Nov 162011
 
Iguana

Iguana

Download the care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
Specimen’s lengths can range from 4-6 feet and their weight can be between 14-20 lbs.

Life Span
20+ years with proper care.

Male/Female Differences
Males have dorsal spines that are noticeably longer and thicker than females. Males also have highly developed femoral pores on the underside of their thighs which secrete a scent. Females are generally smaller in size and have slimmer heads and wider abdomens.

Compatibility
Young iguanas are very timid and will not like human contact. Do not be intimidated by its tail whips, hisses, scratches, or bites; take slow steps and in time the iguana will be successfully socialized. It is highly advised not to keep multiple iguanas together because of their sheer size, territorial grounds, and aggression.

Origin
North, Central, and South America.

Climate
Arboreal, tropical parts of the Americas.

Day Cycle
Diurnal (awake during the day)

Temperature
The appropriate temperature is critical in maintaining the iguana active and healthy. Keep the temperature at 80-95°F during the day and 75-80°F at night. Provide a temperature gradient across the habitat, with areas to bask and shade, so the iguana can regulate his/her own body heat

Lighting
Appropriate lighting is important since wild iguanas enjoy the full power of the sun; their captive habitat must attempt to replicate their natural environment as much as possible. The lighting should provide three things – UVB, UVA, and heat. UVB rays provide D3, a vitamin, which allows for the metabolization and absorption of calcium. Heat and UVA rays help regulate the iguana’s feeding, activity, and mating. Lighting should be on for 10-12 hours a day with an emphasis on a consistent day/night cycle. Be careful to place their heat source somewhere the iguana cannot reach it, because burns are a serious and common injury to reptiles.

Humidity
Humidity is essential to the general health of the iguana because these reptiles receive the majority of their water intake directly from the moisture in the air. Humidity within the enclosure should be maintained around 90-100% and monitored with a hygrometer.

Habitat/Territory
Green iguanas reside in the highest branches of arboreal and tropical areas.

Substrate/Bedding
Reptile carpet or anything that can be easily disinfected cleaned and dried. Bark chips can also be used, but must be changed a couple times a week, as bark can get dirty and moist very quickly. Bark chips may also harbor parasites and mites, which can be difficult to get rid of.

Hiding Place/Den
Non-toxic hiding places will provide a spot where an iguana can retreat to if it feels threatened or uncomfortable. This is especially important for young iguanas that may not always want attention. The best things you can add to their environment are animal safe branches, vines and plants. Iguanas are disposed to climbing high places and the vines and plants will replicate their natural surroundings nicely.

Cage Type
Aquariums can be used to house juvenile iguanas, but nothing less than a 30-gallon tank. As they grow, it would be cost effective to purchase a custom built cage designed to house a fully mature iguana. This means an enclosure at least 8 feet high, 8 feet long, and 4 feet wide. Many dedicated owners redesign a room specifically intended for their iguana given that they grow to be so large. Make sure the area is escape-proof.

Diet
A varied and balanced diet is important for the long-term health of the iguana. Make sure to offer a wide selection of vegetables and fruits so that they do not become selective and hooked on a few foods. Juveniles require a higher protein content and for this reason they should be fed commercial pellets as the staple until it is three years old. Their diet should consist of 90% greens and 10% fruits since iguanas are herbivorous. Healthy vegetables, fruits, and plants include mustard greens, collard greens, kale, green beans, peas, carrots, mangos, papayas, apples, bananas, melon, dandelion flowers, and hibiscus flowers. Most fruits are high in phosphorus and for this reason they should be given sparingly.

Supplements
Calcium supplements are recommended daily, given that young iguanas are prone to calcium deficiencies. Vitamin and mineral supplements should also be administered once a week. Since these supplements are usually in powder form, simply sprinkle over their food.

Diet Precautions
Try not to feed animal protein to iguanas because their bodies are not designed to deal with it. Doing so may cause rapid, unhealthy growth. Avoid a uniform diet. Inadequate and excessive amounts of calcium and phosphorus are also issues with feeding the same foods.

Feeding
Chop/grate all the ingredients into a size that can easily fit into the iguana’s mouth and then sprinkle calcium powder on top of it. Feed the iguana appropriate amounts twice a day. Be careful not to overfeed and make sure you are alternating both foods and supplements.

Water Source
Provide a constant supply of clean, fresh, and chlorine-free water. Change their water pan twice a day. Iguanas are capable swimmers and should be allowed to exercise. Fill up a kiddie pool or bathtub a couple times a week and drop them in. Keep a close eye on the iguana to make sure it is comfortable.
Grooming The habitat must have the correct humidity in order for the iguana to properly shed its skin. Allowing the iguana to swim in a bathtub or kiddie pool will also facilitate their shedding of old skin.
Oral and Foot Care The iguana’s nails may need to be clipped every month depending on the level of their activity. Use cat safe nail clippers.

Proper Handling
Juveniles should be picked up with both hands making sure to support their body. Adults should not be handled unless they are completely comfortable with you. Never grab an iguana by their tail, since it can easily break off. Always wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap after handling a lizard.

Habitat Maintenance
Spot clean their enclosure daily; iguanas tend to relieve themselves in the water provided, so change the water often. They can also be trained to go on newspaper and in time will go on nothing but paper. Thoroughly clean their habitat once a week with a mild bleach solution, rinse it clean, allow it to dry, and replace the substrate.

Health Concerns
Iguanas are prone to metabolic bone disease (MBD), respiratory infections, kidney disease, severe burns, mites, and intestinal impaction. MBD is a serious, but preventable condition brought on about by lack of calcium or vitamin D3. Symptoms include lethargy, soft bones, and swollen limbs. Appropriate UVB lighting and a differentiated diet will help counteract this disease. Improper temperatures cause respiratory infections, which may become fatal. Irregular swimming, breathing difficulties, and lethargy are all symptoms of infection. Consult your veterinarian immediately. Kidney disease is mainly caused by dehydration. Symptoms include weight loss, lethargy, and frequent drinking. Correctly adjusting the humidity, offering clean water, and weekly swims should cure the problem. Severe burns are a serious and common injury to reptiles because they often get too close to their heat source and do not realize they are in harm’s way. Iguanas are susceptible to mites and parasites if their habitat is not disinfected or cleaned often. Intestinal impaction can occur if the iguana eats his/her substrate, toys, or any other non-digestible items.

Nov 162011
 

Download the care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
Between 0.5-4 inches in length

Life Span
Potentially 6-15 years

Male/Female Differences
In males, the reproductive organ is located below the heart and open to the outside at the base of the last pair of legs, whereas in females, it is located at the base of the middle pair of walking legs.

Compatibility
Hermit crabs generally get along with one another as long as there are enough shells for them to hide in. Since they often outgrow their shells, there are often competitions for any available shells.

Origin
Most hermit crabs come from the Caribbean.

Climate
Coming from the Caribbean, hermit crabs enjoy a heated environment.

Day Cycle
Hermit crabs are mostly active during night.

Temperature
Hermit crabs enjoy a temperature between 70 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lighting No overhead light is necessary for fear of drying out the habitat. Regular house lights are sufficient enough for them.

Humidity
Humidity is key when it comes to the hermit crabs. It should stay between 70-80%.

Habitat/Territory
If there is more than one crab in a tank, there should be sufficient space between them to prevent them from running into one another. Shells varying in color and size should also be distributed around the tank in order for the crab to change shells.

Substrate/Bedding
Clean gravel or sand may be used as a substrate for the hermit crab. Using crushed coral will aid in calcium absorption for a strong exoskeleton. Provide a molting box with at least two inches of moist sand to encourage healthy molting.

Hiding Place/Den
A hiding shelter should be provided for the crab so that it has a place to sleep during the day. As mentioned before, scattered shells are also great to have.

Cage Type
Generally speaking, there should be about one gallon of space per two hermit crabs. The size of the glass aquarium strictly depends upon how many hermit crabs there are and how much space is to be allotted to them.

Diet
Hermit crabs are omnivorous meaning they eat both animal and plant matter. Bloodworms and baby shrimp are great choices for these fellows.

Supplements
Crushed cuttlebone is a great supplement for it provides them with calcium. This helps to strengthen them especially during the stages when they start to molt.

Diet Precautions
Although they are able to eat plant matter, hermit crabs should also be fed vegetables.

Feeding
Hermit crabs should be fed one teaspoon of prepared food in a powdered form. Hermit crabs are scavengers therefore, a variety of proteins such as fish meal and plant matter should be provided. Preferences are vegetables and fruits with natural sugar content.

Water Source
It is recommended to provide a soaked natural sponge with dechlorinated water.

Grooming
Hermit crabs are molters, which means that they shed their outer skin every so often. When it does this, gently clean it. However, a small bathing bowl should be provided with water that has no chlorine in it. This way, the crab may bathe when it wishes to.

Oral and Foot Care
Hermit crabs have very sensitive abdomens and should not be squeezed or dropped.

Proper Handling
Hermit crabs are docile animals and respond well to being handled however if frightened, they may pinch the hand that holds it. In this case, submerge the hand in temperate and dechlorinated water to get the crab to release. They will only snap their claws if they feel threatened or if they are pinched too tightly.

Habitat Maintenance
A deep cleaning of the tank every one to two weeks is highly recommended. Uneaten food and any molten skin should be removed daily. Water should also be rinsed and changed daily.

Health Concerns
Since the hermit crab molts, they become highly sensitive to their environment. They bodies are soft and sensitive to everything. If there are other crabs with it, it molten crab should be isolated from the others until it recovers. A shallow dish of dechlorinated water should be provided for the crab to walk around in to rinse the shell from excrement and to freshen the primitive gill. This should be done every two to three days for about ten to twenty minutes.

Nov 162011
 
Sugar Glider

Sugar Glider

Download the care sheet here (pdf)

Adult Size
12”, including 6” of tail, 3 to 5.3 oz

Life Span
10-15 years

Male/Female Differences
Sexing sugar gliders is easy: males have a bald spot on their heads. It’s really a scent gland. Females have a pouch.

Compatibility
In the wild, sugar gliders live in groups 15 to 30 strong. In the home, sugar gliders are most compatible when raised together. Older animals may not accept new members into their group.

Origin
Australia and Indonesia

Climate
70’s to the mid 90’s, temperatures found in tropical forests.

Day Cycle
Nocturnal.

Temperature
Average household temperature is fine. Sugar gliders like it warm, so several may pile into their sleeping box together.

Lighting
Being nocturnal, these animals need to avoid bright lights. Low light situations may help them come out during the day.

Humidity
Household humidity suits sugar gliders well.

Habitat/Territory
Sugar gliders climb and glide in the tops of trees searching for food at night. They sleep the day away in the hollows of trees. Males will mark their sleeping area with their scent glands.

Substrate/Bedding
Use recycled or pelleted paper products or pelleted aspen. Use cloth or mesh bags for their sleeping areas, without any bedding.

Hiding Place/Den
Their hiding place is their sleeping hole. Place it high in the cage to imitate their natural habitat. Use fleece or marble bags, as they are easy to clean.

Cage Type
Large bird cages work very well for sugar gliders. It must give them space to climb and jump around. The addition of branches and ropes will meet their need to explore and play, and a safe running wheel will provide more exercise. Sugar gliders have been known to chew through screen vivariums.

Diet
In the wild, their diet consists of various saps, pollens, and insects. In the home, their basic dietary needs are met with specially formulated pellet food. Sugar gliders need proteins like superworms and boiled eggs. Yoghurt is a favorite treat and gives them both protein and calcium. Fruits, such as melons, apples, oranges and peaches, add vitamins and fiber. Vegetable or fruit baby food also makes a nice treat. Give variety; sugar gliders, just like people, need different foods.

Supplements
Sugar gliders most often have deficiencies in vitamin A and calcium – lizard or bird vitamin/calcium supplements work well. It’s best to dust insects with the supplement – a pinch in a bag with the insect works well. Dietary enzymes help sugar gliders get more nutrition and prevent hair impactions. Honey seed bars are favorite treats.

Diet Precautions
Limit nuts; they’ll eat them and ignore other foods. Avoid chocolate and other foods with caffeine.

Feeding
Give fresh food in the evening; being nocturnal, feeding during the day will let it spoil. Feed 1/3 to ½ cup food.

Water Source
Water bottles, cleaned and changed daily, offer a cleaner option than a water dish – it’ll soon be tipped over, splashed out, or soiled.

Grooming
Sugar gliders groom each other as part of their social interaction. Gentle brushing with a soft bristle brush will keep their fur looking good and help with bonding. Weekly rub downs with pet wipes will keep them smelling clean.

Oral and Foot Care
Sugar gliders may need to have their nails carefully clipped. This can be done at home with proper instruction, or your vet or Wilmette Pet can do this. Use safe running wheels to prevent injury to their feet. Offer fruit tree branches for them to chew on.

Proper Handling
Handle daily to help them bond to you. Since they sleep during the day, you can carry them with you in a shirt pocket or a pouch. Spend some time with them in the evening.

Habitat Maintenance
Clean soiled areas of the cage daily. Remove food daily to prevent spoilage. Clean cage weekly, and wash any pouches or hammocks they are using.

Health Concerns
Diarrhea from unclean habitat or poor diet. A limited diet can also cause constipation. Obesity is possible from a lack of the chances for exercise.

Nov 162011
 
Rabbit

Rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus

Download the care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
3 – 5 pounds, depending on breed

Life Span
7 – 12 years, depending on breed

Male/Female Differences
After about 6 weeks of age, the sex organ, when pressed out with the thumb and forefinger, will appear more rounded in a male and more V shaped in a female.

Compatibility
In general, rabbits should be of the same sex and size if they are to be housed together. Ideally the rabbits should have been kept together from a young age. Keeping two or more rabbits is greatly advantageous, but rabbits introduced at older ages can be aggressive.

Origin
All domestic rabbits were bred from the wild European cotton tail.

Climate
Local climate is ideal. Rabbits will be happy with standard household temperatures. A rabbit kept in an outdoor hutch should be shielded from cold winds in the winter and hot sun in the summer.

Day Cycle
Diurnal (awake during the day.)

Temperature
Ideal 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lighting
No special lighting is required, but rabbits, like all creatures, will benefit greatly from natural sunlight, and a normal day/night cycle.

Humidity
Ambient humidity is ideal. Arid climates can be harsh on rabbits, as well as excessive humidity – over 70% can be dangerous, as rabbits are highly susceptible, to heat stroke.

Habitat/Territory
Deciduous forest, woodland, and grassland, but there are species of rabbit and hare living all over the world! Pet rabbits have a long history of domestication and household environs suit them well.

Substrate/Bedding
Aspen shavings, compressed hardwood pellets, or recycled paper products are ideal. Cedar and pine shavings can emit gasses that may lead to liver problems.

Hiding Place/Den
Rabbits will greatly enjoy a hiding place that is snug, but gives them enough room to stand, turn around, and lie down.

Cage Type
Bigger is better! Minimally four times the size of your rabbit is fine, but if the rabbit is to be kept in the cage the majority of the time, the cage should be at least half again as large. Rabbits kept outside in a hutch should have a great deal of space – four feet by two is great.

Diet
A pelleted rabbit food should be fed to insure that your rabbit is meeting all of his/her nutritional needs. On top of that, rabbits over six weeks of age should fed supplemental fresh vegetables (dark leafy greens are best.) Hay should always be available to your rabbit as a high amount of fiber is necessary for the rabbits slow digestive system.

Supplements
Yucca extracts and digestive enzymes can be very helpful in controlling impaction from ingested hair, as well as maintaining an attractive coat.

Diet Precautions
Always have fresh hay available as a source of fiber. Rabbits under six weeks of age should not be fed fresh vegetables. You may witness your rabbit ingesting his/her feces directly from his/her anus. This is normal and helps the rabbit maintain gut florae and is necessary for intestinal health.

Feeding
Rabbits fed exclusively pellets may become obese. Hay should always be available at all times. Feed a variety of fresh vegetables – one cup to several cups daily on top of about a quarter to half cup of fresh pellets. Anything other than vegetables, hay, or pellets is a treat and should be fed sparingly.

Water Source
Water should always be available, mostly from a water bottle, and should be changed daily.

Grooming
Rabbits can be brushed to reduce the risk of impacted hair. Nails should be cut once a month – this can be done at home with proper instruction, or your vet or Wilmette pet can provide this service.

Oral and Foot Care
Rabbit’s teeth grow constantly, and they need sufficient wood chews to wear them down. A problem exists known as malocclusion, where if your pet’s teeth are not worn down, they may need to be cut – again, your vet or Wilmette Pet can do this for you – it is not recommended that you attempt to cut teeth yourself. Nails should be cut once a month.

Proper Handling
Pick rabbits up from above, as approaching them from the front can make nervous rabbits more defensive. Hold them by the chest and rump, or support the feet to make them feel safe and secure. Rabbits should be handled carefully to avoid damaging delicate spines. Keep close to the ground in case they try to hop out of your arms.

Habitat Maintenance
Litter box/soiled area of the cage should be changed daily. A full substrate change should be performed once a week.

Health Concerns
Malocclusion (the misalignment of teeth, as previously mentioned), the intestinal impaction of hair, and bacterial infection resulting in diarrhea and resulting dehydration are some of the most common concerns with rabbits.

Nov 162011
 

Adult Size
4 to 6 inches plus tail

Life Span
3 to 4 Years

Male/Female Differences
Males have obvious testicles from an early age. Females have a smooth opening near her tail.

Compatibility
Opossums are solitary animals and each one needs a separate cage. This is an animal that does not need a “friend”.

Origin
Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia

Climate
Tropical climate: warm and relatively humid. The adapt to most home temperatures. An under tank heater or non-UV heat lamp can ensure they have the right temperature if the home gets cooler than 70 degrees.

Day Cycle
Nocturnal (works the night shift, sleeps during the day.) May be awake and more playful in the evening hours.

Temperature
70 to 80 degrees. They like it warmer while sleeping, conditions met in their sleeping box.

Lighting
Being nocturnal, bright lights should be avoided.

Humidity
40% to 60% ideal. Low humidity risks dehydration and excessively high humidity can speed the development of bacteria.

Habitat/Territory
Tropical jungle, everything from terrestrial to arboreal. They sleep in small holes in the ground or in trees.

Substrate/Bedding Provide a safe and soft bedding, the less dusty the better. Cedar bedding can be toxic and pine too dusty. Good litters are shredded or pelleted aspen or recycled paper products. Supply nesting materials and dry hays.

Hiding Place/Den
A bird nesting box makes an ideal retreat and sleeping den.

Cage Type
At least a 30 inch aquarium with a locking lid with numerous branches and climbing places. Bird cages work well, with plenty of places to hang toys and perches – just make sure all the doors are locked. The cage must be large enough for a safe running wheel, a litter pan, a nest box, a food bowl and a water bottle with plenty of room for jumping and climbing.

Diet
Opossums are omnivorous in the wild. Offer them variety! Start with a basic ferret, cat, or hedgehog dry diet. Superworms and crickets are a favorite treat and by offering them by hand you speed the bonding process. Offer fresh or thawed fruits and vegetables – they love grapes! Give small bites of scrambled or boiled egg, baby food (both fruits and vegetables), and cooked lean meats. Dairy, like yoghurt and cottage cheese, need to be offered sparingly.

Supplements
Variety in the diet will prevent any nutritional deficiencies. Calcium powder can be added to crickets and other insects before feeding. Vitamins, such as bird or hamster vitamins, can be added to food or water.

Diet Precautions
Overfeeding of fatty foods can lead to obesity. Do not offer too much dairy as it can cause diarrhea. Avoid foods with high fat, sugar, and salt content.

Feeding
Feed at night. Remove the food in the morning to prevent spoilage. Offer insects by hand to bond with your opossum.

Water Source
Water bottles work because they are not as easily soiled as water bowls. Some opossums, however, have difficulty operating the bottle, so offer a small bowl of water. Make sure the opossum can drink from the bottle (training might be necessary) and check water bowls frequently so they stay clean.

Grooming
Opossums groom themselves and are quite clean. Occasional dust baths, using chinchilla dust, or bathing using gentle pet shampoo can remove excess oils from their fur.

Oral and Foot Care
Opossums have little problems with oral problems, and nails tend to stay short from the exercise. Use manicure bird perches to naturally trim their nails. Running wheels must be safe to prevent foot injuries.

Proper Handling
New opossums are nervous; ply with treats like crickets and superworms. Pick up familiar opossums around the waist. Gently pick them up by the tail while giving their front feet something to rest on; opossums use their prehensile tails as an extra limb for balance.

Habitat Maintenance
Empty and change litter box daily. Opossums sometimes use the bathroom when running in their exercise wheel; choose a wheel that is easy to clean. Some owners place litter boxes under the wheel. Regardless of your solution, clean this area daily. Replace the bedding and wipe down cage once a week.

Health Concerns
Opossums are at risk of hair loss due to protein deficiency or an allergy to the bedding. Diarrhea is possible due to new foods and dehydration can be a real danger. Older opossums are at risk of respiratory illness, digestive problems and tumors. Opossums are the only other mammal that can develop skin cancer from too much sunlight!

Nov 162011
 

Download care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
2”, about 2 ounces

Life Span
2 – 3 years

Male/Female Differences
Young mice are difficult to sex. Sexing mice is done by eyeing the distance between the urethra and the anus; the distance is greater in males than in females.

Compatibility
Male mice will fight to defend their territory against other males. Females get along better, especially raised together.

Origin
Mice are native world wide.

Climate
Very diverse habitats including forests, savannahs, grasslands and rocky habitats

Day Cycle
Nocturnal, although will be awake occasionally during the day.

Temperature
Household temperature is fine. Avoid extreme heat as mice will pile up together and can get too hot.

Lighting
Being nocturnal, lighting is unimportant.

Humidity
Mice do well in most indoor humidity. Keep their bedding dry at all times.

Habitat/Territory
Mice are burrowing animals, preferring the safety of cover for their nests.

Substrate/Bedding
Provide a safe and soft bedding, the less dusty the better. Cedar bedding can be toxic and pine too dusty. Good litters are shredded or pelleted aspen or recycled paper products. Supply nesting materials and dry hays.

Hiding Place/Den
Mice need a hiding place to feel secure. Wooden huts and coconut shells make great hideouts, as they also offer opportunities to chew. Plastic mouse huts can be used but will be destroyed.

Cage Type
Hamster or gerbil cages can be used for housing mice. Aquariums can also be used with a metal screen top to prevent escape. The cage should be large enough to allow the mouse room to exercise, preferably in a safe exercise wheel.

Diet
Seed mixes are good basic diets for mice. Pelleted pet blocks are better, as they combine complete nutrition in a form designed to wear away teeth. Offer variety with other foods such as cooked lean meats, leafy vegetables, and pastas.

Supplements
A proper diet, including variety, will preclude the need for supplements. Hamster or bird supplements can be added to water or cuttle bones.

Diet Precautions
Avoid foods like chocolate, excessive fats and sugars. Giving sunflower seeds in excess can cause obesity.

Feeding
Feed small amounts and remove old food to prevent spoilage. Mice will scatter their food around the cage and bury it in the nest, so be sure to not over feed.

Water Source
Water bowls will quickly get dirty, so use a water bottle. The bottle should either be round or hung outside the cage to prevent the mouse form chewing and destroying it. Use a metal chew guard for water bottles in the cage.

Grooming
Mice are very clean animals that spend a lot of time grooming themselves.

Oral and Foot Care
A mouse’s teeth are always growing, so offer plenty of wooden sticks, hard pet blocks, pumice stones, and foods that will wear away their teeth. Avoid running wheels with bars to prevent injury to their feet or tails. Offer chances to climb to help keep nails shortened.

Proper Handling
Avoid picking a mouse up by the tail if you want to stay friendly with it. Scoop the mouse up gently from below. Mice can be nervous at first, so cup a hand over them to make them feel more secure.

Habitat Maintenance
Spot clean soiled areas daily. Clean the cage weekly with mild soap and water and replace all bedding.

Health Concerns
Mice kept in conditions with poor ventilation are prone to respiratory infections. Diarrhea is possible due to unsanitary conditions and poor diet.

Nov 162011
 
Guinea Pig

Guinea Pig

Download the Guinea Pig Care Sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
1 – 2.5 lbs, 8 – 10 inches

Life Span
4 – 5 Years

Male/Female Differences
Sexing can be difficult when young. Invert the urethra to check for a penis. There is no difference in external appearance. Genitals can be obvious on males.

Compatibility
Females get along with each other, and a male can even be added. Males usually get along, after some settling of hierarchy, but will fight over a single female. 2 males together are not recommended.

Origin
Native to the Andes mountains of South America.

Climate
Local climate is ideal. Avoid extremes of heat and cold.

Day Cycle
No cycle, wake and sleep 27/7

Temperature
Room temperature works best.

Lighting
No special lighting required except a natural day and night schedule.

Humidity
Ambient humidity is fine.

Habitat/Territory
They make their homes in the cool and dry areas of the Andes. This terrain is void of large vegetation and so they exist on grass.

Substrate/Bedding
Provide a safe and soft bedding, the less dusty the better. Cedar bedding can be toxic and pine too dusty, and corn cob can harbor mold spores. Good litters are shredded or pelleted aspen or recycled paper products. Supply nesting materials and dry hays.

Hiding Place/Den
Wooden huts provide a safe sleeping place. Edible home can provide a treat in addition to a hiding place.

Cage Type
Wire cages are proof against nibbling. The larger the cage the better, although a guinea pig still needs daily exercise outside of his home.
Diet Pelleted guinea pig food provides the basic diet, 2 tbls pelleted with ¼ cup chopped vegetables, such as dark leafy greens and carrots. Timothy hay is an important addition as it provides fiber to keep their digestive system working properly. Small amounts of yoghurt help maintain intestinal florae.

Supplements
Vitamin C should be added to the food of guinea pigs to help prevent vitamin deficiency. Digestive enzymes help guinea pigs get more nutrition from their food.

Diet Precautions
Excessive alfalfa hay has been known to cause obesity. Always have timothy hay available as a source of fiber. Nuts and seeds should never be given.

Feeding
Feed fresh pellets daily, as vitamin C content can deteriorate. Treats can include fruits such as apples and small amounts of yoghurt.

Water Source
A water bottle, cleaned and filled daily, is preferable to a water dish. Guinea pigs can kick substrate into and foul water dishes.

Grooming
Guinea pigs groom themselves to keep clean. Occasional cleanings with pet safe wipes and once monthly baths with mild pet shampoo can help keep their coat smelling fresh and free of debris. Long-haired, or Angora, breeds should be brushed frequently.

Oral and Foot Care
A guinea pig’s nails grow continuously, and need to be clipped monthly. Long nails can cause a condition called “bumblefoot.” This can be done at home with proper instruction. Your vet or Wilmette Pet can also perform this service. A wooden chewing block or pumice stone, or hard, crunchy treats will help keep their teeth trimmed.

Proper Handling
Scoop a guinea pig from underneath, rather than grabbing from above. Keeping them next to your chest at first calms them and makes them feel safe. Avoid grabbing around middle as it can damage internal organs.

Habitat Maintenance
Guinea pigs have a natural urge to keep their homes clean and often can be trained to potty boxes in their cages. These and other wet areas should be cleaned daily, and the entire substrate replaced once a week.

Health Concerns
Common ailments in domestic guinea pigs include the above mentioned bumblefoot, respiratory infections, diarrhea, scurvy (vitamin C deficiency, typically characterized by sluggishness), and abscesses due to infection.

Nov 162011
 
Ferret

Ferret, Mustela putorius furo

Download this care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
Males range from 14 to 17 inches long & weigh 3-5 pounds. Females range from 12 to 14 inches and weigh 1-3 pounds.

Life Span
Anywhere from 7 to 10 years.

Male/Female Differences
One can usually tell whether a ferret is a male/female by their size and weight. Males are easily distinguished since they have their urethra in the center of their belly.

Compatibility
Ferrets are incredibly social animals. Interaction and socialization are important in the development of a young ferret to eliminate behavioral problems later. If possible consider getting a pair so that you are not the only source of interaction the ferret receives.

Origin
Europe, Africa

Climate
Woodlands, prairies, wetlands

Day Cycle
Crepuscular

Temperature
A large well-ventilated cage. An average household temperature of 70 degrees F is proper.

Lighting
Room lighting should not be too bright as it could hurt their eyes. Their cage should not be in direct sunlight.

Humidity
Dry/low.

Habitat/Territory
Ferrets live in burrows in diverse habitats; some live in marshlands and feed off of frogs, others in farmlands and feed off of mice.

Substrate/Bedding
Comfortable towels/blankets make great beds for ferrets. Wash the towels at least once a week and spray with conditioning spray or deodorizer every other day. For litter shredded, pelleted aspen or recycled paper litters will suffice.

Hiding Place/Den
Chew safe toys and non-toxic hiding places will increase their level of interaction when they are left alone. Hammocks and tunnels are also fun toys for your ferret.

Cage Type
Wire cages are the only option since aquarium style enclosures do not provide sufficient ventilation and are not meant for house ferrets. Multi-level cages are the best for keeping the ferret well exercised and interested. Make sure the cage is escape-proof. The bigger the cage the better.

Diet
A ferret should be fed twice a day but food and water should always be accessible. Their diet should be high in protein and relatively high in fat to fuel their energetic lifestyle. There are many high quality dry foods specially made for ferrets. Also consider frozen and raw foods because it closely duplicates their natural diet and because frozen/raw still retain the nutrients and enzymes unlike processed kibble. Sweets such as raisins and treats should be given scarcely because of their high sugar content.

Supplements
Freeze dried cat supplements, fatty acids, and vitamins can aid in their digestion, a healthier looking coat, and less of a musky odor.

Diet Precautions
Some veterinarians discourage feeding raisins or treats with high sugar since they have a tendency to hide their food, and could stockpile the treats and consume them in a short amount of time. Hard treats like bones or peanuts should never be given because they can become lodged in their intestinal tract.

Feeding
A ferret’s stomach is about half the size of their head so try not to overfeed. Some ferrets tend to tip their food bowl, to remedy this you can get a ceramic or a heavy bowl.

Water Source
Most ferrets are used to water bottles, but they will happily drink from a bowl. Rinse and wash both and supply fresh water each day.

Grooming
You can bathe your ferret with ferret or cat/dog shampoo. Ferrets should be bathed at least once a month. Another alternative is getting pet safe wipes and wiping them down.

Oral and Foot Care
Ferrets need their nails clipped at least once a month. Use cat safe nail clippers.

Proper Handling
Unless your ferret is young they usually do not bite with any pressure involved. Pick them up with both hands and make sure to support their body. Most ferrets are very friendly and will welcome any interaction with you.
Habitat Maintenance Ferrets tend to go to the bathroom in the same spot. Depending on the size of the cage one or two litter pans are appropriate. Spot clean their cage twice a day.

Health Concerns
Diarrhea due to poor diet. Hair/intestinal blockage is common because of ferret’s grooming and affinity towards chewing. Loss of appetite and lack of stools in their litter are symptoms of these serious problems. Anti-sociable ferrets due to neglect or abuse. Ear-mites that cause itchiness and a brown discharge from their ears. They can also catch and transmit influenza to/from humans so wash your hands before and after handling. The best remedy is plenty of fluids and rest. Ferrets are prone to congenital cancers like insulinoma and adrenal disease, especially in their later years. Symptoms of both can be hair loss, lethargy, and seizures. Seek medical help if you notice any symptom.

Nov 162011
 
Dwarf Hamster

Dwarf Hamster, Phodopus roborovskii

Download this care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
1 inch

Life Span
3 to 3.5 years

Male/Female Differences
Sexing is done by observing distance between anus and genitals – it’s slightly greater in males, although sexing these small animals can be difficult.

Compatibility
Dwarf hamsters are most compatible when they are from the same litter. Females live well together, but males can fight.

Origin
Gobi Desert, throughout Mongolia’s desert steppe and parts of northern China.
Climate Most home environments suit dwarf hamsters well.

Day Cycle
No cycle, play and sleep 24/7

Temperature
60 – 70 degrees.

Lighting
Most household lighting is suitable for dwarf hamsters; as these animals usually spend a great deal of time underground, they have sensitive eyes, so bright lights should be avoided.

Humidity
Drier is preferred, but they are comfortable in the average household humidity.

Habitat/Territory
In the wild dwarf hamsters live in burrows in the arid steppes. Plastic hamster tubes can recreate these burrows in their cages, and dwarf hamsters will also burrow into their substrate.

Substrate/Bedding
Supply a safe and soft bedding. The lest dusty the bedding the better. Cedar bedding can be toxic and pine is too dusty. Good litters are shredded or pelleted aspen or recycled paper litters. Supply nesting materials and dry hays.

Hiding Place/Den
Hiding places provide comfort and security. Wooden tubes with holes also provide surfaces to chew upon. Dwarf hamsters like to sleep together, so any hiding place needs to be just large enough to house all your animals.

Cage Type
Regular hamster habitats should not be used to house dwarf hamsters, as they are often small enough to squeeze between the bars. Aquariums make great homes – safe, secure, and easy to clean. They can have limited ventilation, so care must be taken to allow adequate air flow. Plastic cages with tubes meet their instinct for burrowing.

Diet
A few critter cubes and 1-2 tablespoons of high quality hamster seed mix is given as a staple. Supply a variety of leafy greens and vegetables in small quantities. Avoid spoilage. Fruits should be given sparingly to avoid diarrhea. Timothy hay should be given at all times to aid in digestion. Try not to focus on one thing, give a good variety. A tiny bit of yoghurt is good for intestinal health.

Supplements
Vitamins in water help supply nutrients missing from captive diets. Dwarf hamsters are natural insect eaters. Offer occasional mealworms, crickets, and/or cat and dog kibble, or small dog biscuits. Bland proteins like boiled egg are good.

Diet Precautions
Do not give chocolate, candy, or anything with caffeine. Keep it bland and healthy. Giving too much greens can cause impaction or intestinal disorders.

Feeding
Placing food in a bowl will help over feeding. Dwarf hamsters will move most of their food into their nest and bury it for later.

Water Source
Water bottles are best. Wash the bottle in between refills. Supply fresh filtered, non-chlorinated water at all times.

Grooming
Offer chinchilla dust to dwarf hamsters for them to bathe themselves. They use this fine powder to remove excess oils from their coats. Minimal grooming is necessary.

Oral and Foot Care
Dwarf hamsters have incisors that they need to constantly down. Keep soft wood chews, pumice stones, and treat sticks in the cage. Rotate different types to keep them interested. Use safe ramps and running wheels that will prevent leg injury.

Proper Handling
Dwarf hamsters are sweet tempered animals that rarely bite. They do need to be handled very regularly to keep them social. When first getting to know each other, a bathtub makes a safe and secure place to hold them, as they can be easily startled and quick.

Habitat Maintenance
Dwarf hamsters tend to eliminate in the same area of the cage. Spot clean the cage daily, and change litter once per week and wash cage thoroughly with warm soapy water.

Health Concerns
Diarrhea due to poor diet, stress, or unclean cages. Respiratory distress can be due to poor ventilation, drafts, noxious odors, and/or dusty litter. Over grown teeth can be due to poor chewing stimulation. Congenital cancers can also occur. Maintain healthy environment and diet to help prevent disease.

Nov 162011
 
Degu, Brush-Tailed Rat

Degu, Octodon degu

Download this care sheet (pdf)

Degu, Brush-Tailed Rat

Adult Size
About 5 inches, not including the tail. Life Span 5 to 8 years on average, up to 15.

Male/Female Differences
Sexing can be difficult, especially on young degus. On females, the anus and urethra are spaced closer together than they are on males.

Compatibility
Female degus can be housed together in groups, keeping at most one male. Degus can be housed singly, but they need more interaction with you.

Origin
Mountains of Chile

Climate
Cool and dry, so most home conditions are great for degus. Air condition is great for preventing overheating.

Day Cycle
Diurnal, awake during the day, although they often are crepuscular, playing at dusk and dawn.

Temperature
Avoid extremes. Degus are well suited to home temperatures.

Lighting
Normal room lighting is fine; degus do not need any special lights.

Humidity
Drier is better, but they adapt to indoor humidity well. Avoid excessive humidity.

Habitat/Territory
Dry and cool mountains of Chile, living in communal burrows that all members of the community dig.

Substrate/Bedding
Provide a safe and soft bedding, the less dusty the better. Cedar bedding can be toxic and pine too dusty. Good litters are shredded or pelleted aspen or recycled paper products. Supply nesting materials and dry hays.

Hiding Place/Den
A wooden hut sized for guinea pigs is ideal for degus, offering both shelter and a chewing toy.

Cage Type
Degus will chew and destroy all plastics! Degu cages can be wire, which allows for plenty of ventilation, or aquariums, which are easy to clean. Degus love to run and climb, so the cage must be large enough for ropes or wood perches and a (metal!) running wheel. Use a heavy duty screen as degus will chew plastic rims and meshes.

Diet
Pelleted degu food should form the basis of the diet. Offer either alfalfa or timothy hay to aid digestion. Offer occasional broccoli, tomatoes, and cucumber skins, and wheat grass.

Supplements
Degus properly fed rarely need supplements. Calcium and vitamin C can be added to their water, but a vet should be consulted before doing so, as excessive vitamins are not healthy.

Diet Precautions
Do not feed any sugars, either processed or natural, as degus cannot digest them and are very prone to diabetes. Avoid peanuts, raisins, carrots, and fruits. Check pellet ingredients for molasses. Avoid sunflowers and other seeds, as these can cause obesity. Hard shelled nuts, in limited amounts, make great treats. Avoid rabbit pellets as this lacks vitamin C and can contain ingredients toxic to degus.

Feeding
Feed a few tablespoons twice a day. Overfeeding will cause the degus to hide and store their food.

Water Source
Water bowls tend to get filled with substrate and make poor choices for degus. Plastic water bottles will be chewed through very quickly, so either place it in a protective metal sleeve or use an external bottle. Provide fresh water daily.

Grooming
Degus take dust baths like their cousins, the chinchillas. Use the same style of dust weekly to allow them to clean themselves, and remove after they are done as the tend to soil it later.

Oral and Foot Care
Use metal safety wheels to avoid trapping and injuring feet and tails. A degu’s teeth are continually growing , so they must chew. Wooden houses, wooden treats, and pumice stones keep their teeth trim.

Proper Handling
Do not pick degus up by their tails. They weigh more than gerbils and their tails are very fragile. Doing so can cause it to break off. Pick them up gently around the waist or scoop up from below.

Habitat Maintenance
Daily spot clean their litter pan or soiled areas. Weekly cleaning suffices, removing and replacing the substrate.

Health Concerns
Diabetes and the subsequent blindness. Obesity due to improper diet and overfeeding.