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Family Matters: Feeding Your Rabbit


Feeding Your RabbitWe went to the state fair recently and spent some time walking around the rabbit exhibit. There are so many breeds and types of rabbit, each seemingly cuter than the next.

Rabbits make good small pets. They can live either inside or outside, and they don’t require a lot of exercise. They certainly don’t make much noise. You can even litter-train them.

One of the best things about bunnies as pets is that they can eat so much human food. No Doritos, mind you, but a bunny should be able to eat small portions of the following things:

  • Arugula
  • Beet greens
  • Bok choy
  • Carrot greens
  • Celery
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Dandelion greens
  • Green peppers
  • Romaine lettuce (NO iceberg: they can’t digest it)
  • Mint
  • Raspberry leaves
  • Radicchio
  • Swiss chard
  • Cauliflower
  • And SMALL amounts of: Kale, broccoli, carrots and collards


Family Matters: Handle With Care


Handle With CareCats aren’t called man’s best friend. That title is reserved for dogs.

Cats get a bad rep sometimes, as being more aloof and standoffish than other types of pets. Training your cat to be friendly is a great way to forge a fabulous bond with your feline friend.

Handle them with care. Cats don’t like to roughhouse like dogs often do. Touch, hold and pet your cat gently from an early age. They will be more responsive, loving and touching if they feel you can be trusted to treat them gently.

Your cat can be taught to come when you call him. Use a gentle voice to repeat their name, and reward them with a small treat when they respond to their name and to your command.

Be affectionate with your cat, and keep him close to you, whether that’s letting him sit on your lap while you watch TV, letting him take a nap beside you or letting him walk over you when you’re sitting at your desk. You may want to wrap him in a soft blanket and cuddle him close to you as well. Take care when you’re picking him up, as that interaction will set the stage for how much he lets you cuddle.



Family Matters: Transitioning from the Crib


Transitioning from the CribTransitioning your toddler from his crib or co-sleeping situation to his own bed can be a little daunting, but it might be an effortless move.

When it’s appropriate for your toddler, start by putting the new bed into his room. Talk about the new bed. Let him sit on it, climb up and down from it, and start to let him lie on it with his familiar blanket or stuffed toys.

His first bed might be a toddler-sized bed, depending on his age. You may or may not put a safety railing on one side, and put the other side against the wall. Your child might not need the safety rails, depending on his comfort level and yours, and whether he’s likely to wander.

You might start the transition with his nap times, and build up to spending the entire night in his Big Boy Bed.

Make his new bed exciting! Find bedding, pillows or stuffed toys in a theme he loves, and use those on his bed.

Some children need a quick transition, and it’s best to take the crib away when you introduce the new bed. Other children need the security of having their crib around, just in case.

My older son moved out of his crib at a pretty early age because his baby brother was taking it over. We moved him to an entirely new room, and he never missed the crib when he had his new toddler bed.

Whenever and however you choose to transition, you probably don’t need to fight your child over it. When he is ready, he will move. He probably won’t still be sleeping in a crib when he goes to kindergarten. At some point, he’ll want the “big boy” status the new bed imparts.



Family Matters: Baby’s Feet


Baby's FeetMy friend’s daughter is just about 10 months and has just taken her first steps. But she’s decided she hates all kinds of shoes and socks.

That’s OK!

In fact, many pediatricians actually recommend letting your little one learn to walk in bare feet. They can get a good feeling for how their foot grips the floor, they can develop a natural gait and they’ll probably be more confident and comfortable as they venture forth into the world. The bones of the foot don’t fully develop until about 5 years of age, so baby’s foot is naturally flexible and wiggles into the best position for them to feel comfortable walking as they take their first steps.

When you do buy baby shoes, let it be a flexible, soft shoe, not the hard ones with ankle supports that we probably wore as toddlers.



Family Matters: Kangaroo Care


Kangaroo CareSkin-to-skin contact is great for your new baby!

Sometimes called “kangaroo care” because a mama kangaroo carries her baby snuggly in her pouch, skin-to-skin contact has been shown to calm your infant, stabilize her temperature and heartbeat, and make her happier.

Start immediately. When baby is born, place her directly on mom’s bare chest. If mom is recovering from the birth, dad’s bare chest works exactly the same way.

As much skin-to-skin contact a baby can get in the first weeks of life is best. It has been shown to reduce allergies, help with feeding and, of course, help with bonding. If baby is breast-feeding, this can happen naturally and frequently, but don’t forget about dad. It’s important for him to spend the same kind of time with baby.

Kangaroo care is also important for preemies and babies born with a few complications, like unstable blood sugar.

Don’t worry if the delivery was rough, and you can’t initiate kangaroo care immediately. Do it when it’s safe for all involved.



Family Matters: Halloween Parties


Halloween Parties Somehow my boys talked me into having a Halloween party this year.

We were in a local Halloween store, and my older son was begging me to buy a fog machine.

“We don’t need a fog machine,” I reasoned. Who sits around the living room enveloped in fog?

“We could use it for a Halloween party,” he said.

“What Halloween party?” I fired back.

Then, I got to thinking about it: My boys LOVE Halloween. We’ve never had a Halloween party, so why not?
Good, solid logic, I decided.

We didn’t buy the fog machine (my best friend has one I can borrow), but we will have ambiance at the party.

The boys are so excited.

They’ve even sat with me, and we browsed Pinterest boards to plan for the big event. They want the fog machine, of course. We’ll string spooky spider webs up around the covered porch in the backyard and replace the lightbulbs on the front porch with black lights.

We’ll hang paper lanterns from the big tree out back, which will also be festooned with scary spider webs and glow-in-the-dark spiders.

The food table will feature grilled sausages spilling out of a stuffed shirt, which will be attached to a bowl of potato salad for the “head” (grapes for eyes, pimentos for a mouth) and a pair of stuffed jeans for legs. The spooky specter’s hands will be food service gloves stuffed with popcorn and candy corn fingernails.

I wanted to put out bowls of peeled grapes and cold spaghetti for eyeballs and brains, but they declared that “so last century.”

“You probably did that when YOU were growing up, Mom,” they said.

Well, yes. Yes, I did, and I loved it.

They will love having friends over. We’ll light a fire in the chiminea on the porch and maybe bob for apples because some things that are so last century are still fun today. We’ll play some scary music, give the costumed guests glow necklaces and bracelets, and the kids will have a memory to take with them for the rest of their lives.

When they’re parents, they can tell their sons that fog machines and spider webs are SO 2016.



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.



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