We've raised and, in some cases, trained a number of small pets: everything from Bushy Tailed Jirds to button quail, and in their own way, each one is just a wonderful creation.
(And yes, you can train small animals - there's more to doing it than I have the time to delve into here but I would highly recommend visiting the following sites for more info: Rabbit Agility, Rat Agility, Gerbil Agility and More at www.TheAgileRat.com )
Eventually we'd like to devote this page to articles on pet care - if you have a pet in mind, email us and we'll hopefully have the incentive we need to complete this page!
Pet Tip for the month:
When introducing small pets (and in many cases, large pets too!) it is best to do it slowly over many days or even weeks.
With rodents, a mixture of citrus and apple vinegar can be applied to the scent glands of the animals. This will mask the animal's personal scent and hopefully let them concentrate on getting to know each other with out the territory match.
Speaking of which - If they are small, they can be introduced in a neutral territory - like the bathtub - where they can't jump escape, and it is pretty easy cleanup.
DumansArk Rabbit Care tips
The #1 ultimate rule to remember - no rule is perfect for everyone. This is not a 'one size fits all'. Time and experience will show you, the rabbit raiser, what methods, products, and ideals work best for YOU and YOUR animals.
Water: IS A MUST. Rabbits overheat quickly, so in the summer, fresh water is an absolute necessity. In the winter, you'll still need to go out and give fresh water too if your pet does not live indoors. Everyday, several times a day, rabbits will need water bottles and bowls refilled.
Pellets: A good quality mix will have the nutritional value that your rabbits need to grow strong and healthy. For instance, if you are raising meat rabbits, you may want a higher protein percentage to ensure faster growth.
Hay: Young rabbits are often fed alfalfa hay, however, rabbits that are 6 months and older are given Timothy hay. Roughage is an important componant to the rabbit diet - remember that undomesticated rabbits don't have an extruder just popping out perfectly balanced pellets, and our domesticated pets still need more than what those pellets offer.
Fresh Fruits and Veggies: Not only are they good treats in moderation, they are healthy for your rabbits to eat. For a good list of vegetables safe for rabbits, visit:
A female rabbit is referred to as a 'doe'.
A male rabbit is referred to as a 'buck'.
When a doe gives birth, it is called 'kindling'.
Her group of young are referred to as her 'litter' and the babies are called 'kits'.
Once she has had a litter, she is a mother rabbit, or more properly known as a 'dam'. The father of the litter is known as the 'sire'.
A buck can be sexually active at 6 weeks of age. The litter is generally sexed and seperated by gender at this time to prevent the bucks from impregnanting their dam.
When does reach approximately 6 months old, they can be bred. The gestation period for rabbits is 28 to 32 days.
The size of the litter will vary - five kits being fairly common although you will want to research your breed as some are known to have more or less on average in their litters.
Kits are generally born hairless and blind. Does that do not go into labor until after the 32nd day may give birth to large babies that are more fully developed - this is not necessarily a good thing, as it is more taxing on the doe and may result in litter loss and/or the loss of the doe herself. Litters kindled too early due to pregnancy complications will also have a significantly lower survivablity rate.
The kits' eyes will begin to open shortly after the first week of life.
A doe does not have a 'heat cycle' like a dog would. Instead, ovulation is spurred into action when the doe is mounted by a buck. This means that a female can become pregnant ANY TIME she is mounted by a buck - even if she just had a litter! So it's important to seperate the doe once she's been bred to ensure that in 28 to 32 days, she can kindle and raise her kits in peace without having to fight off the attentions of an arduous buck.
This varies depending on the breed of rabbit you keep. If you have a mixed breed and it is not easily determined what breeds made up your pet, you'll have to guess and may need to upgrade to a larger enclosure as your pet grows.
Essentially, you want to determine if this is an indoor or an outdoor enclosure.
Indoor enclosures don't have to be weatherproof, obvisouly.
That determined, both types of cages will need to be big enough to allow the animal to move freely in all directions, to stretch out fully lying down, and to be able to excersise lightly.
An outdoor enclosure also needs to have a nestbox area where the rabbit can go to stay warm and dry - the rest of the cage can be made of wire.
If you will be using the cage for a breeding doe, you will want a nestbox that is big enough for her to kindle in - she must be able to stretch out fully, and turn around comfortably.
Colony enclosures and set ups are once again becoming popular. Some farmers never stopped using them - we've had the pleasure of meeting a third generation farming family that, for as long as they can remember, their father and his father, and his grandfather have had rabbits living in the chicken coop and chicken run. There are certainly pros to such an option.
But there's good and bad in everything right? Be sure to research which housing option is right for *your* situation.
For information on colony set up, we recommend visiting
www.homesteadingtoday.com and www.rabbittalk.com
SUPER BRIEF TIPS ON RABBIT CARE:
Super Brief Notes about Rabbit Care
**The following is not intended as an inclusive guide to rabbit care. It is the responsibility of the individual to research the needs and husbandry of their animal. DumansArk.com is not accountable for whatever happens to you or your pet before or after reading the following.
IT’S HOT. IT’S COLD. --- Perhaps the Number One Reason reported for rabbit deaths is extreme temperature fluctuations. For example; it is 80 degrees or 90 degrees (or more) outside, and you take your rabbit from the air conditioned house and set them in a cage outdoors. THIS OFTEN RESULTS IN DEATH DUE TO HEAT STROKE. Conversely, if they are living in the warmth of the house and you suddenly cage them outside when it is a chilly 18 degrees, they can also die. If they get rained on, if they are in direct sun, if they do not have an area that protects them from inclement weather; if this all sounds like Common Sense info then you’d be surprised at how many people are shocked when their pet suddenly ‘expires’ due to one of these scenarios.
H2O --- Water: Rabbits drink a lot of water. Some more than others. Water should be provided at all times; a water bottle, a bowl, a spout attached to a Rabbit Auto-Watering System; something.
CHOW TIME --- Food: Most breeds of rabbits need to have food constantly available. The easiest way to ensure this can be the case is to place food in a large enough bowl or auto feeder that the rabbit can easily eat out of and yet still has some food in it by the next feeding time. If this doesn’t sound like exact science, it is because IT ISN’T. You will need to watch and learn how much your rabbit eats. This will change throughout the course of their life.
RABBITS BREED LIKE RABBITS. If you place a buck rabbit with a doe rabbit, eventually your doe rabbit will give birth. If the buck is still housed with her at the time she goes into labor, she may or may not bother to pull hair to make a nest. The buck is generally so interested in re-breeding the female that the kits will be trampled as they are birthed.
VET CARE --- Rabbits are pretty much as Low or High Maintenance as you want to make them. Some people like to take their pet for yearly checkups and that is their prerogative.
Overall, rabbits are amazingly healthy and robust creatures. There are no approved vaccines in the USA for rabbits at this time, so no need to go to the animal doctors for inoculations once a year. Barring injury or illness, they do just fine without ever setting foot on a Vet’s table.
Frequently asked questions about RABBITS:
Q: What is the adult weight of a lionhead rabbit?
A:*****Ideally, they'll weigh around 2 to 4lbs.
Q: Do they come in a mini or is it just lionhead?
A:*****They do not have a specific 'mini' category - yet. At this time, they are not even accepted as a breed by the American Rabbit Breeder's Association. Perhaps because of this, those that do breed them are kind of going for their own personal standard of perfection - so maybe in the future there will be different sizes like Mini Lionhead and Standard lionhead and so on.
Q: Now what is a dutch harlequin?
A: ******Oh, so gorgeous! We love the harlequin's color patterns - and we like the striking white bands and blazes of the dutch. So when we stumbled across this mixing of the two breeds we had to have one!
You can see some good pictures and info of this breed at this site:
Q: Females of most animals are more gentle than males, does that hold true for rabbits?
A: This is a tough question. First, I have to say, that the answer will totally and completely depend on who you ask.
Second, I truly believe that this is determined by the individual who OWNS the rabbit.
I'm not kidding!
Me, for example. For whatever reason, my favorite rabbits have been males - for the most part. (I LOVED Aussie, my Flemish Giant, and Speed, a complete 'mutt' - not 'worth' anything to anyone but our family.
I would have chosen her over the nicest pedigreed papered champions - no joke. She had a lot of heart.) Not based on breed, or color - but over time I've noticed that pattern.
But that's just me.
My mother tends to fall in love with great mother rabbits & persnickity bucks. Is it because my mom just appreciates good mothers & bucks that have a great sense of their own style? I don't know. I love great moms - I couldn't raise rabbits without girls that nurture and love their litters and who can't use a guy that knows just knows how gorgeous he is?
So why are the rabbits that stand out the most in my mind as 'favorites', majority speaking, "boys"?
So I think that you will find that no matter what anyone tells you - you will find yourself falling in love with the gender that speaks to you. Or maybe you won't! Maybe you'll love either gender equally.
I will warn you that some sources (rabbit books, some websites, etc) will say that females are more likely to scratch, kick, and bite.
We have come across this from time to time - in BOTH genders. Some rabbits just DO NOT like to be picked up or held. Or they'll tolerate it - but only for a while.
And if a person is happy in a relationship with an animal that they can pet, feed it treats, and clean up after it and water it and feed it but they can't pick it up without getting scratched - then that's their perogative.
But as a personal choice, we prefer to have rabbits, to raise rabbits, that even a child (a mature, gentle, animal -friendly child of course!) can pick up and carry without getting kicked.
I truly do wonder if the bad rap doe rabbits get is more due to the fact that people are told they are nasty tempered so they expect them to be nasty tempered and they then breed the nasty tempered animals who raise nasty tempered offspring - it's simply a viscious circle.
Care and Housing for Rats
This is in no way a complete guide - think of this more like helpful tips.
And really, these are all merely opinions.
The first rule is - there ARE no set rules.
It's true. What works for them might not work for you.
You'll have to research, make decisions to the best of your ability based on what you've learned, and go with whatever works best for YOU and YOUR pets.
Above: DumansArk Raleigh, a beautiful little dwarf Dalmation doe
What you'll need to get started... Well, a cage, right?
Boy, not as easy as it sounds.... which one?
Wire, glass, or plastic?
=generally, going with a cage that offers bars is best - better ventilation. Less for the rats to chew, too. Plastic = chewable surface to a rat. Some will never chew it, others can't seem to stop.
Glass is easy to sterilize but is also easily breakable.
Plastic bottles are easy to chew (see above note about chewers). But also easy to replace.
Water bottle protectors can be purchased for most plastic bottles and some work fairly well.
Ceramic ones are now made with dishwasher safe glaze so they are colorful, attractive, and easy to clean. They are also heavy enough that your rat probably wont go to the effort of moving it around much.
Plastic dishes can be chewed... you get the idea =)
Pay for something pretty - or use a Poptart box - it's chewable and FREE - after you eat all the Poptarts, of course ;)
Where to find a rat? Pet Store, 'Feeder' Rats, Breeder, Animal Shelters, - check the advertisement board at your local feed mill, co op, pet store, humane society, newspaper, college, etc.
Now some will turn up their nose at Feeder rats. The side that feels Feeder Rats have merit often cite some form of the following Pros of purchasing one from a feeder tank: They are low cost (a penny saved they say). They save a life. Generally, they can be found young - (although large ones for larger reptiles are certainly available too) and therefore easier to tame. Feeder rats can come in a multitude of colors - and as to derail the topic, many color variations were not created in a pedigreed, breeder rattery - but were in fact found in a pet store.
Don't believe me? Case in point: Harley rats. They are rats with long straight hair. Found in a feeder tank! And Merle Rats - first documented rat with merling was found in a pet store feeder tank in Michigan.
Which brings us to the cons. Wouldn't it be nice to know who that Harley rat's parent's were? Or the Merle's? The health, longevity, etc of the line?
Oh! Back to the cons: So no pedigree. Sometimes, due to cramped, dirty, conditions, feeder rats come a little roughed up and maybe not as healthy as they should be. That said, we have also seen some GREAT pet stores with wonderfully cared for animals. So really, go for the animal that is healthy, handled or handle-able, and make it a happy pet.
WHERE it came from does NOT make the rat. How YOU treat it does.
Choosing a Rat from the Pile
Fur rests close to body
Animal is alert (not listless)
More on this soon...
Training = tricks!
Do's and Don'ts.
#1. This cannot be stressed enough. DO NOT SCARE PEOPLE WITH YOUR RAT. It isn't fun for the rat, and it isn't fun for the person being terrified. Plus, you may have mentally and emotionally scarred a potential rat-lover - and you could get in trouble, and worse, the ANIMAL could suffer for your actions.
So. DON'T. DO. IT.
Chinchilla Care Sheet:
Chinchillas are ADORABLE animals - and their fur is so soft - there is nothing quite like it! Never had a chance to pet one before? The next time you bake cookies, grab a handful of powdered sugar. Feel that powdery, smooth softness? A chinchilla's coat is softer - and plushy!
Now, to care for that coat, chinchillas DO NOT bathe. Most in fact, despise water and will drink it, but that's about it. Water is not good for their coat. Instead, they need to 'dust bathe'. Volcanic ash, often sold as Fullers Earth and similar brands, is a finely ground bag of well? Dust! You can sprinkle it in their cage, rub it on the chinchilla, or best yet, put it in a clean litterbox or specialized commercial Chin Bathing Box and let the chinchilla go wild!
Some believe chinchillas should be offered the bath once a day, others think no more than once a week or so - you'll have to find what works best for your chinchilla. Dust Baths prevent bugs from irritating them, from oils building up on their coat, and it keeps them happy.
(A female that's given birth should not be offered her bath for two weeks though to prevent infections)
Chinchillas love to try new treats - and fresh fruits and veggies are great for everything, right? Maybe. Research which treats can be given and ONLY give them in moderation. Just because your chinchilla has had a bit of bannana once doesn't mean you can give them a whole chunk two months later - bad idea! A tiny piece, the size of a small raisin, given once in a while would be fine though.
The bigger the better - it's true! Now sure, you can keep a chinchilla in a small cage. Most pet stores sell them as 18"x18"x18 or so. But chinchillas are very mobile, active creatures, and they love to jump, climb, run, and play. Hard to do in such a tiny enclosure. Give them levels, give them ramps, give them slides and be creative! But be safe too - bars that are large enough for a foot to slip through can eventually cause your Chinchilla to break a leg - it's sadly far too common. Cover up bars with plexiglass sheets cut to fit, wood, thin granite sheets (which double as cooling blocks in the summer) or PVC sheeting.
Chinchillas are not tropical animals. They like it cool - need it, actually. Those thick, plush coats insulate them to an extent, but in the heat - well, imagine yourself wearing three or four thick knit layers on an 80 degree day. You'd have heatstroke pretty quick. It's best to keep your pet's enclosure out of direct sunlight. Keep them in an air conditioned part of the house. And remember - they don't care for the humidity and can't tolerate it well - so near a dehumidifier if necessary.
DumansArk.com’s CAVY CARE SHEET
Cavy make wonderful pets. They are personable, gentle, and very intelligent animals. Here's some quick tips on how to care for them.
Food and Water:
Should be provided at all times. Cavies tend to be very hard on their water bottles so it is best to purchase a back-up bottle to have on hand when the primary one suddenly starts to leak.
Food bowls need heavy bottoms or a way to attach them to the cage as some pigs make a game of flipping their dishes. When the animal is young, it is a concern that they will flip the dish on themselves; although uncommon, we have been told babies can suffocate under a dish so be sure to choose sturdy ceramic or No Tip bowls to be safe.
The food itself should be a mixture of a pellet diet, *small amounts* of fresh fruits and vegetables at first (if your pet is not used to them, or is very young, you don't want them to get diarrhea from too much, too fast), and orchard grass or timothy hay.
It has been debated widely on Pet forums and groups, but most agree that rabbit pellets are suitable for cavy to eat. Don't believe this? Compare the ingredients and nutrition labels the next time you are at the store. Some, not all, are identical. Added dried veggies and such are nice, but why pay more for cavy food when you can give them the cheaper rabbit pellet AND provide the fruit/veggies FRESH anyway? Just a thought.
Cage: Cage space is a largely debated issue. But the ideal cage will allow for your cavy a space for a hide-away box of some sort, for a feed/water area, and some space to run and play with the toys you provide.
Taking your pig out to be handled on a regular basis also makes a difference – if the cage is modest, yet your pig is out and spends hours exploring your bedroom floor every day, then there isn’t a need for a gargantuan enclosure.
As for the type of cage to use, cavy are kept in everything from Rubbermaid tubs to homemade wire and zip ties, to empty ‘stock water tanks’ --- they are adaptable creatures and your imagination is the limit.
They will need a Hide area – this can be as elaborate as a wooden Cavy House, to as simple as an empty 12pk soda can box.
Chewing: guinea pigs’ teeth grow continually, and they need to be kept worn down. To do that, offer cardboard and apple-wood branches for your pet to gnaw on. If you offer the apple-wood, do not be alarmed if your pet actually eats some of the bark and fiber; this is normal, and actually beneficial.
Feet: If you keep your pig on wire, be sure to offer solid surfaces in the Hide box area, and by the food and water areas. Cavy have tender feet and being on wire can cause a condition called “bumble foot” – their feet develop sores and can become infected.
Generally speaking, your pet will not be at risk for bumble foot if kept on shavings or pelleted bedding. However, if you notice your pet’s feet getting sores, you can switch to old towels as bedding.
Handling: Cavy are very smart. They can learn many tricks. We highly recommend www.GuineaPigAgility.com as they have videos and information on training your pig to do everything from coming to their name to playing Tic Tac Toe.
Provided that the handler is gentle, and responsible enough to be left alone with a pet, then you have a wonderful companion in a cavy. The best way to pick up your cavy from a cage is to reach your hand in and place it in front of your pet’s face so that it sees you – just looming over and grabbing it will frighten your pig (at first – we have seen/met a few cavies that were raised this way so they got used to this method of being picked up)
Cavies are very social, and once they learn to trust you, they will want to be with you more than they will want to be alone. Cavies, male and female, learn not to eliminate outside their cage (just be sure to take them back to their cage every once in a while so they can use the bathroom – for babies, this could be every 10 or 15 minutes, for adults this could be an hour of play before they have to relieve themselves). Because of this, you can keep your cavy on your desk while you do work (just be sure your pig stays away from the edges – sometimes they don’t realize they are so far from the floor!), or let them play on your bedroom floor.
To get them comfortable with this, lie belly-down on the floor. Place your pig in front of you, in the circle of your arms. If your pig is calm, you can open your arms so your pig can see around them. Soon, they will leave you to go check out the apple slice you left them, a few inches out of the circle. They will run for it, and as they chew their treat, say a word like “Treat”. Repeat the word until they are done eating. Once they are finished, they will scurry back to you. Praise your pig for coming back.
Every time you hand your pet a treat, use the command word you decided on. This will help later when you want them to do tricks. Also use your pet’s name frequently – as you talk to them, as you pet them – they will learn to associate their name with comfort. This will help your pet learn to come when called – either with their name, or with the treat command word.
Grooming: guinea pigs’ nails need clipping. Not too far – light colored nails are easiest to do, as you will see a white area at the tip and inside the white area, you will notice a pink band that runs back into the toe. That’s know as the “quick”. You only want to snip the part that curves, and only the white part that does not contain the quick.
Your pet will shed hair – you can use a soft bristle brush to brush the coat, from head-to-rump motion, or use a baby wipe. Baby wipes will catch most of the loose fur – you just pull it over them, from the neck to rump.
Vitamin C: It is VITAL to cavy. Provide plenty of fresh veggies and of course, oranges. Grapefruit is also readily eaten. When your pig is young, you won’t want to give them much, but you will want to give some every day. A slice is good. As they age, you can give them more and more – until you are giving a whole carrot at a time, an entire Roman lettuce leaf, two slices of grapefruit or orange and so on.
Breeding: If you decide to raise a litter of cavy, it must be said that sows should not be bred after 7 months of age. Their hip bones fuse together, and so when the sow delivers, the babies will not be able to pass through the canal.
If your pet is between 5 and 7 months of age, you can place her in with a boar. When she is receptive, she will allow him to mate with her.
Gestation for cavy is quite long; 64 days. The young are fully furred, have their eyes and ears open, and can walk and eat solid foods just after birth. They do still need their mother though as they need to nurse.
When introducing cavy to each other, or to the family dog, etc, it is best to do it slowly over many days or even weeks and with 100% supervision.
The Bathtub is a great place to set cavy so they can better get to know each other; it's a perfect nuetral area.
Showing: to show cavies in 4H, you will need to join a 4H chapter and follow their rules in order to participate in show classes and demonstrations. 4H Youth are paid for every prize they win, as well as given ribbons for their achievements.
DANGERS TO YOUR CAVY
Heatstroke: Cavy can get heat stress very easily. Unlike dogs or cats, they do not ‘pant’ when they get overheated, so it can be difficult to see the signs of imminent heat stroke. Direct sunlight or over 70 degrees is dangerous to cavy. It is most likely one of the top reasons we hear of for cavy deaths; we’ve heard people explain that they only had their cavy out to play for an hour or so while they took pictures on the grass – but if you think of an animal that is used to air conditioning, then is placed in the sun on a sweltering 80 degree day; this is extremely hard on a body, most especially such a small animal.
New guinea pigs are especially prone to this. Car rides, strange sounds, new people, new smells, new surroundings, and possibly new cagemates is sure a lot for anyone to take in, let alone a small pet. It is tempting to want to hold your cavy right away, but it is instead best to give them a day or two to settle into their new home and routine. Then start slow, taking them out for a few minutes of play each time before giving them cage rest again. As mentioned before, once they trust you, they'll want to be with you rather than in their cage.
Most importantly: have fun with your cavy! May you have many good, fun filled years together.
NOTE: DumansArk.com offers personal thoughts only and is not responsible for any damage to property, person, or animal. We always recommend that you contact your pet's vet and breeder if you have any questions.
The contents of this page for Small Pets is still under construction. Please check back later!
-- The Duman's Ark Team
Sun, 05 Sep 2010 03:46:40 -0400