October 26, 2012

Where Do Parrots Live?

Filed under: parrot — Dr. Amber Reed @ 3:15 pm

Parrots in the United States

Believe it or not, there are wild parrots living in some parts of the United States, although these species originally came from somewhere else on the planet.

The wild parrots in the U.S. today are descendants of imported birds from generations ago. These were pet birds that escaped and managed to adapt to local climates in order to survive and reproduce in the wild.

Escaped parrots have been breeding in parts of Texas, Florida, and California at least since the 1950s. As one example, there is a thriving wild population of red-masked parakeets in the city of San Francisco. In these areas, wild parrots are now so numerous that they sometimes become pests to city dwellers or cause ecosystem imbalances.

Where Parrots Live Naturally

Natural populations of parrots are located throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Many species originally come from South America, Central America, Africa, Australia, Oceania, and parts of Asia.

  • The home of macaws, conures or parakeets, and Amazons ranges from southernmost South America to the Bahamas and northern Mexico.
  • Pygmy parrots come from New Guinea, and most cockatoos originate in New Guinea or Australia.
  • African greys originate from West and Central Africa, while lovebirds come from Madagascar or various parts of the African continent.
  • Cockatiels hail from the Australian outback.
  • Budgerigars, also commonly known as budgies or simply “pet parakeets,” are also found wild in Australia.

Where Pet Parrots Come From: Breeding and Importation

Many of the parrot species currently sold as pets in the U.S. have been bred in captivity to be sold as pets. Pet shops typically buy parrots that have been domestically raised by breeders, although some shops may actually do the breeding themselves. In many cases, parrots bred for domestic sale may even have been hand-fed in infancy, making them well-accustomed to human contact by the time they are brought to a new home as a pet.

Unfortunately, illegal capture and trading of wild parrots from other countries does happen. These birds have been removed from their wilderness homes and smuggled into other countries to be sold on the black market.

In addition to stealing parrots from their native habitats, this practice results in the death of many of the smuggled birds during transport—up to half, by some accounts.

Many countries have adopted the “Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species” (CITES) that was formulated in 1975.

It is illegal to import captured wild parrots into Europe or the U.S. In accord with the U. S. Wild Bird Conservation Act, which became law in 1993, exotic wild birds can only be purchased in special circumstances and in limited numbers, such as for scientific research or adoption by a zoo.

Unauthorized wild parrots are most likely to be brought into the U.S. from Mexico.

October 17, 2012

What Do Rabbits Eat?

Many of us have seen cartoon images of rabbits munching on carrots. But in reality, what do rabbits eat?

It depends on whether the rabbit is a tame pet or a wild creature.

Both wild and domestic rabbits are herbivores. They need to ingest high levels of fiber every day. As well, both tame and wild rabbits need a diverse diet to get the right nutrition.

Wild rabbits spend much of their time foraging for food. In general, they eat:

  • weeds
  • grass
  • hay
  • flowers
  • and other plants

When it’s available, wild rabbits will also eat fruit like apples that have fallen to the ground.

Any gardener will tell you that rabbits are fond of leafy vegetables and other garden treats. When wild rabbits can get into a garden, they will dig up carrots, sweet potatoes, and nibble the leafy tops of everything else.

Rabbit Digestion: Teeth and Droppings

Rabbit teeth grow rapidly. That’s why they like to chew on tough materials like tree branches or bark. This helps keep their teeth ground down to normal levels.

Although they may gain a little nutrition by chewing like this, it’s more an instinct that leads rabbits to spend a lot of time chewing on things.

Rabbit digestive systems are built to handle fiber in a special way. After all, rabbits eat a lot of fiber.

Rabbits produce two kinds of droppings. One is composed entirely of true waste material. The other contains soft semi-digested nutrients. Rabbits ingest the soft droppings as they are passed in order to further digest this nutritive material.

Rabbit Nutrition: What to Feed a Rabbit

For domestic rabbits, the key to good rabbit nutrition is variety.

The ideal diet for a pet rabbit includes unlimited access to hay. For convenience, most rabbit owners like to use a wall-mounted feeder.

Also include a variety of fresh vegetables. Most pet rabbits should be offered about 2 cups of mixed vegetables each day. Some mixed vegetables that rabbits like to eat are:

  • kale
  • broccoli
  • dark lettuce
  • sprouts
  • parsley
  • mustard greens
  • celery
  • spinach

You can also give rabbits daily treats like fruit or root vegetables. Most rabbits enjoy apples, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Strawberries or raspberries also make a great rabbit treat.

Never feed a rabbit beans, nuts, seeds, bread, cereal, corn, rhubarb, peas, or sugary food.

Commercial rabbit foods work well too. Some experts say that providing fresh vegetables, fruits, and hay more closely mimics the wild experience of an untamed rabbit.

There may also be nutritional concerns about the fat or carbohydrate content of some types of commercial foods. However, a commercial pellet food may better provide all needed nutrients. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian.

October 11, 2012

How to Take Care of a Ferret: Beginner’s Guide

Filed under: Ferrets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 11:45 am

Anyone who has encountered a pet ferret knows that these creatures are smart, friendly, and very curious. However, unlike the cats and dogs that many of us had as children, how to care for a ferret is not something you’re likely to have learned from friends or neighbors.

This guide offers a brief overview of how to take care of a ferret properly.

Ferret Exercise and Attention

First, it’s important to recognize the commitment that you are making to your new pet. On average, ferrets tend to live between six and eight years when in good health.

Ferrets are extremely outgoing, curious, and playful creatures that require a great deal of attention from their owners. Many ferret owners keep a pair of ferrets in order to provide a constant companion for these sociable animals.

Ferrets have very active metabolisms, so although they spend about 18 hours a day asleep, they wake up briefly every three to four hours to eat.

Due to the insatiable curiosity of ferrets, you will need to closely supervise your pet to prevent any injuries. Make certain to check appliances, closets, and so on to ensure that the ferret does not become trapped accidentally. Your ferret needs to be able to roam free within your living quarters, and it should be caged only when this is required for immediate safety reasons.

Ferret Sleep and Litter Training

Your ferret will need a quiet, dark place where it can sleep. Ferrets enjoy burying themselves in bedding materials such as old sweaters or towels.

Your ferret will also require a litter box to be placed in a sheltered corner near its nest. Just like cats or dogs, ferrets need to be litter trained in order to know what to do. This is a process that can take several days. Ideally, you can build up to the point where your ferret has a small litter pan available in each room.

All litter materials will need to be refreshed every day.

Feeding a Ferret

Ferrets enjoy playing with their food and are likely to attempt to tip over their water and food bowls. It is best to buy bowls that cannot be tipped. If this is not possible, another alternative is to place a mat beneath the bowls to catch spills.

Your ferret will need an open water bowl rather than a water bottle. Water bottles can damage their teeth for one, and does not let the ferret wash its own face.

Make sure that you keep plenty of fresh water and food available to your ferret, whose quick metabolism requires feeding at least every four hours. Ferrets should be fed a quality dry food for ferrets or kittens, avoiding foods that contain high amounts of oil or fish meal (which can make your ferret smell bad).

As a treat, you can offer your ferret many types of fresh vegetables or fruit, such as cucumber, bananas, grapes, carrots, or apples. Ferrets also appreciate dog biscuits.

Keeping a Ferret Healthy

To maintain your ferret’s health, regular veterinarian visits are a must.

You will need to take your ferret for annual vaccinations, including canine distemper, as well as frequent checkups. Although dental cavities are a rarity for ferrets, it is possible for them to break a tooth during rough play, so a dental exam is also a good idea.

Your veterinarian will also encourage you to have your ferret spayed or neutered to protect its health and avoid a musky pheromone odor. An occasional bath with baby shampoo will take care of normal odor build-up after the animal has been fixed.

Some owners choose to have their ferrets de-scented, which involves the removal of an odor gland similar to that of a skunk, although this procedure is optional.

October 5, 2012

Do Hamsters Hibernate?

Filed under: Hamster Health,hamster hibernation,hamster nutrition — Dr. Amber Reed @ 12:20 pm

Imagine hibernation.

You might be thinking of a large mammal, like a bear, being drowsy and inactive in cold months to conserve its body fuel.

This is the definition of true hibernation.

But, when people talk about hamsters hibernating, they are actually describing a temporary state called “torpor.” When this happens, a hamster’s body temperature drops and it seems to lose consciousness. Some species of hamsters might fall into torpor if the animal becomes too cold (typically under 40 degrees Fahrenheit) or does not have enough food and water.

Hamsters hibernate for the same reason bears do—to conserve body fuel and survive hard times. But, bear hibernation is a cycle that happens every year.

Torpor in a hamster happens as a last resort under emergency conditions. If a hamster stays in the torpor state for too long, it may die of hypothermia or starvation.

What to Do if Your Hamster ‘Torpor’ Hibernates

If your pet hamster falls into a torpor state, it may look dead at first glance. Its body will be limp (but not stiff) and unresponsive. Its breathing may be very slow. However, the hamster’s whiskers may still twitch in response to a touch.

In most cases, if the hamster is still breathing, it can be safely brought back from torpor. The easiest way to help your hamster come back is with your hands. Warm the hamster with the heat of your hands, gently rubbing its fur for a few minutes, or up to an hour, until the hamster begins to come back.

Using your hands works, but results depend on your own hand warmth. If you’re a cooler-handed person, you might try a different way.

Place the hamster on a towel over a warm heating pad. Don’t make it too hot. Go for hand-warmth.

When the hamster first regains awareness, it may be trembling or attempt to walk unsteadily. Offer the hamster water to help rehydrate it. You might consider offering the hamster an electrolyte drink.

When the hamster has begun to recover, place it in the cage in a warm room with plenty of water and food. Check on the hamster frequently for a few hours, but let it recover on its own.

Most of the time, hamsters can recover from torpor within a few hours.

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Disclaimer: CritterCures is an educational resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure diseases, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) treatment or recommendations of your veterinarian or healthcare provider. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet are taking, including herbal remedies and supplements.