Tails Blog

How to care for my rabbit

Steve Coppell - Friday, March 16, 2012


Before you bring your rabbit home, you will need to get some basic supplies, such as a hutch where they nest, an enclosure where they can exercise, a carry box for transportation, bedding, food and water bottle. These are important basic requirements.

 Rabbit Hutch with enclosure

Clipper Caymen Pet Carrier


Hay for bedding and food





Bring your new rabbit home

When you bring your new rabbit home for the first time they will likely be a bit nervous, but they will settle in time, so be patient. Put the time in, earn their trust. You might try lying on the floor in a rabbit safe room. Your rabbit will find you less of a threat if you sit or lie down next to him.

Your rabbit can be taught to use a litter tray and to come when you call. If you put the time in you might be surprised what can be achieved. Use treats as encouragement. 

Rabbit food
Rabbits are grazers, so they eat little, but they eat often. You should try to vary your rabbits diet occasionally to keep it interesting. So offer them a bit of variety in their fresh veg.  

What should I feed my rabbit?
Always offer fresh clean hay and grasses, this should make up the bulk of what they eat. Make sure their water bottle is full and that it works. Give your rabbit a bowl of pellets in the morning. In the early evening - before it gets dark offer them fresh vegetables.


Keep your rabbit and it's hutch clean! It might be a chore, but keeping your rabbit's hutch clean and your rabbit groomed is important for it's health and happiness. The time you spend grooming your pet will enhance the bond you share with your rabbit.



Optional extras
If you need anything for your pet rabbit don't hesitate to check us out here at Tails!











Rats as Pets

Steve Coppell - Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rats are clean, intelligent and friendly animals that make great pets for young and old alike. With an average lifespan of two to three years, they are not a long term commitment, but there are some things you need to consider before you get started.

Before adopting a rat, consider whether you'll be able to interact with your pet on a daily basis. Rats require stimulation and shouldn't be left alone in their cage without company for long periods of time. The more interaction they have with you the more tame they will become.

Rats make wonderful pets for children; but are better suited to those over 10 years of age. Younger children need to be well supervised while handling and caring for rats because young children aren't always aware of how precious rats are and how quickly things can go wrong if they are squeezed or set free.

So are you thinking of getting more than one rat? 
Rats are social animals that require the company of other rats, so it is a good idea to get more than one rat. Try to get two of the same sex. Two rats are no more difficult to care for than one, and having a pair doesn't mean they will bond with you any less.

Males or Females

Males are generally bigger and more relaxed. They can make great lap rats and like to snuggle. Males can mark their territory and possibly have a muskier smell, although its not a bad smell. Neutered males tend to mark and smell less. 

Females are smaller, sleeker, and generally more active. They are great fun to watch and play with, but less likely to sit still. They do slow down as they age and usually love receiving cuddles. Unfortunately they are also more prone to tumours.

Settling in

When you get your new rat home, place them in their home for a few hours. Most rats will be a little nervous to begin with, so let them get use to their new surroundings in their own time and handle them gently.

Rabbit breeds and their characteristics

Steve Coppell - Saturday, October 08, 2011


Lops are a popular breed in New Zealand. They come in various forms, including Miniature, Dwarf, and Cashmere. Born with upright ears that flop as they get older, lops range in size from a mini lop which weighs about 1.6k, to the Cashmere lop, weighing approximately 2.4kg. Most Lop rabbits have good temperaments, although occasionally one might be a bit feisty. They are slightly more prone to Malloclusion - overlapping teeth than other breeds, so check the teeth carefully when selecting a baby.

Flemish Giants

Flemish Giants are just as the name suggests - giant! The largest of the pet rabbit breeds, Flemish Giant rabbits weigh about 6-7kg, but this shouldn't scare off prospective buyers. They are often more docile, and as  rabbits don't like to be picked up much anyway they are good for small children because they are less likely to hurt them. Also they are more cat proof. Flemish Giants are relatively intelligent and, like many rabbits, can be trained to use a litter tray.

Netherland Dwarfs

The Netherland Dwarf is the smallest breed available, weighing between 0.5kg and 1.5kg. They have round, baby like eyes and faces, even in adulthood, and perky upright ears. Netherland Dwarfs, despite their small size, have a reputation for being a bit feisty, but with careful handling and treatment from a young age, they can make good pets for older children.

Angora and Long Haired 

Angoras and other long haired rabbits have good temperaments, individual personalities and look amazing, but do require a lot of care. Only get one of these rabbits if you are prepared for daily maintenance. Because of their long fur, long haired rabbits are prone to wool block, where matted fur blocks up the intestines, causing the rabbit to starve.

Rarer Breeds

There are many other breeds available as well. Breeds such as Chinchilla, Harlequin, Californian, or Rex breeds. Harlequins are calm, curious rabbits that enjoy attention, while the California and Chinchilla also make good pets. Rex rabbits are available in mini and standard, both of which have velveteen fur that makes them cuddly.





Care of Rabbits


These pets need a good sized hutch or cage where they can exercise, relax in the shade and be protected from drafts and flooding.


Provide untanilised wood shavings, hay or shredded newspaper.


Give your rabbits a range of toys, such as cardboard boxes and balls, as well as branches and wooden treats to gnaw, which help to keep the teeth filed to a suitable length.


Rabbits need unlimited access to good quality hay, a large selection of greens and vegetables. Also a small amount of rabbit mix pellets.


Groom your rabbit once a week. Make sure you keep it's claws clipped.


When handling, hold them firmly while keeping in mind that they have powerful legs. Never pick up rabbits by their ears. It is strongly recommended that you neuter male rabbits to prevent aggressive behaviour.


6-8 years. As with any pet, you need to be able to care for your rabbit for the duration of it's life. 

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.

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.                     

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. 

So why spey and neuter rabbits?

Steve Coppell - Sunday, August 08, 2010

Speyed rabbits can't get pregnant.

Rabbits can mature as early as 16 weeks old. Getting your rabbit speyed prevents unwanted pregnancys.

Speyed / neutered rabbits generally live longer than unspeyed rabbits.

Speying and neutering reduces the risk of reproductive cancers and infections which are very common in rabbits. In females 60% will develope a reproductive cancer in their life time.

Speyed  / neutered rabbits make better behaved pets. The procedure helps reduce undesireable behaviors like biting. The rabbits are calmer as the urge to mate has been reduced. They are also easier to litter train, they are happier to be handled and are more affectionate to their owners.

Speyed or neutered rabbits can safley be left with other rabbits, without the risk of aggressive sexual behavior. 

How do you stop a mouse house getting smelly

Steve Coppell - Saturday, July 31, 2010

The ammonia vapours from urine that develop in your pets’ cage can make owning mice less than pleasant.  The harsh smell is also uncomfortable for the mice.  Ammonia is a severe irritant and is detrimental to the health of mice.  It affects the mucous membranes of their eyes and respiratory tract.  The health of mice can worsen if they are regularly exposed to ammonia vapours, and it can make mice more susceptible to opportunistic infections.  

The development of innovative bedding products has been spurred by the quest to control or eliminate odour.  Scientifically developed bedding products made from a variety of materials, such as recycled paper, do not just mask odour, they are designed to reduce odour by controlling the formation of ammonia.  Such beddings promote a healthier environment for mice compared with traditional wood shavings and are highly recommended.  If your mice are housed in an aquarium, if you are neglectful in cage cleaning, or if family members despise your pets because they smell, use innovative, odour-controlling bedding.

Cage Accessories
Place your mice’s food in a dish.  If you have a metal cage, you can attach the dish to the side to prevent your pets from tipping it over and spilling the contents.  If you use a freestanding dish, make sure it is heavy enough that you mice cannot tip it over.  Mice are not always fastidious and some mice will go to the toilet in their food dish.  Because of this tendency, choose a smaller rather than a larger dish; your mice should not be able to stand in their food dish. You can buy litter containers and house train your mice.

Provide you mice with fresh water, using a gravity-fed water bottle.  A special holder, enables you to hang the water bottle in an aquarium.  Do not use an open dish to provide your mice with water.  Mice will fill an open contained of water with their bedding and droppings, and the water will become unsanitary and unsuitable for drinking.  The increased moisture from a spilled dish of water can also create an unhealthy, damp environment, especially in an aquarium-type cage.  In case the bottle leaks, do not place it over your pet’s food dish or near their nest box.  The bottle’s water tube should be a comfortable height for your mice to reach and drink from, but should not be so low to the cage floor that bedding could contact the tube and cause the bottle to leak.

Your mice need a nesting box for sleeping and security.  A “bedroom” is necessary because it gives you mice a safe hiding place to retreat away from loud noises and any disturbing activity outside their cage.  A variety of types are available, including ones that are made to satisfy a small animal’s natural instinct to chew, such as fruit-flavoured cardboard tunnels, huts made from natural plant fibres and wooden blocks that a pet hollows out.  You can also make your pets a nest box from an old cereal box or cardboard milk carton.  Once the box becomes chewed up or smelly, you will need to replace it.  

Give your mice unscented tissue paper or paper towels to shred into nesting material.  Shredding paper into a nest is a favourite activity among mice.  

Rat Reproduction: Mating, Gestation, Birthing, and Growth

Steve Coppell - Friday, May 21, 2010

Rats are very easy to breed. In fact, many people end up with unplanned baby rats. Rats can reach maturity at 5 weeks of age, so the sexes should be separated prior to this age. Rats do not recognize incest, so brothers, sisters and even mothers and sons must be separated.

Rats do not have a breeding season, although very hot or cold temperatures will reduce breeding. Females of breeding age come into heat all year round, every 4 to 5 days, unless they are pregnant, and even then they may come into heat once or twice early in pregnancy. Each female usually has a regular schedule that can be marked on the calender, but it can vary. Each heat usually begins in the evening and lasts most of the night.

As a female approaches menopause at about 18 months of age, her cycle will become more irregular until it stops completely, and if she is bred during this time, the size of her litters will decrease as her fertility wanes. It is possible for a female who has stopped cycling to get pregnant, although the preganancy may not develope normally.

It is possible for domestic rats (Rattus norvegicus) to mate with roof rats (Ratus ratuss) although the babies will not survive. The embryos will be reabsorbed, aborted, or born dead.

A responsible decision

Before deciding to breed your rats, you should consider a few things. Do not breed rats who have, or who have had mycoplasma infections.Only breed rats who are free of respiratory symptoms and therefore hopefully resistant to mycoplasma. Second,rats have large litters average is 10-12 so if you do not plan to keep all the babies, you will have to decide how you will find homes for them.
If you have decided to breed your rats you must also consider their age. The best time to breed a female for the first time is at four to five months of age. It can be dangerous to breed a female older than six to eight months of age for the first time since her pelvic canal will be fused in a narrow position. This will put her a risk of being unable to deliver her babies normally. In such a case a cesarean section may be necessary to save her life. If a female of any age has a difficult birth, do not breed her again.

Age is not such an important consideration for males. Males can be fertile into old age. If you plan to breed a female a second time, it is a good idea to wait several weeks after her litter has been weaned to allow her time to recover, both physically and mentally.

The mating process

You can breed rats by simply puting a pair together for ten days, insuring they are together through two heat cycles. But since the female might fight the male, a better way is to put the pair together only when the female is in heat. This workes especially well when you are breeding your rat to one who belongs to someone else because the pair only have to be together for one evening. When a rat is in heat her vagina will gape open; otherwise it's tightly closed. Usually there will be behavioral signs too. Stroking her back will usually cause a rat in heat to perform the mating dance. She may first dart forward or spin around, then she will brace her legs stiffly, lift her head and tail, and vibrate her ears! This display tells the male that she is ready for mating.

Most males will be interested immediately and will sniff and perhaps lick her. When mounting he will grasp her scruff with his teeth. During courtship, mounting will occur numerous times, but most of this is foreplay. Usually the male must mount many times before completing the act, and mating will continue for sometime however, it is possible for a female to get pregnant from a single mounting,so do not let your girls and boys play together if you do not want them to mate. Even if the female is not in heat, a determined and persistant male can sometimes stimulate her into coming into heat, so keep your unneutered males and females seperate! Females in heat will sometimes also escape their cage to visit a male.

Planning for the birth

The gestation peroid is normally 22 days, but can vary from 21 to 23 (and rarely to 26). A post partum pregrancy will last 28 days. Two weeks into the pregnancy the mothers abdomen will usually start expanding, but not always. As the birth approaches, you may be able to see the pups moving inside her, or feel them if you gently feel her abdomen. her mammary glands will also start to enlarge two weeks into the pregnancy. The mothers needs are simple; a nutritious diet, exercise, and extra nesting material a few days before the expected event. If you've been letting the male live with the female you should remove him before the birth. The father would very rarely hurt his babies, but all females come back into heat within 24 hours of the birth. So if you leave them together she will immediately become pregnant again. If the pregnant female has been living with another female or a neutered male, it is alright to leave them together during the birth and the raising of the babies, as long as the cage is large enough to allow the mother privacy. However, it is not a good idea to leave two pregnant females together because although they will not intentionally hurt each others babies, they may steal them from each other. if this turns into a tug of war, the infants tender skin can be severly damaged by the females sharp teeth. Never put a new rat in with a pregnant or nursing female, because she will viciously attack it. The exception to this is babies about the same size as her own. A nursing mother will almost always adopt other babies, even babies of other species, allowing easy fostering.

Sometimes a pregnant of nursing rat has a change in personnality due to hormone changes. She may become more aggressive, or less interested in playing. In rat society, a mother rat is usually dominant over all other rats, even if she is usually submissive. However, when her job of child rearing is over, the mother will usually regain her former status and personnality. It is also common for a nursing mum to have soft stools.

The birth process

The birth process normally takes about  an hour or two. In general, the mother rat will deliver a new pup every five to ten minutes. In rats, the average litter size is 6 to 13 pups. The first sign is a bloody discharge from the vagina. Next, the contractions will cause her to stretch out while her sides suck in, in a most amazing way. Once the babies start arriving, the mother will sit up and help deliver them with her hands and teeth. Then she will clean off the birth sac and lick the new born. The mother will usually eat the placenta and the umbilical cord. During this process a healthy baby will wiggle and squeak, which inhibits its mother from eating it to. However, if a baby is weak is weak or dead this inhibition will not occur.

Most female rats are wonderful mothers, but rarely there can be problems. If the mother is stressed, either because of pain from a long difficult birth, or from enviromental disturbances such as unusually loud noises, etc, she may kill and eat some healthy babies. A poor diet may contribute to this problem. You can try removing the babies and giving them back to the mum when she calms down.

Difficult births

Birth in rats usually proceeds without need for assistance, but occassionally and especially with first time mums older than eight months, there will be problems. I have seen three rats that have died during birth and have heard of several others. The danger of an obstructive birth is that a mother can go into shock. A cesarean section may be possible if done soon enough.

Once the birth process begins, if no babies are delivered within two hours, there is defenately a problem. The rats uterus is shaped like a Y and a baby can get stuck across the bottom of the Y. Gently massaging the mothers abdomen may help reposition the problem baby. If a bay is stuck in the birth canal, it may be possible to lubricate it with baby oil and pull it out with forceps. Then the rest of the babies can be delivered normally. If the mother survives the birth but has retained one or more unborn fetusus, she may be able to expel or reabsorb them. in this case it is a good idea to treat her with anti biotics to prevent infection.

If the mother dies and leaves surviving babies, or if the mother refuses to nurse them the best chance for the babies is to foster them to another nursing mother.

Growth and weaning

At birth, the pups are born hairless, toothless and have short limbs and tails. They will start to have hair when they are seven days old, and their eyes generally open when they are thirteen to fourteen days old.

Most mum rats know just what to do and take great care of their rats. Occassionally, there will be a tiny runt who cannot compete with his siblings for the nipples especially in a large litter. You will be able to see if each baby has nursed by the white milk in their stomach which is visible through their thin skin. The best solution is to temperally seperate some of the other babies into another container to give the runt a chance at the nipples. Leave about four to five babies with the runt to stimulate the mum to suckle them. If the runt is all by himself, the mum may not pay attention to him. As long as the other babies are kept warm, there is no harm in them being away from the mum for up to four hours. You can put their container on a heating pad on low, or near a light bulb (be careful not to let them get to hot). Rotating the groups of babies with the mum every two to four hours will give the runt the best chance.

Baby rats grow incredibly fast I recommend you hold and look at them everyday to witness this miracle. This handling will also stimulate and socialize the babies. When they are two weeks of age you should play with the  babies as much as possible. The more you handle them, the better socialized they will be. At this age they will also start to eat solid food. They will either walk to the dish, or their mum will carry food to the nest. You do not need to provide special food for them. Babies can be weaned at four weeks but you can leave the girls with their mum for as long as you want. Remove boys before five weeks or they may breed with their mothers or sisters.

How do I sex my pet rabbit?

Steve Coppell - Saturday, April 10, 2010

It can be very difficult to determine the sex of a young rabbit. Although the explanatin and the picture above will help you, it is best to have an experienced person show you how to sex rabbits of different ages.

To determin the sex of a rabbit

1/ Hold the rabbit on his/her back on your lap with the hind legs facing away from you. with a larger rabbit, you may want to hold the rabbit with his/her hind legs facing towards you. Placing a rabbit on his/her back will put the rabbit into a state almost like a trance. Rabbits still feel pain while in this position , and it should not be held this way for a prolonged period of time.
 2/ When first learning to sex a rabbit, it will be helpful if another person gently restrains the head of the rabbit while you use both hands to part the fur and apply gentle pressure on each side of the vent, which is the area including the anus and the genitals. Once you have more experience you can restrain the the rabbits head with one hand, and apply the gentle pressre with the other.

3/ While applying pressure to the vent area, you will see the anus, the opening closest to the tail.

4/ The opening farthest from the tail is the genitals.

In male rabbits, the penis will appear as a tubular protrusion. It is round in diameter, very light pink in young males, and has a rounded tip with a small round opening at its centre. In most bucks (male rabbits) older than 10 weeks, you will notice the testicles on each side and slightly cranial to the penis. They will feel like small mounds under the skin, and in older males, are not covered with fur. Bucks can withdraw the testicles into the abdomon, so even if you cannot feel the testicles, the rabbit may still be male.

When the gentle pressure is applied to the vent area of a doe (female rabbit), you will see a pink protrusion, but the protrusion is slanted, more oval, and has a slit verses a small round opening.

Other sexual differences in older rabbits
As rabbits age, more physical differences between the sexes will become apparent. Bucks have blockier heads and are smaller than does of the same breed. Most adult does of medium or large breeds will have a dewlap, which is the large fold of skin under their chins. Does have nipples, where as bucks do not. However the nipples may be difficult to find on a doe that has not had a litter. So, similar to the testicles in the males, even if you can not find the nipples on a rabbit, the rabbit could still be a doe.

Taming and handling mice

Steve Coppell - Saturday, February 20, 2010

Taming and Handling your Mice

A tame mouse will let you hold him and pick him up without becoming frightened.  The more time you spend holding and playing with your mice, the more quickly they will learn to trust you and become tame. It is best to begin your taming sessions in the early evening, when your mice are naturally awake.  If your mice are sleeping when you want to play with them, call their names, tap on their nest box and allow them a few moments to wake up before you visit. If you startle or grab your pets, they might bite you.  Do not force your pets to come out of their next box when they would clearly rather sleep.

Some mice are very jumpy and active.  If your pets’ exhibit such behaviour, it is best to start taming them by keeping your hand inside their cage, rather than taking your pets out of their cage.  Let your mice sniff and crawl on your hand, place a food treat in the palm of your hand and encourage them to climb onto your hand.  Do not make rapid movements with your hands.  If your mice seem confident, try using a finger to pet a mouse along his side or behind his ear.  Even a brief momentary stroke will work, continue to slowly pet your mice within their cage while talking softly to them so they get used to your voice.  Eventually your pets will climb onto your hands, they might even climb out of the cage and up your arm.  Replace the mice in their home before they get too far up your arm and they will renew their quest to explore outside their with renewed vigour and confidence.

Holding Mice

You can use one of several methods to pick up a mouse: (1) pick him up by scooping him into your hands; (2) pick him up by his tail; or (3) scoop him up in a small container.  The preferred method is to let him climb onto your hand or to scoop him up under his belly.  Mice can be frightened when a hand descends down over their back, so always put your hand in the cage palm up , lower it to the bottom of the cage, then move it towards your mouse.  Do not turn him over on his back and expose his belly, this posture makes mice feel vulnerable and they will become upset and will struggle frantically to right themselves.  Keep in mind that a normally docile mouse might bite you when he is frightened.

You can use the base or middle of the mouse’s tail to pick up your pet.  But you must be extremely gentle and you must immediately allow him to rest his body on your other hand or arm.  Do not pick up your mouse by the end of his tail, doing so is uncomfortable for him and your pet can turn and bite your finger, which will probably cause you to drop him.  Do not hold your mouse by his tail for longer than necessary, if you restrain your mouse by his tail he will struggle to get away.  Instead, let him rests in one hand and use your other hand to block or control his movements.  Never drop your mouse into his cage by his tail, doing so could fracture his spine.

Mice do not like being scooped up in a container because containers usually have smoother sides that do not let the mouse hold onto anything.  Nonetheless, this method may become useful in an emergency.  Be sure the container you choose will easily fit into and out of the cage, do not chase the  mice around the cage with the container, place it on the cage floor near a corner and gently coax your mouse into the container.  Cover the top of the container with one hand to prevent your mouse from leaping out.

Mice are nimble.  Until your mouse is calm and tame, always use two hands to hold him.  Loud noises and sudden movements could scare your pet and cause him to jump out of your hands.  Use one hand to hold your mouse and lightly cup your other hand over his back or in front of his face.  Keep your mouse close against your body for greater security.  It is also prudent to immediately sit on the ground when first teaching a mouse to be held; then, if he does jump, the distance is much less than if you were standing.

Options for play outside your pets’ cage include large plastic enclosures made especially for small pets that you can set up much like a child‘s playpen, a high-sided plastic swimming pool (at least 32cm high) or a parrot play-stand.  Place bedding, nest boxes and toys in the play-ground, all these enclosures should be escape-proof.  Plastic run-about-balls are another option.  Be sure to choose the smaller, mouse-sized ball, only one mouse can be placed in a run-about-ball at a time.  Always supervise your pets, stairs and other pets are potential hazards.  Small balls are designed to move on a racetrack, which helps to confine your mice’s movements to a safe place.

An Escapee

Should your mouse escape from his home, place the cage on the floor next to a wall, do  not leave the cage door open since you other mice will join the wanderer.  Instead, provide the remaining mice with a new nest box, take the old nest box and the nesting material and place it on the floor next to the cage.  Quite often, the mouse will return to the cage area and then fall asleep inside his familiar nest box.

Introducing Mice to each Other

If one of your mice dies and you want to get your remaining mouse a companion, you should follow these steps.  Mice are territorial and often do not accept an unfamiliar mouse.  Adult mice placed together in a cage for the first time will fight, sometimes until death.  Remember, you can pair a male and a female, or two females, but not two males.

A new cage is an unanticipated cost to purchasing a new mouse friend for your original pet.  It is important that the cage or cages  you use for the introduction be new, your original mouse will resent any newcomer’s intrusion into his territory.  He will be aggressive in defence of his home and the chances of a successful introduction will be reduced.  Buy a younger mouse to increase the chances for success, they tend to be more readily accepted than another adult.

Several methods can be used to facilitate the introduction; place your original mouse in a wire cage, and place the new mouse in another wire cage.  Slide the two cages together so the mice can smell one another through the cage bars.  Alternatively, you can try dividing a wire cage or aquarium with a piece of wire mesh.  You must be certain to securely place the wire so that the weight of the mice pressing against it will not cause it to fall.  The spaces between the wire mesh should also be small enough that a mouse cannot push his nose through and bit the other mouse.

Over the next several days, switch the mice several times a day between the cages or sides of the cage.  Usually the two mice will accept one another within several days.  If they fight, you must continue switching them back and forth for several more days before once again housing them in the same cage.  Carefully watch your mice for the first few days they share a home to make sure that they do not fight and have accepted one another.  Look out for bite wounds.  Providing two nesting boxes can reduce the likelihood of fighting.