Product Review: Great Choice Small Animal Pet Home

Great Choice box

Before I start reviewing this product, I need to put out a public safety announcement about rats and cages. It is very important for rat owners to understand that rats need a LARGE living space, with multiple levels that they can use for climbing. Most rat owners prefer cages by Critter Nation because they are a very large size and are durable. Our rats have a Critter Nation when they are in our home, but the problem with these super sized cages is that when you need to make a temporary move or relocate your rats for the very short term, it is not practical to dismantle the cage and move it around, so you are going to need to find a decent travel or temporary option for your little boys and girls.

closed rat cage

Wire spacing with cage door closed. Note that with the door properly latched, the gap between bars over the door is wider than between other bars.

When looking for a cage, you want to make sure that the space between the bars is about a half an inch, because if you go larger you risk small rats being able to squeeze through. It is also preferable to find a cage that does not use plastic as a means of containment, as rats love to chew and so can easily escape. I want to emphasize that when looking for travel or temporary options for you rats, you should think of your rats first and the situation you are going to put them in second. For instance, if you are looking at a cage with a plastic bottom, like the Great Choice Small Animal pet home, the first two questions that should come to mind are:

rat cage clip

Close up of clip that secures the wire top to the plastic bottom of Pet Home.

Does my rat chew? If no, then you are okay to purchase this cage for the rats that you have, but need to keep this in mind again if you get new rats who need to use it. (And as always, regularly inspect any chewable materials for signs of wear.)

How well are they going to be supervised while in this temporary cage? If your rats are chewers, but you are using this cage only to contain them while you quickly clean the cage they already have, you are taking a risk, but MIGHT be okay as long as you listen carefully for chewing sounds. If you are taking them in a car, where someone will be sitting with them and watching them, the person doing the supervising should be prepared to stop the rats from chewing at ANY time. However, if your rats are chewers and you want them to be caged somewhere that they will be left alone, without supervision, this is NOT the best choice.

folded rat cage

Cage dismantled with wire top folded, ready for storage.

The same questions apply to rats who like to escape. If you have escape artists, small girls, or very young rats, the one inch bar spacing on this cage (and the clasp that holds the door closed) is NOT going to reliably contain them. On the other hand, if your babies are reliable, non-chewers who are always on their best behavior, this is a great cage as a temporary home.

closed rat cage

Wire spacing with cage door closed. Note that with the door properly latched, the gap between bars over the door is wider than between other bars.

Another public service announcement that I would like to make before continuing on is about post-surgical containment. Though I would never want to see a rat living in an aquarium tank on a permanent basis, tanks really do make the best recovery areas for your boy or girl to recuperate in, as long as you keep the bedding fresh. Any cage with wire sides will encourage your rat to climb once they feel they are ready to do so, even if there is no second level to the cage. It is natural for a rat to use the sides of their cage as a ladder, and some will even hang upside down from the top and walk around that way, just for the fun of it. Giving your rat those kinds of opportunities after surgery is almost guaranteed to stretch the surgical area and reopen whatever wound or stitching is trying to heal. It breaks my heart to put our rats into the tank for their 14 day recovery period, but in the end that is the best way to ensure that they heal as they should. I would never, ever consider a cage like this as a post-surgical option because of the risks involved.

stacks

Cages stacked for storage beside a ten gallon aquarium post-surgical tank.

Now, it must seem to readers that I have started out this article on a very negative note and maybe some have already decided this cage is not for them based only on what they have read so far. In a way, that is what I hope for, because a cage like this caters to a very specific type of rat, which I happen to have: the male non-chewer who has no intention of escaping whatever cage he is put in. Pet stores and online sites try and sell this as a permanent solution, a “rat starter kit” kind of thing, and if I have put off new rat owners to this idea, I am most pleased. This cage is NOT designed to be a permanent home for rats and is NOT acceptable for young rats, as is shown on the box. I think the only way I would use this cage for small rats on a daily basis, is if it were a permanent litter box, sitting somewhere with the door always open, for my free-range rats to enter and exit as they needed.

Even after all of these warnings, this cage actually has MANY positives, though I ask readers to keep in mind that I am the owner of non-chewing, well behaved male rats and am reviewing the product on those grounds.

We started off with one of these cages to keep for emergencies. We live out in the North Carolina countryside, are on well water, and are surrounded by woods. In the winter this area gets frequent ice storms, which can cause disruption in power (and as a result, water) for days at a time. In those instances, we bring ourselves and our animals through the woods to our neighbor’s house, since she has a gas fireplace and wood stove that keep her log cabin nice and warm. We needed something that was mobile, but wouldn’t get in our way all the time when not in use.

After quite a lot of trial and error, we discovered the Great Choice Small Animal Pet Home. The cage is lightweight and fairly easy to carry, even on a short walk through trees. Best of all, the wire portion is collapsible, which means that you can store it easily when you are not using it. Originally we had avoided this product because of the look of the box, which showed a single, young rat in this easily escapable structure with no secondary levels, but when we stopped to think about what we actually needed, we realized that we should try this one out. It ended up being the perfect choice for our boys, who were never chewers and are perfectly content to settle in their cages because they are free-range when we are at home.

rat cage hooks

Corner of cage as it is in the process of being assembled. Two hooks on the left side and one hook on the right weave together to hold both sides in place.

Assembly is simple, yet tricky, since the hooks that hold together the wire portion of the cage can become tangled with each other when folded for storage, meaning there is some wiggling and shaking involved in unpacking the cage, but once you have the top opened up, putting it together is a breeze. There are three hooks on each corner of the cage, two hooks on the side of one wall, one hook on the other, so that you have to weave the side pieces together, adding to the stability of the lid once it is assembled. When all four sides are hooked up, all you have to do is put litter in the tray, give your rats somewhere to hide, drop in a toy, then lower the wire lid on the plastic tub and clip it down on the sides.

Size is important when you pick out a temporary cage. You do not want the structure to be large and cumbersome, but you want your rats to feel comfortable. The Great Choice Small Animal Pet Home actually offers more room than one would expect from looking at the box, because of the compact nature of its folded state. Once put together, there is enough space in this cage for a hammock and a small nesting box (something the size of a tissue box will do). You can fit a food dish or two in it as well, but once you add the water bottle there is not much room for a litter box, so be prepared to have the cage cleaned frequently, for the sake of sanitation and the sanity of any rats who demand a place to put their poo.

North and Whisper modeling the cage

North and Whisper model the setup using two Lixit Critter Space Pods.

The fact that the cage is wire-topped also makes it conducive to using Lixit Critter Space Pods inside. Though getting them attached is an exercise in spatial orientation, once you discover the trick of which leg best fits where, snapping the pod in place is a breeze. The cage holds one pod well, but there is also room for two. We use the two ball setup for our oldest boys, Whisper and North, who have breathing issues and prefer to hang their heads over the side of solid objects at times when respiration isn’t as easy as it should be. Rather than force them to take turns using one pod, we provide them one apiece. Since they are older and less active, the need for full-body stretching or an active play area isn’t as important as their respiratory comfort.

With either setup in this cage, there is enough room for short jumps from the floor to the top of the nesting box, or from the box to whatever you have hanging to create a second sleeping level. Even with the upper portion filled with Space Pods, there are places where your rat can stand and stretch, or climb on the side of the cage for exercise or attention. Another bonus of using this cage is that if you are in a location where your rats will get free range time, you can simply open the door of the cage and let them go in and out as they please, no matter what their age, since the door makes a short ramp at the entrance when opened. (You might want to cover it with a stretched out sock or some other fabric for comfort, depending on the age and ability of your rats.)

clasp close up

Close up of door latch, notice how it bends the bars of the cage when hooked over cage bar.

My only concern for non-chewing, large sized rats when using this setup is that the latch for the door is not as secure as I would prefer. The door has two bent bars on it, formed in the shape of a number 7, where the pointed part of the 7 seems to fit perfectly in the gap of two bars above the door. Inexperienced owners or pet sitters who do not know rats well might think that you simply push the door into place, letting the pointed part of the seven rest comfortably between the two bars. This is NOT a secure position for the door to be in, as it can easily fall back open or be pushed free by your rats. Anyone closing the door to the cage must be certain that they push the 7 hooks all the way THROUGH the bars, bending down the top bar so that the upper part of the 7 hangs OVER the bar. Once in this position the rat cannot push the door open from their side, though this way of closing the door warps the shape of the cage bars considerably, making a larger gap in that area.

pdmodel

Phobos and Deimos model in a setup with hammock and nesting box.

Beyond the somewhat frustrating door, we are madly in love with these cages as temporary housing for our non-chewing, large, male rats. We have used them for short distance travel and had our rat sitter use them at her place when we are away, with both situations working out well for everyone involved. In the long-term, we most recently needed them when our ceiling caved in last winter and I was forced to move out with our boys while the house underwent construction for four months. In that situation, the boys were left alone in the cages while I was at work, and the doors were opened for free range time once I got home.

I think what I like most about these cages goes beyond their portability, easy storage and simple nature. These cages are easy-clean, wired dwellings that, unlike tanks and other closed structures, allow circulation within the small space, making it a healthier choice for your pet on the go.

Pros:
Compact storage.
Easy to clean and assemble.
Lightweight, easily mobile.
Wire top allows air circulation and proper ventilation.
Enough room for a nesting box, hanging bed, very small chew toy, food dish and water bottle.
Suitable space as a TEMPORARY residence for large, well behaved rats.

Cons:
Wires have one inch gaps, allowing escape of small rats.
Bottom is plastic, allowing for escape by chewing.
No room for litter box.
Cage door needs extra attention when latching shut.
NOT suitable for young, small rat shown on package!
NOT suitable as a PERMANENT residence for large, well behaved rats!

 

Mirrani Houpe, YPS Staff Member

Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has owned, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at mirrani@yourpetspace.info

Helping a Smart and Picky Rat Adjust to Big Change

North with fountain

North, figuring out how his fountain works and telling us to turn it on for him.

Regular readers already know of my rat North, who suffered a serious case of pneumonia almost a year ago. Since then, because of the resulting lung deterioration, he has become a rat with special medical needs. He has always been a rat with special emotional needs because he is too smart for his own good. Now I know all rats are smart, they are easily trainable and extremely curious, it’s one of the things that make them appealing as pets, but when we brought North home we knew he was going to be different. From the very beginning, he and his brother Whisper began to train US.

Rat Rules of the house as dictated by North and Whisper:

1) “If I pull on your sleeve, it means lift your arm so I can run on it to someone else’s arm or to something close by.”

2) “If I stand on your hand and lift my nose at someone else, it means I want them to lift their arm.”

3) “If I am riding on your shoulder and tap your cheek with my nose, it means I want you to turn that way.”

4) “If I tap really fast, it means you’re not moving fast enough and you’d better hurry up.”

The list goes on, but you get the idea. Both Whisper and North do these things, but Whisper is always very calm about it, using the commands only when he most needs to get his point across to us.  North, on the other hand, quickly began to use them with a purpose.

It wasn’t long before North worked out our daily routines. Most rats get used to the regular schedule of their humans, but we soon realized that he hadn’t just figured out that after dinner we watch TV, he figured out that starting at 8pm we watch TV.  He began coming to me for a snuggle after dinner, at exactly 8pm, lasting until exactly 8:30.

North’s Routine:

1) Go to my first human and tap on her to get her to pick me up.

2) Climb across her shoulders and pull her sleeve to indicate I want to go across to the snuggle chair.

3) Cross to the snuggle chair and settle with my other human.

4) When snuggle is over, climb other human and pull on sleeve to indicate I want to cross to the first human again.

5) Cross the first human and climb down onto sofa for the rest of my play time.

If no one was available to get him to my chair, or if I wasn’t in the chair to start with, North would go on a frantic search for a human who could fix the situation.  One evening, he even jumped on one of our guests, who promptly gave him to my wife. Once in her arms, North tugged on the FRONT of her shirt, pulling her to where I was, down the hall, working in the computer room. By this point we all knew what this meant and North was brought in to me, with much eager cheek tapping.

North and Whisper

Whisper and North settled down on their table next to the snuggle chair.

A TV Watching Rat

After a few months of all of this it became so much of a habit with us that we mindlessly lifted our arms and snuggled into blankets without thinking anything of it. We completely failed to notice that on certain nights, instead of sleeping inside of his nesting box, North would climb on top of the box and face the TV.  By now you can guess that I am about to tell you he had memorized the schedule there as well, but it took us a while to realize there were certain shows he would “watch.” Most of the time North cares little about the television, but he has two favourites that he literally cannot live without: Hell on Wheels and Sleepy Hollow. These two shows he will not miss and when their regular seasons are on air, he is settled in his TV spot just as the show comes on.  And when he is sick? Well, he snuggles down in his blankets and watches reruns of both.  Sometimes this is the only way we can get him to eat food!

north watching TV

North watching Hell on Wheels from his nesting box.

His absolute favourite is Sleepy Hollow, which he still watches on Monday nights, even though the season has finished. When I come home on Monday he is desperate to get my attention, running all kinds of ways, standing up on his back legs, waving his arms in the air. At the mention of Sleepy Hollow he settles down, but heaven forbid I should forget to put on a rerun for him at exactly 9pm!  North has actually become somewhat famous for his Sleepy Hollow watching, as a video of him has gone around one of the rat groups I belong to, and even surprised our vet, who was stunned to see how attentive North was being.

North watching sleepy hollow

North eating banana, recovering from a bout of pneumonia, watching Sleepy Hollow.

Recently things changed at our house.  In January our ceiling caved in and needed to be repaired. Unfortunately for all of us, North can’t live in the dust and paint of construction, and with the insulation out as well, the house was much too cold for his recurring pneumonia, so the rats and I had to move out. With a rat this particular about routines, relocating was much more complicated than getting the spare cages and hauling things into a temporary home at my mother’s house. Along with all of his regular food and cage supplies, I had to pack baby food and yogurt, medications, and therapeutic items like North’s heating bed. Of course, the move required taking a computer for him to use as a television set.

computer

North and Whisper watching an episode of Evolve with John Edward, another of their favourite shows. It’s an episode I’m in, actually, and one in which they are mentioned.

Many would ask why I went through all of the trouble. It seems ridiculous that I should cater to the needs of a rat in this way. Few realize the anxiety North displays when even one part of his routine is out of place. For a little fur creature who tells time and depends on that understanding of his schedule to lower his stress, it was a vital step to take. I knew we were going to be away from home for an undetermined number of days, I knew that my wife wasn’t going to be with us and I knew that the unfamiliar surroundings would prevent North from feeling comfortable. I also knew that as soon as he is uncomfortable it becomes difficult for him to breathe and he begins to lose color in his limbs. These stresses prevent him from regulating his body temperature and reduce his appetite, so I was prepared to keep strictly to his routine, even when we were away.

So this meant watching episodes of Hell on Wheels, Evolve, and Sleepy Hollow.  It meant continuing with his steam treatments in the morning and in the evening.  It also meant learning new rules, such as “When I come out of the steam you will NOT have the fan on. It’s bad for me to have the cold air after humidity!” This is a recent addition to North’s list of regulations, something he taught me just the other night, when he came back from his steam as usual, but wouldn’t eat. Instead he ran frantic circles around the dish and gave me such determined, intense glances that it looked like something out of a horror movie. I kid you not, I sent a message to my wife, filled with concern over his behaviour. It wasn’t until he looked up at the fan above him that I noticed I had forgotten to turn it off.  Once I did he settled down again and waited for his “movies.”

Watch North Watch His “Movies” Here

While some things have changed (the time we watch TV together and where we do it) I have tried my best to keep as much of his routine the same as it has always been.  For a while it was touch and go, but I am happy to say that even though we are still not back at home, North is alive and well. I am also happy to say that as I write this, we only have one more week of construction and then we’re back to everything he knows best, his own cage, his own chair, his own reruns. After having been gone for three whole months, I will no doubt have to help him adjust to life at home, but something tells me it isn’t going to take him long to settle in this time.

Mirrani Houpe, YPS Staff Member

 Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has owned, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at mirrani@yourpetspace.info

My Animal Talks!

deer

Stories Of How My Pets Communicate

We have all seen videos of pets making a noise that sounds like human speech. Dogs howling “I love you”, cats yowling “Hello”, and of course we all expect birds to pick up some vocabulary when they are around us. Do these animals really know what they are doing? Most don’t, of course, but there are some animals that do communicate in ways we consider to be language, like the gorillas that have learned to sign. So unless you have a gorilla, you’re out of luck when it comes to communicating with your pet, right? Not if you learn to talk the way your pet talks.

Animals have a language that is all their own and each species often has a different kind of language from the others. Just like humans, some are capable of learning how to “talk” in other languages, which is usually when you see those mixed species animal friend videos go viral on YouTube. How does that dog seem so happy with that deer? They have found that common ground in language between their species. I watch the videos and though my eye is untrained, I have no problems picking up some ideas rather quickly. Among other observations, the most obvious is that the deer has learned some of the dog’s playful body language and the dog has learned some of the deer’s neck grooming behaviours. There is just enough common ground between them to maintain that friendship, partly because they have learned to “talk” in the other’s language.

deer3

It is possible for humans to do the same thing, if we allow ourselves the time to learn.  Animals will quite happily study our behaviours, mostly out of genetic necessity.  Take our local deer; they freeze in place and stare at whatever strange thing is moving around them to try and decide if they should dash away for their lives. This is their nature. It is what keeps them alive. If the deer in your neighbourhood don’t do this, they have probably become too used to the human activities around them, which can be a dangerous situation with any wild animals.

We are lucky enough to live out beyond the rural boundary, where the deer haven’t adjusted to life with humans in a way that is unnatural for them. Still, loving animal communication since I was a child, I wanted a way to let them go about their lives while we went about ours without disturbing them too much, the way they would coexist with a bird or a squirrel. I didn’t want to open my door and walk to my car, terrifying an entire herd of deer in the process, so I began whistling when I saw them.  It wasn’t a tune or anything, just a note once or twice, occasionally making sound. In this way I would move about my yard, not really looking at them or paying them too much attention at all. At first this confused them, but after some time they began to appreciate it. They are still wild animals, they remain unsure about my intentions and they do move deeper into the woods when they see me, but they aren’t dashing out into the country roads in a panic, to be hit by an unsuspecting driver who is coming around the bend at 45 miles an hour. They have learned that my typical behaviour is to exist in the yard, occasionally making a whistle sound and that this particular behaviour doesn’t harm them. They hear me and will casually wander into the woods, flicking their tails a little in agitation that I have disturbed their peace. The same trick also lets them know I am coming down the private drive we share with other families. A short whistle out the window lets them know I see them and I move forward while they shuffle into the trees. Most astonishingly, in recent years, the older deer have actually come to expect that we should announce ourselves to each other. If I do not see them, they will snort at me to let me know they are there, then flick their tails straight up and trot off into the woods, alerting that they aren’t comfortable with this unusually quiet behaviour on my part. This actually startles some guests at night, so be aware if you come visiting.

deer

The deer aren’t my pets, and I wouldn’t ever want them to be, but I use them to prove the point that all animals have the capability to learn the behaviours of others, even the human variety. If we think about it, this should be obvious.  When we see a bird in our yard, don’t we expect it to eventually fly off? Don’t we all know that a fish out of water is going to flop around in a desperate struggle to get back in? We know these things because we experience them in some way, either in life or on video.  Well, our pets experience us regularly too. They have seen us get food from containers, they expect that we will sleep in the big rectangular fluffy thing instead of on the floor, and they know that we all love looking at that noisy light box on the wall or tapping our fingers on the smaller light boxes that we hold in our hands. If we are doing these things regularly, that must be the way of life.  So when my rats, for example, hear me shuffle boxes around or move a plastic bag, they instantly expect that food is being handled, even if the plastic bag is being put in a pocket to use for the dog’s walk.

How do we increase our communication with our pets?

Some animals can be trained to respond to commands.  Dogs are trained to sit, stay, beg, and do any other number of nifty things. They hear a word, they learn the behaviour that is expected at the mention of that word, then they do the thing required.  It’s that simple. Sometimes you can go beyond that training and teach them to express themselves with the word they have learned.  For example, one of our dogs, Sahara, loves belly rubs.  She flops over, holds her short little leg up in the air and waits.  You rub, then stop, and she turns to look at you as if to say, “Well?  Where’s the rest?” I went a little farther with this expression, knowing that she was trying to ask for more. I taught her that if she touched her cheek when someone had given her a belly rub, she would get more belly rubs. It was an extension of the paw waving behaviour she was already displaying, so she picked it up quickly.  When she realized I only rubbed her belly when she touched her cheek, and not when she put her paw in the air and looked at me, she transitioned to asking for “more” on a regular basis. Recently she has tried this once or twice when getting treats or dinner, all on her own, without prompting.  We have created a monster.

sekhemkare the cat

I have also learned to “talk” with my cat, Sekhemkare, and some of my fish.  With cats, of course, there are usually no issues at all in communication, since they either leave humans alone entirely or have no problem what so ever in telling us what to do. In the case of our cat, the story comes from replacing his favourite toy, “Piggy”, which had become filthy. We got him a new one and picked up the old one to throw away, only to discover in the morning that the old Piggy was happily resting in the middle of the living room floor while the new Piggy was drowned in the cat’s water dish.  That message was clear; death to all imposters.

spit the fish

With my fish, communication has been an interesting ride.  The best results came from Nix, Hydra, Pluto, and LaForge, who all learned how to get my attention by spitting into the corner of their tank.  They quickly discovered that this sound would instigate my making sounds (talking to them) and moving closer to where they were. Each of them began to use this technique to “call” me the way you would call a dog or cat.  LaForge was an only fish and Pluto was also alone for a time, and they were often perfectly content to have me walk over to the tank and sit beside them for a while. In their case this was a way of saying they wanted that “schooling” feeling of having another living thing there with them.  Nix and Hydra are my current fish and use this “call” to tell me that I have forgotten to feed them at exactly the time that they expect to be fed.  If I ignore the “call” they will often leap slightly from the water and knock into the lid of the tank, which I have decided must be their version of swearing at me for not hurrying up about it.

Deimos the rat

Deimos

How My Pets Communicate: The Rats

Now we come back to the rats, who are probably the best communicators of any of the pets that I have. Their minds work more like human minds than just about any animal I have ever encountered. This is one of the reasons rats are so often studied in order to help humans.  There are so many stories when it comes to rats talking with us that it is hard to pick one or two to share. We have had rats tap our cheeks or pull on our clothes to tell us where they want us to take them, we have had rats who have dictated exactly where they expect us to leave their food by dragging their dish to the proper place until we finally got the idea, we have a rat who learned to let himself out of his cage, but would only chew a tiny notch in the furniture, then go back inside and wait for us to notice.  “See? I let myself out again. That’s three times this week, in case you are counting, like I am.”

Two of our rats have been such good communicators that I gave serious thought to teaching them to use technology to actually speak.  Archie was the first of these and sadly he passed away at a very young age, before his training went very far. I learned of his abilities when I realized that he would actually listen to individual words and seemed to work out their meaning within a week or so. I would talk to him and when there was a word he was unfamiliar with, he would tilt his head and look very intent.  He would do this repeatedly until he had learned the word. What do I mean by this?  Take the word “water” for example. To sum up his vocabulary skills quickly, I will shorten his learning process to a few sentences, but it went something along these lines… I would be talking to him and say something like, “I’m going to get your water, be right back.” He would tilt his head and shift his ears forward, a clear sign he was listening to me. I would repeat the word I thought he was trying to learn: “Water?” If he repeated the head tilt, I knew this was the thing he was focused on, so I would then go and get the water bottle, put it in his cage and repeat the word “water”, usually in a sentence, sometimes on its own.  After about a week, if he heard the word water, he would go to either his bottle or the sink, even if we weren’t talking to him. After some time of this, he began to tell us when he wanted fresh water by bonking his head under the bottle if we didn’t talk about water when cleaned his cage.  He would stick his head under the bottle, lift it up, drop it and wait.  If nothing happened he would do it again and repeat the action until someone said the word “water.”  Usually in the form of the sentence: “Okay, Archie, I’ll get you water, just wait a minute!”

archie the rat

Archie

In a few months there were many words that Archie knew and several he was fond of. “Water”, “treats”, “kisses” and “snuggles” were all favourites, but he also knew the meanings of “yes” and “no”, along with many other useful words.  He could also tell the difference between a single “no”, which we used to emphasize new rules, and “no, no, no”, which we used to remind him of rules he already knew how to follow (like no rats on the floor).  I began to work with this increasing vocabulary, certain that there would be a way to help him call to us like the fish did or to express his needs.  I bought little jar lid attachments, intended to help the blind label things.  You record a short message then push the button to play it back.  I began teaching Archie to push the buttons and that pushing the buttons would give him the reward of the thing that he had “requested.”  The hardest part was helping him understand that when he heard the word “kisses” come out of the device, it meant he would GET kisses, not that he should GIVE them.  Sadly, just as he was learning this he became sick and then passed away, so I will never know how far this training could have gone with him.

north the rat

North

Our latest boy, North, will be featured in another article about helping animals adjust to new routines because his communication is the strongest when something is supposed to happen and doesn’t.  For instance, when the power goes out and we then can’t turn the lights on when it gets dark, he dashes around looking up at light bulbs and pulling on our arms. His communication is always very clear.  In this case you can almost see the speech bubble over his head: “Stupid humans.  It’s dark, make it light again!”

The point of all of this is that I have had many people tell me they wished they could have the same connection with animals that I do. Often they ask me what my secret is. How is it that even as a three year old child I seemed to be able to interact with animals in a way that they completely understood? How did I get them following me around or “listening” to what I was telling them to do? There is only one answer: observation. It’s something you need for any language. In order to learn how to say “teddy bear” in such a way that someone else understands it, you have to figure out what word the other person uses for “teddy bear.” The same is true when “talking” with animals; you just have to switch your mind into a different, physical, form of communication.  Sometimes “I’m so glad you’re here!” really sounds like water slapping against the glass of a fish tank. Accepting that is the first step to really “talking” with the animals around us.

Mirrani Houpe, YPS Staff Member

Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has owned, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at mirrani@yourpetspace.info

Rats ARE Companion Animals

pet rat 3

Justice For The Rats in Chicago

As I sit here typing this, my dog is at my feet, snoring away, dreaming of the last two hours she spent chewing on her toy, my cat is in his bed in the other room, undoubtedly dreaming of his latest attempts to get the dogs to play with him, and my rats are beside me, sleeping in their little house, tails curled over their heads, bellies stuffed full with the slices of banana that I just gave them. Of all these tell me, which of my pets is a true “companion”? Is my dog more of a “companion” than my cat because she is in the same room with me? Are my rats the better examples of “companions” because they were the last animals I had interaction with? If I told you to pick one of these animals as my true “companion” in order to abandon the others under that title, could you do it? Would it make sense for you to do it? Of course not, certainly not to me. But this simple word is causing a major stir in a case of animal cruelty in Chicago, Illinois.

Because of my own feelings on this matter, I feel that I must put out a disclaimer to all readers. The topic discussed in this article is heart-breaking for any animal lover and may cause distress. The very nature of animal cruelty can be graphic in the retelling. It is not my intention to relive the pain that these animals went through, but to encourage others to stand up for those who suffered. I will not include links to the video discussed, nor show a still photo of what occurred, as I believe that such action shares the spirit of the suffering rather than the spirit of standing firm against suffering. You will see what I mean in a moment. Also, I find it important to state that I do not live in the state of Illinois and am quoting legal wording from Peggy McCoy’s Facebook updates and her petition “Justice for the Washer Rats!” at change.org, as that is what is available to me at the moment. I apologize for any errors in that quoting and cannot claim them as mine beyond that I copied them to this page without full knowledge of the actual text. I will credit the legal text when I quote from it.

dictionary

Before I go farther, I would like to clarify how I am using the term “companion animal.” Webster’s New Pocket Dictionary defines the word “companion” in this way: n. 1 comrade; associate 2 thing that matches or goes with another. In a post from April 23rd, Peggy McCoy quoted the law as saying that a “companion animal” is “an animal that is commonly considered to be, or is considered by the owner to be, a pet. ‘Companion animal’ includes, but is not limited to, canines, felines, and equines.” There. We’ve gotten that out of the way. So, look at my above statements about the animals in my home and tell me, with this new understanding, which one of them is NOT my “companion animal.”

Give up? According to those associated with this case, my rats are NOT “companion animals.” If this sounds confusing to you, then you are not alone. Rat owners around the globe were horrified to hear the news of a woman who put her rats in the washing machine, turned it on and watched them drown. How do we know this happened? She made a video and posted it to Facebook.

scales of justice

Who among us thinks that throwing a cat in a sack and tossing it in the river to drown is acceptable behaviour? Who among us believes that beating a puppy to death with a baseball bat should be common practice? I should hope there is not one soul reading this who would stand up and say that intentionally hurting or killing animals is the right thing to do. As a racing fan, I certainly know enough people who criticize me for my love of the sport, sighting all of the opportunities for cruelty that come up –  from using the crop to training incidents, overwork, and beyond. If we can be angry over excessive use of a crop, should we not be angry over the unnecessary torture of these rats?

That word is the true issue here: “torture.” They were not thrown in the bath tub and left to fend for themselves, they were not abandoned by the side of the road, left for the public to take care of. These rats were intentionally placed inside a washing machine and filmed as they died a cruel, unspeakable death. I will admit here that I have not seen this video, I have only seen the stills of it that were included in some of the news reports that have been circulating around the rat communities, and even those bring such tears to my eyes that I must quickly turn away.

The guilty parties were taken into custody and were charged with cruelty to animals, which means they were at least charged with something, may face some time in jail and/or be forced to pay a fine. Those who are unaware of this case are probably wondering why this still upsets so many people. The answer lies in the two charges that were NOT brought up because the rats were not deemed worthy of the title “companion animal.” (Here I quote Peggy McCoy’s copy of the law, from change.org.)

judge's gavel

(510 ILCS 70/3.02)
Sec. 3.02. Aggravated cruelty.
(a) No person may intentionally commit an act that causes a companion animal to suffer serious injury or death. Aggravated cruelty does not include euthanasia of a companion animal through recognized methods approved by the Department of Agriculture unless prohibited under subsection (b).
(b) No individual, except a licensed veterinarian as exempted under Section 3.09, may knowingly or intentionally euthanize or authorize the euthanasia of a companion animal by use of carbon monoxide.
(Source: P.A. 96-780, eff. 8-28-09.)

(510 ILCS 70/3.03)
Sec. 3.03. Animal torture.
(a) A person commits animal torture when that person without legal justification knowingly or intentionally tortures an animal. For purposes of this Section, and subject to subsection (b), “torture” means infliction of or subjection to extreme physical pain, motivated by an intent to increase or prolong the pain, suffering, or agony of the animal. (Source: P.A. 91-351, eff. 7-29-99; 92-650, eff. 7-11-02.)

What is the difference?  A charge is a charge, right? Wrong. Aside from the fact that the very nature of the crime is described in the charges that were NOT filed, adding those charges would change the crime from being a misdemeanour to being a felony. A felony.

rats sharing food

After everything that has happened over the last few weeks, many rat owners have learned one thing: we all should be begging for laws like this to be changed. No one would think twice of applying the more serious, felony charges if the animals in question had been toy poodles or little kittens, but because they were rats, and because rats are not seen as “companion animals”, only a misdemeanour will do. A life is a life. When a human kills another human, we don’t look at the usefulness of the victim and base the murder charge on that. No one says “Oh, the guy only killed a garbage collector, not a rocket scientist. We’ll let him off easy this time.” To be honest, if you want to be technical about it, when you compare rats to dogs or cats, it is the RAT who is the rocket scientist.

That is the message we want to send to law makers, lawyers and anyone else who will listen right now. Rats are just as worthy of the title “companion animal” as your dog, your horse or your cat. Rats are smart, loving parts of our household who show compassion for their owners and fellow animals. Rats have been given the same important jobs as dogs have, including drug and bomb sniffing. Some rats are even used as therapeutic animals and service animals. Rat lovers around the world are hoping to spread the word that these creatures are sweet, loveable, and worthy of being called our “companions.”

Deimos the rat

Deimos

How do we do this? Research the case, contact those involved and share a story about any rat you know. You don’t have to be a rat owner to explain to someone else that rats are “companion animals.” Anyone can tell a story of a rat they know, the important thing is to remind the reader that just like dogs, cats, horses and other animals, RATS have a place in the hearts of pet owners everywhere. If you have photos, send one. It’s time to make rats equal in the eyes of animal cruelty laws.

For more information, follow the following links:

Justice for the Washer Rats!

On Facebook

And at change.org.

Mirrani Houpe, YPS Staff Member

Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has purchased, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at mirrani@yourpetspace.info

Book Review: The Not So Secret Life of Nimh, A Dumbo Rat

We are required to let readers know that we are compensated for our book and product reviews. We personally test the products and read the books to be able to provide the honest reviews you will read of products and books offered through our website.   

coverflatAny time that I have the opportunity to read a good book on rats and rat care, I jump in and grab it. This book was no exception. It came to me by way of Facebook, where a fellow rat owner had posted a link on her page about it, saying that if we wanted to have a copy, we should contact the author. I did this quite happily, explaining that I write for Your Pet Space and am always looking for books to review, especially when they are about rats. Within no time at all, a copy had arrived in my mail box and I didn’t even get to my front door before I had the package opened and was flipping through the pages.

Oh my gosh. If you could package cuteness, this is the way to go! Just look at that face on the cover; curious and inquisitive, coming at the camera with all the busy action of a young rat. The essence of little Nimh is clearly captured right from the beginning.

Learn Short Little Facts About Rat Care

Nimh is learning to be a program rat in a state park in Florida and the book follows the life of Nimh for a short time, introducing children (and adults) to the joys of having a rat. The book is written in the first person, from Nimh’s point of view, each page also containing short little facts about rat care. The balance between the two provides excellent places to stop on each page and discuss what you are reading. It also gives you an excuse to check out the adorable photos on each page one more time. I found myself often looking at the picture, reading, then looking at the photo again.

Nimh the dumbo rat

Aren’t I the cutest little Dumbo Rat you’ve ever seen?

If You’re Hoping To Get A Pet Rat

As a teacher (and a rat owner) I found many learning opportunities throughout this book, where anyone of any age who is hoping to get a pet rat can learn about care and handling before they go out and bring a new baby home. As Nimh grows from being 4 weeks old to being 4 months old, the book touches lightly on handling, cages, toys, food, treats, training, and most of all, behavior. I wouldn’t say that this little story is meant to tell you everything, but it is certainly the perfect introduction to having a rat as a part of your household. Anyone who is considering having a rat as a pet should have some of their basic questions answered as they read.

Learning and discussion opportunities flood the pages. When I read the book to my students I find them asking about the photos or about what has just been read. This isn’t because they don’t understand the subject, but because they are curious about what they are seeing and hearing. On one of the pages, Nimh has learned to climb out of the “playpen” and that usually is the perfect time to pause for some creative thinking. What could Nimh do now? Where would Nimh go? What would Nimh do? We also had a discussion about how the person watching Nimh would be careful to keep Nimh safe outside of the “playpen” since earlier in the book we learned that rats don’t like to get dirty and need to eat (and come in contact with) only healthy things.

Nimh the dumbo rat2

I feel safe in Barbara’s hands, safe enough to wash my hind feet.

Younger Readers Will Find The Storytelling To Their Taste But…

Obviously younger readers will find the storytelling to their taste the most, but adults will have no difficulty at all when it comes to enjoying Nimh’s story. If you love rats, you will read for the love of the animal. If you are curious about rats, you will find yourself enjoying the story much more than you might have realized, and maybe by the end of it, you might just find yourself thinking rats aren’t so bad after all. Most importantly, this is a book that a child and an adult can read together, learn from together and discuss together. Are you ready to have a rat of your own? This book might just convince you that they are perfect pets for your home. I highly recommend it as a starting block in the building of a rat care library.

Story and Photos by Barbara Cairns
Genre & Topics: Non-Fiction, Animal Care, Rats
Published in 2014 by America Star Books – Frederick, Maryland
45 pages, Illustrated with photographs
This book was a gift from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Want to buy this book?  Click below.

The Not So Secret Life of Nimh, A Dumbo Rat

Mirrani Houpe, YPS Staff MemberMirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has purchased, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at mirrani@yourpetspace.info

Product Review–All Living Things Small Animal Carrier

all living things small animal carrierOptions In Temporary Housing For Your Small Animal

We are all here because we love our pets and want the best for them. We want them to be happy, healthy, and comfortable. If you have a small animal, you probably already have an awesome setup for them, maybe even a several story cage with plenty of room, but something like that isn’t exactly transportable. There are plenty of animal transport options out there, everything from cardboard boxes to something that is more like a small cage, so what option is the best for your animal?

The most important thing to start with is a simple question: What am I going to use this carrier for? Some people use their carrier only for visits to the vet and back, others use their carrier as a temporary cage to house their animals in while they clean the larger living space. If you are going to use your carrier as a travel cage rather than an actual carrier, I would suggest skipping the purchase of a carrier and moving straight to the small cage aisle. There are plenty of smaller cages out there that would work all right as temporary housing for your small animal in many situations, such as taking them with you on vacation or moving across country. You will want to use something that gives you room for water, food and bedding, but most importantly you will want to use something that is of solid construction from which your small animal cannot escape.

Not All Temporary Housing For Your Small Animal Is Right For Those That Chew

The All Living Things Small Animal Carrier, being made of chewable materials is NOT one of the carriers you would want to use as a temporary cage. It is meant only for the purpose of transporting your animal from one location to another, preferably while someone is observing them in the process. The carrier is made of 50% cotton and 50% polyester, with a little bit of stiff paper board sandwiched between the fabric layers to help it maintain shape and be a little durable, and the windows are covered with a soft mesh. While the flexibility of the materials makes it awesome for storage, there is little chance that such a carrier will stand up to the teeth of your little chewers. This doesn’t mean you should avoid the carrier, however. With proper supervision, this carrier can be an excellent choice.

Let’s look at some of the pros of having this carrier.

interior all living things carrierI have already talked some about the materials, but there are other aspects of the construction that make it a prime choice for purchase, namely the fact that it can be completely unzipped into one flat piece and easily stored away just about anywhere. The ability to unzip it completely also means that cleaning is a breeze. No reaching in and straining to see if you have managed to clear out all the corners, just unzip, wipe down, let dry, and you’re off again in no time at all.

Another thing that I like about this carrier is the softer nature of it. It is more comfortable for the animals than hard plastic and that means it is certainly lighter to carry, something that is important for someone like myself, who has to consider a doctor mandated weight limit on anything that I pick up and move around. This brings me to another part of the softer construction; the shoulder strap. While I much prefer to hold the carrier by the top handle, there is a detachable shoulder strap that comes with it. I have used the strap once or twice, when all of the animals are going to the vet in one visit and I simply don’t have enough hands to hold them all, and that has worked well. It makes for a little bit of a bumpy ride for the animals, but it leaves me free to take a dog leash in each hand for the short walk to and from the car.

alt carrierIs The Carrier Going to Protect The Animals?

Finally, is the carrier going to protect the animals inside? I can say from experience that if your dog accidentally knocks the carrier out of the car and onto the ground, your small animals will be startled and shocked, but come out unharmed. That doesn’t mean I’d be dropping it off a two story building though, because being soft, it really isn’t meant to withstand much more than the occasional bump or drop.

Now is probably the time to give a few warnings regarding some things I have noticed while using the All Living Things Small Animal Carrier.

I’m going to start with that zipper again. While it is awesome to be able to store this carrier flat (especially since we live in a building with very limited space), I am always worried of pinching tail or whiskers when I am putting the rats inside. You are going to have to be careful of loading any animal that has a tendency to try and escape out of the carrier’s opening, because if you don’t watch carefully some serious zipper accidents can occur. The zipper makes it easy for you to open and holds them securely inside, but it can be dangerous if you are inattentive. When you close a carrier door that is on a hinge, the process is quick, but when you try to quickly zip something, accidents can happen. I would recommend keeping your fingers inside the carrier as you are zipping it to help prevent catching the metal on the animal inside. The zipper can also jam or break. We are currently on our second carrier because of zipper failure and will eventually need a third one, as one of the teeth is bent at the opening.

Going back to the softer construction of the carrier, what about using it for chewing animals? Well, we have rats and they are major chewers and master escape artists. Luckily, we have only ever had one rat try and chew his way out of the carrier and that lasted all of the one second that he got his teeth on the mesh window before we noticed it. If you are attentive while you are transporting, you will be able to stop your animal from chewing their way out. Do NOT put your pet in the carrier and then walk away to get another animal or clean a cage or pick up your keys, because if your pet is a chewer, it is far too easy for them to get out, destroying your carrier in the process.

So you must always consider: in the end, is the carrier going to protect the animals?

rats Phobos and Deimos in carrierEspecially For Transporting Rats

I have two other issues with the softer construction, both easily dealt with. First of all, because of the materials the carrier is made from, you are most definitely going to want to put an absorbent towel or blanket in the bottom, depending on the proper material for your animal. A little bit of paper towels or newspaper isn’t going to do and you certainly don’t want to leave the bottom of the carrier uncovered. Trust me on this one, when transporting rats, pee goes everywhere if there’s nothing to catch it. Secondly, the mesh is great for ventilation, but the carrier itself traps heat inside, so that by the time you get to where you are going the inside is like a sauna. Any time that we go somewhere with the carrier, I ALWAYS turn the car’s air vent so that it blows THROUGH the carrier windows, giving them cross breeze and circulation. This is most especially important for transporting rats like our North, who has a breathing condition and can’t remain in the carrier for more than a minute or two. So as soon as you get to the vet, open that carrier and let your babies get some fresh air.

The most important thing to think about when you are getting a carrier is the safety of your animal. The durability of this carrier is not meant for long rides in traffic, where accidents could happen. If you hit the side of this thing, it will bend, so while your dog can knock it on the ground or your cat can push it off the counter and your animal will be startled but okay, a more serious impact probably won’t have as happy of an ending. For that reason, I would not recommend this carrier to anyone who is using it to drive long distances on major roads, even if you have someone keeping the air blowing through and watching for escapist behavior.

ferret in alt carrierPros:
*A lot like a little den, soft and comfortable.
*Opens flat for easy cleaning and storage.
*Has detachable shoulder strap.
*Will protect your babies from short distance falls.

Cons
*Easy to chew through.
*Quickly gets stuffy inside.
*Needs absorbent materials added in base.
*Won’t protect well on hard impact.
*Use caution when using zipper.

Mirrani Houpe, YPS Staff MemberMirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has purchased, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at mirrani@yourpetspace.info

Exotic Emergencies

Vet questions: Caduceus

How Prepared Are You?

Everyone plans for the care of their pets when they are away. Almost all pet owners have their list of things to do, posted somewhere for the temporary caregiver to follow. Everyone knows to leave the vet’s contact information and important instructions in case of emergency. The question, now that you are home, is a simple one. How prepared are you to drop everything and run?

No one wants to think about the tragic events that can happen in everyday life. The list of them would probably be infinite even if you sat down and tried to come to the end of it. The truth of the situation of pet ownership is that, just like with children, you never know what is going to happen. You can go from a perfectly normal day to “What did you just eat?!” in the blink of an eye and the best way to save someone in the second situation is to have given it some thought while everything is still in perfectly normal mode.

How prepared are you?

When You Are Dealing With Small Exotic Pets

This is even more necessary when you are dealing with small exotic pets like lizards, birds, rats… even your fish can have an emergency. None of these guys can go to just any vet. So how do you prepare for everything to happen to your small pet while, at the same time, you are hoping for nothing at all to happen to them? Speaking from experience alone, I have a few tips that I can share.

Before I break anything down, I want to start with the most important information you could possibly have at your disposal: the veterinarian. You know your own vet and probably have the number memorized, saved in your phone, or posted somewhere with other important numbers. That’s awesome news. Now, do you know where the closest 24 hour vet is located? Do you know if they take small pets? Do you know about how long it is going to take you to get to this vet? When you have an exotic pet these are the kinds of things you need to be aware of because even if your regular vet keeps emergency hours something might keep them from being available to you, like being at the hospital because they’re having a baby! (Yes, that just happened to us recently.)

It all seems rather drastic, doesn’t it? Spending time and thought thinking about when tragedy might strike? Let me share some of the personal stories that help show why having a back up plan is a good idea at any time.

north on his way to the vet

North on his way to the vet. Doesn’t look like it but he is barely surviving at this point. Still more interested in how the car works than actually being sick.

Situation 1 – Why Time Counts In Exotic Emergencies

This summer my wife and I went to England to visit her family. We got regular updates on the animals and all was okay while we were out of town, so we had no reason to worry. We got home and I went right to the rats, as I usually do, to let them know we were home again. One of our boys, North, was lying in the floor of the cage (not a place he would ever sleep before), fluffed up, barely breathing, and cold to the touch. Our bags barely made it in the house, we were in such a rush to get to our vet.

The diagnosis? Pneumonia, and it was severe. We weren’t certain if he would make it. The vet guessed that it had been slowly developing over a week’s time and that North, who is curious about everything and doesn’t let anything get him down, was so caught up in being with new people and having new routines that he didn’t display symptoms right away, as he normally would have. (The vet wasn’t far off on his thinking. While struggling to keep warm in the car, even knocking on death’s door as he was, North was intensely curious about how the heater worked and why it was on in the middle of summer!)

North the rat

North getting his steam treatments for his lung condition.

The story has a happy ending. North is alive and well, except for having very weak lungs as a result of his ordeal. The humans caring for him confirm that he showed no signs of illness until the last evening of their time with him, at which point we were already on a plane home anyway, so there honestly are no hard feelings there. The story also has a moral: know your travel time. Why is that so important? Going to our regular vet, we knew exactly how long it should take to get from our house to his office, where he could get emergency care. I knew a blanket and some of my own body heat would probably be enough to keep North warm all the way. What if I hadn’t known it would take longer? What if he’d needed a hot water bottle, rice sock, or a pile of blankets?

Keller the rat

Keller after we got back from her emergency surgery. The red stain is not blood, but the purple stitches and the antibiotic solution they apply to the surgical area.

Another important thought comes up when considering the time it takes to get to your vet and that thought deals with bodily fluids. We once had a different situation, dealing with another of our rats, Keller, who got her tail caught in a piece of furniture one night. She got scared and before we could get to her, she yanked her tail free, degloving it in the process. (Trust me, you don’t want me to describe that here.) Needless to say the number of absorbent materials was important in that mad dash to the Rattie ER. We definitely needed to know how long it was going to take in order to properly estimate the number of blankies to bring with us. Because we were prepared, Keller was as comfortable as she could be in the journey to the ER. She soldiered through the situation and kept on dangerously adventuring for the rest of her life, much to the frustration of her human parents.

Phobos (in front of ball) and Deimos (inside ball) after the scuffle. Snuggling together is proof that they're still close, even after their disagreements.

Phobos (in front of ball) and Deimos (inside ball) after the scuffle. Snuggling together is proof that they’re still close, even after their disagreements.

Situation 2 – The Backup Plan When You Are Dealing With Small Exotic Pets

This Thanksgiving, while we were having dinner at my mother’s house, two of our rats were having an argument at our house. This was something we were completely unaware of until we got home and noticed that Phobos was in need of some stitches. Luckily, because his brother Deimos had recently had a minor skin issue dealt with, we already had antibiotic and knew the proper dose to give him, since they weigh about the same. We also keep pain medicine on hand for the rats and know the proper dose to give each if something comes up. Phobos wasn’t bleeding and wasn’t in severe pain, so we eventually determined that because there were only a few more hours until the vet opened, we would simply wait it out for the rest of the night. We monitored him, gave him an initial dose of pain medicine and antibiotic, then called first thing in the morning.

Everything went smoothly until that phone call, when we were told that while the practice was open, our vet was busy at the human hospital… becoming a dad! Great news for him. Bad news for us. The emergency vet we had used in the past was no longer operational and I had no idea where to turn. I was very lucky that we were able to wait for regular operating hours and talk to a human being, who was able to direct me to another small animal vet in the next town. If it had been the kind of emergency where we needed a vet right away, a lot of time would have been lost calling all of the veterinary emergency numbers, trying to find someone who was open and able to see our boy. In this situation, while Phobos did well, I did miserably, letting too much time go between checks for substitute rat vets.

angel fish

Situation 3 – Planning Ahead

Earlier, I had included the fish in my list of pets that could get into trouble. I did this because yes, they can. The most obvious problem anyone can think of has to do with various tank issues. The tank can start to leak, the water can go out of balance, the new water might not be the right temperature or be tainted with chemicals. Those kinds of things are easy to prepare for. Keep a spare tank somewhere for leaking emergencies. Keep spare water around for water emergencies. Don’t let the tank get dirty, don’t let the water stagnate, and you’ll be just fine when you need to quickly dump your little swimmers into some fresh water and make necessary purchases or repairs.

aquarium fish

Now, what if you are transferring your fish for tank cleaning and a five year old comes up behind you, spooking the fish into jumping out of the net, at which point the fish starts flailing around on the bookshelf beside you, putting a gash in his head? Yes, that happened. It actually happened to one of my fish named Pluto. Thankfully Pluto was trained to come to my hand in case of emergency, so he made his way to me and I made my way to the fresh water, where I kept an eye on him and fretted over him for days. (He turned out just fine, though he wore the scar for the rest of his many years.)

Let us all hope that none of you who are reading this are unlucky enough to have such a thing become an experience you are ever dealing with, but in case an illness does befall your fish, know that there ARE vets out there who care for certain fish in certain situations. There have been several instances in the news where goldfish have even gone into surgery to remove tumors so that they can continue to have happy, healthy lives. (There was even a special on NOVA about it.) More and more fish owners are finding that there are vets out there willing to give quality treatment for your fish, and before you start asking, yes, I do know where to take my current fish (Nix and Hydra) in case they should need some specialized attention.

In the end, being prepared works out to be a nice little circle:
Plan Ahead – Know your vet, know an emergency vet, and have some idea of how long it is going to take you to get where you’re going. Have an emergency travel cage or tank that is just big enough to be useful.
Keep an Eye on the Time – Be prepared to journey with your pet for the entire distance in a way that is comfortable for both you and your animal. You are already going to be stressed about the pain your pet is in, don’t make yourself wonder if you have enough towels or temperature control for the journey ahead. Most importantly, don’t further distract yourself by desperately trying to follow directions to an unknown destination or have make up for getting lost on the way into unfamiliar territory.
Have a Backup Plan – You never know what is going to happen in the life of your vet. They are people too, after all. Be ready to get to an alternate location and be aware that that location might be farther from you than your first choice.
All of that cycles right back to planning ahead and I can’t stress enough how much of a help it is to be prepared for the things you don’t want to happen. Running your dog or cat to any old vet is usually something very simple to do and dog and cat owners don’t typically have to think about what to do if their personal vet isn’t available, but when your small animal or exotic pet is in trouble, it isn’t always that simple.

It sounds like I’m calling for exotic pet owners to prepare for the end of the world, but in all honesty, a little thought now saves a lot of stress later. Here’s hoping that you never have to use the emergency plan that you create for your little ones, but take it from one who knows; you’ll be glad you have that plan if you ever need it.

Mirrani Houpe, YPS Staff Member

 Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has purchased, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at mirrani@yourpetspace.info

Living World Teach N’ Treat Product Review

Teach N Treat

Living World: Giving Guinea Pigs, Rabbits, and Other Small Animals A Fun Foraging Experience

We have had this Living World product in our house for several years and have included it in our rotating variety of stimulating toys for some time now. Having rats, I can only speak from the experience of their interaction with it, but I expect that animals like guinea pigs and rabbits might get more out of it than even the rats! All of our rats have been too quick to learn the trick of the toy to really spend a lot of time with it, even if they love using it.  However, you can make the game more challenging for pets.

The treat tray consists of a base and various removable buttons which combine in several different ways to give three levels of training in all, with only one or two minor adjustments to the toy itself. The directions are multilingual and easy to follow, with clear illustrations and suggestions for further training. The main platform also has suction cups for stabilization, which comes in handy for larger small pets, like guinea pigs and rabbits. My only instant advice is to KEEP THE BOX. The toy has multiple parts that you won’t be using all at once and you will need to keep the unused knobs and pieces in a safe location. None of the parts are tiny, but each is needed in various steps in the training process, so it’s important to keep track of them.

North And Whisper, pet rats

North And Whisper

How To Know If This Toy Is Right For Your Pet

As I said, we have rats, so my experience with this toy will be slightly different from those with guinea pigs, rabbits or other small animals, but most small animals should enjoy this product as it helps to stimulate their natural foraging behaviors. Our rats Whisper and North helped us break down the various stages of the Living World Teach N’ Treat to help you decide if this toy is right for your pet.

Stage one requires the base, the flat center button (which covers the hole in the center of the base, needed in the third stage), and the one, large disc. You plug the center button in place, fill the treat pockets with something yummy and simply slide the large disc into place to cover the treats. The point of this stage is to teach your pet that this is a treat tray, with a little fun added on the side. It isn’t long at all before curious critters discover that something yummy hides under the disc. North, who loves food, found his treats right away. Whisper took a little coaxing, but once I shifted the disc a little for him, he worked out what he was meant to do. All together the first day of this stage took about eight minutes until the rats completely lost interest, once they had eaten up all the food, of course. We waited a few days and introduced the toy again. Each time we brought the tray back the play time shortened until it got down to a little more than two minutes. Then we moved on to phase two.

guinea pigs with teach n treat

How To Make The Game More Challenging For Pets

In the second stage you keep the base as it is, take out the big disc and put the four small knobs over some of the treat pockets in the base. The point of this stage is to play hide and seek with the food. You can make the game more challenging by putting down all four knobs, but hiding treats under only a few of them, though to start with you should put food under all of the knobs to prevent your pet from getting discouraged in their hunt. Whisper loved this stage and actually lifted the knobs with his teeth, as the directions state is the intent of the exercise. North, however, simply pushed everything over like the bulldozer he is. This phase wasn’t at all stimulating for him. For most of our rats in the past, this has been the least stimulating of the phases. They simply crave a more difficult mental challenge. The instructions do give further ideas for training on this stage, such as teaching your pet to put the knob in a box nearby or to put it back in the hole where they found it, but we haven’t done this with our rats. A helpful note for guinea pig and rabbit owners: the knobs have holes on the top for you to stick a piece of hay in, to encourage them to hunt inside for more food. You can stop using the holes to make this phase more of a challenge.

With the second stage quickly completed, it was time to move on to stage three, which requires the square “center guard” instead of the small, flat middle button of the first two stages. Switch those out, put the knobs back and you have an instant knob track that you can hide treats under. This is a great stage to watch because your pets already know there is food to be found under the knobs. Now they quickly discover that the knobs can make a traffic jam and it takes more effort to get those last few treats once the knobs are all pushed together into a compact group. Whisper was still trying to lift the knobs after the first few days of stage three, but North picked up on the pushing skill very quickly. They started out with a five minute interest level and worked it down to about two or three minutes. A simple way to make this game more challenging for pets is to provide only one or two treats. While the small animal is foraging , the knobs get bunched together and they need to work out how to get to that one treat that ended up under all those knobs.

ferret with teach n treat

Variety Is What’s Best For Your Pet

It is important to point out that variety is the key with these types of toys. North and Whisper tested this Living World product over a series of months to see if the toy is right for your pet, and never used it two days in a row. You don’t want them to forget all about the toy, but you don’t want it to be to them what a vending machine is with us. How many of us actually get excited about watching those people-treats drop down into the tray once we’re all grown up and know how it works? Switch stages on your pet once they have worked out how each one works. Maybe jump from one to three and back to two. Maybe give them a week away from it and then pull it back out again, just for kicks. You might also want to try a variety of treats. We use small treats for our rats, but you could put chunks of carrot or other animal food into your tray. The tray is easy to clean and solid plastic, so even animals who eat soft foods as a part of their diet could find a yummy berry inside one day.

Teach N Treat Toy

There are so many small animal toys that help your rat, rabbit or guinea pig to chew, burrow, or hide, but there are very few that make the game more challenging for pets, and remind us that these animals forage for food. In our household, we have found that this is an excellent substitute for the large box full of shredded paper that we once used. Sure the rats could forage in there, but within a minute they figured out that all the treats settled to the bottom of the box, and it wasn’t any different than covering up a carrot with a blanket and having them find it. This toy provides the stimulation your pet requires and the easy clean up that pet owners love. It comes highly recommended from our household–and Living World!

Conclusions On The Living World Teach N’ Treat

Pros:

  • Easy to Clean
  • Easy to Assemble
  • Stimulating for Pets
  • Stabilization Enhancements

Cons:

  • Keep track of the parts you aren’t using!

This toy is right for your pet! Follow this link to purchase:

Mirrani Houpe  Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has purchased, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at mirrani@yourpetspace.info

How To Introduce Your Pet Rat To A New Brother

pet rat 3

Take Him Back–How To Tell Your Pet Rat A New Brother Is On The Way

Several months ago a friend of ours on Facebook made an announcement.  The female rat she had recently rescued had just delivered a surprise litter of babies, which she wasn’t prepared for and couldn’t keep.  I got in touch right away and said that we already had two boys who were old enough to be ready for introductions to new “siblings.” Plans were made on her end, but plans were also made on ours.

How To Introduce Your Pet

Before I continue with this article, I am going to pause and point out that any time you are introducing pets to one another, (same species or otherwise) you MUST know your animals inside and out.  If you have a pet who is very territorial or grumpy, even with you, tossing them another “friend” to play with isn’t necessarily a good idea.  Read your pet’s body language, understand their feelings.  Consult an expert if you are uncertain what path you should take.  Do NOT rush in to animal introductions.  Be prepared for this process to take a lot of time, if necessary.  Keep yourself and your pets safe and happy, and do not be afraid to admit that your pet might want to be an ONLY pet.  Sometimes that happens and it is perfectly okay, just remember that YOU will need to give your pet that extra companionship they would normally get from one of their own kind.


Now, back to the story at hand.  I am certain that right now there are some people who have never owned small pets before, or who have gotten their pets at a pet store, and are going to be jumping in their seats, shouting, “Don’t put them together! The pet store said not to!”  Here’s the issue with that, the store is only half right and they are saying what they are saying mostly for their own protection.  A lot of small animals are colony type animals, meaning that like fish, they prefer to be in a large group of their own kind.  All animals, however, are territorial and in the wild these colonies would all be members of a family, watching each other grow up and get old, they would not be surprised to have a new litter of babies suddenly show up among them. For those animals, that is the natural order of things.  Your two, innocent little darlings at home are living in ignorant bliss inside of their nice, spacious cage and aren’t at all thinking that suddenly they are about to be jumped on by a pair of rambunctious youngsters.

pet rat 2

Your Pet Rat and Territory

Well then, why worry about the age difference?  Why not just throw all the rats of the same age into one group together?  Here comes that territorial nature again.  Someone will want to be the dominant personality.  Just like in your old high school, there’s a class clown, but there’s also the class president and the homecoming  king and queen.  One of the best things that you can do for your rats is to stagger their ages, so that they will avoid the more angered disputes and settle more easily into a life together.  You won’t have four rats of the same age all establishing territory and duking it out to see who is going to be top dog. The older rats are older, the younger rats will get that and there will be a certain amount of respect there, in most normal circumstances.  Also, you want to think about what will happen when your elderly rat passes.  He or she will have been survived by a brother or sister, who will be all alone.  This is NOT the time to rush out and thrust babies at them.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Would you rather be comforted during a time of loss by your closest friend or a random, energetic stranger off the street?

Diemos in box.

Diemos in box.

Our two rats, North and Whisper have been with us a while.  They aren’t elderly, but they aren’t spring chickens, and for all of the reasons above, it was time for us to consider young siblings for them to spend time with.  Then along come Phobos and Deimos, fate plopping them practically into our laps.  The introduction process that we use is fairly simple, though it sounds very complex, and I will break it down into easy to follow steps.

Again, I will remind readers that every animal is different and what works for us might not work for you.  Constant supervision is key.  We suffered two accidental and terrible losses in our household in two separate instances; once when a male I was rat-sitting for attacked and killed my little baby while I was diligently watching them and was certain I had kept enough barriers between them, another time one of our extremely elderly females attacked and killed a newborn who had worked his way out of the transport container we use when we are cleaning cages.  (The elderly rat was not the mother and we are certain she was also not in her right mind, as this kind of behavior wasn’t at all normal for her.)

rats sharing food
Step 1:  All the Medical Stuff
New animals to a household bring with them new germs.  It’s the same idea behind everyone saying that teachers have a boosted immune system because they are subjected to more junk throughout the year or that kids going to a new school are going to get sick within the first weeks because they are bound to catch every bug around.  New rats into a building should be kept under a strict quarantine, even if you know exactly where they came from.  This prevents those germs from spreading and making everyone sick all at once, but it also helps them realize something is going on.  We typically go through a four week quarantine period, but in the case of Phobos and Deimos, we ended the strictest part of the quarantine a little earlier, as we had been watching them grow as babies and were well aware of their health.

During this step you want to have a separate cage in a separate room, where there will be no chance of someone sneezing and the germs spraying across a distance to the other cage.  If you handle one pair, go and change your clothes, wash your hands, then hold the other pair.  It sounds extreme, but they are small steps to take for preventing the spread of any kind of illness.  Keep in mind, some illnesses common to rats will NOT show symptoms for three or four weeks.   You will also want to be certain that your new rats have a totally different play area, not only because of germs, but because of territory, which we will discuss further along.

Phobos the rat

Phobos

Step 2: Listening, Smelling, Understanding
Once we go through the quarantine process, I always test how the older rats will handle having the new ones in their lives by letting them smell me after I have handled the younger ones.  The older rats are used to me smelling like strange people, since I am a teacher and come into close contact with over 50 preschoolers every day.  They are also used to smelling other animal smells on me, such as my sister’s dog or my friend’s cat.  These new rats are just strange new smells to them.  Oh, they’re rat smells, to be sure, but they’re only smells.  If one of my older rats begins to fluff his or her fur or display other signs of being angered or aggressive when encountering these new smells, I know that this process is going to take a lot longer than normal, or be impossible all together.  In this stage separation is still very important, as is the play spaces having no overlap.  Territory is still very important.  This phase doesn’t have a time frame, it differs for each rat, with Whisper and North, it lasted only a day or two, as we  were certain that these two had already figured out we had other rats in the house.  (A story for another time.)  Neither one much seemed to care that we smelled of strange rats, so we skipped along quickly to the next phase.

Diemos the rat.

Diemos

Step 3: I See You, Stranger
This step also doesn’t last very long in our household and I have never met anyone who uses steps 2 and 3 in their introduction training, but I prefer to walk each pair past the others a few times before formal introductions are made.  This little walk consists of picking up one pair, walking into the other room, which will smell of the other rats and is clearly their territory, letting them encounter the cage at a distance and listening to me talk to the new rats.  We then walk on past the cage, return to whatever we were doing and the pair I am holding gets high praises and attention.   This is the “yes you have a baby brother, but I still love you” treatment.  Any older sibling knows it.  And while I have no physical proof that it does any good what so ever, it certainly doesn’t hurt anyone.  It also provides another chance for you to see how your rats will react to each other.  If there are any signs of aggression, you will be aware without having put anyone in danger.

Phobos with seed cake.

Phobos with seed cake.

Step 4: We’re Not In Kansas Anymore
You have just spent a month in isolation and a week or two of checking each other out at a glance… now it’s time to explore Strange New Worlds.  Yes, you read that exactly right.  You have to find yet ANOTHER territory for your rats.  This MUST be a place where neither the old or new rats have ever spent much time before.  It isn’t a play space, it’s a NEUTRAL territory that is FREE AND CLEAR of all toys.  Sometimes it is helpful to have a dish of soft oats, baby food or yogurt out as a distraction, but make sure that it is something your rat can not run away with. They have to eat it out of the dish.  Be careful to use the food only if you know that your rats aren’t going to fight over it.  If anyone starts to look angry or fight over food, remove it IMMEDIATELY.

In our house the bathtub is the place where we get down and dirty with introductions.  We put soft towels down to cover the slick bottom and make it comfortable, then put one rat at a time into the new area.  You must do this slowly and in my opinion, it always helps to start with the calmest of your rats, the one you trust the most to set a good example for the others.  His vibes will help set the pace for the others to follow.  For us, this was North, so he got to wander the tub first, followed by his brother, Whisper, and then Phobos was introduced, followed by Deimos.  We already knew there would be no fighting over the food dish, so we used the yogurt to see how they would handle sharing and handle being in close proximity to each other in a free setting.  In this case, everyone was so curious about the bathtub no one really bothered anyone else.

This phase went on for three days with these four rats, we have had it last longer for some and shorter with others. (Yet another story for another time.) When the neutral territory test is completed, we introduce the older rats first into the new rats play space, for a day or two, then put everyone together in what is the daily rat play area. They are still living in separate cages for a week or so in this process, which gives the older rats a break from the high energy youngsters, but also gives the younger ones a break from being worried all the time about larger rats being upset at them.  We start introducing the new rats into the routines: outside-of-cage time in the morning, while I am getting ready for work, outside-of-cage time in the afternoon  and evening, when I am home from work.  Within a week or so of this process, we will be ready to put Phobos and Deimos permanently into the big cage with North and Whisper.  I always plan for that day to be a day when I am home for the entire time and can be sitting in their room with them for every minute they are in the cage together – just in case.  Typically, though, that’s a precaution you don’t need to take, because you have taken all the rest and you will know your rats well by this point, just as they will know each other.

pet rat 1

Younger Rats Show the Older, Older Rats Show The Younger

The whole process of introducing new pets to old pets sounds far more complicated than it is, but each and every step is worth the effort, when you see your happy rats all snuggled up together inside their nesting box or watch one of the young ones teach the older one how to get into the hammock and convince him that he really DOES like it.   Of course, you might end up like we did and have one of the older rats show the younger two how to steal the food dish from where it belongs and drag it into all kinds of nifty hiding places inside the cage., but in the end it’s all worth it.  After all, as my father always said; “How can you not love those little faces?”

Mirrani 300   Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has purchased, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at mirrani@yourpetspace.info

Vet Questions: FEATURE ARTICLE

vet questions: rabbit

Vet Questions Answered: Fit and Trim – Healthy Life for Small Animals

So, you recently picked out the sweetest, cutest, most adorable small animal to join your family.  You’ve got the litter and the cage, picked out the toys to stimulate their little brains, found a water bottle and grabbed a handy bag of small animal chow…  You must be all set to go home and settle in with your little one, right?  Not necessarily.

It’s important to note that each small animal has their own set of dietary needs.  I can’t emphasize enough that no matter what small animal you have in your home, it should have a vet, just as a dog and cat would.  Your vet should see the animal at least once, for a wellness checkup.  This will not only put your pet‘s information on file, but is a great time to talk diet and learn what could be ahead for the future health of your animal.  If you’ve never cared for this kind of small animal before, make sure you get a list of safe and unsafe foods for your baby to enjoy and be certain that if your little one has constantly growing teeth, you have some type of food that will help wear those little choppers down.

vet questions: rat nutrition

After recently discovering a new brand of rat food in our local pet store, I sat down with our vet, Dr. Jason Smith, during a wellness exam, to talk out our options and find out what was best for the two new, growing rats we have in our home.  Later on, I realized that there might be a few families out there with a first time small pet and that this conversation would be a good one to share.  I asked Dr. Smith if he would be willing to answer some generic small animal questions and he agreed.

During our chat, I was not surprised to hear that there were many new small animal families in to the office this past year.  Small pets are becoming very popular these days, and as a rat owner, I honestly can’t argue against their fame.  Just look at their adorable faces!  Who wouldn’t want these sweet little bundles of love to be a part of their home?  What DID surprise me was the very beginning of our conversation…

Remember my saying earlier that you grabbed “a handy bag of small animal chow“ on your way out of the pet store?  A lot of people assume that because the contents of the foods are similar, the animal on the package doesn’t matter much.  You look through the clear plastic and see seeds and dried corn and some pellets that are made of some kind of Flax Seed or Oat products, plus vitamins and minerals and it looks just like the bag next to it, where the pellets are a slightly different color or size.  The size difference is probably because the animal is larger and the color change simple to explain.  Don’t other products remind us that color can vary with each batch?  One can only assume they’re the same food, right?

Vet Questions guinea pig

Dr. Smith was very serious about this common misunderstanding, because while people are right that the CONTENTS are basically similar, it is the AMOUNT that you need to watch out for.  “Many of the foods will have similar ingredients but the amount of each will be different.  Small animals have different ways of breaking down food from one another and us,” he reminded me.  “NEVER buy food for the wrong species!”

All right.  Check that you‘ve got the right bag for the right baby.  You find the right one, then read the back and it says that in addition to this food, “it is recommended to feed a limited amount of appropriate fresh fruits and vegetables.”  Woah!  “Appropriate?”  How do you know what they mean?  Again, always consult your own vet on this, because some small animals need more green leafy vegetables or vitamin C than others, but most vegetables are good for all.  Most fruits are okay too, but remember to keep quantity down because, well… imagine what happens to you when you eat too much fruit.

vet questions not-to-do list

What small animals should AVOID are things like avocados, green parts of raw potato and plants from the onion family.  Dr. Smith says it is also important to avoid large quantities of grapes.  And what about those bags of dried fruits and veggies at the store?  They must be healthy, they’re fruits and vegetables, just dried up.  Well, they might taste good, but they “won’t provide the healthy nutrition of fresh fruits and vegetables.” So fresh is the way we go at our place, especially since Dr. Smith pointed out, “Dried products are more likely to cause health problems like diarrhea and obesity.”

Giving our babies healthy fruits and vegetables must mean that if I’ve got some human food with broccoli or carrots in it, I can just let them steal a little or lick my plate when I’m done.  Plenty of people do this, so we assume it must be safe.  Dr. Smith reminded me that what is safest is to avoid this kind of thing completely.  “The animal will consume more than you think!  This often results in the pet getting toxins or large amounts of fat.  Commonly, eating people food will result in a loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea.”  And of course avoid things with chocolate or high fat all together!

Vet questions: critical care supplement

But, what if your animal is sick or needs a boost to the immune system?  If they’re losing weight, can’t these foods with a little extra fat be helpful?  Our vet recommends giving a product like Critical Care for these needs, which is a supplement that can be syringe fed if necessary and should be available from your own vet.  Remember, elderly and sick animals that are losing weight require additional care anyway, so when you’re in for your exam, make sure to ask what they recommend to help give your baby a boost.

Of course, once you’ve read all this, you might think the issue of balanced nutrition sounds like a complicated process, but don’t let it keep you away from critters in cages.  Certain small animals can be just as affectionate and loving as a dog or cat and some are even more social.  If the best way to get on like peas and carrots is to share a small bite of banana, it’s well worth that extra trip to the produce department.

Vet questions: Caduceus

Dr. Jason Smith attended Rider University in New Jersey where he earned his undergraduate degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology with a minor in Chemistry.  He then attended the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, where he graduated with his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2005 with honors.  He enjoys all aspects of small animal medicine and surgery and has medically and surgically treated dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, rats, prairie dogs, chinchillas, hedgehogs, hamsters, mice, gerbils and pot bellied pigs.  He currently practices at both Timberlyne and Legion Road Animal Clinics in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Mirrani 300

Mirrani Houpe has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade.  Since that time she has purchased, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them.  She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at mirrani@earthlink.net.

Critical Care Products At Amazon

Other Oxbow Small Animal Products Available At Pet Food Direct