Tails Blog

Cleaning up after your pet

Steve Coppell - Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sometimes things dont go according to plan and your pet does leave its mark on your house but it is possible to oust those bad odours without too much drama or chemicals. Heres how.

1/Make a bucket containing Napisan and water.
2/Soak a cloth in the bucket and then sponge the area throughly with  the wet cloth.
3/Sprinkle some napisan powder over the area once all colour has disappeared from the stain.
4/Vacum the area when it is fully dry
5/If an odour still remains, spray the area with a spray pack containing a few drops of oil of lavender and water.

If an extra detterant is required, Tails have sprays designed to assist with this problem.

Sleeping with your best friend

Steve Coppell - Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lots of people sleep with their pets. In fact its estimated that as many as one in three of us share pillow space with our pet. For many, it is the secret deal we quite literally keep under cover. But by inviting our companion into the bedroom so they can sleep soundly, have we made ourselves too easy? No matter whether your mates sleep inside, outside or even between the sheets, look at what those arrangemments mean to the relationship between you and your pet.

Starting out
Young puppies and kittens are small, fragile and feel lonley when they arrive at their new home. So many of us feel we have to treat them to the full bed and breakfast experience. But is this comfy start neccessary or even smart? Well, it depends on two things:

The weather: Puppies and kittens not only lack body fat to keep warm, they also lack friends to cuddle up to. So if your area gets cold at night in winter,then bring them in from the cold. But where they go once they are inside is up to you.
And whether... this is what you want for life. Some people do enjoy letting their dog sleep in the bedroom (or bed). And thats fine. But realise that what they learn as a puppy will be hard to shake. If you cant be there for them all day,every day then letting them sleep in your room while theyre a puppy only delays the inevitable heartbreak. Plus they are alot louder and more destructive when they go through seperation anxiety in their adolescence! So decide how you want your adult dog or cat to live, and start providing that lifestyle to your puppy or kitten from the start. It will be easier in the long run.

Smart alternative
A puppy or kitten pad in the laundry, bathroom or spare bedroom often makes the most sense. You keep the youngsters out of the cold draughts, out of the bedroom and most importantly out of hearing range during those early few first few nights. If your intention is for them to sleep outdoors as they grow older, extended periods of seperation or tough love at sleep time will make the eventual transition outside easier.
To try to make things more homely, try:
A bed: anything from a folded blanket they can push and shape into a comfortable nesting spot or an old duvee will do. Just make sure its up off the ground.
Food and water bowls: keep nearby.
Toys: keep nearby.

Siamese fighting fish and cool water temperatures

Steve Coppell - Sunday, October 17, 2010

Despite having a reputation for a slightly hot temper, the siamese fighting fish is surprisingly adaptable to cooler water.
While 30 degrees celcius is their ideal water temperature in their tropical home climate, Siamese fighting fish will tolerate water down to just 18 degrees celcious.

However, while they can survive in cooler its not water they thrive in. So keep it warm and your fish will be healthier as a result.

The best way to keep a close eye on whether your fighter is feeling a bit hot  under the collar or going cold on you is by using either an in tank thermometer or a simple strip thermometer that you can stick to the outside of your tank.

Keeping Frogs for pets in New Zealand

Steve Coppell - Sunday, October 10, 2010

While frogs are cool animals, keeping one is a serious long term commitment. You cant just let it go when your child leaves home or you get sick of catching flies.
What many people don't realise is that frogs live longer than most cats or dogs. Golden bell frogs have been known to live for twenty years.

Responsible frog keeping
Handle your frog as little as possible, as frogs absorb chemicals through their skin. Wear gloves or clean and moisten your hands if you do need to pick up a frog.
Ensure your frog has a suitable vivarium to live in. A large glass tank (600 x 300 x 300) with a ventilated lid is ideal. It should be equipped with rocks, plants and untreated bark so your frog can climb, hide and bask in the sun.
The pond in your vivarium should be chlorine free, and if the water is not filter, it should be changed at least once a week. Position a branch or rock to help your frog leave and enter the water.
Frogs need sunlight, but don't put the tank in direct sunlight or you could overheat your frog.
You will need a regular supply of live flies, mosquitoes, worms, crickets and cicadas. You can either trap your own or they can be bought. Frogs are healthiest on a varied diet.

Returning species from captivity back to the wild

So what is the big deal about releasing them in the local stream? While it is ok to take tadpoles and introduced frogs from the wild to keep as pets, the problem comes with returning them back to the wild. Releasing them actually poses a threat to New Zealand's rare native frogs. This is because there is no way of knowing if your frog or tadpole is infected with diseases such as the deadly amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd)
Chytrid fungus  attacks the frogs skin, causing it to lose the ability to regulate minerals such as potassium and sodium. An infected frog will subsequently die of heart failure or secondary skin conditions. So, if your adding to an existing population, your frog might have a disease such as chytrid and you could be spreading it. It might be a special strain from another area. You introduced that strain and it mixes with the one already in the area and the disease becomes stronger like a super bug. The frogs may have become resistant to the original strain, but perhaps they cant  handle the new strain. Your introducing the unknown and causing things to mix that shouldn't.

Maud Island frog native to New Zealand

Frogs and the law
Under current legislation native New Zealand frogs (ie Archeys frog, Hamiltons frog, Maud island frog and Hochstetters frog) are totally protected and it is illegal to disturb, handle or collect them and even to specifically look for them without a DoC permit.
It is also illegal to release pet frogs into the wild.

Keeping a Budgie for a Pet

Steve Coppell - Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Budgie is  a small bird from the Parrot family. They are native to Australia, where they live in large flocks, traveling to where ever they can find food and water. In the wild, budgies natural colouring is green and yellow but in captivity breeders keep all sorts of colour variations, resulting in more than 100 recognised colour patterns.
Budgies make great little pets because they are easy to care for and can become talanted talkers and mimics. The average lifespan of a budgie is 8 to 10 years, though it is not unusual for some budgies to live to 14 years, and more rarly 20 years old. To ensure your budgie has a long and healthy life, provide a clean cage, daily exercise, a healthy diet including fresh fruit and vegetables offered daily, and plenty of activity and companionship.

The Cage

Budgies are extremely active and need to strech their wings and have space for fluttering around their cage. For this reason, your budgies cage should be long rather than high in order to provide some room for flying. When considering cage size remember to take into account cage accessories e.g. perches, seed and water dishes, toys, swings, and ladders, but do not clutter your budgies environment. To enable your budgie to climb around and get some exercise, ensure the cage has horizontal bars as well as vertical ones. Dont buy a cage with vertical bars only, and make sure it has a plastic removable tray at the bottom of the cage for easy cleaning.

Daily Exercise
Regardless of your budgies cage size, in order for it to remain healthy and happy, it will need regular time out of its cage. Let your budgie out for a fly as often as possible-at least three times a week. Just make sure all your windows and doors are closed, cover all windows and mirrors, and keep other pets out of the room.
Do not keep your budgie locked in its cage day in day out!

A Healthy Diet
High quality budgie seed mix should make up about 70% of your birds diet. These are readily available. Budgies enjoy spray millet and seed treats such as honey bells or sticks. How ever these are fattening and treats should only be offered once a week if your budgie is fairly active, or only once a fortnight if not as pet budgies can easily become overweight. fresh daily drinking water is essential. Also make available cuttlebone, calcium, mineral blocks, and fresh fruit and vegetables.

As budgies live in flocks they have a need for social activities. This means that unless you are home most of the time and are able to give your budgie regular time out of its cage to interact with you, you should get another budgie for companionship.

Give your budgies plenty of toys but nothing with shiny surfaces as it will see another bird and want to play with it instead of you!

Safe food
Apples (without the pips!)
Brussel Sprouts
Pears (without the pips!)

Prohibitied food
Fruit seeds
Raw Potato
High fat content foods
High sugar content foods
Iceberg lettuce (small amounts might be ok but the word is it can cause diarrhea)

Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle

Steve Coppell - Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Monarch  is one of the best known butterflies.
It was first discovered in New Zealand around the beginning of the 19th century. It originated from North America, and it is believed to have used thermals or up drafts to conserve energy for its long journeys as it migrated, eventually finding its way to our shores here in New Zealand. Monarchs have been known to travel up to 9500 km s a year. It`s believed they guide themselves using the position of the sun and the magnetic field of the earth.

Monarchs are cold blooded. So you usually only find them in your garden between November and April. During the winter months they will hibernate in a nice dry spot such as inside branches of a Conifer tree.
Monarchs are foul tasting and poisonous to many of their potential predators, due to the Cardenolide Aglycones they ingest as they feed on milkweed.

Swan Plant

 You will need to plant Milkweed in your garden if you want to encourage the monarch to lay eggs. There are eight varieties of milkweed in New Zealand, of which the swan plant, giant swan, and tropical milkweed are best known. You should be able to purchase one of these from your local garden shop, from early October. Make sure the plant has been grown organically as traces of sprays may kill the caterpillars. If you start with seedlings, you will need to plant early as you won`t have a mature plant until the following year. It is important to wait for your plant to reach maturity before encouraging monarch butterflies to lay their eggs on it, as the caterpillars are very fussy and will only eat milkweed. A mature plant is also necessary as the caterpillers are ferocious eaters and need large and healthy foliage to feed on. One of these creatures will eat 18 leaves during the two to three weeks it is a caterpillar. If you do run out of food, some caterpillars will feed on pumpkin, courgette or cucumber though, professional breeders say these should only be a temporary substitute if you are having difficulties finding another plant.
Breeders also say that feeding these vegetables should be reserved for caterpillars that are more than 2.5cm long, as younger ones can`t digest them.
In order to avoid a shortage of food , try to limit the number of caterpillars to about 10 to 15 per plant. This will give them a better chance of surviving and becoming healthy butterflies.
It`s best to grow your milkweed plant in a pot in a sunny spot on a balcony or deck, when the Monarch has laid its eggs on your plant you can move them inside. Otherwise drape them in netting to stop more eggs being laid. This will also protect the caterpillers from predators such as wasps, preying mantis, sheild bugs and spiders.
Also remember the plants are susceptible to snails and slugs, so sprinkle sawdust around the base to keep pests away. You can protect eggs from hungry ants by wrapping a piece of oil soaked cloth around the base of the plants stem, or by placing your plant in a moat of water if it is in a pot.

Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on leaves of milkweed plant.

Monarch egg

Caterpillar hatches

Caterpillar feeds on egg then starts on milkweed

Towards the 4th week the caterpillars stop eating and search out a high sheltered position where they anchor themselves by a silk thread. Hanging upside down they shed their skin. They then create a crysalis, which takes a few hours to harden.

Over a few weeks, the crysalis developes a vivid pale green colour and gold studs, then darkens and becomes translucent.

Keeping chickens for pets in NZ

Steve Coppell - Saturday, October 02, 2010

You might be surprised to find just how many homes out there in NZ keep chickens for pets.
Quite aside from the advantage of fresh layed eggs from your own free range flock, these critters will become quit tame, they eat all your scraps, and they are alot of fun to watch. 
A good friend of mine who is keen gardener, has had chickens for about seven years. The whole self sufficiency aspect really appealed to him. The vege garden and hen house in the back yard, and of course the fertilizer the chichens provide works wonders in his garden.

Getting Started


Buy your chickens no younger than six weeks of age, bearing in mind they don't start laying until about five months of age.If you want to increase your flock, buy eggs from a breeder and put them under a broody hen. One that spends alot of time on the nest. Most local councils have regulations and strict limits on the number of hens you can have, and almost all of them ban roosters. Most chickens live for about three years, but they have been known to live for ten years.

Living areas

Chickens need a clean well ventilated house where they can be kept at night and in bad weather, and from which they can access outdoor areas. Provide perches and nesting boxes, and spread wood shavings or straw on the floor to keep the area warm. Fence their outdoor area to keep out predators such as cats or dogs, and don't use pesticides or snail bait anywhere the chickens have access to.

Commercial chicken feed provides a good balance of nutrients, and if you want your chickens to lay eggs, they need to be well fed, about 130gms per day per chicken of pelleted feed. You can also feed chickens household scraps, especially green leafy vegetables as they produce good quality eggs and help provide the pigments for golden yolks. Chickens also like to forage for insects, so ensure they have plenty of grass to free range on. Remember chickens are greedy so don't over feed. Overfeeding or feeding too many poor quality foods like white rice or bread is a common cause of reduced egg numbers. Hens also need a sourse of grit to produce healthy egg shells. When possible the egg shells should be fed back to them.

Free range hens in lay can drink half a litre of water each a day, and more in hot weather, so they need to access fresh water at all times. Change it daily. If they don't get enough water their egg production will drop and their health will suffer. Poultry waterers are available from most pet shops or rural supply stores. A good sized waterer can be filled with ample water for a few days, but only release as needed. They also stop the birds from getting inthe water and contaminating it with droppings.

Kunekune pigs for pets

Steve Coppell - Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kunekunes are small and friendly animals and for this reason they can become good pets.
Kunekune means plump in maori. They were first discovered in New Zealand, although genetic analysis indicates they are of Asian origin. There is considerable debate about how they came to arrive on New Zealand shores, but the most plausible theory is that whalers and sealers introduced them in the 19th century.

Actually by the late 1970s, this unique breed was on the brink of extinction, before a determined breeding program was set in place to re establish the breed. Today there are thousands of Kunekune pigs around the world.

One of the reasons Kunekunes make great pets is their colourful personalities. They are gentle, loving and affectionate animals that thrive on social interaction. They have personality plus. They adore tummy rubs. As well as human company, these little creatures love interaction with other animals. So it's a good idea to buy two at a time, even better if they are from the same litter. Don't be afraid to cross graze them with other species.

Unlike some breeds Kunekune boars are easy to handle and are good natured towards people, so both genders are pet possibilities. You should be aware that boars may act aggresively towards each other from time to time, and like all male pigs, will grow tusks as they mature.

You don't need huge paddocks to keep Kunekunes as long as there is sufficient grass available. They are grazing animals with higher fibre requirements than other pigs, so they need access to good quality pasture all year round.
Although not a substitute for grass, their diet can be supplemented with commercial pellots, fruits and vegetables if neccesary. This is especially important during the winter, as the grass loses some of its goodness and may be in shorter supply during this time. Regular feeding of scraps is also geat for bonding with your pigs. However don't feed them waste items such as fruit peel and corn cobs as they will not eat them, and avoid giving them celery and parsnips as these can cause blisters on their feet.

They might be small but you shouldn't underestimate their ability to escape. Sturdy fences are required to keep them in their paddocks and a waterproof, well ventilated shelter is essential to protect them from the elements. During winter, they love to stay warm and dry. In summer they tend to overheat easily so they like to wallow in mud to keep themselves cool. Alternatively, you could hose them down with water or provide a lined paddling area for them to cool off in. Unlike other pig breeds, Kunekunes don't usually root up the ground, but this is not always the case and some owners insist on having their pigs noses ringed. Most people believe pigs are dirty creatures, actually they are very clean animals that keep their toilet areas away from their feeding areas.

Before you comitt to owning Kunekune pigs do your homework. Check your local councils regulations.There are limitations on pig keeping in some areas.
When buying one look for the presence of tassels, a short snout, strong legs and feet.

Kunekunes are very intelligent animals and can be trained to perform a variety of tricks. Such as sitting on command, turning circles on the spot and lying down. Hand signals and voice commands are aboth effective training methods, make sure you have lots of tasty treats on hand to encourage and train because pigs are very motivated by food. Kunekune love apple, so these make ideal treats for training purposes.
Training to sit.
To begin, hold a treat in your hand above your pigs head and say "sit" while walking towards it.
This will encourage the pig to back up and sit down.
Praise your pig and reward with a treat when it sits.
Never push down on it back if it doesn't do as you have asked. Simply repeat the procedure until you get the desired results, and don't give it the treat until it has performed the task.
Kunekune pigs
Weight up to 90 kgs, although some boars may be larger and minitures are also available.
Their colours variey but are mostly black, black and white, brown, gold, tan, and cream.
They gestate for 116 days with litters of between 3 and 11 piglets.
Kunekune live to 15 years.

For more information you can contact New Zealand Kunekune Association at http://www.kunekune.co.nz/

Keeping fish happy and healthy

Steve Coppell - Friday, September 24, 2010

The first basic to grasp is that fish kept in good conditions with minimal stress rarely get sick in the first place. Look after the water and the water will look after your your fish. Do the basics well and regularly. Carry out lots of partial water changes, service filters regularly, check the water temperature daily (If you keep tropical fish) Also test the water regularly. The exact tests required and water quality required and water quality you want to maintain will vary depending on what fish you are keeping, but the majority of community aquria (90 % of them) should be 25 degrees C with a pH of 7 to 7.5.

The second basic has to do with feeding. You often hear about  the dangers of over feeding ornamental fish. Overfeeding is certainly a common problem, but beware: overfeeding refers to left over food, which will decompose and pollute the aquarium. This misconception has led to fish ending up poorly nourished as their owners are afraid to feed them. Fish need to be feed little and often, at least once a day, if not twice. The exception is for garden ponds that are lightly stocked with fish. Here, there will usually be sufficient food naturally and anything supplied by the owner is supplementary. Fish should also be fed a variety of food. You can keep your fish alive using only flake food, but fish fed a variety of foods including frozen and live food, will be healthier, live longer and be more colourful. Don't forget that some species are specialist feeders too. Some, such as catfish and loaches feed off the bottom and others including suckermouth fish are largely herbivorous. Therefore, appropriate foods need to be supplied.

Fin Mates

Basic number three is to consider tank mates carefully, as not all fish live together happily. Some will simply eat each other and as a general rule, if a fish can swollow another one whole it probably will. More commonly though, health problems arise as a result of vigorous 'fin nipping' or territorial fish being kept with more placid tank mates. Typically, the more placid species will hide a lot, feed poorly  and either succomb to disease or simply waste away.

Moving in

It is essential to introduce your new fish to an aquarium gradually. For a fish, one of the greatest stresses, and therefore precursors of disease, is being netted, bagged, transported and placed in a new tank. Always float the bag containing new fish in your aquarium for 15 minutes to allow water temperatures to equalise, and then allow some tank water to the bag and leave another 15 minutes. Finally net the new fish out of the bag and place  it in the aquarium, then dispose of the bag water. Don't add the bag water to your tank!


Right, so you have done all the basics well and still your fish get sick. What to do? the main thing is to act quickly, as tomorrow or in the weekend may be too late. First seek advice, which usually means a good aquarium store. Make sure you have a good description of the symptoms, and a clean jar of aquarium water with you.The store will do a water test and advise accordingly and if your fish has a disease, will offer a cure.
If you are treating the fish in your aquarium first remove any carbon that may be in your filter as it may filter out the medication. Having covered most of the ways to avoid disease, here's a brief description of the common diseases and other health related symptoms that fish may exhibit.    


This is the most common fish disease and, as the name suggests, the main symptom is white spots on the skin- almost as if the fish has been sprinkled with salt. The spots are actually cysts where the white spot parasite lives. A cure will take several days but there are a number of very effective treatments on the markets. White spot often occurs after a chill so check your water temperature regularly.

Fungus looks like growths of white cotton wool on the fish. Fungus is a secondary infection and often grows on wounds or other areas of infection. You can purchase treatment for this problem over the counter and some antibiotics will also be effective, but these are only available from your veterinarian. Often described as mouth fungus is a bacterial infection called Columnaris. It looks like white fungus around the mouth but is actually a secondary infection, and no amount of treatment for fungus will cure this complaint. Instead, you will need to purchase treatment specially formulated for Columnaris.

Flicking is the term used to describe a fish scratching itself repeatedly against gravel, plants,or aquarium decorations. It can indicate whitespot or it can be a sign of ammonia in the water.

Gasping is when a fish constantly mouths at the waters surface. This may mean low oxygen levels in the water and is often the result of too high  a temperature,  warm water naturally holds less oxygen. Be wary of tanks that dont provide good surface area for optimum oxygen transfer.
There are many other fish disorders and many books of information if you want to know more about them. For fish keepers, prevention is far better than the cure.

Keeping a Guinea pig for a pet

Steve Coppell - Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guinea pigs make great first pet for kids. These cute  little critters  have a gentle nature, and they are relatively easy to care for. 
Guinea pigs love the company of their own kind, so its a good idea to keep at least two together. Pairs or small groups from the same litter, or a mother/daughter combination often works best. Two males may fight, especially if they are introduced later in life. Be aware that these critters breed prolifically. So this will impact on who you decide to keep together. Desexing is important if you want to keep males with females without babies.

You will need a hutch that provides an enclosed area for sleeping and a meshed area that provides a light airy environment during the daytime. Ideally the hutch can easily be moved so that your guinea pigs have access to fresh grass all the time. In summer be mindful that they arent placed where they can overheat in the sun, and in winter its a good idea if they are moved under cover or into a hutch that is raised off the ground. (Not inside the garage! Exaust fumes can be fatal)
Always provide clean warm bedding. Often its a good idea to line the area with newspaper then untreated wood shavings (to absorb their urine) followed by hay or shredded paper for warmth and insulation. 
Your guinea pigs need a constant supply of fresh water. For convienience and hygiene there are some good gravity feed waterers available because bowls of water tend to get tipped and or soiled.
Moving the hutch around the yard will provide fresh grass for them to graze on. (Dont feed them mown lawn clippings) they should also have a supply of fresh hay, ideally stored on a rack so that it doesnt get soiled.
A daily supply of vitamin C is important. So give them fresh vegetables such as carrots leafy greens, dandelion greens broccoli and cabbage. You might offer some fresh fruit but you should be aware that too much can cause diahoea. You can also buy guinea pig pellots with vitamin supplemented with vitamin C.
Guinea pigs teeth are continuously growing, so they need to eat a variety of hard food to wear their chompers down, and keep them in good condition. So root vegetables (turnips , swedes) or perhaps a gnawing block from a pet your local pet shop.

Guinea pigs like to feel safe, so a homemade tunnel from cardboard boxes or ceramic piping will go down a treat in your guineas pen. Or if you prefer there are a range of toys and accessories available for the entertainment and exercises purposes.
You might like to provide an enclosure so that your guinea pigs can get outside of their pen, and have more room to exercise.
Spending time with your pets will gain their trust and they will quickly become use to being handled and petted. They can be shy little creatures that startle easily, so approach them slowly and quietly from the front to avoid frightening them.

Did you know?
Guinea pigs originated from South America
Guinea pigs were first domesticated about 5000BC
Male guinea pigs are called boars, females sows and babies pups.
There are more than 30 different breeds of guinea pigs.
Unlike many other rodents, guinea pigs are born with fur and with their eyes open.
Guinea pigs usually live 5 to 8 years.