Holiday Donations for Shelters and Sanctuaries

Happy Christmas in July!

Celebrate Christmas in July by donating to your favorite charities in the middle of the year! It appears that many people are often the most charitable during “holiday season”: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years being the top time where most donations are given. While this is a wonderful thing to do, it is important to remember that charities need donations all year long, not just during the holidays. Animal shelters and sanctuaries often struggle during the summer months because they receive far fewer donations than in winter. Many other notable organizations require year-round fundraising and charity events because they simply do not have the funds to function how they would like to in the summer. Here are a few things you can do to help your favorite charities all year long!

Monthly Donations

In your monthly budget, set aside a small amount, even just $10, to donate to your favorite shelter or sanctuary at the end of each month. You can do this as a cash donation, or you can purchase products that your charity might need. Real Simple explains, “As you consider how much to give, the first thing to remember is that everyone’s financial situation is personal. For most people, donations don’t exceed 2 percent of their total annual income, but decide for yourself whether this works for you. Those who tithe often donate 10 percent or more, but this is best planned and saved up for during the year.” You have to make sure you can afford to donate as much as you want to. Some people have a naturally generous spirit, but they may not have as much money in the bank as their donating desires require.

Network for Good also advises that you should, “Give generously when you can, but if you’re unsure or feel uncomfortable…ask for more information and take more time to think before making your decision. Be a proactive giver! You don’t have to wait to be asked. Plan a giving strategy in advance. Contact the charitable organizations of your choice to discuss how your gifts can be most effectively used and help make a difference in your community.” Do your research, math, and budget before you make a change in how much money is going out of your account.

Budgeting is so important!

Charity Wish Lists

You can also donate purchased products to certain charities and shelters. For example, one of our favorite sanctuaries, Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary, has a list of products that they require all year round. These products include:

  • Walmart/Sam’s Gift Cards
  • Friskies Canned Cat Food
  • Meow Mix Original Dry Cat Food
  • Alpo or Purina Canned Dog Food
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Cat Clumping Litter
  • Rawhide Chew (not from China)
  • Milk Bones
  • Unscented Bleach
  • Windex
  • Paper Towels & Plates
  • Toilet Paper
  • Bottled Water
  • Lawn & Leaf Bags
  • Quart & Gallon Ziplock Bags
  • Magic Eraser
  • Packing & Scotch Tape
  • Zip Ties

These can be dropped off at their Thrift Store located at 840-D El Paseo Road in Las Cruces. They also accept cash donations, and they have little donation banks at a few locations around town. We even have one available at Your Pet Space! If you set aside this money to either donate a small amount or purchase a few supplies for every month, you will be a huge asset to the sanctuary or organization of your choice and to the lives of dozens of animals.

This little kitty wouldn’t have this cozy bed without your help.

The Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley has a wish list, as well! This list includes:

  • Small breed doggie treats- dye free
  • Small breed dog leashes (not retractable)
  • Small breed dog crates
  • Small breed dog carriers (sturdy, hard shell)
  • Cat treats- dye free
  • Cat toys- new
  • Cat carriers (hard shell, sturdy)
  • Cat litter
  • Large breed dog treats- dye free
  • Large breed dog collars
  • Large breed dog leashes
  • Large breed dog outside igloo’s
  • Large breed dog carriers
  • Large breed dog wire crates
  • Sharpies
  • Latex gloves
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Writing pens- black or blue ink
  • Volunteer board décor-seasonal
  • Pop up canopy
  • Small battery operated heater
  • Water mister for summer outside events
  • Bungee cords- various lengths/sizes
  • Puppy pens
  • Puppy training pads

These donations can be taken to the ASCMV location at 3551 Bataan Memorial West between operating hours 8am-6pm, Monday through Friday, and 8am-5pm, Saturday and Sunday. If you have an organization that you would like to donate to, I would recommend looking for a wish list before you begin your donations. This way, the charity gets exactly what they need and you can help them achieve their goals.

“Can you help me?”


Another excellent way to donate without spending a penny is by donating your time. By volunteering, you will provide much-needed support and assistance to the charity of your choice. If you pick something that you are truly passionate about (such as helping dogs) you will enjoy your time volunteering. By giving a few extra hours on your day off to those who could really use your help, you are providing relief for the other employees and volunteers who have to do more than they can handle. You can help at adoption events, thrift stores, create clubs and fundraisers, and help encourage those with a few extra dollars to donate to a worthwhile cause.

You can help walk this gorgeous mama and get to feel the love of charity without losing a penny.

Tax Deductions

While it shouldn’t be your prime purpose for donating, tax deductions are also a benefit to donating year-round. In order to take advantage of tax deductions, you must itemize your taxes. They need to see exactly where the money went, and what it was for. RealSimple also explains, “If you itemize your deductions, you’ll be able to deduct the full amount of your donation, whereas, if you were to attend a gala, you wouldn’t get to write off the full amount of your ticket, because the costs associated with the gala ticket (dinner, alcohol, etc.) are not counted as part of your donation.” You must donate by December 31 if you want to take advantage of a tax deduction for that year. Because of this, it would be easier to donate throughout the year, rather than trying to donate once at the end of the year, just in time to get your tax benefit.

Animal Charities

With all of these tips in mind, here are two great lists of animal charities that Your Pet Space supports and admires! We like to encourage local charities and sanctuaries first, but there are organizations across the country that could benefit greatly from your donations.

Ultimate Guide to Animal Charities Part 1

Ultimate Guide to Animal Charities Part 2

I hope that this has encouraged your giving spirit, and please consider donating to our local shelters, sanctuaries, and charities year-round. We all truly appreciate your kindness and generosity!

Jessica Smith, Managing Editor, having been raised in a household full of dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, and all things furry, Jessica’s love of animals has only grown over the years. She is currently volunteering for Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in her free time when she isn’t out and about with her ridiculous pit bull mix, Annabel Lee, or taking care of her two goldfish, Carrot Cake and Winchester. She is also putting her literature degree to use by working as an editor for a local online magazine, Independent Noise. While she has no plans for the future, she knows that it will be filled with fur and fiction galore. You can e-mail Jessica at

Keep Your Dog Happy and Safe This Summer

The summer months can be the most fun time of year for your canine pal, as they get to spend more time outdoors, playing and soaking up the sun. Unfortunately, summer can also be dangerous for dogs if basic precautions aren’t taken. As a good pet parent, you should know how to make sure your dog has a safe and enjoyable summer. Here are some tips to consider.

This gorgeous golden is ready for an adventurous summer! Are you?

Be Careful When Taking Walks

There’s a good chance that you’ll walk your dog more in the summer than during any other season. For starters, the weather is nice. You’ll also probably have just a little more free time, and even if you don’t, there are simply more daytime hours during the summer. All of this extra dog walking is great – but the summer months pose some specific risks.

You should try to walk your dog in the mornings or at dusk on especially hot days. Dogs can suffer from heat stroke just like humans. If it’s too hot and muggy outside for you, it’s likely to be too hot and muggy for your dog. You should always carry a water container with you on walks – especially for the longer ones. Be mindful of the temperature of the ground as well. Feel it with your hand. If it’s too hot for you to touch, it is probably hot enough to burn your pup’s paws.

Some dogs are okay with wearing booties in the winter and summer, which enables them to enjoy a walk on a hot day more easily, but there’s no need to push for this. If you can make a morning or evening walk work, it will be better for you both.

This damp earth seems to be the perfect temperature for a playful pup!

Think About the Sun

Did you know that dogs can get sunburned too? Dogs with thinner coats and light complexions are the most at risk, but hot days can be a problem for almost any breed. If you are going to be in the direct sunlight for a while, strongly consider applying a sunscreen on your dog (there are ones made for dogs, but ones for children will do in a pinch). As Cesar’s Way reminds us, be sure you cover their ears, nose, tail, and around their mouths. And don’t forget to reapply if you’re going to be outside for an extended period of time.

Be Extra Mindful of Pests

We all know that summer is the buggiest of seasons. It’s vital that you are extra mindful of pests during the warmer months. Not only should you make sure you keep up to date with your dog’s flea and tick medications, but you should invest in some extra protection (maybe some anti-pest shampoo). If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors in a wooded area, be sure to check their body for ticks just as you would for yourself.

In addition to avoiding pests, you want to make sure that your dog is protected against mosquito bites. Mosquitoes often carry the heartworm parasite, which can be deadly for your dog. Your best bet is to talk to your vet about a year-round medication that helps prevent heartworms.

“Heartworm?! That doesn’t sound good…”

Keep Your Dog Away From Poisonous Plants

Some of those beautiful summer blossoms in your backyard garden can do real harm to your dog, and you should be aware of what’s in your yard and what to do if your dog eats a poisonous plant. Plants like lily of the valley and foxglove are highly toxic to dogs, and there are many more common annuals and perennials that can make your dog sick, including rose of sharon, azalea, iris, bleeding heart and wisteria. Check this list of plants to see what may be toxic to your dog (or cat!).

If you suspect that your pet has ingested a poisonous plant, immediately call your vet to determine next best steps.

Family BBQ Dangers

Summertime usually means firing up the grill for a cookout. Be sure to keep your dog far away from your grill when you are cooking and for quite a while after you are done. Grills can stay hot to the touch for hours after use and this could pose risk of serious burn injuries.

It’s also not unusual for whatever has been cooked to accidentally fall on the ground. Ideally, you want to avoid feeding your dog “human” food. Anything with a bone, particularly a cooked bone, can be especially dangerous for your dog and can cause choking or internal damage. Make sure that if any meat with bones falls on the ground that it’s disposed of right away.

Outdoor Playtime

If your dog is going to be spending a large portion of its day outside, it’s imperative that you have a shaded spot for them in addition to plenty of water. Make it a point to provide clean, fresh water every day, and never chain your dog when you are away from home. In New Mexico, there are actually laws that prohibit tying out your dog, so make sure you are aware of these laws before leaving your dog outside.

Outdoor playtime is a great idea, but make sure to limit their exposure to heat and plants.

A dog door is a great option for animals that are at home by themselves during the day. If you have a fenced yard and the option to install a dog door, you”ll be offering your pooch the ultimate convenience when it comes to potty breaks and the ability to go in and out as they wish. Just be sure to close the door at night to avoid any unwanted critters venturing into your house.

Watch Out For Hidden Pool Dangers

Even if your dog is a great swimmer, pools can be dangerous in certain circumstances. Always make sure your dog knows how to get out on their own. Practice getting out using the steps until they get the hang of it. Of course, it’s best to always supervise your dog around the pool. And don’t forget to rinse your dog off with the hose after they leave the pool too. Chlorine can be especially irritating to their skin.

Hitting the Road

Summertime usually means vacation for most people, and it’s not unusual for many owners to take their dogs wherever they go. If you decide to let your pooch tag along on your trip, make sure you plan ahead accordingly. Look for hotels/motels that are pet-friendly. If you’re driving, be sure to make frequent stops and to set up your dog safely in the car. Wherever you go you’ll want to have food and water bowls, a pillow or blanket, dog toys, and copies of your dog’s vaccinations.

Looks like this guy is enjoying a nice trip to the river!

It should go without saying, but if you take a road trip with your dog, never leave your pet enclosed in a hot car. Just as with children, dogs are susceptible to overheating and death if locked in a hot car.

If you leave your dog behind when you travel, consider hiring a dog sitter or board your dog while you are on vacation. This will ensure that your dog is checked on regularly and has someone who will be walking them and playing with them. Not only will this help keep your dog entertained, but you can rest easy while you’re away and your dog can have a pleasant vacation of their own!

A fun and adventurous summer is made even more so if you have a dog by your side. But it’s your responsibility to read up on potential summer dangers and make sure your dog stays happy and safe.

Jessica Brody is a dog lover and creator of

Exotic and Intelligent Lap Cats

Egyptian Mau

Most assume that the Egyptian Mau has its given name due to the cat’s origins, initially believed to be found in Egypt. However, through DNA tests, it was discovered this breed originated in Europe. Due to the fact that sailing through the North, Atlantic, Tyrrhenian, Black, Mediterranean, and the Red Seas became frequent during that era, many cat breeds traveled by ship to new destinations all over Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. This breed was given their name because they were largely celebrated and worshiped by the Ancient Egyptian kings and pharaohs. “Mau” means “cat”, and it also means “sun” in Ancient Egyptian. These cats were typically viewed as gods and judges to their royal families.

This beautiful Mau is displaying her subtle “M” on her forehead.

These cats came to the United States in 1956 when the Russian Princess, Nathalie Troubetskoy imported her three famous Maus from Italy; a bronze male and two silver females named JoJo, Liza, and Baba. The breed achieved “champion” status with the International Cat Association in 1979. Some British cat breeders tried to create Maus by cross-breeding Tabbies, Abyssinians and Siamese cats, but this proved to be unsuccessful because they lacked the Egyptian Mau’s discrete physical attribute; an ‘M’ or “Scarab Beetle” on their foreheads. The cats from the failed breeding attempts were given the name Ocicat in the mid-1960s.

Maus are known for many characteristics; agility, gentility, livelihood, loyalty, playfulness, and of course, their intelligence. Their intelligence is responsible for their indisputable loyalty to their humans, also making them serine and irresistible to be around. Maus will pick their special human with whom they express their utmost devotion and affection to. But fret not, if you have a Mau, they will also be loving to the rest of the household; one person will just be showered with a little extra attention. The breed also proves to be highly intelligent due to their curiosity and friendly attitude towards strangers. They enjoy being in high places, claiming their territory and watching their house-mates wander among their home. Maus can often be found on top of refrigerators, cat trees, or cupboards, and they spend much of the time riding on their owner’s shoulders.

An adorable Mau kitten.

Nicknamed the “Pharaoh Cat” Maus have silky short coats with a color range from Smoky, Black, Silver, and Blue. The word “Mau” also means natural, as this breed is the only naturally spotted domestic cat. This breed has a maximum life expectancy of twenty years, and minimum of eighteen. Male Maus should weigh between ten to fifteen pounds, and females should weigh between six to ten pounds. This breed is very vocal, highly active and playful. An average cost for an Egyptian Mau kitten can range from $500 to $800 US dollars.


The LaPerm cat was given its name for having a tight, curly coat, emerging in the 1980’s from a unprompted mutation of cats bred for nuisance control (mouse hunters). Breeders Richard and Linda Koehl from Oregon had a cat that gave birth to a curly-coated kitten, who they then named Curly. Curly then bred with Manx and Siamese cats, and her litter of kittens all shared the dominant mutation of the curly coat, making Curly the ancestor of all LaPerm cats. The breeders let their curly cats continue to breed freely over ten years before they contacted the breeding programs and making them official with The International Cat Association in 1995, and eventually Championship status in February 2003.

A gorgeous example of a LaPerm cat.

Nearly all LaPerm kittens are born bald with tabby-like patterns on their skin, with a curly coat beginning to develop within three to four months. Despite the curls ranging from corkscrew to ringlet curls, the coat has a very uncommon texture. Often described as soft, there is no thick undercoat and the curls are typically loose. These cats will need more grooming than straight haired cats. LaPerms also have their curls inside and behind their ears, with long, curled whiskers on their face with coat colors varying from red, black, lilac and chocolate.

Known for being very cleaver, LaPerm cats can be funny and mischievous critters. They use their paws to swipe for food, open doors, and tap their owners for attention. They are moderately active and are typically very good at playing fetch. LaPerms won’t follow your every step, but they might sit on the top of your desktop, lap, or shoulders. Rarely using their voice, they are very quiet, patient, and gentle with all people. LaPerms are happy lap cats that are naturally inquisitive and curious to know what happens in their surroundings. Owners of this breed report that their LaPerm cats are empathic to their needs and emotions. Because they are tuned to their owner’s senses, owners form deep bonds with their LaPerm cats.

This LaPerm is posing perfectly for her picture.

This breed has a maximum life expectancy of fourteen years, and a minimum of ten years. Male LaPerm’s maximum weight should be at ten pounds and a minimum of eight, and females max weight is at eight pounds while their minimum is five. These kittens can cost between $400 to $600 US dollars if purchased directly from breeders.

Maine Coon

The Maine Coon cat is one of the oldest breeds from North America and there have been many speculations about how this cat came to be. To raccoons and feral cats mating, an attempted escape by Marie Antoinette with her six Turkish Angora cats, from English captains having long haired cats that would land in New England, these cat’s origins have remained a mystery. The breed emerged in popularity in the early 1860’s, and in 1895 twelve Maine Coons were entered into a cat competition, and a female brown tabby Maine Coon named Cosey won the silver collar and was named the Best Cat in the Show. After a cat show in 1911, the breed was rarely seen in competitions. They were originally denied provisional breed status by the Cat Fanciers’ Association in the early 1970’s, but five years later, the breed was finally given the status and the State of Maine declared the Maine Coon as their Official State Cat.

This Maine Coon really looks like a cat you’d find in the wild.

As either a long or medium haired cat, their coats are silky soft but have different textures depending on the color of their coat. Maine Coons can have any color of coats that other cats have. Although the tabby pattern is quite common among this breed, they can also have a solid colors ranging from bi-colored coats to solid white, cinnamon, or black. These breeds are the largest breed of domestic cats; in 2010 a Maine Coon named Stewie made the record as longest cat, measuring at 48.5 in (about 4 feet long) from his nose to his tail. Their bodies are muscular and their bone structure is solid to support their weight. They continue going through puberty until they are about five years old, their body constantly growing, while other breeds usually take about a year or two to reach their maximum weight.

Owners of Maine Coons report that their cats are so intelligent that they’re easily trainable like dogs. Not only are they loyal to their families, but they have no problem with giving their owners hours of their time; they tend to enjoy being a part of everything that their family is doing. They are human oriented cats and they often approach strangers in a friendly manner. It should be easily to train these cats to walk on leashes and harnesses, and to teach them to play fetch. Maine Coons are one of the few breeds that remain kitten-like for most of their lives, making them good-natured, and they are only vocal when they are hungry, or when that desire attention from their humans. Unlike some cats, Maine Coons adore water; they love to be in it, wash their food in water, watch it, or play in it

This Maine Coon is presenting his beautiful long coat.

Maine Coons have a maximum life expectancy of thirteen years and a minimum of eleven. It is important to make sure these breeds don’t become overweight; males have a maximum weight of fifteen pounds, a minimum of twelve, and females have a maximum weight of twelve pounds and a minimum of nine. The cost of Maine Coons kittens can vary depending on the area, making them more expensive if they are purchased from the West and East Coast, ranging from $400 to $1,000 US dollars.

Elanda-Isabella Atencio, our Feline Editor, is on her road to being a “crazy” cat lady. She has three cats; a moody Missus, a wild Baby Kitty, and notorious Fredrick Douglass. She was raised with cats, chickens, dogs, and geese. From cleaning coops, morning dog runs, picking eggs, to growing catnip, Elanda enjoys pampering her pets. Elanda is a student at New Mexico State University, earning her BA in Creative Writing and is Editor-in-Chief of the online arts journal, Independent Noise and reader for Puerto del Sol. She plans to move to Oregon, where she hopes to take her cats on daily walks when it’s overcast and cool. If you’d like to contact Elanda, email her at

The Importance of High-Quality Dog Food

Since most dogs seem to enjoy eating just about anything they can get their mouths on, some people think all dog food equal. As long as they’re being fed enough food and getting some exercise, they should be fine! After all, stray dogs survive on nothing but scraps and trash, right? Unfortunately, this is far from true. Feeding your dog the cheaper, low-quality brands such a Beneful and Kibbles n’ Bits is basically the equivalent of feeding your child candy and chips for every meal of the day. Sure, it will make them full and happy for a few minutes, but they will be lacking major nutrients which will cause severe health issues in the long run. That dog eating McDonalds leftovers on the street might be surviving, but they won’t be happy and healthy for long. So, before you go out and buy your next bag of Science Diet, read up on the following tips and concerns.

This sad dog is not happy with his cheap bowl of food.

Foods to Avoid

The ingredients of your dog’s food are the main thing you should be looking at while purchasing a new bag. In their post entitled  Best Dog Food Reviews, notes that some ingredients in cheap, low quality dog food provide little to no nutrients, and they can even make the food “unsafe and unhealthy.” Some of the worst ingredients include the terms “meat” or “meat-meal”. also explains that “in California, manufacturers have given them the appetizing name of ‘dry rendered tankage.’ So why avoid them? It’s almost impossible to tell what’s being rendered: It can be roadkill, zoo animals, and sometimes even spoiled meat from the grocery store that’s still wrapped in plastic.”

If your dog’s food is full of artificial colors like this, that is yet another sign of danger.

Other ingredients can also be hazardous to your dog’s health. Ingredients like corn, wheat, onions, and garlic should be avoided at all costs. provided a handy little infographic explaining some ingredients that should be avoided, and their healthier alternatives.

Finally, also explains that, “Digestive problems, including bloat and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), are symptomatic of poor ingredients that don’t contain enough whole, unprocessed foods. Food allergies can also lead to digestive issues — many of the experts we reached out to have seen evidence that dogs are sensitive to wheat and corn, both popular fillers.” While not every dog will have these issues with low quality dog food, all of the combined possible side effects should be enough to cause any dog owner to reconsider their choices.

Healthier Options

First, you must decide what type of food you’d like to feed your dog. While dry dog food is typically considered the best option all the way around, some dogs require a different option such as wet food, dehydrated food, raw food, or homemade food. If you have a senior dog, they will probably require a softer food than a younger dog because they may have more sensitive teeth, or they may have lost teeth or chewing power throughout the years.

This older gal might need a little bit of help with some softer food options.

If you have a relatively healthy, young to middle aged dog, they will probably be okay with dry food, perhaps topped with some canned food as an extra treat. Always keep an eye out for any signs of allergies that your dog could be having toward the food, especially if you make a change in their diet. For example, my Staffordshire Terrier mix is extremely allergic to any type of grain and potatoes. She also has many environmental allergies, but changing her food to a high-quality, grain-free and potato-free diet made a huge change. For more information about dog allergies, read my article My Dog Has Allergies: Now What?

In order to find the very best foods, used a “funnel” to sort out the brands that don’t pass their test. They started by removing the products that don’t have any kind of meat listed as the first ingredient. Then they removed products that contain grain, wheat, or flour, then they removed the ones with beet pulp or sugar. They also removed products that contained “by-products or sauces.” Finally, they “reviewed brands for recalls, ingredient sources, history, and customer satisfaction” and they “reviewed the remaining formulas based on the best ratio of protein, fat, and carbs, as well as the source of protein.”

“I smell good food!”

After going through this rigorous process, they found a total of 29 brands that fit their strict protocols. The top 13 brands are Orijen, ACANA, Earthborn, Ziwipeak, Eagle Peak, Fromm, Addiction New Zealand, The Honest Kitchen, AvoDerm, Horizon Legacy, and Pinnacle. Of these brands, our local pet food store, Better Life Natural Pet Foods carries Earthborn, Fromm, The Honest Kitchen, AvoDerm, and Pinnacle along with a variety of other high quality dry, canned, dehydrated, and raw dog food brands.

The Right Option for You

Because there are still a large number of brands that you can choose from, you’ll get to have the chance to pick the right brand for you and your dog. Price is of course one of the first things you’ll have to consider when looking at a higher quality dog food brand. explains, “We understand that the price points of our top-rated choices may be higher than the average unit price in the industry, and might be simply too costly for many consumers. Still, our goal was to surface other key considerations — like ingredients and history of handling recalls — when deciding which formula is best for your dog. Moving forward, we also hope to provide more clarity around affordability, as well.” If you feed your dog good food from the start, the price of your vet bills will go down drastically throughout the years. Paying more for good food now means a healthier, happier life for your pup down the line.

If these pups start eating good food now, they’ll live long, happy lives.

All this being said, I find it important to note that, even though I feed my dog a very high-quality dog food called Zignature, it is not mentioned among the list of top brands. It may not have met some of’s strict standards, or it simply may not have been among the 115 brands they looked at. This leads me to believe that, even though this is a very well-comprised and highly detailed list, there might be some exceptions. I do still believe that Zignature is a very good brand, so if you would like information about a particular dog food, I would suggest talking to our local professionals at Better Life Natural Pet Foods. provided an excellent starting point for those who are reconsidering their dog food brand, but there is always more to learn. Feeding your dog a high-quality, healthy food should be as important as feeding your kids fruits and veggies, so I believe that thirty minutes of research to find the best food brand available for your pal is worth its weight in gold.

For additional insight into healthier food options for your dog, check out my previous article, Feeding Dogs Human Food: How to Change Your Ways.

Jessica Smith, Managing Editor, having been raised in a household full of dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, and all things furry, Jessica’s love of animals has only grown over the years. She is currently volunteering for Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in her free time when she isn’t out and about with her ridiculous pit bull mix, Annabel Lee, or taking care of her two goldfish, Carrot Cake and Winchester. She is also putting her literature degree to use by working as an editor for a local online magazine, Independent Noise. While she has no plans for the future, she knows that it will be filled with fur and fiction galore. You can e-mail Jessica at

Budgie Buddies: The Tales of Budgerigar, the Common Parakeet- Part II

Re-Cap of Part I

Budgerigars, more commonly known as parakeets or budgies, are very popular and a highly recommended beginner pet bird. Due to their small size, easy care, and vibrant personalities, these birds have become well known in many pet stores. As a very small parrot, budgies have a noticeable intelligence as well as being interesting and easy to train. We went over the origins, how to pick your new budgie, the colors available, health, age, and gender in Part I of this series. In Part II we will discuss essentials, diet, cleaning, and toys! Read Part I before reading this segment to gain the most knowledge possible!

An example of a “fancy budgie” from Part I!


Budgies need an area that can be described as “theirs.” A horizontally barred cage with different levels of perches is the number one item you will absolutely need. Investing early in a large, decent cage will definitely be worth it in the long run. The cage and perches will most likely be the most expensive items in the beginning, but it is better to purchase one nice cage early on as a bird owner instead of continually purchasing lower quality cages every few years.

The appropriate cage size for a budgie should be considered to be about 24 inches long by 24 inches wide and a minimum of 24 inches high. This size is adequate for two budgies and can be expanded if more birds will be sharing the space. The most important feature in the cage are the horizontal bars. The maximum space between bars that is safe for budgies is 1/2 an inch apart. Any more space than this and the birds would possibly be able to escape or manage to become stuck between the bars which will definitely cause great trauma, stress, and harm to the bird.

An example of a fully assembled budgie habitat.

Budgies often love to climb up the sides of the cage, and they would love plenty of smooth or natural perches (not made of sand paper or similar coarse textures which may injure their feet) to climb and explore vertically. Because of the exploratory curiosity of these birds, it is best to avoid cages with a lot of decoration and architectural variation because a little bird toe may easily become caught in places one does not expect. Keep it basic and the birds will become the happiest and most beautiful feature in their cage!

Price ranges for the birds themselves run from $15 to $25 per bird from pet stores, and breeders may establish various prices depending on each bird’s unique characteristics. There are some varieties of budgie such as the crested budgerigars, a popular variant breed that may change the actual price of the bird. Crested budgies are often seen at bird shows along with other breeds.

A crested budgie with its unique crown of feathers.


The best way to keep your bird healthy is to feed them a diet similar to what they would find in the wild and to mimic some of their natural foraging habits. Components to a Budgerigar diet include seed, fresh fruit, fresh veggies, and occasional treats. The seed can be a store bought pre-made blend made specifically for budgies or small parrots. It is best to look for blends that contain canary seed (this is the actual name of a seed, not specifically related to the bird of the same name), millet, and just a small amount of oats. It is very important to keep an eye on the fat content of your bird’s overall diet. Foods such as oats and sunflower seeds have a certain percentile of fat which, depending on the birds exercise levels, can lead to pudgy budgie buddies. These fattier foods can be given as occasional treats.

There are also a wide variety of fresh food items that are safe and fun to offer to your budgies as a major portion of their diets, or as treats. Some favorites that I personally find fascinating are broccoli, zucchini, fennel seed, hard-boiled eggs, apples, and even lemons. Budgies can be a little hesitant when trying new foods, but when offered consistently and mixed with some known foods, your bird will have a variety of treats to enjoy. When offering food, don’t always place it in a food bowl. Provide food in a way to promote activity and encourage mental exercise. A good example is to place spray millet in the top or side of the cage to promote acrobatic acts of the bird while they stretch, hang, and cling in order to reach and enjoy the food.

Enjoying a healthy treat in a fun way.


As with most pets, aspects of maintenance need to become routine. Some items, like food dishes and water bowls, need to be cleaned and sanitized daily while others, such as the entire cage and perches may only need monthly or weekly cleaning depending on how many birds share the space. Items that should be cleaned daily include dishes, cage liners, bird baths, and areas surrounding the cage (birds like to be messy and throw seed hulls and other debris outside the cage area). When doing these daily cleaning tasks, it is best to look to see if there are any changes in the bird’s habits such as normal waste, amount of food eaten, and the condition and cleanliness of toys. Things that need to be cleaned weekly or monthly include the cage and the perches themselves. Allow a few hours for this task because you will need to disassemble the cage and remove all toys and accessories in order to do a thorough scrubbing of bars and perches with animal friendly disinfectants that are still strong enough to prevent bacteria.

During that intensive cleaning process, it is a good time to allow your budgie to have its daily out-of-cage exercise. Budgies are nomadic birds and need time outside of their confined space. Whether you choose to let your budgie’s wings stay long or would prefer to have their wings clipped (consult and discuss with your vet about wing clipping procedures), budgies will need time outside to explore and play in a safe environment where you can easily supervise them. Constructing a fun enrichment area (which can include a jungle gym with lots of toys that are easy to interchange) provides a stimulating out-of-cage experience for your bird.

A fun play area constructed for time outside the cage and easy to adapt and interchange.


When picking out toys for your budgie, a variety will keep your bird physically and mentally active. Changing the toys around often also prevents birds from becoming bored. Factors to consider when picking out toys are color, texture, safe material, interactivity, and how exciting they are. As you get to know your bird(s), you will find out what types of toys are their favorites. Warning: some toys may cause noise and may want to be limited to daytime play only. For example, your budgie may really love ringing and jingling bells. Noises appropriate during the day may be disturbing to the rest of the household at night! It is also possible to incorporate treats with their toys, like a challenge or a test, to stimulate foraging habits and exercise.

A budgie with a Ferris wheel toy that is colorful, spins, dangles, and jingles.


Budgerigars are amazing and fun little avian buddies filled with just as much personality as the colors of their feathers indicate. Very intelligent and fun to be with, budgies are excellent little parrots to have as a companion either as a first-time bird owner or a veteran bird lover.

Ashley Gurnea, our Avian Editor, is a certified bird feeding specialist at Wild Birds Unlimited. A graduate from New Mexico State University, Ashley earned her bachelor degree in the field of Animal Science. She completed an internship at an exotic animal park, working with animals ranging from camels to porcupines and a variety of birds such as parrots and cockatoos. This love and curiosity of aviary has led her to her current position at Wild Birds Unlimited in Las Cruces where she remains up to date with local wild feeder birds. Growing up in a home where animals have always been present, Ashley is now a self-proclaimed “Corgi Countess” due to her love and adoration for her tricolor Pembroke welsh corgi, Colin.  Bring up anything corgi or bird related in a conversation and Ashley will be happy to share her many photos. Feel free to ask her about pet birds, and visit Wild Birds Unlimited for questions on wild birds! Ashley can be reached at

Feline Chronic Kidney Disease

What You Need to Know About Feline Chronic Kidney Disease

Just like us, our cats can get sick. Some recover quickly, while others have a longer healing process, and others may even not survive. Though there are many illnesses that cats are affected by, one of the most common diseases seen in domestic cats is Feline Chronic Kidney Disease, also known as Feline Kidney Disease or Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD, FKD, or CKD for short). It is most commonly found among middle aged to older cats and, over time, the worsening of the disease becomes more visible to owners as it affects their cat’s daily routine.

This kitty is a bit sleepy, but he doesn’t seem to be feeling too bad yet!

Anatomy of the Kidneys

A cat’s kidneys are found in the abdomen, located around their lower back on both sides of their spine. Be careful when trying to catch your cat: you may squeeze this area too roughly and you can bruise or damage their kidneys. Because blood is filtered through the kidneys to remove anything toxic from the body, the kidneys are constantly functioning without conscious thought or intention. Urine is created by the cat’s kidneys through their filtering process, then it is carried to the cat’s bladder by the ureters and finally released through the cat’s urethra.

They also serve other functions such as producing hormones like Erythropoietin which stimulates the bone marrow to create new red blood cells. The kidneys also remove toxins from the cat’s blood, and they maintain normal blood pressure, water balance, salt balance, and other electrolytes in the body. The kidneys also help maintain the balance of acid in the cat’s body.

A helpful visual showing where the kidneys are located on your cat.

Chronic Kidney Disease

First, it’s important to know that there are two types of Feline Kidney Disease, Acute and Chronic. Acute Kidney Disease is curable if it’s diagnosed in the early stages, whereas Chronic Kidney Disease is not. This article will focus solely on Chronic Kidney Disease. This disease occurs when there is long term and irreversible damage to the kidney(s) that impair the kidney’s ability to properly function by removing waste products from the cat’s blood. FCKD can be caused by a few things, such as Glomerulonephritis, when there is inflammation of the Glomeruli (a cluster of capillaries around the end of a kidney tubule where toxins are filters from the blood); Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), an inherited disease that causes healthy kidney tissue to gradually produce fluid filled cysts; Kidney tumors like lymphoma; bacterial infections, birth defects, trauma, hyperkaliemia or hypokalemia (high levels of calcium in blood or low levels of potassium in blood); harsh toxins such as pesticides, certain house plants, disinfectants, or human drugs can also cause damage to the kidneys resulting in FCKD. Sometimes FCKD can be avoided by keeping medications and chemicals where cats cannot access them, and by remaining careful about the plant selection that you bring into your home.

Your lovely kitty will likely try to get into anything and everything!


The first symptoms of FCKD may not be visible to cat owners because they can be quite subtle. They will become more obvious as the months go on because it’s a progressive disease. Some of the most well-known symptoms are a poor appetite, constipation, diarrhea, lethargy, cloudy or bloody urine, urinating in strange places, pain when urinating, avoidance of their litter box, stumbling when walking, weight loss, and increased urination and thirst.

Some other signs of FCKD is a loss of fur or a dull coat, anemia, high blood pressure, overall weakness, and vomiting. Your cat may start crashing because of a major loss of kidney function. Those symptoms include a strong body odor, unusual hiding, dull eyes, the inability to walk, uncontrollable vomiting, and refusing to drink or eat. Remember that cats are masterminds at hiding their pain or discomfort, so it’s important that you keep a close eye on your cat and pay attention to their behavior before the issues escalate.

This young kitty is less likely to be diagnosed with FCKD than an older cat would be.

The diagnosis of FCKD consists of making two medical tests: Urinalysis and Blood testing. For your cat’s urine test, you’ll have to collect the urine yourself. This can be done by isolating your cat in a room with only water (no food for that day) with an empty litter box. Check on your cat frequently, not only to keep them company, but also to ensure that you get a fresh sample. Once your cat has used the restroom, collect the urine in plastic container that your veterinarian provided you. Write your cat’s name and the date of the fresh urine on the container before placing it in your refrigerator. Take your sample to your veterinarian as soon as possible so they can test the urine and get the most accurate and reliable results for you and your cat. When the urine is tested, the quantity of protein being lost will be determined by the “Protein to Creatinine Ratio”. If your cat is losing protein quickly, it might be an indicator of FCKD. Your cat’s urine will also be tested for the presence of red blood cells, white blood cells, bacteria, and appropriate pH levels.

If your cat is diagnosed with FCKD it’s important to know that there is not yet a cure for the disease. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you what stage your cat’s FCKD is in based on their Creatinine levels. The treatment for FCKD can prolong and improve their life, making it less painful for them. The goals for treating your cat will be to delay the progression of the disease and control the amount of uremia. The treatment will not stop the course of the disease, however.

The main treatment is by using Subcutaneous fluid therapy; the fluids will be injected under the skin near the scruff of the neck or between the shoulder blades. The fluids will help control vomiting, dehydration, and anorexia, and it will flush circulating toxins and waste out of your cat’s system. Your veterinarian will teach you how to give Subcutaneous fluids injections to your cats.

An example of Subcutaneous fluid therapy.

Changing your cat’s diet is another form of treatment, giving them quality protein with low to zero amount of phosphorus and sodium. Some veterinarians will suggest prescription dry food for FCKD, however, I recommend creating a homemade meal for your cat. Purchase chicken, lean turkey, and lean beef for your cat and cook them a meal. Make sure to keep plenty of water bowls throughout the house for your cat. Providing your cat with vitamins and minerals can be helpful, too. Kidney Support Gold is liquid that helps with your cat’s energy levels, immune system, urination, thirst, and their appetite and weight may also improve. If you want to take a more holistic approach towards your cat’s treatment, there is always Chiropractic treatment, reiki, and massage for your cat.

Although treatment only goes so far and provides so much, all of us must be able to let go and say goodbye at some point. I have never experienced this specific loss with a cat of mine, but I know that saying goodbye to a loved one is a wound that never really heals. Even with treatment, your cat’s kidneys will still fail and it is best to take them too your veterinarian right away. Making the decision to put down your cat will be difficult, and it’s important to have a support system for you and your cat. But it is important that you’re with your cat during their final moment. Remember to surround them with love and snuggles in their final moments, and remember to have compassion for yourself as well.

Elanda-Isabella Atencio, our Feline Editor, is on her road to being a “crazy” cat lady. She has three cats; a moody Missus, a wild Baby Kitty, and notorious Fredrick Douglass. She was raised with cats, chickens, dogs, and geese. From cleaning coops, morning dog runs, picking eggs, to growing catnip, Elanda enjoys pampering her pets. Elanda is a student at New Mexico State University, earning her BA in Creative Writing and is Editor-in-Chief of the online arts journal, Independent Noise and reader for Puerto del Sol. She plans to move to Oregon, where she hopes to take her cats on daily walks when it’s overcast and cool. If you’d like to contact Elanda, email her at

How American Troops Saved the Lipizzaner in World War II

The Spanish Riding School of Vienna is the world’s oldest riding school and home to the legendary Lipizzaner Stallions since the 1500s. The school is the only establishment in the world which practices the Renaissance tradition of Haute Ecole, or high school movements, in classical dressage, and it has been considered an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO since 2010.

For over 450 years, this remarkable training has been passed down verbally from rider to rider, producing grace and harmony between horse and rider. The stallions are trained to perform extraordinary movements, including above-the-ground exercises such as the Capriole, Levade, and Courbette.

A gorgeous performing Lipizzaner doing some incredible aerial work.

The Lipizzaner is the oldest cultivated horse breed in Europe, but it could have disappeared forever during World War Two if it wasn’t for the bravery and courage of a combined rescue mission from both the US and German forces.

 The Perfect Equine

Just as the Second World War was coming to an end, General George S. Patton authorized a secret mission called “Operation Cowboy,” resulting in the rescue of nearly twelve hundred horses held by the German army in a village called Hostau in Czechoslovakia.

Adolf Hitler not only wanted to create a pure German human race, but he also wanted the perfect equine for use in the military. In 1942, Nazis captured and stole the best breeding stock across Europe, which included Thoroughbreds and Arabians, but they were mostly interested in Lipizzaners.

He injured more than just humans.

Secret Hideout

The secret hideout of these magnificent horses might have remained undiscovered if it hadn’t been for the capture of Luftwaffe officers on April 26, 1945. They surrendered peacefully to a group of US soldiers from the Third Army, Second Cavalry, led by their commanding officer, Colonel John Hancock Reed.

Among their papers, US soldiers found photos of two beautiful Lipizzaner stallions. A German officer then revealed details of the captured horses, which were cared for by 400 allied prisoners of war along with deserters from The Red Army. The officer asked the Americans to help rescue the horses from the Russian soldiers, who were closing in and would most likely would kill the animals to feed their tired and hungry troops.

Although the Americans and Russians were allies, an agreement made with Stalin at the Yalta conference meant that the Russians had control everywhere from the east side of the German border. Reed requested permission from General Patton, who responded swiftly with the message, “Get them. Make it fast.”

Riding with the Enemy

Reed summoned intelligence officer, Captain Thomas Stewart, from the 2nd Cavalry’s 42nd Reconnaissance Squadron. Stewart, an experienced horseman, was to accompany German Captain Rudolph Lessing, a veterinarian, to request the release of the horses and prisoners.

General Patton and one of the rescued horses.

He would carry a letter, written in both German and English, authorizing him as an envoy under Lessing’s protection to negotiate terms. The pair left on foot into the night and walked half a mile before continuing on a motorbike that Lessing had hidden in bushes. After several miles, they arrived at a barn belonging to a Czech forester and exchanged the bike for two horses. During an interview years later, Stewart explained that he had relished the experience, daunting as it was, riding alone in the company of an enemy soldier.

His mount, a Lipizzaner stallion, once belonged to Peter II, the King of Yugoslavia, and had been his favorite horse. When the pair came across a road block constructed by tree logs and branches that measured three-foot-high and three-foot-wide, Stewart didn’t hesitate to jump. Lessing knew an alternative route and shouted out that his horse couldn’t jump. Too late! The Lipizzaner stallion took off, clearing it with perfection. Stewart revealed that it was the highlight of the trip.

However, they were to face a far bigger obstacle as they approached Hostau.

The stud manager, Lt. Col. Hubert Rudofsky had initially agreed to the plan to release the horses, but he later changed his mind. As he was a Czech national, he thought he could make a better deal with the Russians rather that the Americans, and threatened to shoot Lessing and Stewart as spies.

Lessing, however, managed to negotiate terms with the local army commander, General Schulze, pointing out that their top priority was to save the horses. Schulze assured Stewart a safe passage when he returned with his task force. Stewart informed Reed by radio of the events, and Reed immediately put a plan into action.

Operation Cowboy

The next day, April 28, saw some 70 men from the 42nd Reconnaissance Squadron’s A Troop start their mission. As promised, they received no resistance on their way to the stud farm, and the surrender was peaceful. With the facility now secure, The American Troops went to rescue some of the finest horses in Europe. Among them, they discovered Arabians, thoroughbred racehorses and trotters, Russian Cossack horses, and Lipizzaners.

The Lipizzaners were from breeding farms across Europe as well as from the Yugoslav Royal Stud and the Piper Stud in Austria, which produces horses for the Spanish Riding School of Vienna.

The famous Spanish Riding School of Vienna.

Steps were also taken to free and protect the prisoners of war that had been taking care of the horses. On April 30, the American Troops, along with the surrendered German soldiers and the prisoners of war, fought off an attack by German Troops for five hours .

Afterwards, the American Troops, in cowboy-style, rode and drove the horses back to American lines. The mission saw some soldiers injured and two of the soldiers, Pfc. Raymond E. Manz and Tech 5 Owen W. Sutton sadly lost their lives.

On May 7, 1945, Patton received a call stating that the Germans had surrendered. The war was ending.

Performing Lipizzaners

Col. Alois Podhasky, the then director of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, was searching for a way to secure the facility. The horses and riders had moved to a temporary base in the small town of St. Martin Im Innkreis, in Upper Austria.

A private display of the performing horses and riders was put on especially for General Patton. As a former Olympian, he was a renowned horseman, and had finished fifth in the Pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics. At the end of the performance, Podhajsky, on horseback, stood before Patton, and requested protection of the riding school along with help finding his lost breeding stock. Patton assured him that the Spanish Riding School would receive special protection under the US Army and that he would help find the horses in Czechoslovakia.

A beautiful performing Lipizzaner.

What Podhajsky didn’t realize was that his horses had been rescued several days earlier. He was later flown to Reed’s headquarters to inspect the captured Lipizzaners.

Although the horses were now under the protection of US Troops, they were still in Czechoslovakia and Reed knew they had to move them from the country. Czech and Russian Communists had already shown an interest in the stock after visiting the stud in Hostau several times.

Plans went ahead to move the horses to Mannsbach in central Germany on May 12. They drove some 350 horses in small groups, with vehicles driven before and after them, along with riders on horseback among them. They covered 130 miles, the fastest group reaching the destination in two days. The slower group, which included mares and foals, arrived safely a day later.

On May 25, 1945, 244 Lipizzaners returned to Austria. Over the next few months, Podhajsky organised several performances for troops stationed in the country as a “thank you” for their efforts. The mission had been risky, as they lost two soldiers in the process. So why did they do it? In what was a truly awful war, Reed put it simply, “We wanted to do something beautiful.”

Thanks to the courage of these men, the beauty and grandeur of the performing Lipizzaner stallions continue their tradition at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna today.

To those troops who saved them, we must be truly grateful.

Alison O’Callaghan, our Equine Editor, is a professional horse riding instructor and has owned many types of pets. When she is not riding horses or walking her dog, she loves to write about animals. If you’d like to contact Alison, you can email her at 

Hazardous Hiding Places for Cats

Wild cats from tigers, leopards, and lions, to lynxes, bobcats, and pumas, are all ambush predators. They find a place to hide and wait for their prey to come into reach. Using their powerful hind legs, they spring into action and are literally on top of their prey before the little critter knows what happened.

Channeling his inner tiger.

Domestic cats, although far removed from their wild cousins, still retain that hiding and ambush trait. You can see it yourself whenever you play with your kitty, how they hunker down behind something such as a pillow, a table leg, or a blanket, and spring out to catch a hand, a play mouse, or a string. It’s the same mechanism going on that can be found in wild cats, and that’s what makes a cat so playful and so much fun to be around.

Hazardous Hiding Places

For every cute little safe sneak attack from under a blanket, there is also a place where a cat may hide that might not be quite so safe. Sure, cats love to find these little nooks and crannies where they think they are safe and ready for anything that comes along, but some of these places can be downright dangerous and life threatening. So, let’s take a look at some of the worst places your cat would love to hide in, and what you can do about it.

Don’t even try to take his blanket!

The Garage

This may not apply to you, but many people that have indoor garages make them an extension of their home. To that end, pets are allowed into the garage, and for a cat, this could be serious trouble. Cats are known for their love of warm places, so a vehicle that has just been parked inside might seem to be a perfect spot for a cat nap. Crawling up into the engine compartment may seem like the best possible spot in a cats judgment, but it’s the most dangerous place they could be. To make it worse, oils and chemicals can frequently spill out onto a garage floor, particularly antifreeze which is known to taste quite sweet. A quick lick of one of these “tasty treats” might send your cat to the vet for a prolonged stay, or worse, be terminal.

Washers and Dryers

This is another nice warm place where kitty would love to hide, but with so many moving parts, it can be a very nasty place. Thankfully, most washers and dryers are pretty well sealed up and they won’t allow a cat to have access inside. You’ll always have to guard against a cat actually crawling into the dryer proper, but a quick check before you close the door is a good practice to get into if you are a cat owner.

Bird hunting from the safety of the bushes.

Under the Sink Cabinet

Here is another warm and dark place that a cat would love to explore and hide in. Unfortunately, this is the place where many household chemicals are kept, and it could be deadly for your cat if they decide to sample some of them. You can always make sure the cabinet door is solidly closed, and if the latch needs repair, get it done before any harm comes to your kitty.

Reclining Chair

If you have a cat but don’t know where they are before you recline on your favorite chair, you might want to find them before you do damage to Fluffy who could be hiding within the chair itself.


Don’t throw out your boxes until you make sure kitty isn’t taking a snooze in one of them. Cats are famously fond of napping in any box they can find!

While boxes are safe to nap in, don’t forget that your cat is in there!

Open Windows or Balconies

If you have a two story home or live in a high-rise apartment, your cat may love to lounge in an open window or out on the balcony. Sure, cats are known for their superb balance, but a feather, an insect, a bird, or anything wafting on the wind, may trigger your cats instinct to go for it, and they could inadvertently leap right off a window ledge or a balcony deck.

By keeping these hazardous places inaccessible, you’ll be keeping your cat safe for a long, long time.

This being said, there are also some safe places your cat can hide!

Cat Tree

Cat trees are an excellent place for your cat to nap! Make sure you purchase (or make) one that is sturdy enough that it won’t topple over while your cat is taking their siesta, and make sure its safe for them to climb, scratch, and dig at!

Happy, healthy, and cozy for years to come.

Behind Curtains

Many cats love the feeling of the dark curtains on one side of their body, and the warm sun on the other. It makes them feel safe while still allowing them to watch what’s going on in the world around them. Just make sure you know right where your kitty is while your cleaning or vacuuming so you don’t scare them too badly.

Inside Closets (Sometimes)

If your cat hides in your closet, make sure you go through everything you store in their to ensure no danger will come to your kitty. If they’re hiding in your clothes closet, make sure there are no sharp hangars, no moth balls, and nothing they may destroy (for your own sanity). Your cat should NEVER go where you store chemicals or cleaning materials of any kind. If your cat manages to get in those chemicals, it could be life threatening. You may need to purchase some “child proof” locking mechanisms for these items if they manage to get in multiple times.

If you’re struggling to find a safe place for your cat to hide, make them one! You can easily find tutorials for cat tents, forts, towers, and houses online! Again, make sure the materials are things that you’re okay with being potentially torn up and make sure each individual material is safe for your cat.

It’s all for the love of your kitty.

Your cat WILL find a place to hide, so its up to you to make sure they’re safe and happy in their hiding spots. They’ll probably find their own places to hide, but you need to be the one who tells the cat if it’s safe or not. This will probably involve some amount of trial and error, but it is important to watch where your cat spends their time when they aren’t by your side.

Mary Nielsen founded and is a passionate cat lover, blogger, and part-time music teacher. She founded her blog to share her ups and downs of being a pet parent to a bunch of adorable cats. When she is not playing with them or teaching, you can find her experimenting in the kitchen.

Jessica Smith, Managing Editor, having been raised in a household full of dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, and all things furry, Jessica’s love of animals has only grown over the years. She is currently volunteering for Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in her free time when she isn’t out and about with her ridiculous pit bull mix, Annabel Lee, or taking care of her two goldfish, Carrot Cake and Winchester. She is also putting her literature degree to use by working as an editor for a local online magazine, Independent Noise. While she has no plans for the future, she knows that it will be filled with fur and fiction galore. You can e-mail Jessica at

Budgie Buddies: The Tales of Budgerigar, the Common Parakeet- Part I

Budgerigars, more commonly known as parakeets or budgies, are very popular and they  are also a highly recommended beginner pet bird. Due to their small size, easy care, and vibrant personalities, these birds have become well-known in many pet stores. Because they are actually very small parrots, budgies have a noticeable intelligence, and they tend to be quite easy and interesting to train.

Budgie spending quality time with his companion.


Many different parrot species were discovered during the era of exploration. In 1770, Captain John Cook ventured into the “Land Down Under”, Australia. He discovered that there was a wide range of strange and unique creatures inhabiting this country. One of these creatures was the species “budgerigars”. The captain saw flocks of very small birds with pointed wings and tails displaying vibrant colors of greens and yellows under magnificent stripes. After discovering so many new species, John Cook became one of the first explorers to bring back budgerigars to Europe where they were further researched. Since his initial discovery of the budgerigars, we have leaned so much about these wild flocks.

Only existing as native wild parrots in Australia, budgies display colorful patterns of stripes over green and yellow feathers that assist these fleeting birds in staying camouflaged among the trees and grasslands that they frequent. Budgies are nomadic birds, which means they do not stay in one area for long. Traveling constantly, budgies are always foraging for food sources such as ripe seeds or grasses. Flocks of budgies will migrate across the Australian country to remain in warm weather. Built well for dry deserts, budgies are able to sustain themselves as long as the temperatures do not reach heights above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. They also do not care for temperatures lower than 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wild flock of Budgerigars in Australia.

In 1838, John Gould and his brother visited Australia and brought back a few budgies to England with the belief that they could be sustained in captivity to be bred and raised. A success in Europe, budgies became the newest, most colorful pets. However, in 1894, Australia created regulation against exporting these unique creatures. Budgies were then only bred across Europe, rather than being imported and exported from Australia. At that time, only budgies that had been bred in captivity in Europe for several generations would be available for adoption. These colorful bird pets were becoming quite popular throughout Europe, and mutations began to arise. A new color variant emerged in Belgium in 1875 of an all yellow plumage mutation. Spurring more curiosity, selective breeding resulted in the blue plumage many of us recognize today.

Budgies were introduced to the United States in the 1920’s where they received the same enthusiasm to be added as a member of the households as they were in Europe. Today, with their popularity being so high, budgies are capable of being bred for different color pallets. The top 3 varieties most easily found from breeders and pet stores are still the original green and yellow, the blue, and color combinations called “fancy”.

An example of a fancy budgie. This one has a yellow face and a turquoise breast.

The wild instinct of the budgerigars can still be expressed in these pet bird companions’ behavior, but by accepting its nature and adjusting their care, people will have a happy and healthy budgie for a family member.

How to pick your budgie

Before coming home with the first budgie you see, you may want to observe a few factors so that you have a better idea about the particular bird(s) that will be joining you at home. Some factors you will want to consider while selecting a pet are the individual’s behavior, health, age, and sex.

Just because you have identified the most vibrant, beautifully feathered bird does not mean that it has a compatible behavior for you or your household. One budgie may be very tenacious, playful, and dominating, while another may be more skittish, secluded and shy. The best way to discover their personality is to observe the birds you are thinking about purchasing several times throughout the day. Like most desert originating species, budgies are most active at dawn and dusk. Take this into consideration when observing them because, if you go to visit the birds at noon, they will be in the middle of their siesta time versus being more playful and animated in the evening. If you are in contact with a budgie breeder, it may be easier to discover these personalities. The breeder has been raising this particular set of birds since birth, and they should be able to tell you which birds get along best together if you are planning on adopting two or more.

Budgies on display at a pet store.

Health is another factor that is very important to consider before adopting. The health of the bird is critical so that you won’t get any other household birds ill nor have to start out with a sick bird. When observing behavior, look for signs of sickness during active hours. These signs include the bird remaining secluded and away from others, the bird’s feathers stay fluffed up (sign of being cold), discharge around the eyes, nose, and vent (a birds bottom), or excess drowsiness. Speaking to the breeder or salesperson will help you to identify healthy and happy birds. A healthy bird will have bright eyes, no discharge anywhere, a clean vent, and they will demonstrate signs of activity.

An example of a healthy Budgie versus a sickly budgie with discharge around cere (nose) and remaining fluffed up.

The age of the bird is good to consider as well. Discuss the maturity of the bird you wish to bring home before completing your purchase. The majority of pet stores only sell young birds that are about one month old. Younger birds have yet to fully develop their own personalities and do not yet have their genders identified. Young birds will have completely black iris and they will be smaller than 7 inches (a mature budgie height). The lifespan of a normal, healthy budgie averages between 5 to 8 years, but with good care some are able to live past 10 years.

A side by side comparison of the colored cere identifying the differences between male and female budgie.

A budgie’s gender can be determined in a mature bird due to a sexual dimorphism trait. The color of the male’s cere (the protruding nostrils located above the beak) will display a vibrant blue or even a purplish color, while a mature female’s cere will remain a light pink. There can sometimes be mutations were the sex cannot be determined by the cere, but when in doubt, speak to your avian vet. It is important to know the gender before housing birds together, because this may result in accidental chicks.

There is more to learn about your budgie buddies! Stay tuned for Part II coming out soon!

Ashley Gurnea, our Avian Editor, is a certified bird feeding specialist at Wild Birds Unlimited. A graduate from New Mexico State University, Ashley earned her bachelor degree in the field of Animal Science. She completed an internship at an exotic animal park, working with animals ranging from camels to porcupines and a variety of birds such as parrots and cockatoos. This love and curiosity of aviary has led her to her current position at Wild Birds Unlimited in Las Cruces where she remains up to date with local wild feeder birds. Growing up in a home where animals have always been present, Ashley is now a self-proclaimed “Corgi Countess” due to her love and adoration for her tricolor Pembroke welsh corgi, Colin.  Bring up anything corgi or bird related in a conversation and Ashley will be happy to share her many photos. Feel free to ask her about pet birds, and visit Wild Birds Unlimited for questions on wild birds! Ashley can be reached at