Many people with indoor rabbits would like to let them roam free in the house, giving them more space and including them in daily family life, but worry that they will have to spend their time picking up droppings and wiping up wee. They might however not realise that rabbits, like cats, can be trained to use a litterbox.
If you haven’t already done so, you will need to spay or neuter your pet, as an unspayed or unneutered rabbit will be almost impossible to litter train. You will also need to keep the rabbit in a confined space until they’re fully grown. Unlike with dogs and cats, it’s much easier to train older rabbits, as their attention span and learning abilities are very limited when as babies or very young.
Litter training a rabbit can take some time, and accidents will most certainly happen, so make sure you have enough patience to get through the process with your pet. Rabbits, like most animals, will not respond well to any type of punishment, so never tell your rabbit off when he or she has done something wrong. This will only make them forget what they have learned, and they will be more reluctant to try again.
Choose The Right Place
While the rabbit is learning, you will need to keep him or her in a confined space in the house. Bathrooms or utility rooms are good places, but you can also set up a playpen, ideally in a room that is not carpeted.
You will most likely be needing several litter boxes further along in the training process, but start with one. If you notice that the rabbit keeps going into a different corner to wee or poo, move the box to their preferred place.
The Litter Box
Rabbits want space to stretch out in the box, so make sure you get one that is big enough. You will be able to find boxes specifically designed for rabbits, but the best option is normally a simple medium sized tray-type cat litter box. Just make sure the rabbit can easily hop into it.
Prep the box with a layer of absorbent litter. Carefresh is a perfect alternative as it soaks up any unwanted odeurs, but you can also use shredded paper or wood based solutions. Don’t use anything that will be dangerous for the rabbit to ingest, as they will nibble on the bedding. Make sure to also stay away from softwoods like pine or cedar, as well as clay-based or clumping litter, as they can be harmful to your bunny.
Put a good layer of good quality hay on top of the bedding, and add some of the droppings and urine-soaked bedding. This will guide the rabbit to the right spot.
Try It Out With Your Bunny
Let the rabbit into the training room or area, and stay with him or her. When you see them leave droppings or urinate, immediately lift them up and put both the bunny and the droppings in the tray. Talk softly and pet him or her. This should after a while hopefully get the message across that the litter box is the right place to go. Spend as much time as possible doing this over a few days. When you need to leave, put the rabbit back in the hutch or smaller enclosure. Repeat daily until you can trust them to know where to go.
When you think you rabbit is ready to move on you can gradually expand the area where the rabbit is kept. Don’t overwhelm them with the whole house at once, as that will only mean that the rabbit will forget where the litter box is, and all that hard training will go to waste.
Notice where accidents tend to happen, and put out extra litter boxes there. This might mean you have to move the rabbits cage or rearrange some furniture, but once you have got it right it will be worth it.
It’s important to note that very few rabbits are 100% reliable with their litter box. Accidents will probably keep occurring throughout the rabbit’s life, and that doesn’t mean that the training has failed. It is also normal for the rabbit to leave a few droppings right next to the box or sometimes urinate on, or over, the edge of the tray. Put a mat or some paper under the box to make it easy to clean.
This entry was posted in Rabbits on September 12th, 2019 by linnearask
Elderly pet-owners will need a little help looking after their furry or feathered friends. Shopping for pet food, training, grooming, and cleaning out cages and litter trays are all factors to be considered.
If a pet falls ill, it will need taking to a vet, or medication may have to be given. Lack of transport and shaky hands can suddenly become problems in these circumstances.
The level of assistance needed will, of course, depend very much on the physical and mental health of the pet owner.
But in spite of these considerations, pets and older people are a perfect match – as long as you get the right pet!
Pets to Avoid
For many older people, owning a pet is all about companionship. So, although an iguana, goldfish or tarantula may be low maintenance, they don’t exactly exude personality and friendship. Reptiles, fish and insects can therefore be placed in the category ‘Dedicated Enthusiasts Only’.
Rodents are not ideal choices, either. They are fast moving, and can easily escape from an open cage. Some, such as the hamster, are largely nocturnal too, losing several points on the ‘companionship’ scale.
The Best Bird Companions
Small cage birds make good pets for seniors. Larger species such as parrots are long-lived, and this can present mounting problems if an owner becomes increasingly frail with the passing years.
A budgie is a good option. These birds are intelligent, easily hand-tamed, and once trained they will return to their cage unassisted after playing and flying indoors. Some also learn to talk, which reinforces the companionship enormously. Add to this the fact that their cages can be kept on holders at shoulder-height, with easy access for cleaning and feeding, and you have the perfect pet for older people.
Canaries and other pet finches can be good choices too, but it has to be said that they lack the big personality, trainability and talkativeness of budgies. There are other plus points, though, notably the beautiful song of the canary.
The Best Cat Companions
In many ways the cat is an ideal pet for seniors. But it isn’t just a question of arriving at Gran’s door with a kitten and expecting everything to be fine!
A kitten will need to be house-trained, and won’t instantly be the placid lap-loving cat that many elderly owners will be looking for. An older cat, on the other hand, will have ‘grown in’ to its personality. You could choose a placid, indoor-loving coach-potato breed such as the Persian, Russian Blue or Ragdoll if laps and cuddles are the priority.
Ideally the cat should still be given access to the outdoors to prevent the chore of cleaning a litter tray every day. In this respect one of the ideal breeds is the Abyssinian. Super-friendly and incredibly tame, they are also lovers of the great outdoors, mixing and matching house and garden perfectly.
If a cat is being adopted from a previous home, you will be able to find out all about its personality. Many ‘moggies’ of a non-specific breed turn out to be the perfect pet for seniors, after a little investigation into the animal’s background.
Bear in mind, though, that cats can live up to 20 years – a big time commitment if someone is already worrying about health and mobility in later life. But once again, this is where the animal’s independence becomes a great asset. Most cats, even though they love their owners, can pretty much look after themselves.
The Best Dog Companions
For an elderly person with mobility, dogs are a great pet choice. Several breeds thrive with just a little daily exercise. Many of these are at the smaller end of the scale – dogs such as the Miniature Poodle, Shih Tzu, Maltese, Bichon Frise, and good-natured individuals from the West Highland and Yorkshire Terrier families. Smaller dogs have smaller appetites too – a major consideration if money is an issue.
However, some smaller dogs can be very yappy or snappy – not a great combination. Breeds to beware of for these reasons include Chihuahua, Jack Russell, and Dachshund.
If the owner is still able to walk a mile or two a day, a Golden Retriever makes a great choice. But with all breeds you need to bear in mind longevity – a dog that needs walking at six months old may still be demanding walkies at 15.
Pets For Therapy
It’s a well known fact that pets are therapeutic. Some care homes hold regular pet therapy sessions in which residents spend quality time with cats, dogs, and other tame animals.
Pets bring positive benefits for mental health across all age groups, and can also prevent loneliness becoming a problem. We all need affection, and pets deliver it with no questions asked!
However, having a pet-handling session in a care home is a different proposition to an elderly person keeping a pet in their own home. All animals need a certain amount of looking after, and if mobility is an issue, even a simple chore such as cleaning a cage can become difficult. In these circumstances, seniors will need a little assistance.
But if you get it right, a pet can bring so many positives into an elderly person’s life – companionship, stimulation, stress relief, and that most important human need of all: love.
This entry was posted in Pets on September 9th, 2019 by linnearask
Curly Coated Retriever
As a dog owner you’ve probably wondered how old your dog would be in human years. And you’ve probably came across the rule that one year for your dog equals seven human years. But this rule is actually far from accurate and the math is not that simple. Dogs mature at a different rate to humans and also the size and breed have to be taken into consideration. Smaller dogs generally mature faster and live longer than larger breeds, and cross and mix breeds tend to live longer than purebreds. The exact reason why small dogs live longer than large dogs is still unknown (generally speaking, large mammals tend to live longer than small ones). Scientists did conclude that every 4.4 pounds of body mass reduced a dog’s life expectancy by about a month.
Compared to humans, dogs age more quickly during the first years of their lives and slower toward the end. Calculating your dog’s age relative to humans is a bit tricky, but more or less possible with this figure:
The four stages of a dog’s life
Emotional and physical maturity occurs over an extended period of time and in stages, although every dog develops at his or her own rate depending on their size, breed and personality. Here’s an overview of what you can expect during the different phases.
PUPPYHOOD – Usually ends between 6 and 18 months of age
Puppies of smaller breeds develop into adults clearly faster than puppies from larger breeds. Small dogs are fully grown at the age of 10 – 12 months, while larger dogs can still be considered puppies for eighteen months, even up to two years. All puppies are born deaf, blind and unable to regulate their own body temperature. After four weeks, puppies are weaned from their mother’s milk gradually over a period of 2 – 3 weeks and start to eat puppy food. When their senses develop, puppies gets to know the right way to interact with humans, other dogs, and other pets. Socializing and the socialization process are extremely important during this period. A puppy should spend the first eight to ten weeks of its life with his mother and siblings.
ADOLESCENCE – Starts between 6 and 18 months of age
Adolescence is probably the most challenging period in a dog’s life. In this stage of the life cycle hormones start to kick in. If not spayed/neutered, your dog may begin to act like a teenager, reluctant to pay attention and more likely to exhibit undesirable behaviour. Your dog will start to grow in his second set of teeth at between six and eight months of age. His teeth will be sore and he will do anything to help ease the discomfort. This means chewing on… everything! Make sure you give your dog suitable chew toys at this stage. Your dog will also lose his puppy fur and experience significant growth spurts. Adolescence is the perfect time to start with obedience training.
ADULTHOOD – Starts between 12 and 36 months of age
Generally speaking, small dogs hit adulthood in about a year, large breeds in two and giant dogs in three. Adulthood usually marks the end of a dog’s growth and your dog’s height and size have reached a point that’s typical for an adult of his or her breed and sex. Visible signs of adulthood in male dogs is when they starts to lift their leg while urinating and in a females when they go into heat for the first time. During adulthood dogs are usually in the best shape of their lives and they will need plenty of exercise and stimulating activities to keep them engaged. An adult dog is emotionally and physically mature and behaviour will be more difficult to change.
SENIORITY– Between 6 and 10 years of age
At this point in your dog’s life, you most likely have noticed signs of him getting older. Your dog may still enjoy a long walk, but he is not quite as bouncy as he used to be and it may take him a bit longer to respond to your commands. Just like us, dogs get older gradually and the ageing process affects dogs in the same way that it affects humans. Older dogs may need more rest and it’s important they have their own quiet place with a soft, comfortable bed away from draughts where they won’t be disturbed. It is important to know when your dog reaches this stage of life because of the changes needed to, amongst other things, its diet and exercise. Your veterinarian can help you identify when it’s time to make these adjustments.
This entry was posted in Dogs on September 5th, 2019 by linnearask
Moving home can be very stressful. Not just for you and your family, but for your pets too.
It’s less of an issue for smaller animals kept in cages or enclosures. But even pet rodents and birds will need to be transported to the new residence, and none of them will enjoy the journey.
Of all the pets, though, it’s cats and dogs that take the brunt of the stress when moving. Everything they’ve come to know and rely on in terms of safe places, personal spaces, territories, and familiar scents and sounds disappears.
Here are a few tips to help your furry friends chill-out at this most disruptive of times.
Helping Pets Move Out
There’s a shortcut to a stress-free move: put your dog or cat in a kennel or cattery, or hand them over to a dog- or cat-sitter. That way they can ride out the chaos in relative peace and quiet, and you can collect them once the dust has settled at the other end of the moving process.
If you decide instead to let your pet ride out the storm with you, there are several things you can do to make it easier on them.
- Put your pet in a safe space – a quiet room in the house away from the main activity of boxes, moving furniture and sweaty removal men. Put familiar things in the room such as bowls and favourite toys, and make sure your pet spends time there in the weeks before the move, to get used to it. This applies not just to cats and dogs, but to small mammals and cage birds too.
- If your dog has a crate, that might be an even better option. Similarly, if your cat is happy chilling out in a cat crate or box, let them.
- Nominate one member of the family to be responsible for pet wellbeing throughout the move.
- Some owners recommend spraying a cat box or basket with calming pheromones (available from vets or pet shops). The calming effect can be increased by covering the crate with a sheet to keep it dark.
Pets On The Road
Some pets enjoy travelling. Others hate it. Highway blues can be minimised in the following ways.
- If your pet is already used to travelling in a car, great. If not, introduce them to the inside of the vehicle in the weeks before the move.
- Dogs should be secured with a doggy seat belt, or installed in a crate if that’s possible. Cats should always be transported in cat crates, and ideally they should be used to these before making the journey. Never let an animal remain loose in a car during the move; and don’t make a dog travel in the strange and scary surroundings of the removal van.
- For smaller cage pets, the journey is bound to be stressful. If possible let them remain in a covered cage and put plenty of soft items around it to prevent it moving around during the journey. If you need to transfer the animals to carrying boxes, make sure these are placed somewhere dark, with no chance of moving around. Never put the box in the glove compartment – there’s a chance of noxious fumes building up in there.
- If the journey is long, take breaks to allow your cat or dog to drink and, in the case of a dog, to exercise and relieve itself.
Helping Pets Move In
It takes time for pets to settle into new surroundings. But the first few hours are likely to be the most stressful, so, again, make it as painless for your pet as possible.
- Choose a quiet settling-in room, put the pet’s basket or blanket in there, along with some other familiar items, and then close the door for as long as it takes for your stuff to be relocated from the removal lorry to the new house or flat.
- Once everything is inside and the doors and windows are all closed, let your pet out for an exploration of the new place. Keep close, to reassure them. Most pets will relax within five minutes after a good sniff around, and will happily accept a tasty treat.
- If you have a cat, rub its head and cheeks with a cloth, and then rub the cloth on surfaces and skirting boards around the new place. This will transfer the cat’s natural pheromones.
- Put the pet’s bed in the place you intend it to sleep in, rather than letting it spend a few nights here, there and everywhere. Routine and familiarity are what it’s all about.
- When outside, keep your dog on a lead in the first few days, to prevent him chasing new scents and getting lost, or attempting to head for his former residence, which for a short time will still be ‘home’ in his brain.
- Keep cats indoors for at least one week, otherwise they will wander away. This is very likely to happen if you have not moved very far. Only let them out after dark once you’re confident that they have properly settled in.
- Make sure your pets are microchipped and have IDs on their collars, in case they stray.
Pets soon settle into a new home. All they really need is a little time, the reassurance of your continuing presence, and the sight and smell of familiar toys, food and bedding.
It’s these things, rather than a mere accident of geography, that means ‘home’ to a happy pet.
This entry was posted in Cats on September 3rd, 2019 by linnearask