Last Updated: 7/7/98
Pictures, descriptions, dates, stories, and more
Cats - one had breast cancer, one has diabetes
Rabbits - one had breast cancer, two had pasturella
Dwarf Siberian Hamsters
General Care and Maintenance
Newsgroups, Catalogs, and Web Sites
My Past and Present Mammals
Picture of Bootsy, helping me do homework, February 12, 1989.
Fortunately, I have only experienced the loss of one cat in my life. Bootsy was the love of my life. She was born around 6/12/82. Boo was adopted from a pound on 8/14/82. She was a loving, gorgeous, longhaired calico (orange, black, and white). In 1994, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She died May 4, 1996. I paid for four expensive, dangerous operations for repeated removal of breast tissue and cancer. After the tumors kept returning and there was no more skin to do suturing, the vet said he would not operate again. I did not seek another vet. One tumor broke the skin. I had to bathe her open tumor and keep her on Baytril for the last few months of her life. She lost her ability to move. After she suffered quite a while, I told her it was okay to die. Only then, did she die. Boobie, as my brother called her, was not spayed until the age of four, due to her aggressive tendencies at the time. If she had been spayed before her first heat, she most likely would have never gotten cancer. The vet never informed me (a child of 10 at the time) of this danger. Bootsy was a virgin, so why spay her? Well, it may well have cost her years. Her cancer could also have been partially caused to regular use of the drug Ovaban to control aggression, our well water (since a rabbit also got breast cancer), or genetics. For over a dozen years, every morning after everyone was fed, she would hop onto my bed, purr her heart out, kneed her declawed feet on my face, and wash away all my problems. Since her death, my life has gone downhill. Our souls were intertwined. To me, she was not just a cat, but my surrogate mother, adopted daughter, and best friend.
Picture of Tootsy, January 18, 1997.
I have four living cats. The oldest is a neutered male named Tootsy who was born around 6/20/83. We got him from an animal shelter on 8/15/83. He is a longhaired silver tabby. He looks like a Maine Coon. Tootsy attacks anyone who tries to brush or trim him so that he has huge knots on his rump. When they fall off, we call them his "babies." He, like his older "sister" Bootsy, was declawed. Now, I do not believe in this. As a child though, my parents' word was gospel. Toad, as we sometimes call him, misses Bootsy (see below). The morning of December 19, 1997, Tootsy failed to dive into his food. He just drank a lot of water and virtually passed out upstairs. I had my parents rush him to the vet since I had work. Well, he has diabetes. He has been on insulin ever since but a super low dosage. As of 1/4/98, he has not stabilized. He still will not eat as much as he should so his sugar gets too low. If the insulin is stopped, his sugar goes too high. I should have taken him to the vet sooner as his frequent drinking and urinating indicated diabetes. He also lost three pounds in the last year which I did not notice since it was gradual. The best web site for feline diabetes is here. Update: It is 4/6/98, and Tootsy appears stable on 1 unit of insulin each morning. He has put on a lot of weight, eats well, and sleeps, drinks, and urinates less than before. He may just outlive me!
Picture of Kisty nursing her four kittens, June 2, 1987.
Kisty is the next oldest cat. She is a shorthair (but sheds like mad) tortoiseshell. She came to us in the spring of 1987, very pregnant and about one year old. She had four wonderful kittens on 5/24/87 that my parents made us give away (not to great homes, I am afraid). The girls were T'aimy and Cudzy and the boys were Wilby and Rolly. Kisty was then spayed. Kisty is fritzy, and the other cats attack her so she lives in the garage. She is very sweet with me but runs from most everyone.
Picture of Samantha in her box in the bathroom, January 10, 1996.
Samantha's age is unknown. We have had her since February of 1994 at which time her age was guessed at five. Saman showed up out of nowhere, thin, and full of knots. She is a longhaired calico (gray, white, and tan). If you ever wanted to meet a people cat, this is she! She does not care who you are; she loves you. Since she has yet to have babies, it is almost 100% certain that she is spayed (the vet cannot tell). Sam loves to hunt. Tootsy and Kisty detest her. When Saman first arrived, she ripped a hole in Kisty. Kisty had costly, painful surgery for the largest abscess the vet had ever seen. Since then Kisty is scared to death of going outside or to the vet. We only bring Saman in to the bathroom in winter when it is cold. Actually, she goes into the bathroom and my mother's bed quite often then and gets spoiled.
Picture of Polky, August 20, 1997.
My baby is Polky, better known as Doodally. Doodally is all white with three gray dots on her head (thus Polky) with medium-length, soft hair. She was born around 9/2/96 so she just turned one. I picked her from her brothers at a local vet clinic on 10/11/97 when still too young. The first time I saw her, the week before, at only five weeks old, she sat in a pie pan full of litter with her eyes a quarter open and a piece of clay litter on her head. I feel in love instantly. I thought I could replace some of the love Bootsy gave me but this cat is totally unlike her. She only purrs and cuddles occasionally. She bites, claws, runs, jumps, and generally acts like a crazy beast most of the time. Dude (another name for her) loves to have fights with little stuffed animals and halls them all over the house. She also takes the bath drain and loves to play with running water. She tears up and eats wall paper, curtains, and rugs. I hope she gets over this! Although she is destructive, she is cute while she does it!
Picture of Schmoozer, August 29, 1994.
Schmoozer is our only living dog. He is a brindle (brown and white with black tips) Shih Tzu. Schmoo was born on 3/8/91 and my mother bought him for $350 on 5/26/91. Because the rest of the family has no patience, he was never trained properly. If he did something wrong, they would just scream. It is amazing that he is house trained. He is not, however, capable of refraining from barking for more than a short time. He barks at ANY human, deer, cat, rabbit, squirrel, turkey vulture, crow, or foreign thing around. This includes barking at the cat he knows and any cars that drive up. He cannot see the cars on the road, we have few visitors, and so they warrant a loud barking spree. Schmoo rips at the windows in the process. Proper discipline would be a firm, "No!" and perhaps a squirt of something bad. Instead, the family screams, hits, and lets him outside. By releasing him, they reward his barking. He knows if he barks, outside he goes. Try telling them that! Despite all this, he can be sweet when alone with us and calm (usually when he is worn out from barking!). I recently bought a bark collar that zaps him when he barks. It is working; peace at last!
We got Prince on 5/13/89 at an age of about seven. He was a plain brownish red dog of about 20 pounds. He looked like a fox. We had not had a dog in a while and figured an adult would be easier to deal with. Soon, he got along with Bootsy and Tootsy and seemed house trained. One day he bit my brother pretty hard when he surprised him. Because the dog had been showing neurotic behavior, my mother took him back where another family soon took him. My mother returned him on 7/11/89. After a few weeks, we discovered that unneutered Prince had sprayed curtains and furniture all over the house. Because of the trauma of losing his master (to a nursing home) and his age, neutering may not have fixed his problems. He was sweet but something was missing. He seemed so unhappy.
Spitzer, Apricot, Blackie, and Suzie-
These are the four female dogs with whom I grew up. Both Spitzer and Apricot ran away when I was under 10 years old. They left to die in peace since they were in their teens and had medical problems. I still have nightmares about finding their bodies. Spitzer was a medium, brown mutt who looked like a Spitz. Apricot was a white/apricot miniature poodle. Blackie was a black mutt that my parents took in. She had a litter of 6 girls and 1 boy after we moved to our present home. We kept two girls. Sally died in competition with a car but Suzie lived on to the age of 14, dying on 6/21/91. Blackie lived until 18 and died on 5/6/93. Blackie's assigned estimated birthday was 10/22/74. Amazingly, Blackie and Suzie spent the last 14 years of their lives almost entirely outside. Today, I could not imagine doing such a thing. Maybe the fact that they were NOT house trained had something to do with it!!
Wizard and Felix-
I do not recall much about these two bucks. They were dutch rabbits and maybe brothers. Felix, the smaller, was black and white. Wizard was a brown or brindle and white. I was very young and knew nothing of rabbit care. My parents knew little and fed them pellets, carrots, and lettuce. They stuck the bucks together in a tiny cage outside about 2.5 feet by 1.5 feet. After a while, Wizard killed Felix. Wizard lived at least a few years but I do not think it was long.
Picture of Ricky, October 6, 1991.
One day after a visit to a vet named Ricky at the zoo, we passed a sign saying "Angora rabbits, $5." So, since we still had an old rabbit cage, we bought a rabbit. The 4H breeder assured us that Ricky was a male and "his brother" was a female. Well, subsequent visits to the vet (for pasturella) and a rabbit judge (for a visit) confirmed that Ricky was a female. Ricky was born on 5/1/88. We bought her on 7/3/88. She was a gray English Angora doe. After Ellie came along in 1991, my father built a large hutch for them to share (separate rooms). Ricky never had contact with any rabbit except once with Ellie (on the first day in the hutch, Ellie got through a hole and attacked her, we covered the hole) and once with Loppy (they romped just a few weeks before Ricky died). Not knowing anything about spaying and cancer, Ricky never bred or was spayed. One day I found two large lumps along her mammary line. Since my cat, Bootsy, had undergone breast cancer surgery, I just knew that was what it was. I had a vet cut Ricky's tumors out as well. His suturing was not the best, and she tore some out. This vet did not prescribe antibiotics like Baytril which should be standard for such a messy surgery. A few weeks after her stitches came out, she got a dark blue nipple on one of her remaining breasts. I did not get her to the vet fast enough. She succumbed to septicemia on 6/26/95. We now go to another vet.
Picture of Ellie, May 5, 1990.
One day, the neighbor called saying there was a domestic rabbit loose in her garage. It was a black and brown (like a Marten) Netherland Dwarf. We caught Ellie on 5/4/90. Later, we found out that a neighbor had dumped her and her siblings on the landfill near by to suffer. Somehow, Ellie lived a year in the wild. She was a little fighter. Ellie was a real sweetheart for an unspayed doe. She also made all her pee in her litter pan from the first day we adopted her. Since we could not keep her in a bird cage forever, my father built a large hutch for her and Ricky to share (separate rooms). After a year with us, Ellie stopped eating. A vet diagnosed a digestive problem. She never resumed eating after treatment. A few days later, I discovered her gasping for air and called the vet. She died that day of 6/27/91. Since we had the appointment, we brought her body to the vet who had her lungs and kidneys sent off for an autopsy free of charge. We took the rest of her body back for burial. The autopsy showed that she had died when her lungs literally exploded. She had HUGE pasturella growths on her lungs. Her kidneys had also failed (she was not urinating or defecating at all for the last week). It still makes me very upset to write this now. We go to a different vet, even though her diagnosis was correct, just not the main problem. No one should EVER release domestic rabbits into the wild. Most will starve or be killed by dogs or cars. A few will be found only to be ripped away from their loving owners by diseases picked up in the wild.
Picture of Loppy, June 29, 1997. Note the growth on his left cheek.
We bought Loppy on 6/30/91 at the age of about two months. We got him just three days after Ellie died. He was born underground in a colony of rabbits of mixed breeds. He was probably inbred. I do not approve of such setups. If someone must have rabbits in colonies, they should ALL be spayed/neutered and the cage must be completely secured. This one had no cover. Loppy looked like a white and gray (Siamese pattern) Holland lop. I was sure Loppy was female (I wanted another girl). When we brought him to visit the rabbit judge, he asked which sex I thought he was. I said doe. He said, "Not today he ain't!" That still makes me laugh. Loppy became obviously, all buck. Loppy moved into Ellie's old room. After Ricky died, he moved into her larger room. Then, when I got Izzy (below), he went back to the small cage again. Somewhere, from Ellie's room (even though bleach washed), his parents, or from nearby wild rabbits four feet below him, he picked up pasturella. For over five years, he showed no signs of pasturella. In early 1997, he underwent surgery to remove a growth on his cheek. It was tested and shown to be full of pasturella cells and dead skin. The abscesses continued to recur until the Fall of 1997. Loppy was on Baytril twice a day from the time of the operation until his death on 1/9/98. To add to these problems, he did not eat his hay and thus produced a lot of messy feces that stuck to his rear. I had to scrape his cage out often. Loppy was bathed every 5 weeks with bunny shampoo. Most rabbits should not be bathed but Loppy's genitals were so caked in feces that you could not tell that he was a male. He had urine burn on his testes too. He loved his baths. Despite the medical problems, he was living fat and happy with this horrible pasturella that would not go away. Slowly, he lost his ability to maneuver (he had not been able to bend over for years since he was overweight, but now he could not walk straight either and fell over a lot). During the last two days of his life, he went from being able to scoot in a circle to not being able to move at all. I believe the pasturella spread to his brain or another vital organ. He was not off of food and water for more than 24 hours before his death so that I can only guess what actually killed him. I saw him about an hour before he died. I said, "Mommy loves you. It's okay to die now. Goodbye my boy." He tried to lift his big head and made a soft grunt goodbye.
Picture of Isabella, May 3, 1997. This was
the day I got her.
Picture of Izzy and her hutch, 4/12/98.
After my guinea pigs died (they had spent summers in Loppy's old room), I decided to get another rabbit. Izzy is a purebred red (they called her something like honey) English angora doe. She was born on 2/14/97. I bought her at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival on 5/3/97. She became grumpy with puberty. Although she had a few trysts with Loppy, he must have been infertile (age and illness) since she never became pregnant. Spayed January, 1998 right after Loppy died, she still is grumpy (still on 4/6/98 she acts like she is intact)! I had her spayed to prevent her from getting uterine or ovarian cancer and to lessen her chances of breast cancer. I did not want her to go through what Ricky went through. Izzy tore out her glue stitches one week after the surgery. The vet put in thread stitches which she took out before I got home from work. The opening was allowed to heal on its own over about three weeks. Izzy makes me chase her around and around in the old dog pen after her romps for twenty minutes at least. I end up getting more exercise than her! She lives in the room previously lived in by Ricky and then Loppy while Loppy lived in the room previously lived in by Ellie, himself, and the guinea pigs.
Picture of Jimmy, May 16, 1998.
I bought Jimmy on 5/3/98. He is a mini lop with agouti (wild rabbit color) and white patches. His pedigree will be mailed to me. For now, I guess him to be 3-4 months old as of May, 1998. He is living in the right hutch where Ellie, Loppy, and the guinea pigs have lived. He seems sweet when his feet are planted but hates to be picked up. I got painful scratches all over my hands and wrists the first day I got him. Hopefully, he was just scared by all the changes and will calm down. He will be neutered. Izzy does not seem to like him after he peed on her head, licked her head, and sniffed her. She did not want to be taken advantage of.
Moo and Beau-
Picture of Moo (in front) and Beau, in right side of rabbit hutch for the summer, July 25, 1995.
Moo and Beau were two of four brothers born to my second cousins' guinea pigs on 10/4/91. I adopted them both on 11/3/91. Moo (named by my cousin) was a brown and white dutch while Beau was black, brown, and white (calico). Both had regular coats. Moo died on 7/20/96. Beau died on 5/3/97. See below under care for more information on them.
Dwarf Siberian Hamsters:
All of my dwarf Siberian hamsters stayed in a metal and plastic cage of 11"x13"x25" high with three levels. The cage came with a nest box and two exercise wheels. Only one was needed. I added wood platforms and mesh on the ladders.
Masha, Irena, and Olga-
These are the three sisters. I do not have a record of their assumed birthday, when I got them, or when most of them died. Masha died a few weeks after we got them. Her teeth grew into the roof of her mouth. By the time I realized this and they were cut, she was too starved to resume eating. Irena suffered a fall after we had had her for a few months. This resulted in crazy behavior on her part and later a rectal hemorrhage. Fearing for her life, we took her and Olga to visit their breeder who said there was nothing we could do. She lived like this for about a year. Olga survived the longest, I believe about a year and a half. Olga died on 2/1/92.
Huey, Dewey, and Louie-
The three brothers were born on 12/24/91 in a local pet store. We got them on 2/3/92. Huey died on 9/8/93. Louie died on 4/15/94. Dewey died on 8/21/94. Thus, they lived from 19 to 30 months. That is a long time for these hamsters. I miss these adorable, soft, cute animals!
General Care and
Most information that one needs to know is found in books and from talking to people. There are a few things; however, that I would like to stress. ALL pet mammals need to see the vet as soon as possible after you get them. Firstly, they all need to be checked for their general health and sex. I cannot tell you how many times a male became a female or a female became a male! Cats and dogs need shots, parasite treatments, and neutering/spaying. Rabbits need to be checked for malformed teeth and feet, ear mites, fleas, pasturella and later be neutered/spayed. Guinea pigs need to be checked for guinea pig mites, malformed teeth, and general health; they can be neutered/spayed as well. Hamsters, the least likely to visit the vet, should still be checked out at first for their general health, teeth, and sex. This vet visit is also a good time to learn about your pet's care.
The next item I would like to stress is that an animal's home can NEVER be too big. If your choice is between a tiny cage and a large one, ALWAYS opt for the larger one. The animal will be happier, and you will not have to clean it as often.
Finally, keep any cages, litter pans, etc. as clean as possible. Most cages should be cleaned well at least once a week. There is NO such thing as "an easy to care for" pet. All require your time and love!
The important information about cats is all around since more people own them than any other pet. Buy a few good books, talk to people, and take the cats to the vet for shots and spay/neutering always. Cats will play with anything and try to eat anything. Be careful they do not eat poison, poisonous plants, string, etc. The vet can give you most information you need. Any other questions, you can ask the newsgroups below. There is also a link for Cat FAQS on health, bad behavior, each breed, and more.
I do not believe in declawing. When I was young, my first two cats were declawed. One who was the love of my life, tried to kill my brother. The other still is grouchy and mean. I do believe that removing their claws makes cats feel more defensive and helpless. To compensate, they use their teeth. I was attacked once by my cat; I would have preferred scratches to deep puncture wounds that I still can see 12 years later. This same cat was the most loving I have ever met. I believe she had some type of seizure related to her screwy hormones but spaying did not fix the problem. Years of ovaban did but may have given her breast cancer.
Breast cancer - see Bootsy
Diabetes - see Tootsy
Again, there are so many people with dogs that I need not say much. Talk to dog owners and go to the vet. Be sure to research before buying a dog. Because they are vocal and need to be walked, they take a lot of time. They also need to run and play and be trained. I would suggest seeking a professional for training. As soon as you get a dog, take it to the vet for shots, deworming, other parasite treatments, and information. Unless you are an experienced breeder, get the dog fixed. Unneutered males mate with everything, piss on everything, and run away. Unspayed females bleed for a few days every few months which can make it look like a murder occurred in the house unless you put diapers on them. Both sexes get very frustrated if not allowed to become parents. Since millions of dogs are killed every year in "shelters," there is no need to add to the dog population.
Buck or doe, spayed/neutered or intact?
Cages and inside versus outside
Winter and summer care for outdoor rabbits
Grooming, nail trimming, ear cleaning, bathing, etc.
Buck or doe, spayed/neutered or intact?
If you have your rabbits spayed/neutered by late puberty (by 6 months), you can keep as many as you want of both sexes together provided they each have their own nest box and can get away from each other on occasion. Between 3-6 months, young males and females should be separate because they can breed then. It is best to let rabbits mature to 6 months or so before spaying/neutering. In intact rabbits, males are sweet and want to mate with everything. Females are grumpy and often kick, bite, and act mean. Spaying, even older does, usually yields a sweet, layed back doe but 3 months after my doe's spay, she still kicks, bites, grunts, runs from me, and generally acts like an intact doe. If you want more than one and do not intend to have them spayed/neutered, a mother and daughter or two sisters is the best. Even they will fight if intact. Two intact males, even brothers, will eventually fight. When I was young, we had two bucks; one killed the other. And obviously, a male and a female will yield lots of needy, often unwanted babies. If you have mixed sexes, spay both sexes, not just boys or girls. This is because any unfixed rabbit will not know the other is fixed and will try to mate or be frustrated all the time. A large percentage of unspayed does who do not have babies get uterine or ovarian cancer by the age of five. They also have a much higher risk of breast cancer. The percent for doe reproductive cancers is said to range from about 14% quoted by some vets to more than 85% quoted by some rabbit groups with most people saying at least 30-50%. Because risk varies from rabbit to rabbit, small studies yield conflicting results. Age, breed, and individual genes may all play a part. Spaying, at any age, negates the first two cancers unless they are already present and have spread. Spaying young reduces breast cancer greatly. So, unless you are breeding, spay your does. Neutering males reduces their desire to breed with everything in site, and they stop spraying urine on everything. All this said, wild rabbits live in large groups and keep each other company but does keep their own nests and bucks fight violently. Rabbits are not solitary animals nor do they always get along.
Cages and Inside versus Outside:
You can either keep rabbits inside or outside. The benefits of being inside include more time with the bunnies, the option of letting them run free in the house, 100% protection from the elements, and protection from potential predators. Benefits living outside include larger hutches, fresh air and circulation, sun, and being outside. The downsides include the weather and potential predators (including humans in cities who can and do snatch bunnies). Living in a rural area with cats and dogs inside (so cannot let rabbits run in the house), I chose to keep my rabbits outside. This does not mean that I love them any less. If the hutch is built with strong wood, a good roof, a warm nest box, and is at least 3-4 feet off of the ground, the rabbits should be fine in rural areas. The worst threat comes from dogs or any native large predators. Be sure the door locks are spring loaded. If you can punch your way into the cage, so can a predator. Of course, if you keep the rabbits inside, you need not worry about these things. Most House Rabbit Society members will urge you to keep your rabbits inside.
Picture of Izzy in the left room of the hutch, 4/12/98.
My rabbits have a great hutch. The first room is 4'2" x 3'2". The second room is 3'1" x 3'2". Both have a shared sloping roof that goes from 20-27" high, tallest in the center. It is all wood except for the windows which are rabbit wire. The wood on the outside must be treated or it will fall apart. Inside wood should not be treated because the rabbits will chew it. The plywood floors and roof should be treated since they suffer the most water damage, and rabbits rarely eat them. We had to replace the roof once since it was indoor plywood and rotted out. I do not believe in wire bottoms. They hurt and sometimes deform rabbits' feet (especially young ones). All my rabbits have litter pans and put most of their urine and a majority of their feces in the pan. Because they do not get all of it in the right place, I scrub down the hutch every five weeks with a dilute solution of bleach and water. Another reason that wire bottoms are not ideal outside is that during the winter, it is much harder to keep the rabbits warm because heat will always be lost out of the bottom. Inside, however, wire bottoms may be preferred; just be sure to provide a solid area so the bunny's feet do not have to always be on wire.
Winter and Summer Care for Outdoor Rabbits:
In the winter, I cover the windows with wood and plexi-glass. There are still cracks to provide some fresh air. If the weather goes above 95 or below 10 degrees F, I bring the rabbits inside. When the temperature is between 80 and 95 degrees F, I give the rabbits plastic bottles full of frozen water to lay next to. If you have access to electricity, run fans to cool the air during the summer.
At least once a week, the rabbits get a chance to hop in the old dog pen (about 1/8 acre) separately. I never leave them at this time. The more often you can let your rabbits hop, the better. They need exercise. They make leashes if you do not have a pen or run. The rabbit will not like the leash. Do not let the rabbit hop uncontained; even old or sick rabbits can get away from you fast. In the dog pen, it takes me 20 minutes to catch my young doe once I put her down. I could never catch her if she were not contained. Be sure there are not any poisonous plants in the pen. If you cannot rabbit-sit your bunny, be sure all six sides (that means underground and skyward too) are bunny-escape-proof and dogs, etc. cannot get in. Also, provide water and a place to hide if a predator shows up.
Do not use untreated pine or cedar shavings. They can cause respiratory problems. There is controversy over whether heat treated pine or cedar shavings are okay to use. Corncob litter, CareFresh, similar products, and hay are all other choices. Temporarily, 100% clay litter can be used in a litter pan. I used to use this but learned that the dust can harm their respiratory tract as well. Now, I only use CareFresh in my rabbits' litter pans. CareFresh is made from unused wood pulp. It is better because it is safe to eat, does not have much smell or dust, absorbs liquids and odors well, is very light, and is environmental friendly. There is a FAQ on bedding , including why shavings are bad and why CareFresh is good. They list ways to contact these companies too.
Two things should always be present before your rabbit: fresh water and grass hay (alfalfa hay is more of a treat). The basis of most rabbit diets is a good rabbit pellet. Then comes fruits and vegetables. There are too many to list. If you visit the rabbit links below, there will be extensive lists. Do not feed iceburg lettuce or large amounts of other lettuces. Favorite bunny foods include carrot, broccoli, apple, pear, cucumber, squash, zucchini, and small amounts of kale, grapes, cauliflower, parsley, and other fruits and vegetables. As treats, I occasionally give them cantaloupe, honeydew melon, strawberries, wine berries, black berries, etc. The key is to give lots of variety and not too much of one thing (especially fruits and leafy vegetables). Also, in rural areas free of grass treatments, grass, dandelion greens, clover, and many other lawn plants cannot be beat. Again, only give these in small amounts and avoid a few poisonous plants. Also, avoid giving too many greens to young rabbits. Many say not to give any greens if under six months old but my vet and I disagree. After all, feral and wild bunnies would eat nothing but greens after two months. Then, there are grains that you can give in addition to pellets. I give my rabbits about a teaspoon a day of Quaker Multigrain cereal. Oats, barley, alfalfa, etc. can be given. Whole wheat bread and other breads are also good foods, especially to add variety for a young rabbit who should not have too many "wet" foods. My rabbits like it toasted and warm in winter. Salt or mineral licks are optional since rabbit pellets contain enough of these. I provide mineral wheels for my rabbits but they do not seem to use them. There are also treats like seed and nut bars, yogurt drops, etc. These should be given sparingly. Lastly, give your rabbits papaya tablets.
Papaya tablets contain Papein which is an enzyme that makes digestion go smother. They sell them at health food stores for people. Try one, they taste great. My rabbits always eat their papaya tablet first; it is their number one favorite thing to eat. It is often recommended for angora rabbits but I give a tablet a day to all my rabbits. Some recommend giving a tablet every few days or giving a few tablets once a week. It still is not clear which is the better choice. None of my rabbits have ever gotten wool block. You can feed fresh papaya instead but it is often hard to get and/or expensive.
Grooming, Nail Trimming, Ear Cleaning, Bathing, etc.:
All rabbits should be brushed at least weekly. A slicker brush for rabbits, cats, or poodles works
well. All rabbits shed regularly. Brushing out the loose hair not only removes potential knots
but also prevents the rabbit from digesting them. Angora and other long haired rabbits must be
thoroughly brushed and knots cut out regularly.
All rabbits' nails should be trimmed every three months or so. Be sure to cut beyond the quick where the blood is. If you do not trim the nails, they can get caught on something, get torn off, and/or grow into the foot. Even so, a missing nail and some blood are common and no cause for alarm.
The rabbits' ears should also be cleaned with a kleenex or something soft every few months to remove wax and debris. This is especially true for lop-eared rabbits.
Rabbits do not require bathing unless they are severely soiled. For example, my rabbit, Loppy, will not eat hay, has constant diarrhea, and gets huge lumps of feces stuck to his rear. It is so bad that his penis, testes, and anus are all embedded and each additional excretion adds to the ball of yuck. They will not come off without soap and water for lubrication. I bathe him every five weeks in the warm months. This rabbit and often other old and/or fat rabbits cannot bathe themselves. Most rabbits will never need a bath since they can clean themselves.
Pasturella, diarrhea, cancer, wool block, and parasites are the most common problems. All are very serious and should be seen by a good rabbit vet. All are treatable but only some are curable. Prevention is best. This is done by the first vet visit to treat parasites, a good diet including hay and papaya or similar enzymes (for diarrhea and wool block prevention), and spaying/neutering (for cancer prevention). Rabbits are very fragile when it comes to their digestion. Some rabbits have maloccluded teeth that require filing. Be sure you check for this too.
Cancer is always devastating but often little can be done except preventing some cancers (ovarian, uterine, testicular) by spaying/neutering. Tumors can be surgically removed in the case of breast cancer. My rabbit, Ricky, had breast cancer. See Ricky for more information. Spaying young would have reduced (but not negated) her chances of getting this prevalent cancer.
Pasturella is the scourge of rabbit diseases. It has affected most of my rabbits horribly. Symptoms can range from sneezing, wet nose, yellow paws (from wiping nose), diarrhea, abscesses (cheeks, lungs), and internal growths. Sometimes it seemingly pops out of nowhere as it can lie dormant for years. Some rabbits just carry it, some get a mild cold, some get years of problems (see Loppy) , and some just die (see Ellie). In my experience, Baytril is the best antibiotic. There are older and newer drugs but Baytril is proven safe. Many rabbits carry pasturella. When they are stressed, they develop symptoms. Antibiotics can cause the pasturella to go into dormancy (not spread) but rarely is the rabbit actually "cured." If treated early, it is not much of a threat. Repeat treatments may be necessary. Once it has spread into the blood or vital organs (as with my rabbits) , then the rabbits will rarely survive more than a year. Half the rabbit people will say that pasturella is nothing to worry about and half will say that all rabbits with it will die from it. The truth is somewhere in between. Each case is unique. Put your rabbit on antibiotics if symtoms occur (usually sneezing and/or nasal discharge in the early stages). Expect the unexpected (good and bad).
Guinea Pigs (aka Cavies):
My guinea pigs stayed in a number of cages ranging from plastic storage boxes to wooden hutch to plastic rabbit cage. The best home was Beau's last, the Hagen plastic rabbit cage. It is 23" x 14" by 15" high. Guinea pigs need room to run and play. Anything smaller than this for a pig or two, is too small. The floor should never be made of wire since they can get their toes stuck in the rungs.
Bedding and Litter:
Never use untreated pine or cedar shavings as all can cause respiratory problems. They also are not as good as the product that I use. CareFresh is made from unused wood pulp. It is better because it is safe to eat, does not have much smell or dust, absorbs liquids and odors well, is very light, and is environmental friendly. There are other similar products. Corncobs are another choice. Visit a FAQ on bedding to learn about why shavings are bad and other products are better.
Guinea pigs require about the same as rabbits. See above . A few exceptions are that they do not like papaya tablets and do like eating oranges. They also require Vitamin C which they cannot produce. You can provide this in the pellets (specifically for guinea pigs) or oranges.
Did you know that guinea pigs can harbor a mite that is only found on guinea pigs? I did not but that is what my Beau had when he was scratching like crazy. The treatment is a series of two injections. Most guinea pigs have these mites from their parents so be sure to have the vet check for them at the pig's first visit. They are very small and white, like dandruff. Guinea pigs can also have maloccluded teeth which may require filing. Diarrhea is a common problem associated with diet. Usually, more hay is needed. Aside from these problems, guinea pigs rarely are ill. They usually just up and die at the end of their lives or due to some fast-hitting disease.
How many and what sex should I get?:
I have not found much of a behavioral difference between males and females. Either sex is fine. Some say males are easier to tame. First, I kept 3 girls and later, 3 boys. In both cases, there was fighting, often very noisy. No one got hurt. So, for dwarf Siberian hamsters, keeping 2+ boys or 2+ girls is the best setup. They must be siblings from the same litter or they may not get along. You could also get a boy and girl but expect little ones to show up. Unlike with many small mammals, daddy can stay with the mommy and babies but this can result in one litter after another. Only do this if you are a breeder who knows of homes for the offspring. For other, larger species of hamster, a single animal is best. Relatives can get along but fighting is much more common in regular hamsters.
Cages and Supplies:
Again, the bigger, the better. Often hamsters are placed in glass tanks under 10 gallons or tiny metal or plastic containers. A few hamsters should be in a 10+ gallon tank or a large metal cage. My dwarf Siberian hamsters were in an 11"x13"x25" metal cage. These cages are best left to larger species of hamsters. Mine always had their feet fall through and could not climb the ladders. Thus, I added wooden platforms and mesh over the ladders. For dwarf hamsters, I would suggest glass tanks. A 10 gallon glass fish tank is usually about $7. Cover the bottom with bedding like CareFresh or pine shavings. Do not use cedar shavings or pine shavings with additives. All metal cages have pull out bottoms where you can add newspaper. In this case, be sure to add some areas where the hamster has sure footing (wood, plastic plates, etc.). You should add a small sleeping box with soft bedding in every case. They sell a fluffy material for hamsters' beds. I gave my hamsters this and paper towels to make their beds. Also, provide tissue boxes, empty toilet rolls, blocks of untreated wood, and other toys you can buy. Hamsters love to chew and play. Exercise wheels are good but be sure they are secure and not too big (for dwarfs). Clean the litter at least once a week. Clean everything with warm water and soap at least every two weeks. Mine always got mad that I messed up their beds and would spend the next two days making a better, new bed.
Start with a high quality, mixed hamster food. It should contain other foods beside seeds. Then, also provide small pieces of carrot, other vegetables, and fruits. They eat most any vegetarian food. Feed similar foods as you would a rabbit (see above). Experiment.
Hamsters rarely get sick and when they do, they are hard to treat. They can have maloccluded teeth. These require trimming. Sometimes, hamsters catch wet tail. This is a bad diarrhea that requires treatment. There are medications available without seeing a vet. Due to their small size, hamsters are difficult to treat. Most only live a few years.
There are so many books on cats and dogs that I need not share with you the dozens that I own. Below, are the names of the books on rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters that I own. All are full of information but the ones on guinea pigs are out of date.
The New Rabbit Handbook by Lucia Vriends-Parent, Barron's, 1989.
Dwarf Rabbits: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual by Monika Wegler, Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 1992.
Completely Angora by Sharon Kilfoyle and Leslie Samson, Samson Angoras, 1996. A must- have for any angora owner.
Guinea Pigs: A Complete Introduction by Margaret Elward, T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 1987.
Guinea Pigs by Kay Ragland, T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 1979.
Hamsters: A Complete Owner's Manual by Otto von Frisch, Barron's, 1990.
A Step-by-Step Book About Dwarf Hamsters by Chris Henwood, T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 1990.
Newsgroups, Catalogs, and Web Sites
Newsgroups to which you might subscribe:
Free catalogs for cats, dogs, and small mammals from That Pet Place can be obtained by calling 1-888-THATPET.
R.C. Steele in New York has a large selection of dog and cat supplies. Call 1-800-872-3773 for a free catalog.
For dog and cat supplies, including hard to get veterinarian supplies, call Drs. Foster and Smith in WI at 1-800-826-7206 for a free catalog.
Pet Warehouse has a dog and cat and also a small animal catalog that you can receive free by calling 1-800-443-1160.
A slew of mammal links on all kind of wild and domestic mammals can be found here.
A lot of links for cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and a lot more can be found here.
Feline Diabetes Information
Rabbit FAQ from The House Rabbit Society
New York House Rabbit Society
FAQ on bedding
Angora Rabbit Breeder's Association
Angora Technical Manual
English Angora Rescue site
Guinea Pig links
Guinea Pig FAQ