The winter months can be a challenging time for our little furry wildlife. Harsh weather conditions and food shortages can make life even harder than it is the rest of the year. But they cope better with it than you might think.
Our small furry wildlife face different challenges all year round. In the spring many of them have to make nests for their young, in the summer they have to deal with water shortages, and in the autumn many of them have to find enough food to gain some extra weight for the winter.
If you see a little one out on their own, or young without their mother, it’s natural to want to step in and take care of them. But they might not need you to, and sometimes you can do more harm than good. So before you try to come to the assistance of a wild animal, you need to be sure that they need your help.
Signs of illness and distress vary from species to species, but there are a few situations where you can be sure that a wild animal needs help:
If you can’t see any of these signs, it’s usually best to just leave them alone. Interfering when an animal doesn’t need help can do more harm than good. If the animal is clearly ill or injured though, they do need your help.
What To Do Next
If an animal is showing one of these signs of needing help, it’s essential to make sure you help them in the right way. Caring for ill or injured wildlife is very complex, and each species has very different needs, so needs very different care. The only way to get them this care is to contact a wildlife rescue or rehabilitator. Even if you don’t have a local rescue, getting advice over the phone from any wildlife rescue is going to give the animal the best chance of survival.
If You Find A Nest
If you accidentally disturb a nest of baby animals, it’s best to interfere as little as possible and leave the nest alone. Just because you can’t see their mother around, doesn’t mean the babies aren’t being cared for. Haresfor example only feed their young a few times a day, for a few minutes at a time. They stay away from their nest the rest of the time so as not to attract predators. So if you come across a litter of leverets without their mother, this doesn’t mean they need rescued - for all you know she could be on her way right now.
If you know for sure that the mother isn’t coming back, because you know she’s been killed, you’ll need the help of a wildlife rescue or rehabilitator. It’s incredibly difficult to hand rear wildlife and unless you know exactly what you’re doing, they’re very unlikely to survive in your care.
There are times that a little one desperately needs help, and we shouldof course do whatever we can to give them that help. But it’s essential to keep in mind that they don’t always need us to intervene. So there’s a time to help, and a time to let them be.
Lionhead, Netherland Dwarf and Holland Lop rabbits are some of the most popular breeds of rabbits today. The same 'features' that make them so appealing though, can cause some serious problems. One of these features is their flat faces, known as brachycephalism. Brachycephalic rabbits have much shorter heads than their wild counterparts.
One of the main challenges that brachycephalic breeds face is dental problems. Because they are always growing, a rabbit's top and bottom teeth need to be able to wear against each other. When their heads are shorter and their faces flatter than they should be though, the lower jaw is longer than the top jaw and the teeth don't line up right. This is known as dental malocclusion and means that the teeth don't get worn down as they should, and continue growing. When a rabbit's teeth become overgrown they cause a great deal of pain, and can cut into the mouth, eventually causing abscesses. Rabbits with dental issues will need their teeth burred down regularly, usually under general anesthetic. In severe cases, sometimes the only fair thing to do is to have the rabbit put to sleep.
Not all brachycephalic bunnies have lop ears, but as they are both very popular looks, they often go hand in hand. Because their ears are larger than those of an up-eared rabbit and folded over, these rabbits are predisposed to ear infections. The majority of lop-eared rabbits suffer from chronic ear pain.
Other Health Issues
Brachycephalic bunnies can also suffer from chronic tear duct issues and their narrowed airways can worsen any respiratory problems they have.
Putting An End To Brachycephalism
As long as flat-faced rabbits are popular, they're going to keep being bred and these rabbits are going to keep suffering. Just as with cats and dogs, the breeding of rabbits needs to put their health and welfare first. To find out more about brachycephalism check out Vets Against Brachycephalism or the RSPCA.
There are a lot of different options out there when it comes to hamster cages, but only a few that are actually suitable for hamsters to live in. In this post we'll take a look what your hamster needs from their cage, and some things to think about when you're shopping for a new hamster cage.
Hamsters Need Space
The biggest problem with most of the hamster cages out there is that they're just not big enough. Hamsters need enough space to be able to scurry around, forage for food and dig a large burrow. Without a really big cage, you're also not going to be able to fit in enough enrichment.
The recommended minimum size for a hamster cage is 80x50cm for males and 100x50cm for females, but these really are the minimum. Research has shown that stress-related behaviours in hamsters decrease with larger cage sizes. A study carried out in 2007 showed that hamsters showed less wire chewing behaviour (which is caused by stress) when they were in 1m^2 (e.g. 100cm x 100cm) cages, compared to smaller sizes of cage. As far as I'm aware there isn't a hamster cage of this size currently available- so this is why a lot of hamster parents prefer DIY cage options. Although giving your hamster a cage this size is going to take up more space and cost a fair bit more money, if it's at all possible for you to do, it will make such a difference to your hamster.
A hamster's cage also needs to allow them to burrow. This is another natural behaviour for hamsters, and one that we always need to encourage. The best way to do this is by making sure they have a deep enough layer of bedding (at least 30cm deep) to be able to burrow in. For you to do this though, the solid base of your hamster's cage needs to be deep enough that the bedding doesn't just fall out between the bars.
As well as having the floor space, and being deep enough for your hamster to burrow in, your hamster's cage needs to be secure enough to keep your hamster inside it. This means that for a cage with bars, the bars need to be less than 13mm apart and the plastic base needs to be sturdy enough that your hamster can't gnaw their way through it. (Even with the sturdiest of cages you should regularly check the base for any signs that your hamster has started to gnaw their way through it). Security-wise, one of the best options is a glass terrarium with a mesh roof, or a DIY cage with glass sides and a mesh roof. These are really the only way you can guarantee your hamster isn't going to be able to gnaw their way out. If your cage has wooden ends these can be covered with perspex to make it a lot more difficult for your hamster to gnaw their way out.
All that being said, the larger and more enriching their cage is, the less likely they are to want to gnaw their way out in the first place.
Buying A Hamster Cage
So if you've already had a look around, you might have noticed that a lot of hamster cages out there don't meet these needs. Most of them don't come anywhere close. So when you're looking to buy a cage for your first hamster, or you're looking to upgrade your hamster's existing cage, you need to have a good look around and get the best cage you can possibly afford to get. Our hamsters are going to spend their whole lives living in their cage, so it needs to allow them to do everything that a hamster would naturally want to do.
The truth is that it's very difficult to buy a hamster cage that your hamster will be able to be happy living in. As a lot of hamsters still feel restless and stressed in even the largest of cages out there, so hamster parents are having to get a bit more creative and many are turning to DIY options. A post on this is coming soon! For now, check out Syrian Hamsters UK & Beyond Facebook group, or Victoria Raechel's DIY Hamster Cage Video to get you started.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this post was helpful to you and your hammies 🙂
Are rabbits better off living inside or outside? Some bunny parents have a strong opinion one way or another, but really, there are pros and cons to each. In this post, we'll take a look at the positives and negatives of both indoor and outdoor rabbit environments.
So whether your bunnies are better off living indoors or outdoors, really just depends on you and your bunnies. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but as long as your bunnies have the space, enrichment, security, protection, and attention that they need, you're on the right track.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this post was helpful to you and your bunnies 🙂
Like all other pets, hamsters love some good food. But it’s important for their health that they eat the right amounts of the right food. In this post we’re going to take a look at what makes up a healthy diet, and how to make sure our hammies are getting the nutrition they need
First of all, we have to remember that hamsters are omnivores, which means that they can’t get all the nutrients they need just from plants. In the wild, a hamster’s diet would normally be made up of grasses, grains, seeds, and insects. And for a healthy hamster diet, we need to make sure our hamsters are getting the same nutrition they would get from these foods.
Muesli & Pellet Feeds
There are quite a few different hamster feeds out there, most of them being muesli and pellet feeds. These feeds are generally cheap to buy and easy to get your hands on, but they're usually not the healthiest option for your hamster. The main issue with these feeds are the 'filler' ingredients that are added to them. Fillers are added to the feeds to bulk them up, but they have very little to no nutritional value for your hamster. As much as your hamster might enjoy them, they're really just filling themselves up with junk foood, with very little nutritional value
So What Should I Feed My Hamster?
As we've said before, for a healthier hamster diet, we need to look at what would make up the diet of our hamsters' wild ancestors, and go from there. It's important to note here that different species of hamster come from different parts of the world, and so their natural diets are quite different. We're not going to go into specifics in this post, but when you're looking for a good quality feed for your hamster, make sure it's one that's recommended for your specific species of hamster (i.e. a feed suitable for Syrian hamsters won't necessarily be suitable for Campbell's Dwarf hamsters).
The best place to start is usually with a good quality seed mix. Some hamster parents feel that seed mixes don't provide the balance of nutrients that a hamster really needs in their diet, because of selective feeding. But they actually come much closer to replicating a hamster's natural diet. In the wild a hamster forages around for their food, picking up and pouching whatever seeds, grains or insects they can find. Seed mixes usually contain some small grains, small pieces of dried vegetables, dried insects, as well as a wide range of seeds- so they have a lot of similarities to your hamster's natural diet.
A few good options for hamster seed mixes include GetZoo, Rodipet and Mixerama.
Some hamster parents prefer to make their own seed mixes, but before doing this you would need to do a lot of research into the specific nutrients, and quantities of each, that your hamster needs.
Seed mixes are also a great way to encourage your hamster to forage for their food. Foraging is one of those natural behaviours that's really important to encourage in our hamsters. Keeping them foraging around for bits of seeds, grains, and insects is a great way to keep your hamster busy, stimulated and getting some exercise.
Another way to encourage your hamster to forage is by giving them seed sprays and hamster-safe dried leaves and flowers to rummage around in.
Shop-bought treats are notoriously unhealthy for hamsters because they contain a lot of ingredients that a hamster would never naturally eat. A much better option for treats is little pieces of veg, scrambled/boiled egg, dried insects, or plain, cooked meat. These can each be fed once a week, except for veggies which can be fed once or twice more. Just remember that these are only in very small quantities, and any leftover fresh food needs to be removed from your hamster's burrow after 12-24 hours.
Changing Your Hamster's Diet
So even if you're moving your hamster from an unhealthy diet to a healthier one, its really important to make any changes gradually. Hamsters have sensitive digestive systems, and any sudden changes, even to a healthier diet, could do more harm than good. It's usually best to change about 1/4 of their food at a time, each week until they're transitioned over to their new diet. If they have any issues during this time, go back to what they were eating while they were still ok (and see a vet if you're worried).
Thanks for reading, and I hope this post was helpful to you and your hamster 🙂
Hay is the single most important part of your rabbit's diet. They need it to keep their teeth trim and they need it to keep their digestive system working properly. Foraging around grass is what rabbits naturally do, and the closest we can give them to this is hay. So if you haven't already guessed, in this post we're going to learn a little bit about . . .hay!
Hay vs Grass
First of all, hay is simply dried grass. It's cut, dried and (in the case of hay for rabbits) dust-extracted grass. So why can't we feed just let our bunnies outside for a while to eat some grass? Well, we would run out pretty quickly! Wild rabbits cover huge territories, and these areas of land produce a lot more grass than we possibly could out of our back gardens.
But that's not to say that your rabbits can't still enjoy some fresh grass. If you have somewhere you can let them outside for some supervised time on the grass, or you have somewhere you can pick clean grass for them, they'll love it! As always, remember to introduce it very slowly if it's not something they're used to eating.
Keeping Their Gut Moving
A rabbit's gut is adapted to eat a large quantity of fibrous foods- and for our pet rabbits, this means hay. A rabbit who isn't eating enough hay is at a high risk of their gut slowing down and stopping (GI stasis), which can be fatal. So hay is an incredibly important part of your rabbit's health.
**If you have any concerns about your rabbit having gut problems / GI stasis, get in touch with a vet ASAP.**
Keeping Their Teeth Trim
It's also important for their dental health. Rabbits have open rooted teeth, which means that their teeth grow continuously throughout their lives. If they're not worn down properly, they can can cause a lot of pain, prevent your bunny from eating properly ( which leads to GI stasis) and they can eventually end up cutting into your rabbit's mouth (which as you can imagine is going to be very painful).
Teeth problems in rabbits , in particular with their premolars and molars, are often related to just not eating enough hay. The specific way a rabbit's jaw moves when they're eating hay or grass, helps to grind down these teeth and prevent them from getting too long. As always, if you have any concerns about your rabbit having dental problems, get them checked out by a vet.
Keeping Them Busy
Another reason that hay is a super important part of your rabbit's diet, is that it keeps them busy. Rabbits in the wild spend a large amount of their time foraging around for food and it's a natural behaviour that's really important to encourage in our pets. A lot of bunnies love nothing more than foraging around in a big pile of fresh hay!
How Much Hay Does A Bunny Need?
So now that you know how important hay is for your rabbits, you might be wondering how much they should be eating in a day. The most important thing to know here is that your bunny can never have too much hay!
A good guide to go by is that your rabbit should be eating at least their own body size in hay each day. This is the ideal amount for their gut to stay healthy and their teeth to stay trim. Things can still go wrong of course, but to give your bunny the very best chance at staying healthy, do your best to get them eating as much hay as possible, every single day.
What Do Rabbits Like From Their Hay?
First of all, rabbits like their hay to be fresh and clean. Although some of what they have left over from a previous day might look alright to you, your bunny is unlikely to be impressed, and they won't eat nearly as much as they would if it was fresh. So to make sure they're eating as much hay as possible, make sure you're giving them at least a day's worth of fresh hay, every single day. (Old / used hay can be used for bedding if it's still fairly clean)
Rabbits can also have different preferences in whether they like their hay softer or stalkier, more green or less green, longer strands or shorter strands. The best thing to do is try out different kinds (without making any sudden changes of course) to see what your bunny likes best.
How Can I Get My Rabbit To Eat More Hay?
So you're giving them fresh hay every day and your rabbit's just doesn't seem interested? Here are a few things you can try:
Thanks for reading, and I hope this post was helpful to you and your bunnies 🙂
In the wild, showing any signs of weakness will get you picked off by a predator. So rabbits, like other prey species, do everything they can to hide the fact that something isn't right. As far as they're concerned, pretending that they're fine is their best chance of survival.
This can mean that by the time we see that something is wrong with our bunnies, they can be in a pretty bad way. And by the time they get to a vet, their illness is much more difficult to treat, or they're much more unwell than they would have been, if we'd known about it right away.
At the same time though, there are often some very subtle signs that something is up. And that's what we're going to look at in this post. As bunny parents, one of the most important parts of our bunnies' care, is looking out for these little things that tell us that something isn't right.
First of all, there's the major signs that your rabbit isn't feeling well. If you see any of these things in your bunny, they need to see a vet ASAP (as in phone them now!):
And then there's the less obvious, but still really important things to notice. While these signs / symptoms don't mean that your rabbit needs to see a vet today, they still mean its worth booking a consultation with your vet to get them checked out. These include . .
This isn't a complete list, but what you really need to know is that any change in your rabbit's normal behaviour could potentially be a sign of them not feeling well. There are of course other factors that can be involved (e.g. a change in their environment or something else that's making them nervous), but it's always worth getting any changes in your rabbit checked out by a vet.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this post was helpful to you and your bunnies!
Hamsters can do so more than just run on a wheel and gather some food out of a bowl. They're really intelligent little animals, and they naturally like to keep busy. But a lot of the hamster toys out there haven't been made with natural hamster behaviours in mind, so our hammies don't find them very interesting. In this post we're going to look at some natural hamster behaviours, what hamsters actually like to do, and how we can help
In case you haven't noticed, hamsters love nothing more than a tasty snack. In the wild, hamsters spend a huge amount of their time foraging for food. They spend their time gathering up grains, seeds, insects and leaves, and our pet hamsters should be able to do the same thing. Rummaging around for their food keeps a hamster busy, which reduces stress-related behaviours, and gives them a lot of enrichment. It's also more natural for them to eat quite a wide range of different foods, instead of just collecting a few pellets out of a bowl.
Scatter feeding your hamster is a great way to encourage foraging and keep your hamster busy. Although it's easier for them to just collect food out of a bowl, and the easier option naturally appeals to us, that's not the way our hamsters see it. Like a lot of other animals, hamsters get a lot of enrichment out of having to find their food, and this much better simulates their natural environment.
Seed & forage mixes are a great food option for hamsters to encourage foraging, and keep what their eating more interesting. Although it can be a little trickier to make sure they're getting all the right nutrients than it would with a pellet feed, a good quality seed mix can still give your hamster a healthy diet, and let them have a bit more fun with their food at the same time. Again, it much more closely replicates what they would naturally be eating in the wild
To make foraging even more fun for your hamster, you can introduce some different substrates into their enclosure. Areas of different substrates can add an extra bit of a challenge to foraging for their food and make things even more interesting. Coir (dried coconut fibre) is a great hamster-friendly option, and so are coconut husk chips, soft dust-free hay, and some types of wood shavings.
And lastly, seed sprays and other dried plants (hamster-safe ones of course), are great for encouraging your hamster to forage. One of my syrians, Tallie, loves nothing more than to rummage around in a flax spray and pouch all the seeds she finds. Dried sunflower heads are usually pretty popular too! Seed sprays are also really good for giving your hamster some cover in more open areas of their enclosure, and helping them feel a bit safer.
When they're not foraging for their food, hamsters in the wild spend a lot of time burrowing. So this is another natural behaviour that we need to really encourage! There are a few things you can do to encourage your hamster burrow . . .
Really deep bedding is the most important part. For a hamster to feel it would be worth their while to burrow, the bedding usually needs to be at least 30cm deep, and this depth should cover an area of at least 30x30cm.
Layers of different substrates are really important as well, because this helps any tunnels your hamster digs to hold their shape. For your main bedding I tend to recommend Kaytee Clean & Cosy or something similar, and then you can have thin layers of other types such as hemp bedding, hamster-friendly wood shavings and dust free soft hay in between.
Tunnels can also help to start your hamster burrowing if you cover most of the tunnel in bedding but leave one end open to get them started
Some hamsters are more adventurous than others, but if you've ever had your hamster out of their enclosure for some free-roam time, you'll know how much a hamster can enjoy exploring. A play area can work well for your hamster if they tend to wake up at a time that suits for you to let them out to play, you're able to supervise them whilst they're out, and you have the space, but this doesn't work for everyone. If free-roam time doesn't really work for you, here are a couple of other ways you can help your hamster do a bit more exploring within their own enclosure. . .
Keeping things cluttered in your hamster's enclosure is a great way give them more things to explore. If there's lots of different things to go under, around, over and through, there's more different paths for your hamster to take, even just going from one part of their enclosure to another.
Regularly adding in new enrichment (whether that's sprays, forage, or other toys) to your hamster's enclosure gives them new things to investigate and explore, and keeps life a bit more interesting for them. Bear in mind here though that more nervous hamsters might be a bit unsure of new things, and it might take a little while before they decide to play with them.
And of course, the bigger the better when it comes to your hamster's cage. The minimum recommended cage size for a hamster is 80x50cm, but this really is just a minimum. Research has shown that pet hamsters really need at least 100 x 100cm in floor space, so as not be stressed by the size of their environment.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this post was helpful to you and your hamsters!
Rabbits are amazing pets to have around, but there's nothing simple, easy or cheap about them. Rabbits are typically seen as being 'starter pets', or pets to get if you can't afford a cat or dog. But they take just as much time and money to care for, and sometimes even more. There's also the fact that rabbits need the companionship of at least one other rabbit- so you can't just get one!
So before you take some bunnies into your home, here are a few things you need to think about . . .
Rabbits take a lot of time to care for. You need have the time each day to clean up their space, empty their litter boxes, make sure they have fresh hay and water, groom them, . You also need to be able to spend time just being with them and getting to know them, and to be able take them to vet appointments- often with just a few hours notice.
Rabbits are not cheap pets to care for, so it's really important that before you commit, you make sure you've got the money. The PDSA suggests a cost of £6000-£9000 over a rabbit's lifetime, and this really is a minimum.
In the first instance, you'll need to set up a living space for them. Given that this needs to be bunny-safe, predator proof, weather proof and give them enough space to exercise in, this can end up pretty expensive. For an outdoor setup, expect this to cost around £700- £1000. Then there's their litter boxes, carriers, hides & shelters, water bowls, and lots of toys to keep them busy.
In terms of monthly costs, you'll also need to be able to pay for your rabbits hay, herbs, dried forage and new enrichment. This might not sound like much, but two bunnies can (and should) eat their way through a lot of hay, and toys don't tend to last too long either. If decide to go for insurance as well, this is usually about an extra £10/month per bunny.
And for your yearly costs, you'll need to be able to pay for your rabbits vaccinations and health checks. Rabbits need to be vaccinated every year against RHD1, RHD2 and Myxomatosis. At about 6 months old your rabbits will also need to be neutered, which usually costs at least £90 for males, and over £100 for females.
And your largest expenses are likely to be your unplanned vet bills. Rabbits can suffer from a lot of different health problems, and are also prone to needing out of hours vet care. It's impossible to predict how much a bunny is going to cost in terms of their vet bills, but just a consultation can be up to £40-50 and out of hours consults usually start at around £200, and that's without the treatment they'll need.
So even if you know you have the money to care for bunnies, you still need to be sure you have the space. Rabbits need 24/7 access to a living space of at least 2x3m (6x10ft) and again this is really a minimum. Wild rabbits naturally cover a huge territory, and although we can't replicate this for our pet rabbits, it's important to give them as much space as possible, so that they can get the exercise and enrichment they need.
So finally, you need to think about why you want to take on rabbits. If you haven't already guessed, rabbits are a big commitment. It takes a lot of time, energy and money to be able to give rabbits the lives they deserve, and it needs to be something you're sure you want to do. All of this also means that they don't make good pets for kids.
Thanks for reading! If you decide that rabbits are the right pet for you, why not check out our other rabbit care posts and find out more about how to care for your new pet rabbits