Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Responding to comments

I have a bunch of comments to respond to, so here goes:

 This comment was posted on "Bathing small pets":

Sounds like smaller animals are easiest if you don't want to bathe a pet very often. Dogs, however, are a different story. (Unless you have one of the little guys.) What about cats? I know some people do give them baths. What is your opinion?
-Animal Gram

Generally, when a cat needs a little extra grooming, I would use a dry or foam shampoo meant for cats. That way no water is involved. If it is ABSOLUTELY necessary I will give them a bath with regular cat shampoo and water. But I try not to for my own sake. Although in my shelter experience, I have met a few cats that actually enjoyed baths. But the majority of the cats HATE the water. 

 This comment was posted on"Quiz Answers!!!!":

Aren't beavers' teeth orange, too? I wonder if there are any other orange-toothed critters?

Yes, beavers teeth are orange. Besides beavers and degus here are the other creatures that I know have orange teeth:

Coypu (also known as the river rat or nutria)
A few types of wild rats have yellow to orange teeth, and domestic rats often have brownish-yellow teeth.

Generally only rodents have orange teeth. (yes a porcupine is a rodent)

This comment was posted on "Quiz Answers!!!!":

Interesting! I always like your Fun Facts, too. One question, though - why do rats grind their teeth?
Love and hugs,

Nobody is 100 percent sure why rats grind their teeth. Generally it is thought that they grind their teeth when they are content, and sometimes just grind their teeth to wear them down.

Here is a special FUN FACT!: When rats are bruxing you may notice a phenomenon called "eye boggling". Eye boggling is when the rats eyes are sort of "bulging" in and out. Basically it looks like the eye goes kind of bug-eyed and then back to normal. This phenomenon is created because the muscled that control the jaw movement also affect the eyes.

This comment was posted on "Quiz Answers!!!!":

I'm actually kind of surprised I got the second quiz right last week! I totally just made a guess! Do the other things they do have certain names too?
Great new quizzes! When I went to read over the new quizzes, I didn't expect to see something about chocolate! I always took it for granted that pretty much all animals can't eat chocolate, or just don't! I think this week you may trick some of us!
Sarah :)

There aren't any names that I know of for the other rat behaviors (wagging their tails, bobbing their heads, and wiggling their ears).

I will be answering comments on my other blog: Critter Corner soon too!

I also have videos coming soon on my Critter Corner blog, and I am working on the critter crafts video!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Quiz Answers!!!!

Here are this week's quiz answers:


It's funny, I though this question was going to be the easy one and the rat question was going to be tricky, but it turned out vice versa! 

So the answer is: carnivores

Ferrets eat mainly meat. They can eat some grains, but it is best for them to have a diet that is mostly meat. And it is best not to feed vegetables or much fruit to your ferret because they can't digest them well.

FUN FACT: Ferrets love the flavor of raisins! However it is best to only feed them raisin flavored treats and not the actual raisins, because they can't digest them well. And limit the raisin flavored treats.


I was very disappointed. I though this one was going to be really hard! But almost all of you answered it correctly!

The answer is: grinding its teeth

FUN FACT: Rats do all the other choices too! (wag their tails, wiggling their ears, bobbing and swaying their heads). 

Rats wag their tails when they are excited or distressed

Only female rats wiggle their ears, and only when they are in heat. They don't do it often.

Rats bob up and down and sway their heads a lot and the reason is that they have poor eyesight. So they bob and sway to detect motion when they can't see very well.

New quizzes will be up soon!

Small pets and Wheels

Here is a list of small pets and whether wheels are safe for them or not:

First! Always remember any wheel used should be solid, not made of wire mesh or rungs. Why? Little critter tails and feet can easily get caught in the mesh or rungs. The pet could end up injured, and could even lose a tail or limb!

Here is the list:

Hamsters (and mice):

Hamsters should always have a wheel. In the wild they travel miles in search of food, so they get a lot of exercise. A cage doesn't provide the same opportunity for exercise, so they need a wheel. Especially dwarf hamsters! Most dwarf hamsters have ENERGY!


Do gerbils need wheels or not? Some people say yes, some say no. I say it depends on the gerbil, because I have met some that completely ignore it or just pack it full of bedding. But most gerbils seem to love them and gerbils are quite hyperactive in my opinion so if they like the wheel definitely give them one. If your gerbil doesn't use the wheel you can take it out of the cage.


I have talked about wheels with rats before, but I will again. Whether a rat needs a wheel or not depends on the rat. Some rats completely ignore them, some hate them. Provide a wheel and if they like it then keep it in the cage. If they ignore it take it out. If you adopt you can also ask the rescue or shelter if the rats like their wheel. Make sure the wheel is large enough (at least 11 inches)

Note: If you have multiple rats and some like the wheel, while others do not, keep the wheel in the cage so that the rats that do want to use it can. If they all don't like it then you can take it out.

Guinea Pigs: 

Giving guinea pigs wheels is an absolute NO-NO. Here's why: Guinea pigs backs aren't meant to bend and curve, so when they are in the round wheel, it causes spinal damage, and can result in injuries and even paralysis of the back legs. I have seen this before. Guinea pigs spines are very sensitive and easily injured. For exercise give them floor-time in a pet proof room or pen.


Don't use wheels with rabbits. First of all, rabbits hop, they do not "run" in the way that other animals do, so they can't use a wheel properly. And anyway, you won't find a wheel big enough for most rabbits, and most likely the rabbit would not use it as a wheel. They would probably just throw it around and play with it. So no wheels for rabbits. Instead let them have free-range floor time in a rabbit proofed area for a couple hours each day for exercise.


Ferrets are very long, so I have never ever seen a wheel big enough for one. And like rabbits, ferrets do not really run they way animals that use the wheels do. They kind of "bounce". Instead of wheels give ferrets floor time in a ferret-proofed area. You can also provide tunnels which ferrets love to play in.


Chinchillas should have a wheel but make sure it is the BIGGEST wheel you can find and that it is solid not mesh.


Wheels are great for degus, and in my degu experience, they LOVE them! But it is EXTRA important that with degus you do not use wheels with wire mesh or rungs. Degus tails are extremely sensitive and can easily break off. (or the skin of the tail may come off leaving the rest behind). So definitely use a SOLID wheel with degus.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rat Care: Litter box training a rat and other small pets

In my last rat care post I talked about different litters and bedding for rats, and I mentioned litter box training rats, and I was asked by Animal Gram how to do this. 

So here goes:

First thing to do is find an appropriate litter box. There are quite a few options:

A corner litter pan meant for small pets: 

You will find these in the small pet aisle. They are nice because you can buy ones that lock to the cage and can't be moved around by the rats. The only downsides to these are that if you have lots of rats in the same cage, you might not be able to find one big enough, so you may need to get two. But if you just have two or three rats in a cage, these litter boxes will work great.

A low-sided cat litter pan:

These are great, have plenty of room for rats which work great if you have a big group. They can be cheaper than the corner litter pans meant for small pets. Generally a cat litter pan for rats can be purchased for five dollars or less. The only downside is that to lock it to the cage you will have to be creative. You can cut holes in the litter pan and zip tie it to the cage with reusable zip ties (otherwise it will be difficult to remove for cleaning), or you can use binder clips. Or, your rats may not even be interested in moving it around so you may not need to go the trouble.

Plastic containers:

Many people use shallow plastic containers or drawers. This can be done for as little as two dollars. Just make sure that it is large enough and that the sides are not to high or to low, so that the rats can easily get in it, but won't be kicking litter and nasty stuff out.

To litter box train the rats:

So once you have your litter box, find the corner of your rat's cage where they go the most. Place the litter box in that spot.

Next you want to clean the cage and place some of the droppings in the litter box so that the rats know that this is the place to go. 

Everyday clean up all messes that are outside of the litter box (which should be done everyday anyway). Clean the litter box too, but make sure that you leave some droppings in the litter box. Once the rats are fully litter trained you will be able to completely clean the litter box regularly. 

 Tips and tricks:

Make sure that the litter/bedding in the litter box is different from the rest of the cage, otherwise the rats will not figure out that they are supposed to use the litter box as opposed to the rest of the cage. A good option is to put litter in the litter box and put down fleece everywhere else since the fleece is absorbant, easy to clean, cheap, and machine washable.

Remember, that rats will never be 100% litter box trained, as they will always mark their territory. A litter box trained rat will do the majority of their business in the box, but generally they will still leave some out of the litter box.

Also remember that while most rats learn fast, it still may take some time so be patient. Generally though rats seem to get the hang of it pretty quick. For instance I litter trained a rat at the shelter in about a week, although this isn't the case for every rat.

Animal Gram also asked me about litter box training rabbits. Litter training a rabbit works fairly similar to training a rat. You can follow all the instruction above, and you also need to:

Make sure you locate the hay either right next to or inside the litter box. It may sound weird but rabbits like to eat while they do their business. Putting some hay inside the litter box during training and putting the rest into hay racks that can be accessed from the litter box is best.

Also remember that it can take time, some rabbits learn quickly, but other rabbits may take a long time to learn it. It also helps to have the rabbit spayed or neutered (reduces marking and spraying )which I generally recommend anyway.

Oh, and with rabbits you don't have to put down fleece or anything. You can just leave the bottom of the cage or pen bare. Although a blanket, towel, or bed for them to cuddle up in is nice.

For other small pets:

Ferrets: follow the same instructions for rats

Guinea pigs: Guinea pigs can be maybe 50% litter trained, but generally they mostly go wherever they like litter box or no litter box. What many guinea pig owners do with homemade cages (the best kind of cage for a guinea pig by the way) is to create to sections: one for eating with their hay food and water, and one for sleeping playing, etc. Generally guinea pigs do their business where they eat, so most of their business will be in the eating area.

Chinchillas: I rarely encounter Chinchillas at the shelter so I don't have much chinchilla experience, but I am pretty sure that they can be litter box trained.

Mice, gerbils, and hamsters: I have heard a few people say that hamsters can be litter box trained. In my opinion some hamsters can, but most don't really respond. And don't even bother with gerbils! Mice, hamsters, and gerbils, all need a thick layer of bedding throughout their cage anyway, so there really is no point to litter box training. Hamsters generally contain their business to one area, which is why some can be litter box trained but since they need bedding throughout the cage anyway, a litter box won't make much of a difference.


New quizzes are up! Don't forget to check them out and vote for which answer you think is correct! And hopefully this time I will remember to post the answers at the end of the week and not forget! : )

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Quiz Answers!!!!

I realized today that I completely forgot about Critter Care quizzes and answers this week! Here are the answers for last week's quizzes. New quizzes will be up this weekend.


The answer is: angry. When guinea pigs get angry you will hear those teeth chattering. They also do this to show that they are the dominant pig in the herd. 

FUN FACT: Guinea pigs also make "purring" and "rumbling" noises which sound similar to when they chatter their teeth but means different things. They purr when they are happy. Purring sounds like chattering their teeth, but you will notice squeaks and "wheeks" mixed in there. It almost sounds like they are muttering sometimes. Rumbling sounds almost exactly like teeth chattering but it is a lower, deeper sound. Only males make this noise, and only to attract female pigs attention.


The answer is: orange. Most of you got this one right. I may not have worded this question terribly well, because it really should be " an adult degus teeth should always be orange", because when they are babies their teeth are generally white, but should become orange once they reach adulthood. So an adult degu's teeth should always be orange. If an adult degu's teeth are ever white that indicates a problem and they should see a vet. 

FUN FACT: Wondering why a degu's teeth are orange? When degus eat, a reaction occurs between the chlorophyll in the plants they eat and the saliva in their mouth. This reaction stains their teeth orange.

ANOTHER FACT: A degu eating a healthy diet should always have nice dark orange teeth. If their teeth are pale yellow, this could indicate that they are not getting enough hay and green vegetables in their diet.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rat Care: Litter/ Bedding

There are a lot of litter and bedding options for rats, but not all of them are safe to use. Here is a list of litter/bedding options:

Wood shavings: 

Wood shavings are okay for your rats as long as the shavings are aspen shavings. Pine and cedar are not safe for rats as they can cause respiratory, liver, and kidney problems. 

From my experience the only good thing about wood shavings is that they are pretty cheap. Other than that I really don't like using them as a litter/bedding for any pet. I find that they are not very absorbent and start to smell very quickly. They are messy as they get everywhere and stick to everything. And I really dislike how rough and dusty they are. They make me sneeze quite a bit, and since rats have very sensitive respiratory systems I would think that they would find it irritating too. And I have to say I HATE the smell of aspen shavings. It stinks and it makes my nose burn. 


Some people use newspaper for their rats. I wouldn't really recommend using newspaper. It is not very absorbent and when the ink gets wet it gets on everything. Including the rat! And most newspaper inks are not safe for consumption by rats. 


This is basically recycled wood fibers made into fluffy stuff. Many of you have probably seen videos and pictures of my hamster Pipsqueak's cage then you will have seen the bedding in it. That is carefresh. I mostly just use this stuff for hamsters and mice. It is safe for all small pets, but it is pretty pricey so for animals that need larger cages such as rats, (or rabbits and ferrets) I would only use it in a litter box and get the rats litter trained. (which is actually pretty easy to do!). The only down-side to this is that it can be a bit dusty (don't be fooled by the words "dust-free" on the bag!). 

Paper pellets:

This is great litter. Most brands really are virtually dust-free and paper pellets are super absorbent! They are also a good price and last longer that most other litter. However I would not use this throughout the cage just because they are really hard and would be uncomfortable for the rats to sleep on, etc. What I do is litter box train them and then use the paper pellets in the litter box. Which saves money and makes cleaning the cage simpler. The best brand is Yesterday's News Litter by Purina. (It is meant for cats but it is just recycled paper so it is 100% safe for the rats) 


I really like using fleece in rats cages. Basically instead of purchasing bedding/ litter, you purchase some fleece and line the cage bottom with it. Then each day you clean off the solid waste and every few days or so you change and wash the fleece. This is a great option for rats. They love to sleep in fleece and it makes for a fun-looking cage too! Generally it saves a TON of money. ( I say generally because a few rats love to chew it up, so you may have to buy some more than you planned ). The cage is also way easier to clean with fleece! Using fleece is also great because it isn't dusty so it won't irritate your rats sensitive respiratory system.

So, in my opinion the best two options for rats are a litter box with paper pellets, or fleece. What I usually do at the shelter is a combination of these two. I line the cage with fleece to make in comfortable for the rats and then I provide a litter box so that they fleece stays cleaner longer.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Quiz Answers!!!!

Here are last week's quiz answers, sorry they are late!


Most of you got this one right (you all are too smart!) the answer is through their skin.


Again, most of you got this right. The answer is: false. Hamsters do have tails, they are just very short, giving the appearance of having no tails.

Fun Fact: Chinese Dwarf Hamsters actually have tails that are pretty long, which is why they are sometimes confused with mice.

Don't forget to check out the new quizzes!

Bathing small pets

Here is a list of small pets and bathing do's and dont's:

First always remember when bathing small pets to use safe shampoo that is meant for that pet!
(such as Super Pet critter shampoo, which is meant for rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and ferrets)

And also remember to NEVER get the face, eyes, or ears of a small pet wet or soapy!

Also do not allow small pets that are still wet outdoors.


Rabbits can be bathed with a rabbit safe shampoo, but they should only be bathed when absolutely necessary, because baths are very stressful for most rabbits. 

Rabbits clean themselves (like cats do), so they generally won't need baths.

Guinea Pigs:

Generally guinea pigs don't like baths, but I find that once or twice a year they need one. You shouldn't really bathe them more often than that unless absolutely necessary.


Ferrets can be bathed every month to every few months. It keeps them clean and reduces that ferret smell. Just remember not to bathe to often or you will dry out their skin which causes them to over-produce oils, which means your ferret will stink even worse than before the bath! 

And remember always use ferret safe shampoo such as Marshall Ferret Shampoo or 8-in-1 ferret shampoo (super pet critter shampoo is also safe for ferrets, but ferrets specific shampoo is actually cheaper than the critter shampoo)


Generally rats don't need baths. Sometimes I find their tails need washing, but other than that they generally stay pretty clean. However some rats LOVE the water. So a bath now and then is great for rats like that, just not to often so their skin doesn't dry out. If your rat doesn't like water, then only bathe them when absolutely necessary.


Bathing a mouse is going to do more damage than good.  I have never met a mouse that needs a bath. Besides being very difficult, bathing a mouse would be incredibly stressful and unnatural for the mouse. So I would recommend never bathing your mouse.


Bathing gerbils is a major no-no just like mice. Instead for gerbils you can provide a dust bath, with dust powder made specially for that purpose. That will keep them nice and fluffy and clean.


Again I seriously recommend never bathing your hamster, just like gerbils and mice. Dwarf hamsters are good candidates for dust baths like gerbils. Hamsters keep themselves very clean  anyways.


Chinchillas should never be bathed. When chinchillas get wet, their fur retains a ton of the water, and can actually eventually rot and grow fungus and fall out unless the chinchilla is thoroughly and quickly 100% dried. A wet degu is also very susceptible to illnesses. So definitely no baths for chinchillas! Instead chinchillas need regular dust baths and this will keep their fur soft and fluffy.


Degus are quite similar to chinchillas, so no bathing! Only dust baths, which they need regularly.

Monday, August 1, 2011

This Week's Quiz Answers are Here!


Wow. Every single person who voted on this one got it right! The answer was True. This is why rabbits require lots of hay and edible chew toys to help wear down their teeth.


Yay!!! I think I finally did a tricky one! This quiz technically has two answers: A group of gerbils is usually called a horde, but sometimes it is called a colony. So the answers horde and colony were both correct. 

Fun Fact #1: A "mischief" refers to a group of rats or mice.

Fun Fact #2: A group of closely related gerbils or a family of gerbils is sometimes called a "clan".

Don't forget to check out the new quizzes!