the child’s development when some are prone to bash things with sticks. Children this age also have a hard time not chasing a rabbit who hops away. If she chases the rabbit, the rabbit will learn to be scared of her. Teach respect for the rabbit ending the petting or playing session (‘Well, that’s all he wanted to do.”) and interest the child in another activity.
Children who are interested in toilet-training can understand “that is where the bunny poops and pees”.
BUNNY RULE #4:We pet, but don’t pick up the rabbit.
Explain that it scares the rabbit to be picked up and both of you could get hurt. Explain that Mom or Dad may pick up the rabbit if she needs care. Explain rabbit language & actions: “Hear her teeth clicking? She likes the petting. See her toss the ball? She’s playing.” If child gets scratched, explain what the child did to scare or hurt the rabbit and show a better way to act. Redirect loud play to another area (“Look at bunny. She doesn’t like the noise.”)

Toddlers love to share their snacks with the rabbit so make sure rabbit gets only small amounts proper foods and is not overloaded with cereals and crackers. They also love to help with feeding – scooping & pouring food, taking vegetables and hay to rabbit.

One to Seven-Year Olds

If a 2-yr old has grown up with a rabbit, she can have quite a bit of empathy for and knowledge about a rabbit. Continue or teach BUNNY-RULES #1 through 4. Teach by example instead of by a lot of “No’s”; Your child will learn most by watching you. If interested, the child may help with feeding and play with the rabbit with your supervision.

Older Children

Continue or teach BUNNY-RULES #1 through 4. Teach by example and setting up situations for success. Your child may build a friendship with the rabbit by sitting on the floor with the rabbit while doing homework, art work, reading, or watching t.v. The rabbit will eventually come to investigate and to be petted. Older children have lots of other interests and interest in rabbit may come and go. The rabbit’s care should continue to be your responsibility, but your child may help with feeding and grooming.

Choosing a Rabbit

Rabbits have different personalities so it is difficult to make generalizations about breeds. In general though, a medium to large breed adult rabbit is usually better for a child. They will command the most respect from a child and are easier to pet because they have larger heads. Dwarf breeds tend to be more excitable, energetic, and aggressive. Baby rabbits are very active, often nippy, and chew everything in sight. Adult rabbits are more easily litter-and house-trained, especially after spaying or neutering. You will also have a better idea of a rabbits personality if you choose an adult who is spayed or neutered.

Adopt a rabbit from a rescue group or local shelters. There are many advantages and you will be helping to combat rabbit overpopulation. Animal shelters euthanize hundreds of unwanted rabbits each year, many less than a year old. Many more die agonizing deaths from neglect and abandonment without ever reaching a shelter. You will be giving one of the many unwanted rabbits a second chance for a loving home while discouraging those who breed rabbits for profit.

Teaching Responsibility: Something to Think About

Many parents say they want to get a rabbit for their child to teach the child some responsibility. What usually happens is that the child loses interest (not to mention being incapable of sticking to a routine and providing proper care), and the rabbit suffers. The child, at best, learns to feel bad that she has failed and caused suffering. At worst, she learns to resent the animal for the nagging that she is hearing from the adult. Often, the rabbit is given away because “you didn’t take care of it”. The child learns that life is disposable and that if she waits long enough, someone else will relieve her of her “responsibility’.

So, let your child help with the rabbit, but don’t insist. If the child appears interested, encourage her; if she becomes bored, let her move on to the next thing, and you carry on with the rabbit. She learns most of all from watching you-your actions, your tone of voice when you speak to the rabbit, and your attitude. From this she learns the nurturing (responsible) point of view- the patient waiting, the faithful caring, the joyful appreciation and acceptance of a living creature for who it is, not who you wish it to be.

So you see, bunnies don't make good pets for children, and definitely not for Easter.  

Helpful Resources:




Instead of a live rabbit, why not these Easter gifts shown in the picture instead? 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pig Houses!

Houses, Igloos, and Shelters

Guinea pigs are mostly very sociable animals, and love nothing more than spending time with humans and other cavies. However, like all of us, they occasionally want some peace and quiet away from their cagemates. There are various types of guinea pig house available which provide your pets with the perfect hiding place, allowing them to get some alone time when they need it.

You need to provide your cavies with plenty of shelters. You should give them at least one per pig, and preferably have one or two extras as well, so that they've got several to choose from. Rather than getting several identical houses, choose a variety, as each pig will have his or her own favourite hideaway.

Never disturb your cavy when it is in its house, as they can become agitated and even aggressive if their rest is disturbed. They'll soon come out of their own accord, and be ready to play again.

There's no need to put hay or any other bedding in your guinea pigs' houses - if they want it, they'll take it in themselves, but usually they're perfectly happy without it.

Wooden Houses and Huts

These are very popular and should be your first choice. A typical house has solid walls, an open door, and one or two windows. There are various different types available, from simple houses, to log cabins, and even multi-storey homes with ramps connecting the floors. Most are fine, but remember that looks aren't as important as function, and a simple house is usually best, not to mention cheapest.

A homemade wooden house
You can buy a wooden house or make your own. Image by Keren.

The best homes have no floor, which means that your pets will be able to sit on their soft, hay-lined cage floor, rather than a hard wooden one. This also has the benefit of soaking up and urine. It also makes it easier to get your pig out of the house in an emergency.

A major benefit of wooden guinea pig houses is that they can also be used to help keep their teeth short. Guinea pigs' teeth continue to grow throughout their life, and they keep them trimmed down by chewing and gnawing on hard objects. Wooden housing is perfect for this, as the wood has the right level of abbrasion, and they are usually much more sturdy than a chew toy.

Plastic Igloos

Made from hard plastic, these are available in a wide range of colours, which means they can look more interesting in your pets' cage. A typical guinea pig igloo has a large domed area with a narrow tunnel leading off it. Some of these tunnels can be very cramped, making it difficult for your cavies to get in and out - if this is the case, you can trim off the top of the tunnel to give them more room.

A guinea pig coming out of a plastic igloo
Plastic igloos make a great, cosy shelter. Image by yourFAVORITEmartian.

Some come with a built in plastic floor. These cause droppings and urine to collect in the igloo, meaning that it has to be cleaned out daily (thankfully, being plastic, they are easily washable). Where possible, get one without a base.

You should be aware that plastic can cause digestion problems if swallowed, and can even be toxic. If your pigs are nibbling at their igloo, you should remove it from their cage, or give them a chew toy to try and encourage them to chomp on something else.


These are just like miniature versions of the tents that you would go camping in. They are made from nylon, which can be easily machine-washed to get rid of any stains or marks, and most come with a removeable fleece floor which helps to provide extra warmth.

A guinea pig in a tent
Tents are warm and easily washable.

They are perfect for use in your cavies' cage or playpen, giving them a warm, cosy place to spend some time alone. They can also be put in your guinea pigs' run to provide some shelter from the sun.

You can buy guinea pig tents from manufacturers such as Trixie, Pets At Home, and Boredom Breakers. They each make different types, including wigwams, pop-up tents, and even ones that hang from the roof of your animals' cage.

Homemade Hideaways

If you don't want to buy a guinea pig house from a pet store, you can easily make your own out of everyday items found around the home:

Paper Bags

A large paper bag is a great retreat, and can also be torn up to be used as bedding. Simply lie it on its side in your animals' cage and, if necessary, use some hay to prop it open. Note that these will usually become soaked with urine quite quickly, and will need to be thrown away.

Cardboard Boxes

These provide a more rigid shelter for your pets. A shoe boxes or similar is ideal - simply cut some holes for your pigs to scamper in and out of, turn it upside down, and pop it in their cage.


There are a great way to make a comfortable, dark area for your cavies to hide. Simply drape a small towel in the corner of the cage, clip the corners to the bars using pegs or bulldog clips, and put a heavy object on the loose end to hold it away from the cage walls. They are quick to make and easy to wash, but do have a tendency to get tangled up, so you might need to straighten them out from time to time.