Tails Blog

Tails: the long and short of it

Steve Coppell - Sunday, March 20, 2011
They come in many shapes and sizes, but why do animals need them?

Balancing act
Cats that have had unfortunate accidents where part of the tail has been lost, often lose their ability to negotiate narrow ledges easily. For many animals, tails are an important means of balance.The domestic cats wilder cousin, the snow leopard, have the longest tail of all as they need to be incredibly agile to move around their mountainous habitat.Rats use their tail moving it from side to side as they negotiate narrow surfaces. Birds also use their tail for balance when they are stationary. Their extended feathers act as a counter weight when they are perching on things.



Social signals

Tails are important means of communication. Dogs wag their tails enthusiastically when they are excited, and drop them between their legs when they are anxious.
For domestic cats, a twitching tail is a sign of an alert or interested feline. An upright tail is a friendly signal, but when it is bushy and bristled it is indicates it feels threatened. Ostriches also use their tails to communicate with each other. The highest ranking male will point his tail upward to show his dominance, while the others keep their tails lower to indicate their subordination to him.



Power steering

For many creatures, the tail acts as a rudder to guide their body through water or air. Fish move their tails side to side where as the dolphin tail moves vertically up and down.



Insect repellent

For larger land animals, a tail is an effective form of pest control. Swishing their tail to bat away flies.



Food finder

Some animals tails have the added benefit of helping them find their next meal. Selected species of bat, for example, can transform their tail and wings into a basket for catching insects.Spider monkeys also use their tails for finding food. They have prehensile tails that grab like a hand , which leaves their hands free to forage for food. Crocodiles use their tails as a food storehouse. When food is plentiful they store extra fat in this area, which allows them to survive for long periods without eating.



Temperature control
Animals like squirrels have bushy tails and use them for warmth. They also hold their tails above their bodies to shield them from rain snow and sun. But tails don't have to be furry to keep animals warm. Rats have special blood vessels that regulate the amount of blood flow to their tails. Pumping extra blood into their fur less tails dissipates heat and is an effective way to cool their bodies. Conversely, blood flow can be restricted to this area to retain heat in cold weather.



Defence mechanism

Tails can also be used for more dangerous purposes- to attack other animals or ward off predators. Scorpions have armoured tails containing deadly venom to paralyse their prey. Many lizards can take or leave their tail, depending on the situation. Their tails will detach allowing them to escape or distract a predator by leaving their wiggling tails behind, and growing a new one at a latter stage. Rattlesnakes use a different approach to achieve the same result- they rattle to warn off encroaching threats.



Courtship
Charles Darwin popularised the idea that peacocks showy tail feathers are a mating ploy designed to attract peahens.

Fast Fact
Italian researchers have recently found that dogs wag their tails to the right when they are happy, and to the left when they are feeling negative  emotions, as their right and left brain govern different emotions.

My dog jumps up on me

Steve Coppell - Sunday, February 20, 2011


Does your dog greet you by jumping up on you?

There are many ways we program both positive and negative behaviour in our pets, sometimes without  realizing we even do it. Consider this the next time your pup jumps up and you respond by giving your pet positive encouragement with a pat or hugs because as a pup this is cute. Your pup associates this practise with the positive experience and why wouldn't it continue to do this as it grows older.
Why do our dogs jump up on people?
Your dog might be seeking your attention and this method (jumping up on you) has worked for them in the past.
Dogs will jump up because they are excited to see us.
Also on rare occasions your dog can jump up to assert dominance.
What should I do about my dog to stop it from jumping up?
Start training your pet as early as you can. Prevent behaviour problems becoming engrained character traits.
If you can see your pet is getting ready to jump up on you, turn your back on them, don't make eye contact, or say anything, don't give them any attention! Wait for your pet to settle down. When they settle, turn and command them to sit. As long as they have learned this already, when they do, give them all the praise and encouragement they long for.

Crate a Dog

Steve Coppell - Thursday, February 03, 2011
Crate training your new pup will satisfy the dogs need for a den like enclosure. It is also a very effective way to house train your pup, because it takes advantage of the dogs natural reluctance to soil in its sleeping place.  It works well to minimise damage to your home and offers protection for your pup in your absence, by creating a safe enviroment, where he isn't exposed to household hazards like electrical wires, cleaning products, etc.<p />
A crate serves as a mobile home that can be moved from room to room as necessary, you will often find your puppy will quickly adopt this area as their own territory.<p />
It is also an effective tool if your pup or you need some time out, and will assist with creating essential routines during early puppy training.<p />
Encourage your pup with a treat in their crate at bedtime and pup will quickly associate the crate in a positive light.<p />
Make the crate puppy only territory and don't allow children to play in it.<p />
It is important to regularly put your puppy in the crate, as your puppy will need to have naps often during the day, its a good idea that these are had in the crate.<p />
Having crate trained my own pup, I have found it an effective method and would highly recommend it to all. 
Crate training your new pup will satisfy the dogs need for a den like enclosure. It is also a very effective way to house train your pup, because it takes advantage of the dogs natural reluctance to soil in its sleeping place.  It works well to minimise damage to your home and offers protection for your pup in your absence, by creating a safe enviroment, where he isn't exposed to household hazards like electrical wires, cleaning products, etc.<p />
A crate serves as a mobile home that can be moved from room to room as necessary, you will often find your puppy will quickly adopt this area as their own territory.<p />
It is also an effective tool if your pup or you need some time out, and will assist with creating essential routines during early puppy training.<p />
Encourage your pup with a treat in their crate at bedtime and pup will quickly associate the crate in a positive light.<p />
Make the crate puppy only territory and don't allow children to play in it.<p />
It is important to regularly put your puppy in the crate, as your puppy will need to have naps often during the day, its a good idea that these are had in the crate.<p />
Having crate trained my own pup, I have found it an effective method and would highly recommend it to all. 
Crate training your new pup will satisfy the dogs need for a den like enclosure. It is also a very effective way to house train your pup, because it takes advantage of the dogs natural reluctance to soil in its sleeping place.  It works well to minimise damage to your home and offers protection for your pup in your absence, by creating a safe enviroment, where he isn't exposed to household hazards like electrical wires, cleaning products, etc.<p />
A crate serves as a mobile home that can be moved from room to room as necessary, you will often find your puppy will quickly adopt this area as their own territory.<p />
It is also an effective tool if your pup or you need some time out, and will assist with creating essential routines during early puppy training.<p />
Encourage your pup with a treat in their crate at bedtime and pup will quickly associate the crate in a positive light.<p />
Make the crate puppy only territory and don't allow children to play in it.<p />
It is important to regularly put your puppy in the crate, as your puppy will need to have naps often during the day, its a good idea that these are had in the crate.<p />
Having crate trained my own pup, I have found it an effective method and would highly recommend it to all
<p />
Crate training your new pup will satisfy the dogs need for a den like enclosure. It is also a very effective way to house train your pup, because it takes advantage of the dogs natural reluctance to soil in its sleeping place.  It works well to minimise damage to your home and offers protection for your pup in your absence, by creating a safe enviroment, where he isn't exposed to household hazards like electrical wires, cleaning products, etc.<p />
A crate serves as a mobile home that can be moved from room to room as necessary, you will often find your puppy will quickly adopt this area as their own territory.<p />
It is also an effective tool if your pup or you need some time out, and will assist with creating essential routines during early puppy training.<p />
Encourage your pup with a treat in their crate at bedtime and pup will quickly associate the crate in a positive light.<p />
Make the crate puppy only territory and don't allow children to play in it.<p />
It is important to regularly put your puppy in the crate, as your puppy will need to have naps often during the day, its a good idea that these are had in the crate.<p />
Having crate trained my own pup, I have found it an effective method and would highly recommend it to all. 


Why Crate Your Dog?
<p />
Crate training your new pup will satisfy the dogs need for a den like enclosure. It is also a very effective way to house train your pup, because it takes advantage of the dogs natural reluctance to soil in its sleeping place.  It works well to minimise damage to your home and offers protection for your pup in your absence, by creating a safe enviroment, where he isn't exposed to household hazards like electrical wires, cleaning products, etc.<p />
A crate serves as a mobile home that can be moved from room to room as necessary, you will often find your puppy will quickly adopt this area as their own territory.<p />
It is also an effective tool if your pup or you need some time out, and will assist with creating essential routines during early puppy training.<p />
Encourage your pup with a treat in their crate at bedtime and pup will quickly associate the crate in a positive light.<p />
Make the crate puppy only territory and don't allow children to play in it.<p />
It is important to regularly put your puppy in the crate, as your puppy will need to have naps often during the day, its a good idea that these are had in the crate.<p />
Having crate trained my own pup, I have found it an effective method and would highly recommend it to all. 
Crate training your dog is a very effective way to house train your pup because it takes advantage of the dogs natural reluctance to soil in its sleeping place. It also works well to minimise damage to your home and offers protection for your pup in your absence, by creating a safe environment, where he isn't exposed to household hazards like electrical wires, cleaning products etc.



Create your pups own territory
 
A crate serves as a mobile home that can be moved from room to room as necessary, you will find your pup will quickly adopt this area as it's own territory.

Time out and routines
It is also an effective tool if your pup or you need some time out, and will assist with creating essential routines during early puppy training.



Helpful Hints for crate training your pup
Encourage your pup with a treat in their crate at bedtime and pup will quickly associate the crate in a positive light.
Make the crate puppy only territory and don't allow children to play in it.
It's a good idea to regularly put your puppy in the crate, as your puppy will need to have naps often during the day, it's a good idea that these are had in the crate, it becomes their bedroom, their safe place and a routine that is essential during their early months of training and development.



Where can I
 get one?
Just click on Precision Dog Crates at Tails to find out more.

Free Delivery

Take advantage of Tails free delivery offer, in most cases you will receive your purchase in 2 working days.


Keeping a horse for a pet

Steve Coppell - Thursday, December 02, 2010

Keeping a horse for a pet

 

To live with horses on your own little piece of land is undeniably a most beautiful gift. Yet we have to be aware of the nature of these magnificent animals, and consider their needs carefully in order to create an invironment in which they feel comfortable.In the wild horses form herds and lead a nomadic lifestyle. They have evolved highly specialised behavior and strategies to survive. Once we keep them in a confined space, it is our task to provide them with everything they would otherwise find in nature.

 

Create a Herd


It is of utmost importance for a horse to have company. Horses are herd animals and become deeply depressed if left on their own. To be happy they need social interaction. The stimulation and excercise horses naturaly provide for each other through play and grooming one another cannot be subtituted.
However, it cannot be denied that horses are costly. So why not try and collaberate with a neighbour, who has horses as well? You could but your horses together and alternate the grazing on each others properties, or you could offer grazing for someone elses horse/s at your place, and subsidise your own horse related costs.


Introductions


There are a few things to keep in mind when introducing a new horse to your property, or letting your horse join another group, to minimise the risk of injury.
Horses have a strict hierarchy and will need to sort out where each and every individual stands in the pecking order. A good precaution is to take their shoes off, if they arent barefoot, so that the impact of any kicking is lessened.
Put the horses into paddocks next to each other, so they can smell one another and slowly get used to each other for a few days, before putting them together. Safe and highly visible fencing is essential for horses at all times, but especially  for new members.
Its also a good idea to create spaces for horses to evade each other when being chased, so one horse cant be cornered by another. Any objects like trees, barrels and such in the middle of the paddock will do.

A Horses Home Range


Another significant issue for horses is some sort of shelter. It could be trees and shrubs, or a three sided run in shelter.
People argue that it is costly to put a shelter in every paddock, yet in the long run this actually saves you money. Since your horse is not exposed to extreme weather conditions like strong rain and harsh winds, its metabolism experiences less stress so he/she is less likely to fall ill, which in turn means less costly vet bills.
Its easier for your horse to stay warm, which means it will need less food to do so. Additionally, in summer your horse will be most grateful for the shade to save it from being scorched by the sun, it will get less sunburned, and wont be prone to dehydration as it would be in a bare paddock.



Paddock Care


Generally it pays to look after your paddock well as you will be rewarded with more productivity. Rotational grazing is a good way to give your grass time to regenerate.
Since horses are comparatively picky eaters, you should consider letting other animals like sheep, goats or cattle into the paddock after the horses have moved on to the next one. Sheep, goats and cattle will eat many weeds that horses will not touch, thereby keeping the overall weed population down.
Managing the droppings of your horses is also part of good pasture management. You can pick the droppings up and use them to make compost. Your garden will love you for it. If you dont have time to do this, at least try and break the droppings up by kicking and spreading them. In this way they wont burn the grass underneath so much, and you help prevent a parasitic worm infestation because you minimise their breeding grounds.
Its sensible to do regular faecal testing to make sure you keep the risk of parasites compromising a horses health as low as possible.

Treatment of Parasites found inside your horse

You can access a variety of ready made worming pastes through your vet. There is a wide range of products on offer, and its up to you to decide if you are happy with a chemical based product, or if you prefer natural products. The chemical version after going through your horses system and ending up in the droppings, may have negative effects on the non parasitic worms in your paddocks, possibly degrading the good worm life. However it may also be the only thing that can deal with a heavy parasite burden.
Faecal egg count reduction tests are important in preventing the overuse of chemical drenches so you can avoid populations of drench resistant parasites buiding up in pasture. By testing samples of your horses faeces your vet can tell with some accuracy whether drenching is actually required; for many years horse owners have been told to drench every 8 to 12 weeks but, properly managed, drenching can be put off for much longer.
There are a number of herbs and seeds  that when blended together, are claimed to assist in expelling parasites. Since some herbs can be toxic it is advisable to consult a qualified herbalist or vet doing alternative practise to determine what products can be administered. For example garlic is a natural antibiotic, anti microbial, anti fungal and anti bacterial, but the research is still out on its effectiveness as a vermifuge (drugs that expel parasitic worms from the body).


Treatment of Parasites found on the Outside of your horse 

 There are a number of easy to make natural fly sprays that can be used for external use, one of them being citronella oil diluted in water. If your horse is afraid of the sound of the spray bottle simply use a piece of cloth or a sponge to wipe the citronella water over them.
If using this mix on the face make sure it doesnt get anywhere near the sensitive skin around the eyes, mouth and nose.



Your Horses Diet


The diet of your horse is another vital component of its well being. Preferably a horse should be fed 2% of its bodyweight per day in fibrous feeds such as pasture, hay chaff, sugarbeet pulp, copra meal (be careful though, as its high oil levels and protein are fattening), soybean hulls, lupin hulls, oat hulls and sunflower seed hulls.
You should also consider adding some supplements into your horses hard feed. Many soils around New Zealand lack selenium, and it might be good to add some to the food. Then again, too much selenium is toxic and just as harmful as selenium deficiency- get your vet to take a blood test and determine on the bases of the results how much selenium you need to add if any.
Some other suppliments to inquire about are kelp, zink, magnesium and vegetable oils like linseed oil for example. Salt licks or mineral licks are another option for providing your horse with crucial vitamins and minerals if it is only in light work.
In spring, when the amount of mycotoxins in the grass increases, it might be sensible to include a toxin binder in the food.


Feet On The Ground


Last but not least, hoof care. In the wild, horses would naterally keep their hooves trimmed as they traveled over diverse ground. Nowdays, for a horse spending most its time on a block, the hooves need attention by a barefoot trimmer or farrier to stay in the right shape.
There are some interesting arguements against shoeing horses. One of the hooves main functions is to expand and contract, thereby pumping the blood back up the horses leg. This action supports the entire blood circulation in the horses body, and in this way has an influence on all of the horses organs. A shoe compromises the hoofs ability to expand and contract.
The wieght of the shoe is another concern. One shoe actually wieghs more than the whole hoof capsule, creating a cosiderable extra strain on the horses limbs. Yet if a horse does alot of road riding its hooves can wear down too quickly when left barefoot; in this case the barefoot horse can wear hoof boots.

Tips For The New Horse Owner


Wire fencing can be very dangerous for horses- barbed wire fences, in particular should be avoided.
When feeding out hay it is advisable to make several piles in different places, and not too close to each other. If a horse is driven away from its pile, it can simply find another pile to feed from.
Should a horse become sick, it becomes more vulnerable - it may be useful to seperate him/her from the herd for a short period of time so they can have a proper rest.
Horses do not gain immunity to parasites as they age, so care must be taken to monitor parasites using faecal egg counts, so you only drench as and when required. Good management means almost never having to drench.
Research has shown that removing dung reduces worm larve numbers to only 10-20% of the levels shown in pastures where dung was not removed. Infective larvae can develope in less than a week, so dung should be removed from paddocks at least twice a week if infection is to be prevented.



Horse Whispering


Simple and non violent codes of behavior and body language help us to attain the role as the leading animal and gain our horses trust and respect. This is essencial if we want to interact safley with our horse.
Horses have a strict hierarchy, with precisely defined roles and rules. Their pecking order shows the rank of each and every horse very clearly. In the wild there is usually an older more experienced mare at the top of the pecking order, (not a stallion as most people tend to think)
The job of the stallion is basically confined to reproduction, and to fending off other stallions. It is the mare who is the boss, and she defines the social life of the herd: where and when they graze, drink and rest.
It is also the leading mare who will rebuke a youngster who breaches the rules. She does that by driving the offender out of the herd using body language. She will square up to him and keep her eye locked on him for the period of time she wants him out of the herd. Generally a youngster is keenly aware of his vulnerability. He seems to know he is safe in the herd, and that on his own he is likely to fall victim to predators. This fact normally causes the youngster to start communicating to the mare that he has changed his mind. Through certain signals, like chewing and licking for instance, he will ask the mare if he can join the herd again. When the mare has accepted his inquiry, she will invite him back into the group by turning away from him.

How to Be A Leader


A very simple way of establishing clear boundries is consistancy and awareness. A horse that is higher in rank will move a horse that is lower in rank. The subordinate horse will always yield to the dominant one.
For us humans that translates into being concious when around horses and standing your ground. A very effective method is to only move if you really intend to move, and not as a result of a move your horse makes. It sounds easy, but it is easy to become distracted while talking to someone else or the like and just as easily and unconciously do the opposite.
The horse might be very subtle and gradule in its proceeding too. It might take only one step, then another and so on, until we often instinctly take a step back or to the side in order to avoid getting our toes stood on.
No big deal, and at the time it might even go completly unnoticed by us. However the message to your horse will be you are lower in rank than me. This in turn might tempt the horse to try more and more often to achieve the status of leading animal, and at some point to challange you in a more pushy manner.
It is advisable to prevent this sort of confrentation through clarity and proper demeanour. Make it a habit to calmly, but immediately ask your horse to step back every time it comes into your personal space uninvited. In this way you will establish natural dominance through competence.



Are You Accidentally Threatening Your Horse


There are some signals a horse may interpret as threatening because they remind the horse of typical predator behavior. For instance looking a horse in the eye, facing it square on with your shoulders and holding your hands open will potentially cause a horse to move away due to its similarity to the behavior shown by predators getting ready to hunt it, or one that is already chasing it.
Consequently it is advisable to look to the ground, on the chest of the horse or its forelegs when catching it, not in the eye.

Puppy Training

Steve Coppell - Friday, November 26, 2010

Puppy School

There's no doubt about it , bringing home a puppy is an exciting time! But in order for your little friend to reach its full potential, you need to house train it and establish a routine, including daily sessions of play and exercise. Here are some helpful training tips and advise.

Puppies Need Structure and Consistency!

 

Resource Control and Leadership

Puppies need to see that people control their resources. This helps to make them feel safe.
Resources include food, sleeping place, toys, games and social interaction. If they recognise that people are good resource managers, it takes pressure off them. Puppies that do not percieve people to be good at controlling resources often try to take over control themselves. As they are not equipped to deal with such a responsibility, it usually results in decreased self confidence, various forms of inappropriate behavior and even anxiety.



Feeding Routine

The young puppy still needs small frequent meals, ideally three to four a day. Feed more or less at the same times every day. Start with a feeding ritual right from the start. It should to sit before it is fed, and the bowl should be removed within 10 to 15 minutes.





House Training Routines

Plan your day carefully so that you can take the puppy out to its potty spot shortly after it has awoken, after every meal and after physical activity. The potty spot should be easily accessible for the puppy. It should always be the type of surface that you would like it to urinate/ deficate on, for example grass, or soil.






Play Routine

Puppies love to play but need to know how to play appropriately, what to play with and how to control themselves during play. Regular play helps a puppy use up its (often excessive) energy.

Moving House with your Pets

Steve Coppell - Sunday, November 07, 2010


Moving house is usually stressful for everyone involved, and that includes your pet. In all the upheaval, imagine what its like for your animal friends, with their normal routine gone and everyone preoccupied with different things. Your pets familiar world, smells, favourite sleeping spots and household objects has changed dramatically, and it may find it hard to cope. Heres how to make the moving experience less stressful for your pets.



General Tips
Keep your pet away from the moving activity by confining it to a room where it will feel safe and cant escape. Tell the movers where your pet is so they dont inadvertently let it out.
Alternatively, put your pet in a boarding kennel or cattery for the duration of the move. Remember to make sure its vaccinations, worming and flea treatments are up to date.
Unpack and get organised before turning your pet loose in your new home. Initially, keep the doors to extra rooms closed and slowly give access to them as it becomes accustomed to its new home.
During the transition from an old home to the new home, pets can sometimes escape or become stressed. Try to remain calm and provide as much routine, comfort and security as you can for them.



Cats
Possibly the pet that will take the longest time to adjust is your cat! Its a good idea to have your cat microchipped and registered with New Zealand Companion Animal Register. A lost cat can be scanned for a microchip by any vet or animal rescue organisation and their owners notified.
If your cat is already registered, make sure your contact details are updated with the registry. Organise a new tag for your cats collar with the cats name, the new home phone number and your mobile number so that it is ready for the big move.
Use a sturdy, comfortable pet carrier large enough for your cat to stand up, turn around and lie down in. This will provide a safe, escape proof haven while travelling.
Remove food and water a few hours before you leave as your cat may become nervous and vomit, urinate or deficate when stressed. Take a supply of water from home if you plan to travel a long distance.
When you get to your new home, designate a spare room that you can close off and set up with food, a litter tray, bed and toys.
Once the movers have left and your settled for the evening, let your cat explore the rest of the house, remember to keep external doors and windows shut. Its best to keep your cat indoors for one or two weeks to get used to their new home.
When your cat goes outside for the first time, monitor its progress as it explores its new surroundings.



Dogs
If possible check out the new property for potential problems ahead of the move. Are the perimeter fences secure enough to stop your dog escaping into an unfamiliar neighbourhood?
If your moving to a new city, cancel your current dog registration and re register with your new council. Make sure your contact details are updated with the microchip registry and organise a new tag with your dogs name, the new home phone number and your mobile number.
Most councils provide directions to off leash parks and beaches. Find out where these are in your new neighbourhood before you move.
Dogs can get car sick too, so dont feed or water your pet a few hours before you leave your old home.
Depending on the size of your dog you may want to use a pet carrier. Choose a sturdy one, that is comfortable and roomy enough for your dog to move around in.
If your traveling a long distance, make frequent stops to water and excercise your dog, and keep it on a leash for its own protection.
If your car doesnt have air conditioning, keep the windows down low enough for air to circulate but high enough to ensure your dog stays in the car.
When you arrive at your new home, designate a secure area/room for your dog while you unpack. Provide water, a bed and some toys.
Your dog will need excercise at some point during the day, so take it for a walk on its leash around the new neighbourhood. At the end of the day, take a walk around the house and garden with the dog at your side, so you can explore your new surroundings together without your pet becoming overwhelmed.

Keeping Rats

Steve Coppell - Sunday, November 07, 2010



In the wild, rats spend most of their time roaming, foraging for food and building nests, all of which demands alot of mental and physical energy. Unlike domestic rats, they dont have the luxury of bowls filled to the brim with food, water bottles, and comfy hammocks and igloos to snuggle up in. However, while pet rats are quite different from their wild counterparts, they still have the same  requirements, such as running, climbing, gnawing, digging and nesting.



Housing
Rats need lots of space to run around, and therefore require a fairly large cage. Mice cages are not suitable, as they are far too small. A large wire cage with different levels is ideal. Rats usually prefer tall vertical cages that offer plenty of opportunity to climb. Modified bird aviaries and cabinet cages made out of an old bookcase, or chest of draws works well. Good ventilation is essential, as rat urine produces ammonia vapours that can harm a rats respiratory system. For this reason, wire cages are a better choice than glass aquariums. The cage, including all its contents, should be cleaned at least once a week. When lining the cage be wary of wood shavings not made for this purpose. Pine and ceder wood chip bedding should not be used as they damage the respiratory tract, causing chronic respiratory disease. Paper cat litters, Shredded paper, Soy ink based newspaper and Old towels make good bedding for rats.




Location of your rat environment
Choose a room that has a significant amount of foot traffic. Rats love to interact with people and enjoy being where they get to see people on a regular basis. Make sure the cage is in a room with a constantly moderate room temperature, and away from drafts. It is also important to keep the cage away from direct sunlight, as rats can overheat quickly. They can become quite stressed if harrassed by cats and dogs, so ensure the cage is out of reach of other pets.



Cage Accessories
A large cage is great, but with no stimulation for their active imaginations, your rat will get bored quickly. The cage needs to be both a safe and enriching living space.
A place to nest is important for your rat. It gives them somewhere to hide and stash food, and provides a sense of security while sleeping. Small animal igloos are perfect for this. Less expensive alternatives include upturned ice cream containers with entrance holes added. Tunnels can be made from PVC piping found at most hardware stores. Tissue boxes or cardboard boxes are also ideal places to hang out, but will need to be replaced every few days. Fleece hammocks and cubes are popular accessories for your rat. Some toys designed for birds, dogs and cats make good rat toys. Stiff rope  bird perches are ideal for climbing and chewing. A cat feather toy used under supervision is another winner with rats. Playing with toys is a great form of exercise for your rats.



Fun with food
Rats love to chew! Their teeth are continually growing, and while rats with properly aligned teeth wear them down naturally by grinding them together, they still love to chew for entertainment and relaxation. In the absence of something to gnaw on, you might find your rats chewing on something they shouldnt like curtains they can get to, or clothing left within reach. Cheap effective chew toys  include Nylabones, wood chew toys and branches from non toxic trees such as apple. Chicken bones are another popular choice with rats, and because they gnaw the bones, theres no chance of splintering or choking.
Hard shelled nuts also provide plenty of entertainment for rats, but should be used sparingly because of their fat content. Feeding them treats in inventive ways will keep your rats occupied. Treat balls made for cats, dogs,  or rats that dispense food as they roll across the floor can offer hours of fun and excercise. White yoghurt drops, banana chips and pumpkin seeds make popular treats.



Outside the cage
Even with the most interesting home, rats still need at least an hour outside their cage every day, ideally interacting with you.
If you can provide a rat proof room for them, you can set up a play area for them. Include cardboard boxes with holes cut in them, blankets for rats to tunnel under, and a cat scratching post for them to climb.
Pea fishing is perfect for hot summer days. Take a fairly flat dish, pour in some lukewarm water, add some frozen peas and place the tray on a flat surface (put a towel underneath if your concerned about spillage). Your rats will love diving for the peas theyre a tasty treat.
There is nothing more amusing to a rat than you. They love to explore and climb all over you. Whether its  shirt diving, shoulder surfing, or just hanging out, rats find us humans endlessly entertaining.

Provide an environment that is entertaining interactive and rewarding for the health and happiness of your pet rat.                     

Bee Keeping

Steve Coppell - Saturday, October 30, 2010



Bees might not be the most popular creatures, but for some people out there they are both a passion and a pet.
According to Greek mythology, bees were given the gift of their sting by the gods. They were told we will give you something to guard your hives, but they were also warned once you use it, you will die. Therefore today if a honey bee stings you it dies. Understandably, bees are very selective about using their sole defence mechanism and only do so if they are protecting their colony from attack. Bees are defenders not attackers.
Beekeeping can be a fun and rewarding experience. Whether you want to do it commercially or simply for your own enjoyment. Either way, there are a number of things to think about first.
Do your research and gather as much information about the subject as possible.
Find out whether your local council permits beekeeping. Most have bylaws that allow the practice, provided they dont become a nuisance.
Consider whether your property is suitable, for example is it dry, sheltered, and well away from areas such as schools? High hedges are ideal, though not essential. Get a fellow beekeeper to look at your garden and advise you on the best location for a hive.



Make a list of clothing you will need. Purchasing a full body suits opposed to single pieces is the easiest option for beginners. However as these can be expensive, consider purchasing one second hand from another beekeeper.
Look into different options for purchasing bees. The most common way is through another keeper. Some may even give you free ones to start you off. Alternatively, contact one of the countries many beekeeping clubs or check out the National Beekeepers magazine. These sources may also offer hives.
Keep in mind October is the best time to start beekeeping.



Interesting Facts
A honey bee can have up to 100,000 members.
Each honeybee colony has its own unique oder so that its members can identify it.
Honeybees can fly up to 24kph and beat their wings 12,000 times a minute.
Honeybees are capable of seeing ultra violet light which is invisible to the human eye.
Honeybees indicate when they have located a food source by using two distinct patterns of movement, often refered to as bee dances. A curcular dance indicates a source without specific reference to its distance or direction, while a tail wagging dance indicates a sources exact distance and direction in relation to the sun.
During its lifetime, the average honeybee will produce just one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey.
To make 1kg of honey, honeybees must visit almost 5 million flowers!
Honeybees secrete beeswax from glands on the underside of its abdomen.
The queen bee lays between 1500 and 2000 eggs a day. A prolific lay can be up to 3000 eggs.



The term busy bee might have come from the fact that within 5 to 10 minutes of being alive the bees start to work. They begin their life by cleaning and incubating. They then feed the larve, make wax and build cells. They also feed the queen and the male bees (drones) Guard bees protect the hive from incoming threats such as wasps, while undertaker bees take away the dead bees.
After a while some get promoted to field bee and go out to collect nectar and pollen or propolis. When flowers are in bloom, bees are very busy.
Bees are responsible for about 80 % of the pollination of flowers



Staying Sting Free
To avoid stings when checking hives beekeepers wear white clothing to differentiate from the colonies predators which are usually brown and furry.
Bees usually warn you before they sting, so if a bee flies close to your face, you should move away. If the bee keeps following you walk off and avoid swinging your arms or other objects in the air.
If you do get stung, it is important to scrape the sting away as quickly as possible and never squeeze it, as this will make the venom spread. Fortunately stings only hurt for about a minute and then the pain decreases- with the exception of any allergic reactions of course. The first indication of an allergic reaction is that you become itchy all over, and develope a rash. If this happens seek medical assistance immediately.



Bees Back in Time
Beekeeping is a time honoured tradition. Collecting honey from wild bee colonies is one of the most ancient human activities and is still practised by aboringinal societies in parts of Africe, Asia, Austalia and South America. Some of the ealiest evidence of gathering honey from wild bee colonies is from rock paintings, dating back to around 13,000 BC. Famous beekeepers throughout have included Alexander the Great, Aristole, Phythagorous,, Napolean, Leo Tolstoy, Maria Von Trapp, and our very own Sir Edmond Hillary, who used the profits to help fund his early climbing expeditions.

Your Parrot and Happy Healthy Feet

Steve Coppell - Saturday, October 30, 2010


Perches are a necessity, not an accessory, for pet birds. They are devices for standing on, grooming tools for their nails and beak, exercise equipment for them to climb, hop and fly from, and a vantage point from which to view the world. Provide your bird with a number of perches that vary in size and texture to prevent boredom, but also because it is unhealthy for its feet to be in the same position for lenthy periods of time. Perches with a rigid or slightly uneven surface are preferable so that your bird is not continually putting pressure on the same part of the foot. Hard smooth surfaces can lead to foot problems such as poor blood circulation, sores, arthritis and atrophy, plus your bird may have difficulty balancing on them.



The best perching material for birds are natural branches. These mimic what they would use in the wild, give them something to chew on and help wear down their toe nails. Manuka (tea tree) branches are recommended. Which are available in a range of thicknesses, so they are ideal for a variety of birds from finches to macaws. Pine, willow, apple and orange tree branches are also suitable for avian perches.
Be careful not to use branches that have been painted, polished or treated with pesticides, and avoid those with lichen or excessive sap. Dont use avocado branches these are poisenous to your bird!
Before you put the branches in your cage, wash them in water with a brush, then heat them in an oven for 30 minutes at 180 degrees celcius to kill any bugs.



If you dont use natural branches for their perch or you want to provide an alternative perching surface, rope perches are another option.

No Nos
Some perches that have been popular in the past are now known to be detrimental to your birds health. Most bird cages come with dowel perches, but these arent recommended. They can cause very sore feet because of the smoothness of the wood. Sandpaper and grit covers, and plastic perches are a big no no too. Sandpaper is rough and can scratch your birds feet leading to infections, while plastic perches are slippery so your bird may find it hard to grip them.

Placement
Once you have the perches for your bird, you will need to think about their placement in the cage. Arrange them on different levels, but not directly over your birds food or water bowl. Dont clutter the cage with too many perches. Leave enough space for your bird to strech its wings, ensuring that its tail cannot touch the sides while its sitting on them.

Size Wize
Size is of critical importance when choosing perches. Your bird should not be able to completely encircle its feet around the perch, but should be able to wrap them about three quaters of the way around it.



Finally, unless you have finches, dont forget that most pet birds love to perch on you! They are social and intelligent animals that love to interact with their owners. By furnishing its cage appropriately and spending some time with your bird outside of its cage each day , it will not only have healthy feet, but will also be a happy bird!

Friendliest Cat Breeds

Steve Coppell - Saturday, October 23, 2010
One of the tricks  with getting a friendly cat is to bring them into the family home at a young age, as a kitten, so they get to know the routines and the personalities in the house. Expecting an older cat to adapt to a rowdy family of kids is a big ask. When choosing kittens, though, have a good look at the parents. As well as checking the health records, take the time to know the parents of the kitten. If the parents seem to be friendly cats  with a good temperament, then theres a good chance the kittens will be a chip off the old block and be even tempered as well.

Finally, just remember that a cat needs to be happy in order order to be friendly. So some of its friendliness is down to you. Make it feel secure and happy, and then it will turn on the charm.



Burmese

Personality: almost the checky kid you remember from school that could never sit still. Burmese have a real love of adventure that almost amounts to a craving for chaos . While they are capable of having fun by themselves, they will often take it to you as well. They will also come to you for affection.

Ownership:
playful Burmese definately  need entertainment in the form of toys. A good scratch post is another essential, otherwise they could take out their energy on your furniture, curtains and other treasured decor. A true indoor specialist, a burmese handles apartment living well. However, they do love to go outdoors if allowed by their owners, but they are really just not cut out for it. These cats are prone to being picked on by other cats, and they also lack road sense, making road accidents a real danger for them. Being short haired these cats have low grooming requirements. Just a brush once a week will do. It is advisable to keep their claws trimmed to minimise collateral damage around they house.
One downside of living the indoor life is being prone to obesity, so you  will need to be careful not to overfeed them.
However the good news is that they are generally medically sound. Dental disease is common in Burmese over 3 years of age, just as it is in other cats the same age. I know from experience these cats are accident prone, so keep them away from dangers such as roads, other cats and high balconies.



Devon Rex 

Personality:
these closely cropped cats arent your typically independent animal. They thrieve and almost demand company. While they prefer the human kind, most Devon Rex cats even accept other animals as playmates. This amounts to friendliness in some peoples eyes, but it could also be seen as neediness in others. But its a fact of life that  the Devon Rex  can become a real shadow around the house. Its short hair, prominent cheekbones and large eyes can almost give a human like apppearance.

Ownership:
this cat loves company. The good news is that its short coat means very little grooming is required. In fact, a light run over with a damp sponge is often all it needs. Unfortunately its lack of street sense means it is best kept indoors. Otherwise run ins with cars or even other cats could cause problems. Health wise, this breed once had many health problems, but its now generaly free of disease. Dental problems caused by a build up of tartar are usually the primary concern. Dry food and perhaps the occasional clean at the vet will reduce any risk of this happening.



Russian Blue

Personality: not much fazes these cool Russians. Russian Blues tend to be adaptable to both indoor and outdoor living. Even other pets are accepted, or is that tolerated? Russian Blues are keen to please without being overbearing, in a family situation all family members are accepted, however they are known to pick a favourite to whom they will most be strongly bonded.

Ownership:
try not to let their environment become too noisy or they can become a little withdrawn. Due to their short coat, you will be spared any major grooming duties, as these are easy to care cats. From my experience, the Russian Blues are healthy, there are no major health concerns, so provided you take care of the basics (vaccinations, worming, flea control, keep the weight down and the teeth clean) this is one cat that can live for a long time.



 British Short Hair 

Personality:
this is one for the kids, a cat that is amazingly tolerant of the ankle biters. This cat is so easy going its almost scary. This relaxed Brit insists on living the good life on the coach in the comfort of home. This makes for one of the most companionable and easy going cats in the world. For someone working long hours who wants a friendly face to come home to, the British Shorthair may make the perfect companion.The only downside is that this cat can sometimes be too reserved- and may require a fun game to lure it out of its retirement mode.

Ownership:
a good brush once or twice a week takes care of grooming this easy care cat. British Shorthairs are reasonabley sound medically



Birman

Personality:
if you believe the stories regarding the emergence of this breed, you will understand why Birmans like to sleep alot. They have certainly been busy. Apparently once the sacred temple cats of Burma, their white feet were meant to have been spiritually gifted to them. Fast forward to the present day and they are well and truely making their presence felt as an up and coming breed. Their popularity revolves around their Persian like coat, their deep blue eyes and a playful yet settled temperament. These cats mark themselves as something special from the start. Their months as kittens are amusing to say the least. They are really cheeky personalities who almost seem to be aware of their good looks and are more than aware of what they can and cant get away with. Their meow can be loud and distinctive, so make sure you dont give in to their every whim, otherwise they can become demanding.

Ownership:
The Birman tend to be trouble free if the owner does all the basics right. Cat owners who enjoy caring for cats. So the ideal owner is one who feeds this cat well and plays diligent attention to this cats grooming needs. Focus most your attention on that thick silky coat. You must brush regularly (twice a day is often required) to avoid that loose hair causing fur balls. Excess hair can also combine with this cats narrow pelvis to make constipation a big risk. Feed your Birman a well balanced diet (Premium brand dry food is ideal) Raw chicken wings will assist with keeping teeth clean.