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Family Matters: A Rabbit In Winter

A Rabbit In WinterPet rabbits love to live outside, and they can withstand moderately cold weather with their layer of soft fluffy fur and extra fat.

However, it’s still important to winterize your rabbit’s hutch if he’ll be outside as temperatures drop.

First, make sure it’s in good repair with no leaks where no water can seep in and no major cracks.  You don’t want it to get damp. Make sure it’s water-tight.

Make sure your rabbit hutch is raised off the ground. If the hutch doesn’t have legs, place a brick under each corner. That will allow air to circulate and alleviate any dampness. If you experience excessive rain or flooding, make sure to move the hutch indoors or raise it well above the level of the water.

Reduce draftiness by covering mesh doors with a plastic panel. Look for panels designed for greenhouses as they still allow the hutch to be ventilated without letting gusts come in. At night, you can cover the hutch with a tarp or blanket, making sure to let an area away from the wind be exposed to keep air flowing.

Make sure your rabbit’s bed is warm and dry. His bed will be a box inside the hutch, offering him further protection from the elements. Use newspaper or straw for insulation in the hutch and in his bedding.  He will burrow into it. A heating pad, turned to low, might also be a good option for your rabbit.

Family Matters: Must Love Dogs

Must Love DogsWhen you have to go out of town, as is inevitable for one reason or another, you have to make a decision about your pet: Do you board them, or do you find a pet sitter to come to your house?

I’ve tried both. While I’ve boarded my dog at fabulous places where he was well taken care of and well loved, he didn’t like it one single bit. He expressed his displeasure by refusing to leave the house again after he came home. He didn’t even want to go out in the backyard, lest we sneak him off into the car.

So, when I went out of town last week, I hired a pet sitter to come to the house.

Ideally, this person should be licensed and bonded, unless it’s your sister or best friend who you can hold accountable should anything go wrong.

The pet sitter should meet your pup before the assigned time of care. Ours came to the house twice a few days before I was scheduled to leave.

She met my dog and gave him a treat. We walked through his routine, and she asked me 8,943 questions about him, all the while petting him and loving on him before she was scheduled to actually take over.

I knew he’d be in good hands.

As a super duper bonus, she texted me pictures of my pup every evening when she came over.

Look for all these things in a good pet sitter. Make sure it’s someone you trust and someone who not only likes your pup, but he likes her as well. While being home alone is never great, at least a good pet sitter makes it a little more bearable and even fun.

Family Matters: Keeping the Fluff Off

Keeping the Fluff OffBirds can get overweight, just like humans can. In fact, it’s pretty easy for that to happen, as food is the most oftenly used reward, in place of things like exercise or toys.

You should establish good eating habits immediately with your newly weaned bird, so you won’t have to undo bad habits in the future.

Don’t use food as a reward. Instead, while you’re training them, use a favorite toy or outside (the cage) time as an incentive.

Pelleted foods are more carefully controlled and parceled out than seeds. They’re less messy, too. “Treats” can be melons or apples.

Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise outside his cage. Even if his wings are clipped, he can hop around in a larger space. Some birds even like to go on walks through the house.

Making sure your pet has a good diet and plenty of exercise makes for a happier, healthier bird.

Family Matters: Grooming

GroomingYes, cats groom themselves, but they could use some help from their human friends to stay in tip-top shape.

We see cats licking their fur to stay clean. They do a pretty good job of it, but you can also help them.

Cats don’t really need a bath. If they do, use room temperature water, and place an oven rack in your sink or bathtub. The cat will cling to that instead of to your arm.

Brush your cat regularly. They’ll probably love the feeling of being groomed with a medium-bristle brush. Don’t brush against the grain of their hair, though. That will probably ruffle some proverbial feathers.

Regular brushing keeps their skin healthy, prevents matting, and reduces shedding and hairballs.

You also need to trim their nails, no matter how many scratching posts (or table legs) you have available for them.

If your cat has fleas, it might be a good time to see your vet or professional groomer to take care of the issue.

Leave the Leftovers in the Fridge

Leave the Leftovers in the FridgeCaring for animals is a passion of mine. I’ve rescued animals of all kinds since I was a child. After we moved to Texas, I was intrigued by the wildlife it offered. I’ve lived in wooded areas like upper Michigan, cities with tall buildings and concrete like in California, and deserts with oh so much sand like in Arizona. You know the saying, “Everything is bigger in Texas?” I did not fully understand what that meant until I saw the giant squirrels, the giant mosquitoes and the giant raccoons that would come right up into my lap while eating dog food that I’d set out for my rather confused dog.

Wild animals are not pets. You should never leave leftovers outside, and you should never invite a wild animal into your home (no matter how cute they are). Why, you ask? There are multiple reasons: the main one being that they are simply wild. You do not know what to expect. It can also be unsafe, and they can be carrying all kinds of ailments that could be transferred to your home, pets and human family.

Domestic animals are raised to believe that you will eventually give them what they want. Wild animals do not do the same. If you do leave any food outside, wild animals might soon come to expect their treats, and then they might bring it upon themselves to go into your house or even your neighbor’s to get it.

Still want to enjoy the view of deer in your backyard or hear the song of birds outside your window? As long as you respect their space, they usually respect yours as well. You’ll be able to have a safe and happy relationship with your wild animal friends by treating them to items better created for them like bird seed or salt licks.

Brookshire’s carries a selection of items you could use in the pet aisle. Check out how you can make your house more animal-friendly today and leave the leftovers in the fridge. There is always a new way to recreate those dishes tomorrow!

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Family Matters: First Aid for Your Cat

First Aid for Your CatJust like with a child, it’s always best to be prepared in case of an emergency with your feline friend.

Cats can get into all sorts of trouble where first aid might be necessary.

They could get into a cat fight. If your cat is bleeding, approach him carefully to avoid getting hurt yourself. Apply pressure to the wound with a wad of gauze, tissue or a clean cloth. Hold pressure for 10 minutes. Keep your cat as calm and as still as possible during this time. You might lay the cat on its side and elevate the area where the cat is bleeding, if the cat will let you. For bleeding that won’t stop in 10 minutes, seek veterinary care. After the cut has stopped bleeding, clean with warm water and apply a topical ointment like Neosporin. Bandage with gauze, if necessary.

If your cat gets stung by a bee, it’s important to try to get the stinger out. Do so by running your fingernail along the bite, which should dislodge the stinger if it’s protruding from the skin. Apply ice or a cool compress to the sting site. A paste of baking soda and water may neutralize the sting. If it swells disproportionately, seek veterinary care immediately.

Your cat is usually pretty good at discerning what should and shouldn’t go into his mouth, but in case of accidental poisoning, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435. Staffed by a veterinary team, this line is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

When your cat is vomiting excessively, remove all food and water. If no vomiting occurs for 6 hours, reintroduce water and a little food. If vomiting persists after 24 hours, contact your vet.

Family Matters: First Aid for Your Pup

First Aid for Your PupYou should have a first aid kit at home for your hound.

You never know what kind of mischief your pup will find!

The first aid kit should include:

  • Absorbent gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antiseptic wipes, lotion, powder or spray
  • Blanket (a foil emergency blanket)
  • Cotton balls or swabs
  • Gauze rolls
  • Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting — do this only when directed by a veterinarian or a poison-control expert)
  • Ice pack
  • Non-latex, disposable gloves
  • Petroleum jelly (to lubricate the thermometer)
  • Rectal thermometer (your pet’s temperature should not rise above 103° F or fall below 100° F)
  • Scissors (with blunt ends)
  • Sterile, non-stick gauze pads for bandages
  • Sterile saline solution (sold at pharmacies)
  • Tweezers
  • A pillowcase to confine your pet for treatment
  • A pet carrier

In addition, make sure to post your veterinarian’s information, an emergency vet’s information and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline number, (888) 426-4435, somewhere that’s easily accessible.

Family Matters: Grooming Your Feathered Friend

Grooming Your Feathered FriendYour pet bird will preen with pride when you give him a good grooming.

Start by checking his beak. Bird beaks should wear evenly, and be sure your pet bird has something in his cage that he can use to peck at to help with his beak. If his beak is uneven, contact your vet who can help trim it evenly.

Then, move on to his nails. Overgrown nails can cause problems with your bird’s feet. Trim with human nail clippers or a pair of dog nail clippers. Only trim a small amount each time.

If your bird is allowed out of his cage, he’ll need his wings trimmed. Leave this to a professional the first time, but watch closely so you can do it yourself at home. Be careful not to cut any blood feathers, as treatment will require first aid.

Finish up by misting your bird. Your bird might really enjoy getting a little wet because that will encourage him to groom himself. Choose a frequency that does not stress your pet bird; some birds will tolerate a daily misting; others will only enjoy once a week. Using a spray bottle with room temperature water, lightly spray your bird all over. Then, let him groom himself. Be sure he is out of drafts when you do this.

Family Matters: Grooming Your Small Animal

Grooming Your Small AnimalLuckily for you, your small pet, like a gerbil or guinea pig, is a fastidious groomer by instinct, so there’s little for you to do.

Small animals don’t really need to be bathed unless there’s some sort of extenuating circumstances, but they can use a nail trim on occasion. Use small human nail clippers to trim the tips of your small animal’s nails. Don’t take too much off, as they need their nails for traction, digging and burrowing.

Check your small pets’ teeth for signs of even wear, and make sure they have something available in their cage to chew on. Ferrets actually require a daily brushing of teeth, so make sure you’re committed to doing that before taking one into your home.

Feel free to brush your small pet or clean his ears with small cotton swabs and a drop of baby oil.

Family Matter: Dogs Home Alone

Dogs Home AloneBack-to-school can be a lonely time for your pet. It is for my dog, Astro. All summer, he’s had the luxury of having the boys home all day to play with him and to let him in and out at his whim.

When the boys go back to school, Astro is left to his own devices in the yard or in the house. Truth be told, he has to stay outside because it’s not always guaranteed I can come home in the middle of the day to let him out for a play and potty break.

Ease him into the back-to-school routine by leaving him in a quiet house for increasingly extended periods of time as it gets closer to school resuming. This might be hard if you have kids in the house, but hey, school supply shopping takes a few hours, at least.

You might use a white noise machine or leave your radio on set to a classical (soothing music, no heaving metal head banging for your pet) while you’re gone.

Make sure there are not too many temptations around the house of objects he could easily destroy. You might consider gating him into one room or area.

Fill a Kong toy will all kinds of toys to keep your pet occupied during the day. If your pet is outside, leave ropes, balls and other toys in the yard for fun and to help keep him occupied.

If your dog will be outside, fill a bowl with a few toys, then add water and freeze. Leave the ice block outside in the yard for him, and he will uncover the toys as the ice block melts during the day.

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