How to Rehome a Pet

CavyRescue is unable to take in any animals for the foreseeable future. However, there are a number of ways you can find loving homes for your animals and other rescues that you can contact:

Rehoming Guide

Firstly, please read our Guide here:
http://www.cavyrescue.co.uk/how-to-rehome-a-pet/

This will give you idea on how to rehome your pet yourself which can be less stressful for a furry than going in to a Rescue and waiting for a new home.

It also provides tips on other ways to try and find somewhere safe for your pet.

Other Rescues

Find a rescue nearer to you by visiting

http://www.cavyrescue.co.uk/affiliated-rescues/

Also, please use the Rescue Finder on the Home Page. This brings up a few results for other rescues. While they do not all take small furries, if you give them a call, they may know of someone (that is how it tends to work)

Often doing a search within Google can lead you to other Rescues too.

Contact

Your local vets. They may know of a small animal rescue near to you and may also be able to offer further help and advice.

Advertisements

You can place advertisements on these sites, subject to which type of animal you have:

http://www.fancy-rats.co.uk/community/viewforum.php?f=23
http://www.findafurry.co.uk
http://www.pet-rescue.org.uk
http://www.guineapigrehome.org.uk
http://www.rabbitrehome.org.uk

Finally

.. be patient. Finding the right home for an animal can take a long time. Also, many Rescues have very long waiting lists. Often people expect Rescues to have empty cages sitting there waiting to be filled but this is sadly not the case.

If you are thinking of moving abroad, then you need to think first about taking your animal with you or finding somewhere else for him or her, even before you make your moving arrangements.

If you live in rented accommodation, be aware that not all landlords accept tenants with small furries. If you are thinking about changing where you live and you are a renter, do not get an animal.

Similarly, if you are still at school and thinking about going to away to university or college in the next few years, do not get a pet. You will not be able to take it with you.

How to Rehome a Pet

This is not a pleasant Guide to write as no-one likes to think that a pet will be separated from an owner that the pet has come to love and trust. However, there are circumstances where, sadly, rehoming your pet is the only, and fairest, option.

Maybe you have split up with your partner and cannot take your pet with you due to accommodation problems. Or maybe you have become ill and no longer able to cope with the care of your pet.

Rescues are overflowing with animals and may not be able to take your pet for quite a while. To find a rescue local to you, ask at your vets as they may know of one; scour the internet; and use these links:

http://www.cavyrescue.co.uk/affiliated-rescues/

Even if the rescue cannot take your pet immediately, in lots of cases they can put you a waiting list.

However, if you do decide to rehome your pet yourself, it will also minimise the stress factor for the animal – going from a home to a rescue to another home is a bit harrowing for any animal, however big or small. By going from the security of your home straight to another should lessen the stress aspect.

You should be aware that it can be a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating process. You will need to be flexible in arranging times for people to come and meet your pet. If you are at work all day, you may find that, for a while, your evenings/weekends will be taken up with meeting potential new owners. However, everyone is perfectly capable of rehoming a pet and, after all, isn’t your pet worth it?

(Please note: if you originally got the animal/s from a Rescue (as opposed to a shop), under the terms of your Adoption Contract, you should be able to take them back to the relevant rescue. So contact the organisation. They will be sympathetic).

We always advise that in the cases of more than one pet, you don’t split them up as that will stress them out. It will be hard enough going to a new home, let alone one where their friend is absent, too.

Rehoming

Firstly, ask around friends and family. In a lot of cases, someone will know someone else who may be looking for a pet just like yours.

Secondly, try advertising on the various animal websites (you can search for them at the top of the www.cavyrescue.co.uk home page or do a search in ‘Google’ or ‘Ask Jeeves’) . For example, if you have a rat you wish to rehome, visit: http://www.ratrehome.co.uk or http://www.fancy-rats.co.uk/community/

Your local free ads will also be a good medium to advertise, but always put a ‘cost’ for the animal/s in your ad. This will help weed out the people who just want a free animal (and, if applicable, a cage). If someone isn’t prepared to pay for an animal and it’s cage/hutch, what happens if the animal ever needs veterinary treatment?

Put up ads in your local vets and pet shops advertising the animal/s.

If you go to our ‘Needing Homes’ section at http://www.cavyrescue.co.uk/useful-tools/needing-homes/ you can see that we also advertise for homes online. Please email us your name, contact details, type of animal, their age, sex, temperament, reason for rehoming and location and we’ll add your advertisement.

Vetting Applicants

If people do come along to meet your animal, don’t feel pressurised to rehome them if you don’t think their new home will be any good – we often turn away people we do not feel comfortable with!

If possible, arrange to take your pet to their potential new home. This will give you a chance to see your pet’s new environment and make a judgement whether they will feel happy. For example, a shy, little cat used to a quiet household will not fit in well into a noisy home with unruly children and barking dogs!

Look at how the rehomer talks to and handles your pet. Go with your gut instinct.

See if they ask all the right questions, such as diet, exercise, routine etc. Do not leave your pet there and then, give the potential rehomers a chance to ‘cool off’ – many people answer ads without thinking through the consequences.

If, after a week or so, it is still right for you and the new owners, then go ahead.

If you have been unsuccessful in rehoming a pet yourself, find a rescue local to you by clicking on the link: http://www.cavyrescue.co.uk/affiliated-rescues/

Running a Rescue

Running a rescue is a tough business, yet many people perceive animal rescuers as people who sit around all day playing with fluffy-wuffy cute animals. If only! Sadly, that is not how it is – we spend many sleepless nights nursing sick or badly abused animals; we spend our days cleaning out and feeding animals; going to vets appointments; vetting homes; dropping off and collecting animals; fund raising…oh, and doing a full time job too!

We also have the emotional distress of seeing people’s cruelty to animals day in, day out and often have to decide when it is the right time to have an animal put to sleep.

Life isn’t easy!

The following excellent article from Best Friends magazine and website (a brilliant animal rescue website in the US) accurately portrays life for an animal rescuer. If you sometimes wonder why we don’t always pick up the ‘phone straight away when you call us or answer emails straight away, or you are thinking of doing animal rescue yourself..read on…

Burned Out? By Faith Maloney

An all too common message was posted to the members’ forum on the Best Friends Web site recently:

“I take in homeless cats and try to find them homes. Word gets around, so I have people threatening to take their cat to the pound, where it will be killed, if I don’t take it. I always offer to help these people solve their problems. Most don’t even want to try. I don’t understand how people can dispose of a pet like it were a used tissue and not a feeling being. This is beginning to wear on me. All I have been able to do for the last two days is take care of my own cats and then go back to bed.”

This rescuer, like so many, was in the throes of full-fledged burnout. Burnout affects people in all walks of life. Anyone can become stressed at work and start putting the soda in the cupboard and the glasses in the fridge. But in the world of animal rescue, it comes with a range of acute feelings: from anger to anxiety, and helplessness to guilt and a sense of failure. In animal rescue, burnout is seen most often in people who work the front lines.

This can be the employee or volunteer who mans the front desk at a shelter or humane society or an animal control officer on call for abuse and neglect cases. The turnover in these jobs tends to be high. Also affected are the people who take the calls on animal help lines, or the person who is out rescuing dogs and cats in their community and taking them home. For many people, these jobs can be overwhelming.

The woman who posted her message on our forum found she had plenty of company. Someone else wrote in to say: “Now that winter is here, all I can think about are the cats that are suffering outside in the freezing weather. I know I can’t save them all, but I find myself constantly trying to figure out ways to fit in ‘just one more.’ I need to put some balance back in my life, but I don’t know how to block out all the horrible images from my mind.”

Burnout can be crippling. I experienced a heavy dose of it while acting as the unofficial animal control officer for my community. I would stare at the red blinking light on the phone answering machine, unable to respond and filled with dread about what new horror awaited me. But there are solutions to the syndrome. Joy Jett, one of our online forum moderators, gives wise advice to people experiencing burnout. “You are your first priority. If you don’t have enough energy to care for yourself or your own animals, you have nothing to give to anyone else.”

You need to ask yourself some basic questions. Perhaps what you are currently doing is no longer the right job for you. We are not all cut out for coping with the wicked world – or at least not every time the phone rings. Some people can handle the trenches for a year or two and then need to find a different job in the animal field. Others need to get out altogether and do something quite different – at least for a while. And there are some who can do the same job year in and year out without ill effect.

John Paul Fox has been the Humane Society of Utah’s animal cruelty officer for almost 30 years, dealing with cruelty cases all over the state. He is as kind and compassionate today as he was when I first met him over 15 years ago.

In my own case, after doing a front line job for a number of years, I realized that it was not for me anymore. I knew that I still had a lot to offer, and I was able to use my experience here at the sanctuary to help others and still make a difference for the animals.

You may or may not be able to make that kind of move, but there are certainly things you can do to lessen the feelings of burnout right now.
First, share your feelings with someone else. Sometimes just expressing the frustrations can help you see another way of looking at things.

Here are seven tips that may help:

1. If you’re flooded with calls to rescue animals, stop answering the phone and let your voicemail or answering machine pick it up. If you have a spouse, friend, or family member who can field the calls for you for a time, ask for their help. Give them a tip sheet on how to respond to various situations. If you can’t get help, return the calls when you feel most able to deal effectively with the problem.

2. It helps to be able to tell the person about options and possible solutions for the animal they are calling about, whether it’s a stray, a feral, or a pet. If possible, provide them with literature on how to find homes for homeless pets.

3. Keep positive reinforcement in your life. Look to all the stories of animals that were helped. (That’s how Best Friends magazine began!)

4. Seek out friends and other animal people when you feel overwhelmed. You can support each other emotionally. Online forums and chat rooms can provide help, too.

5. Recognize that you did not create the problem. All too often, we compulsively try to take on the responsibility for a situation we did not originate. Your part in the situation is to offer people help, advice, and some of the tools they’ll need to extricate themselves from their problem.

6. Strive for balance in your life. Go and see a movie, take up a hobby, or explore the great outdoors. When we take care of ourselves, we get to live another day to help the animals.

7. Remember that most people love their pets and would never abandon them, and that there are lots of people who, like you, take in strays and work to rescue animals.

You are not alone.

Burnout is not the end. It’s a signal. You need to listen to what those feelings are telling you. One lady told me that she could no longer cope with volunteering at her shelter and now just writes checks. We need the people who write the checks as well as the people who pick up the poop or answer the phones. When you find the role that works best for you, you will be happy and motivated. Best of all, you’ll have become even more effective at helping the animals.

“ Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.” – Milan Kundera

I want to run an animal rescue

So, you think that you fancy running an animal rescue? You think that it is all about sitting around playing with cute animals..? Then think again…

Before you even think about running an animal rescue, there are some things that you must consider:

1. You will never have a holiday again or even an overnight stay away. In fact, you’ll never have a social life again as when you start to take in more and more rats – most that are ill or with ‘problems’ – you’ll either be nursing them or trying to tame them. My last holiday was my honeymoon in 1999. I have not had a break since then. You will make plans for a family meal or a night out with friends and you will have to cancel as one of the furries in your care takes a turn for the worst or you get called out to an emergency rescue case.

2. Unless you are affluent, you will have to work for yourself as you will spend every other day at the vets and, unless you work short hours, there will be days when you’ll be late home from work and won’t get to the vets in time. Your boss will also get fed up with you having to leave work early due to having a sick animal or having to do a homecheck etc. It does not help your career and without a job, you cannot afford to do this!

3. You will need at least £15,000 a year of your own money available for vets bills, rat accommodation, food, petrol to do home checks, phone calls, collecting animals etc. Donations from people are on very thin ground, despite what you may think

4. You will have to be thick skinned when you get people who call you up at 2.00am and demand that you take your rat or guinea pig ..or when you get home from work to find a cardboard box of rats dumped on your doorstep (even though you don’t give your landline number or address to anyone – you are still found!)

5. You will have to restrain yourself from punching someone’s face in whose badly abused/neglected animals you are taking in

6. You will have to be prepared for people turning up at your home to dump or collect a rat, walking around your home and seeing that you have a TV and clean hair and them automatically assuming that you don’t need a donation.

7. You will have to be prepared to have no other relationships as you will have no energy for them. For example, we have 30 odd rats here. Each one I have an individual relationship with. It is especially emotionally draining and sad when you have a very sick one. Each animal is special and each relationship with them special. Imagine having 30 needy friends, all vying for your time 24/7 – would you cope?

8. You will have to be prepared for people generally treating you as public service – turning up two hours late to dump an animal on you or never turning up at all, leaving you wondering whether the animal has been let loose somewhere. You’ll lose sleep over it.

9. You will do home checks, find the perfect home for a furry and get the new owners to promise to keep in touch as you will want to see how he or she gets on in their new home. Some people won’t and it eats you up.

10. You will spend hours on the PC, typing notes to people and on the ‘phone giving help, advice etc – and 9 times out of 10 you never even get a thank you.

If this is what you really want, why not try it out first by being a fosterer – maybe you should consider this in the first instance rather than jumping straight in. I have no life except 30 relationships which are very sad as the rats are either ill or problematic, and no money.

Imagine spending your next seven years getting up at 5am to clean out five cages every day, feed, medicate, nurse furries etc, before sitting at your desk at 9am to try and earn some money while squashing in emails, vets appointments, fundraising, home visits, collecting abused animals etc. If you get to bed at 11.00pm you will be lucky and then you will not sleep as you will worry about the sick and sad animals in your care.

Imagine that scenario every day for the next seven years – EVERY day. Sick and dumped animals still need help on bank holidays, at Christmas, on your birthday. Animal Rescue is relentless – 24/7 365 days a year – with you having no real help or support or no one to rely on.

Don’t get me wrong, it is so rewarding to bring an aggressive or timid animal round or help a sick one. What they give back to you is amazing. It’s the people and the lack of understanding such as “Oh, you sit around all day playing with furry animals” that gets to you. It isn’t like this at all, it is bloody hard, relentless and most of the time, really sad.

Vaccinations

Unfortunately, there are pet owners who see vaccinating their rabbit, cat or dog as a waste of time and money. Here we cover the most commonly asked questions about vaccinations.

Are vaccinations really necessary?

Yes. Annual (and in some cases, bi-annual) vaccinations are the most important preventative measure you can take to help protect your pet from a number of potentially serious and even fatal diseases. Even indoor cats and dogs need an annual vaccination, as do rabbits.

How do vaccinations work?

Vaccines contain viruses or bacteria that have been modified so that they will not cause disease. When an animal is vaccinated, two parts of the animal’s immune system are stimulated, producing an immunity or ‘barrier’ against the bacteria or virus in question. This will destroy the disease should the animal later become exposed.

Why do I need to get my pet a ‘booster’ regularly?

The protection provided by a vaccine gradually declines over time. Your pet needs regular “booster” vaccinations to ensure ongoing immunity from disease as the protection provided by a vaccine declines over time. For cats and dogs, this is annually. In some areas, rabbits need a bi-annual booster.

Speak to your vet to see what vaccinations your pet requires.

When getting your pet vaccinated or having a booster, you can use the opportunity to have them thoroughly checked over. Your vet can then ensure your animal is in the best of health. You should also note that boarding kennels and catteries only accept animals that have full, up to date vaccinations and most Pet Insurers make it part of their terms and conditions that the insured animal is fully vaccinated.

If you plan to take your pet abroad, you will need to have it vaccinated against rabies.

Are vaccinations 100% safe?

Vaccinations are a medical procedure and, like all medical procedures, carries a slight risk. Vaccines have done much to reduce the sickness and death of domestic animals and the slight risk factor must be balanced against the consequences of disease.

Overall, veterinarians have found vaccination a safe procedure carrying little side-effects or risk. If my animal is vaccinated, does it guarantee they won’t get the disease? Vaccination gives your pet the chance to be protected against the known serious and fatal diseases. However, no vaccination can guarantee 100% protection.

For example, in some cases, an animal may already be carrying the disease, with no symptoms.

How much do vaccinations cost?

The price varies depending on the type of animal you are having vaccinated, however, an average overall cost is around £20 for dogs and cats, around £13 for rabbits.

REMEMBER – always speak to your vet if you have any questions or concerns regarding your pet.

Outdoor Rabbit Guide

Rabbits have been popular pets for centuries, and they live on average to 5 years old (though we have heard of a few reaching 9 years old..and still going!)

Rabbits are usually very docile but, if cornered, frightened or frustrated, can be nervous and will bite or ‘attack’ you by scrabbling with their front paws.

Rabbits are lagomorphs and that means that their teeth are constantly growing. They require plenty of hard food to chew to keep their teeth worn down. Complete rabbit dry foods are good, but should not be the sole diet.

Rabbits should have good hay and fresh water available all the time. Very small amounts of cabbage or carrot can be fed as treats.

Any new food should be introduced slowly and not fed to excess as it may cause diarrhoea until the rabbit is used to it. This especially refers to young rabbits that have either just left their mother or their litter brothers and sisters, as this is a traumatic time for them anyway.

Additional wood, or branches from apple or pear trees or proprietary nibbling treats are useful to wear the teeth down. If the teeth get overgrown they can be cut or removed by operation by a veterinary surgeon.

NOTE: If your rabbit does suffer from diarrhoea, feed it strawberry leaves. NEVER feed a rabbit lettuce.

Accommodation

Unless they are (same sex) litter mates, or a neutered buck with a doe, rabbits are best kept singly. If kept in a hutch, the hutch must be at least 4ft long and 18″ deep and have a private nest compartment. If the hutch is outdoors it should be adequately felted to prevent draughts and dampness. It should be sheltered, and ideally placed in a garden shed over winter. The bedding material should be absorbent e.g. pet bedding*, straw or hay. The seeds should be shaken out of the hay and straw to prevent them getting in the rabbits eyes.

* Although woodshavings are the popular choice for pet shops and breeders, we either use a paper based cat litter such as biocatolet or carefresh supreme. In our experience, in some cases, woodshavings / sawdust can cause respiratory problems which can kill.

General Care

Long coated rabbits must be groomed daily. All rabbits should have their teeth and nails checked for overgrowth. Some rabbits get soiled around the vent (bottom) area, this is very often caused by the rabbit being overweight, (one large handful of food is sufficient for an average size rabbit).

This is particularly dangerous in summer as flies will lay their eggs in the coat leading to maggot infestation (flystrike), which can be FATAL. All rabbits should be checked daily in the summer and kept very clean.

Vaccination is available for two fatal diseases, myxomatosis and VHD (Viral Haemorrhagic Disease). Vaccinations can be done from 8 weeks of age and are boosted annually. In a high risk area (e.g. with wild rabbits around) boosters should be every six months. Your vet will be able to advise you on this.

Vaccination is important, it is the only way to protect your rabbit and prevent further spread of disease. VHD symptoms vary from loss of appetite to sudden death. Rabbits develop breathing difficulties, convulsions, in coordination, and often a bloodstained nasal discharge. It is very distressing and happens very quickly. All breeds of rabbit can be affected including pet, show and wild rabbits. This year VHD has killed 10 times more rabbits than it did last year. The virus is present in the saliva and nasal secretions of rabbits, and it can be spread by direct contact with rabbits or carried on people, clothing, objects, birds and other animals.

Myxomatosis is spread by fleas and mosquitoes and is a horrible disease. Symptoms include puffy fluid swellings around the head and face. ‘Sleepy eyes’ are a classic sign along with swollen lips and ears and genitalia. It is fatal. As well as vaccination, flea control is important in prevention.

Wild Food and Feeding for Rabbits.

Wild Plants: Feed
Avens or Geum, Argrimony, Bramble, Bindweed, Bishop’s Weed or Ground Elder, Burnet, Butterbur, Cow Parsnip or Hogweed, Clovers, Coltsfoot, Convolvulus, Chickweed, Goosegrass, Crosewort or Maywort, Dandelion, Dock (before seeding), Goutweed, Hawkweed, Heather, Hedgeparsley, Knapweed, Knotgrass, Lucerne, Mallow, Mustard, Nipplewort, Plaintain, Sea Spinach, Shepards Purse, Sour Dock or Sorrel, Thistles, Trefoil, Vetches or Tares, Watercress, Yarrow.

Wild Plants: Avoid
Arum, Anemone, Black Nightshade, Bluebells, Buttercup, Bryony, Colchicums, (Meadow Saffron), Corn Cockle, Celandine, Deadly Nightshade, Docks (in seed), Dog Mercurry, Figwort, Foxglove, Iris, Fools Parsley, Ground Ivy, Hemlock, Henbane, Poppies, Scarlet Pimpernal, Spurges, Toadflax, Travellers Joy.

Cultivated Vegetables and Roots: Feed
Artichokes, Jerusalem (Leaves and Roots), Beetroot, Brussels Sprouts, Beans and Haulms (Not Scarlet Runners), Chicory, Cauliflower, Carrots, Cabbage, Celery, Clover, Dandelion, Fodder Beet, Horse Radish, Kale’s, Kohl-Rabi, Lucerne, Maize Mangolds (after 25th December), Parsley, Parsnips, Strawberry, Swedes, Sainfoin, Savoys, Spinich, Sunflowers.

Cultivated Vegetables and Roots: Avoid
Mangold Tops, Mangold Roots (before December), Tomato Leaves, Potato Tops, Lettuce.
Flowers: Feed, Asters, Borage, Calendula, Centaurea, Daisies, Galega, Geranium, Geum, Helenium, Hollyhock, Honesty, Lupins (not seeds), Marguerites, Marigolds, Michaelmas Daisies, Nasturtium, Rose, Stocks, Sunflowers, Wallflowers.

Flowers: Avoid
Acacia, Aconite, Antirrhinum, Arum, Anemone, Columbine, Daffodil, Dahlia, Delphinium, Feverfew, Gyposphilla, Helleborus, Hyacinth, Iris, Larkspur, Lilly of the Valley, Linarias, Lobelia, Love-in-a-mist, Monkswood, Poppies, Snowdrop, Tulips.

Trees and Shrubs: Feed
Practically all Deciduous trees,(Except very fresh growth of young trees and twigs), Blackberry, Rose, Raspberry Canes and Winter Ivy.

Trees and Shrubs: Avoid
Most Evergreen trees and Shrubs, Acacia, Box Elder, Beech Mast, Gorse Seeds, Laburnam, Oak, Snowberry, Plum, Ivy, (Except in Winter when no berries or flowers).

NOTE: BEFORE FEEDING YOUR RABBITS WITH ANY WILD PLANTS MAKE SURE THEY HAVE NOT BEEN CONTAMINATED WITH PESTICIDES, OTHER CHEMICALS OR FOULING BY DOGS.

Guide to Mice

Mice make great pets, being intelligent, friendly and relatively low maintenance to keep. They live on average for 18 months – 2 years, are easily tamed and if handled properly very rarely, if ever, bite. Sociable by nature mice are best kept in pairs or groups, although there maybe occasions when an aggressive male may have to be kept singly. For this reason females are recommended for first time owners.

Mice are very active little animals and a pair or small group of them will keep you constantly amused with their antics as they play, eat, groom and sleep together. No two are ever quite the same, either in looks or personality and each will have their likes and dislikes as well as their own little habits. Mice also come in an astounding range of colours and varieties and can be extremely pretty to look at, especially if you have several different types living together.

Housing

As with all animals the more space you can offer the better. Most ‘mouse’ cages are far too small so are best avoided. Good sized hamster cages are great, providing the bar spacing is 1cm or less as mice are very good at escaping through small gaps! Large glass and plastic tanks offer good escape proof homes although they will have to be kept spotless to combat the potential problem with ventilation.

Sawdust and other wood based litters can be extremely dangerous to mice, causing respiratory problems and allergies and should not be used. Safe alternatives include things like Carefresh, Megazorb, Hemp and cardboard based products such as Ecopetbed, Easybed and Bedxel. Shredded paper, newspaper, hay or torn up tissues and kitchen towel (or a mixture of them all) can be used as bedding for mice to sleep in.

Suggested toys for mice can include: tubes from the middle of toilet roll/kitchen towel; solid spoked exercise wheels; ropes and ladders; things to shred (tissue/newspaper etc) and pesticide free sticks/branches from safe source (oak, fruit trees). The list is pretty much endless, as most toys sold for small animals are safe and free household ‘waste’ items such egg boxes, cereal packets etc can also be used.

Diet

Mice can be prone to skin problems and allergies if fed a diet that is too high in fat and protein, so hamster mixes, which usually contain sunflower seeds and peanuts, are best avoided. If buying a commercial dry food go for a mix for rats food as they have the closest nutritional needs out of all the rodents to that of a mouse. When choosing be on the look out for ‘fillers’ such as alfalfa or grass pellets as these are things the manufacturers add to ‘bulk’ the mix up and most animals won’t even eat them! Other things to look out for include large amounts of flaked peas or ash and foods that have been artificially coloured or flavoured.

The dry mix should always be available in small quantities and not topped up until most of it has gone to prevent the mice from only picking out their favourite bits! They will also require fresh foods a few times a week, such as small amounts of vegetables, cooked pasta or fruit. Treats can include animal chocolate drops, sunflower seeds and dog biscuits. Contrary to popular belief most mice will not eat cheese and as they do not require dairy foods it is unnecessary to offer them. Fresh water should also be available at all times.

Handling and Exercise

The most likely reason for a mouse to bite is if it is being handled roughly. The safest way to pick up your mouse is to cup it in both hands, but is is also ok to grasp it firmly by the base of its tail and then put your hand under it to support its weight. Never hold it for any length of time by the tail or pick it up by the tip as you will hurt the mouse. Most mice will enjoy play time outside of their cage and this will also help them get used to you. It is important to remember that mice can squeeze through the tiniest of gaps so they should be supervised at all times and must be kept away from other pets. Hamster exercise balls are not recommended as very few mice enjoy being in them and usually become visibly distressed.

Health

There are a few health problems that mice can suffer from, the most common being sneezing and respiratory problems, mites/lice, tumours and food allergies. Sneezing is often caused by dusty cage litters and the first thing to do is to switch it for something less likely to aggravate the mouses respiratory system. Ammonia released from old droppings and urine will also have this affect so it is important to change litter and bedding regularly before it becomes smelly.

Excessive scratching may indicate a mite or lice infestation. If this is the case there will often be small scabs on the skin, commonly behind the ears and around the neck and fur loss. Lice can sometimes be seen as tiny red/orange coloured dots on the skin but mites are invisible to the naked eye. If either are suspected the mouse will need to see the vet for treatment as most over the counter treatments are ineffective. Another cause of excessive scratching, once mice or lice have been ruled out, is a food allergy. Fatty nuts and seeds are often the culprit and the mouse will usually recover quickly once these are removed from its diet.

Mice like rats are fairly susceptible to lumps and bumps, though these are more common in female mice and older mice. The likelihood that a mouse will develop a tumour will depend partly on its parentage and has also been linked to a high fat diet A high percentage of tumours turn out to be benign (not cancerous) and depending on the location and size can often be removed and the mouse fully recover. Even if it is not possible to be removed a mouse may live happily for many months with a lump before feeling any ill effects.

For more information about keeping mice as pets please visit www.allaboutmice.co.uk

Many thanks to Kelly Bettison from www.allaboutmice.co.uk for this article.

Indoor House Rabbit Guide

Rabbits can make wonderful companions; loyal, affectionate, playful and mischievous. Don’t be fooled by the sometimes docile and placid creatures you see sitting in a hutch, bringing this animal into your house can unlock the door to its often amazing character and let its personality shine.

Keeping rabbits in a house is not really new, its been known for many years that rabbits can be house trained, the only drawback is that like tom-cats unneutered rabbits will often spray urine.

However recent advancements in veterinary surgery practices neutering of rabbits is becoming more common place so keeping a rabbit indoors is now more practical not just in this country but all over the world, many people have always kept rabbits indoors but only in recent times have they come out and said so, realising they are not as “odd” as they once thought but part of an ever growing population.

Even so the idea of keeping a rabbit indoors still seems quite an eccentric thing to do, to some people, when really keeping a rabbit as a house pet is no different to keeping a cat or dog, they are affectionate, clean, easy to house train, don’t need to be taken for long walks and are relatively quiet. Yes they can, and often do, communicate vocally, as well as with the odd thump of the back feet!

Rabbits are easier and cheaper to keep than cats or dogs as well as being much better at fitting into a household with a busy schedule. Even so, being classed as a relatively low cost and low maintenance pet, they still require food, toys, vaccinations, pet insurance etc and vet bills will, as with any pet, still need to be paid.

And whether kept inside or outside your pet still needs affection and commitment, as they are always dependent on you for its well being. Any rabbit can be a house rabbit, young – old, big – small, male or female, and with well over 50 different breeds which come in all kinds of colours and sizes its only a matter of finding your ideal rabbit. Many outdoor rabbits will adapt to living indoors, but once they are used to being there it won’t want to go back to a life outside!

What to do first?

Its always best to have as much ready as possible for your new pet, and house rabbits are no exception. You will need either an indoor hutch, cage or pen, as well as a cat litter tray, suitable litter, bedding, hay, straw, food, treats and toys.

The litter you use must be non-toxic, dust free, absorbent and one that will not stick together when it becomes wet. We recommend CareFresh.As many rabbits will nibble at the litter any that contain toxins or swell to several times their original size could prove fatal when ingested, if the litter is not absorbent the urine can splash onto the rabbit and cause skin problems, and any dust in the litter can irritate the rabbits eyes and also cause respirator problems, the more usual bedding material like hay and straw are both suitable but should be checked for excessive dust. We use a paper based cat litter such as biocatolet and also carefresh by supreme

Feeding

The rabbit has a complicated and unique digestive system which has evolved to make sure the rabbit can obtain the most from its natural food supplies.

The two most important factors of the rabbit diet are protein and fibre, as with any diet it must be balanced – too low an intake of fibre will cause very serious digestive problems and diarrhoea. Also any changes to the balance of protein and fibre within the diet will also cause health problems.

For the house rabbit that cannot forage for food as its wild cousins, the correct high-fibre diet is even more important. The easiest way to feed a well balanced diet is to use one of the many pre-prepared mixes that are available (always read the instructions that should accompany the food, and feed any supplements as recommended).

Alfalfa is one of the most recommended supplements, it came to the front in the health food revolution, this clover-like plant is naturally rich in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, but care must be taken not to over feed as this will cause harm to the rabbits digestive system.

Care must also be taken not to suddenly change the diet of the rabbit from one food brand to another, as this will undoubtedly cause an upset stomach or worse, always make any changes over a few days, by mixing a small amount of the new food with the food you normally feed.

Also it is important not to over or under feed the quantity of the food, a good adult sized handful of food or food mixture is enough for any average sized (6lb) rabbit per day and this should be adjusted to take into account the treats, if any, that have been fed through the day. Overfeeding can cause very serious problems from the added strain put on all the organs of the body and even heart attacks, to the rabbit not being able to clean itself properly.

All rabbits need to have fresh drinking water available, one of the best ways of providing this is in a bottle, this prevents the water from becoming soiled and undrinkable, but always make sure it is full and the spout is working correctly.

It is also worth taking the time to find which treat your rabbit likes best, as this will be very helpful when the house training starts.

To get the most from your relationship with your rabbit, it is necessary to understand a little about how rabbits think. Rabbits are territorial, they need there own space and are not very happy when it is invaded by anyone or anything, sometimes even the hand that brings food!

Rabbits are also creatures of habit so although they mark there territory with droppings they do it in the same places so litter training is often very easy to teach them.

The hutch, pen or cage, is where your rabbit can eat, sleep, defecate and go to when it needs some peace a quite, so this is his home and must be treated as such, always try and avoid disturbing him when he is there, even feeding and watering should be done when the rabbit is out, and never attempt to clean the hutch.

Making friends

While he is about – especially at first – some rabbits, when completely settled in their soundings, may approach you while you are cleaning and some may even try and help! It is important that the rabbit only joins in when he wants to and not because you want him to. He’s the boss!

At first always coax the rabbit in and out of his home using a treat can help enormously, and never pick the rabbit up from the hutch or pick the rabbit up to put him back.

When you first get your rabbit home gently coax him into his new home and shut the door, leave him for a few days to settle into his new surroundings and to become accustomed to being indoors, if you take a moment to think how many new sights, sounds, smells and sensations your rabbit is feeling for the first time I am sure you will appreciate how necessary this time is, also at this time it is best to avoid reaching in and out of the hutch to pick up and cuddle him again this undisturbed time will reinforce the feeling of safety the rabbit will feel when in its hutch.

During these first few days the litter tray should be at the back of the hutch and the food dish and water bottle at the front, this will make the daily feeding and watering of the rabbit easier and less intrusive to the rabbits territory.

Litter Training

Fill the litter tray and place it at the back of the hutch, place some hay nearby, rabbits tend to be opportunistic feeders and will often eat while defecating.

Watch carefully, from a distance, and if the rabbit is going in a different place to the litter tray simply move the tray until the rabbit gets used to going in it.

If you have never kept a rabbit before or never had the opportunity to live as closely with a rabbit as you are now doing, you may be surprised to see your rabbit eating its own droppings, don’t be alarmed, this behaviour is called caecotrophy and simply allows the rabbit to get important nutrients from the food that its digestive system has been unable to obtain while the food passed through it the first time!

After a few days or when your rabbit has been using its litter tray you can start letting him out to explore his new surroundings, this is best done for a short while before you feed him, by doing this he’ll have more of an incentive to go home when its time.

Rabbit Proofing

Rabbits have teeth that continually grow and will gnaw a lot to keep them short one of their most favoured household things to do this on are electric cables and wires, so these must be protected before the rabbit can be allowed to roam safely.

The best way to do this is by encasing them in plastic pipes which are available, quite cheaply, from hardware stores, at first it will also be necessary to move any plants out of the rabbits reach along with other books, magazines or shoes etc.

When the rabbit is let out for the first time make sure you have other things for your rabbit to play with, these can be simple cardboard tubes from the inside of paper rolls, empty cardboard boxes or sturdy cat toys or even a hard baby rattle, anything that your rabbit can chew safely.

As we have said before the rabbit should not be forced to do anything that it does not want or feel comfortable doing, so when preparing to let your rabbit out for the first time, just open the door and sit away from the hutch and don’t be surprised if therabbit doesn’t stray very far from the hutch or doesn’t come out at all, this is just proving that he feels secure while in his hutch

If, after a few times of trying this your rabbit still doesn’t come out gently coax him out with a treat, but never pick him up and put him in the middle of the room, the main thing to remember is not to be too pushy, if he will let you stroke him then reward him with a food treat and praise.

Rabbits are ground animals and many are afraid of heights so start by sitting on the floor with him and holding him there until he learns to trust you more.

After a while a rabbit can be taught to react to basic instructions the word “NO” will probably be the most used, and is best reinforced by a stamp of the foot at the same time as the word is spoken. Always use simple and consistent words as rabbits can not understand that several words can have the same meaning.

House Rules

When you are ready for your rabbit to return home, never pick him up and put him in his hutch, but leave sufficient time to gently heard him or bribe him into going home, if necessary block off other routes so the only way open to him is the path home and always make sure the rabbits final step through the doorway is made voluntary and receiving a treat when he does so. The repetition of this event over a few weeks will soon increase the trust and bond between you.

Many house rabbit owners give their rabbit the complete run of the house and only confine the rabbit in its hutch when they are out or asleep, if this is suitable then access to the hutch must be available at all times so if the rabbit needs a nap, something to eat or just a quiet place to sit then he has somewhere to go.

Neutering

Neutering is essential for rabbits that are kept indoors, it also makes them happier, healthier and much easier to live with and is also an indispensable aid in successful house training. The most affectionate of rabbits can become troublesome when puberty occurs, this more so in bucks who not only start to mark their territory with droppings but spray scent their boundaries, as well as making advances to all sorts of things including slippers, small pieces of furniture even feet and legs if left stationary for too long!

Does are also prone to mood swings and displays of aggression. The age that rabbits reach puberty varies from breed to breed, the smaller breeds will reach puberty at a younger age while the larger breeds are older when they start this phase of their development.

Females will also reach puberty a couple of months after a male of the same breed. Neutering will normally solve these behavioural problems, also research has shown that does can have major health benefits from being neutered, 80% of does that have not been neutered develop uterine cancer by the age of five.

The best age for having this operation performed is about 4 months for bucks and 6 months for does, and as always your vet will be able to advise you as to the requirements of individual breeds.

General Health

Rabbits should be vaccinated every year against Mxyomatosis and VHD (Viral Haemorrhagic Disease). Most rabbits will need there claws clipped regularly, you may be able to do this yourself but you will need to be shown how to do this by someone who is competent.

Regular visits to your vet’s are an important part of preventing illness and maintaining you rabbit in good health.

Company

Rabbits are social animals but care must still be taken when introducing other rabbits or animals, if more than one rabbit is going to be kept together then both must be neutered, the best combination is male and female, but brothers or sisters will live together, providing they have never been separated.

Always introduce new animals on neutral ground and especially in the case of rabbits watch very carefully and be prepared for the odd scuffle in the first few days.

Remember rabbits, like humans, all have there own personalities and some pairs will never get on together.Most house rabbits will also get on quite happily with other family pets, a lot will depend on the size and temperament of the animals involved, but care must be taken not to leave new acquaintances together until you are absolutely sure it is safe to do so.

Humanely dealing with unwanted rats and mice in your home

As Winter gets underway, wild mice and rats enter houses more often to escape the cold and rats are also seen in increasing frequency in peoples gardens. However, while this can be a matter for concern, there are ways that you can humanely remove these uninvited visitors rather than calling the local exterminator. He will put down anti-coagulant poisons which cause a long slow death and a great deal of suffering to the mice and rats as well as the poison being potentially dangerous to you, your family and your pets.

How can I tell if I have rodents in my house?

House Mice will leave a cloying ‘acetamide’ smell; other mice leave little odour.

Gnawing : Rodents need to gnaw constantly to keep their teeth trim and they will gnaw on most things.

Tooth Marks : Larger marks made by Rats who can gnaw through soft metals such as aluminium or lead.

Droppings : a rats poo is 12mm long and often tapered at one end. A mouse poo is half the length and thinner.

Greasy Marks: Rats and House Mice leave dirty black smears along well travelled routes especially where the have to squeeze under objects.

You may also hear the scamper of little feet above your head as they scurry around your loft.

What Problems can they cause?

Rodents generally cause minor problems in houses, such as furniture damage, food nibbling and a few electrical and insulation damage. Some rodents however are good house guests and cause NO damage at all.

Chewing wiring is the main concern which can lead to electrical faults and expensive repairs.

Prevention

Do not call the exterminators! They get rid of the rodents in a cruel way which prolongs suffering and in the long term does not get rid of rodents from entering your home.

Exterminators use anti-coagulant poisons. These cause a slow painful death over around five days to the rodent. The anti-coagulant literally stops the rodent forming any blood clots, so it bleeds to deaths – blood will come from its eyes, it nose and other orifices and will also fill its so that they drown in their own blood – this is a horrible way to die.

Problems with the poison also can occur if the rodent is eaten before it dies.

Anticoagulants are notoriously non-selective and have the potential to kill domestic dogs and cats, wildlife, children, and even grown adults.

And while the anti-coagulants may work in the short term by killing any rodents in your home, your house attracted rodents before and so it will attract more. The key is prevention – and is the easiest and best long term solution. Repair broken air bricks and holes in external walls. Fill any floorboard hole, replace damaged skirting boards and remove any nesting materials. Don’t leave food rubbish in bags in your back garden, always put it in a bin! Rats are notoriously good opportunists and leaving out food bags will only encourage them into your garden.

Also, although it may be environmentally friendly to throw out any rotting fruit or vegetables on to your soil to decompose, this again will attract hungry critters.

How do I get rid of unwanted visitors?

There are indoor devices such as sensors which use electromagnetic interference or ultrasound to drive rats and mice away. They emit a sound inaudible to the human ear but one that is awful to a rodent – the noise will literally drive them away. You plug them into any plug socket and let it get on with it! However, do be careful when using these sonic repellents – don’t use them if you have bats in your loft as this will drive them away. Also if your neighbour has a ‘small furry’ such as a hamster or pet rat or mouse, make sure you don’t plug the sonic repellent in a party wall as the sound may travel through the walls depending on how your house is built.

Here is a link to a good Sonic Repeller – http://www.grovelands.com/acatalog/info_4.html

Live capture traps are also good. Set them up in your loft with a strong smelling piece of food in it such as piece of sausage or strong cheese. And check on the trap twice a day.

Once you have caught the rodent, do not release him or her in your back garden – they will simply come back in! Get in your car and drive at least 2 miles away – otherwise they will be back in your house before you are! GRIN!

Guide to Hamsters

Of the many species of hamster that live in the wild, relativity few have found their way into the pet world. One of the most common of these is the Golden or Syrian hamster; although this is still a comparatively new pet which has only been available since its re-discovery in 1930.

Syrian hamsters are solitary animals with both sexes living apart in the wild and only coming together for mating purposes, in captivity these hamsters must be housed separately, as fights to the death are not uncommon.

All hamsters will need to be housed in a strong cage that fits tightly onto a strong plastic base, ideally with more than one level and as large as possible. Hamsters are adept at escaping – so be extra sure that their cage is secure!

Hamsters are very active creatures throughout their short two-three year lives and should have an exercise wheel with solid treads fitted to the side of the cage so the hamster cannot hurt its feet.

Most hamsters will accept, and use, any of the wide variety of houses that can be brought for them to sleep in, while others will ignore them and even remove any bedding material placed inside them, and proceed to make a nest else where in the cage.

Hamsters like all rodents have teeth (incisors) that grow continually throughout their life, so plenty of gnawing material will need to be in the cage, or the cage itself will become the centre of its gnawing.

Considering the amount of time hamsters have been part of the pet world they are available in a great many colours and coat lengths, the long hair varieties will need extra grooming but all hamsters, no matter what their coat type, should be handled ever day.

Dwarf Hamsters

There are 3 main species of dwarf hamsters that are becoming more popular as pets, they all live from between 2 – 3 years and have similar requirements to the golden hamster.

The Chinese dwarf hamster is about half the size of a golden hamster with a long sleek body a short, but not stubby, tail and a distinctive dark coloured line that runs along the animals back starting on its face and ending at the base of its short tail.

The other 2 species both come from Russia, the smallest being Roborovski or Russian Winter White, because if kept in cool conditions its topcoat, which is normally grey, will fade until it almost matches the pale white underbelly. This hamster is also sometimes called A Siberian Miniature Hamster. Because when fully grown it is only about 1″ in length. Its body and head are well rounded with large dark eyes and the fur that is less dense than other hamsters cover the entire animal including the tail and feet.

The 2nd dwarf hamster from Russia are called Campbell’s Hamster, these reach a length of between 1 Ѕ – 2 Ѕ” are much more stockier and have the thickest fur, this again covers the short and stubby tail as well as the animals feet.

The overall appearance of this hamster is that of a small fuzz ball often it is difficult to even see the hamster’s legs when it is walking about. This hamster, like the golden, is usually available in a variety of different colours but only ever with the normal coat length.

Diet

Feeding these smaller hamsters poses no real problem, other than the size and amount of food that should be fed to them.

Hamsters in the wild collect their food during the early evening and night filling their cheek pouches to bursting point before returning to there burrows several times and storing the food in its food chamber. These trips always end before daylight when the hamster stays in its burrow, until its next night of foraging.

This behaviour pattern can be seen in all golden hamsters kept as pets, few will be seen during the day, most will empty food dishes and spend most of the night on an exercise wheel.

The feeding requirements of hamsters are like all rodents, a basic diet of a hard food hamster mix which is then supplemented with treat foods like; carrot, celery, grapes, pear, grass, dandelion leaves and raisins. Always be careful not to over feed any one food and make a balanced diet from all the foods your hamster will eat.

When any fresh food is offered make sure it has been washed and dried, any foods collected from the wild are free from any chemicals, pesticides or fouling by other animals. And that the size of the item is relative to the size of the hamster it is being offered to.

Because of the hamsters method of collecting its food care must be taken when fresh food is offered, only feed what your hamster will eat in front of you.
If while cleaning the cage you find a store of old food, clean it away but replace it with fresh food, if you don’t your hamster might think it has no where safe to store its food, and will then start to keep all its food in its cheek pouches. If this happens it could lead to a serious health problem.

Housing

The Chinese and Campbell hamsters can be housed securely in cages, when they are adults, providing the bars of the cage are not too far apart. Even so young adults of these breeds and the Roborovski hamsters will be more secure in a converted aquarium or similar tank.

However you choose to house these smaller breeds their requirements for toys and solidly constructed exercise wheels are the same as for the golden hamster.
All of the dwarf hamsters are more sociable than the golden and will live happier when kept as a pair or part of a group. Females kept together are less likely to squabble than males but providing that sufficient space is allowed per hamster they should all live happily together.

The behaviour of all adult animals, no matter what species, will be greatly influenced by the temperament of the parents, the individual’s personality of the animal and to a much lesser degree by how the animal was handled and socialised as a baby and youngster.