The adventures of doggy: Easter

When my brother and I were young, my mother used to hide chocolate eggs for us in the garden (or when the weather was bad, imside). Of course it’s been ages since we did this since we’re all “adults” now (last Easter we convinced her to do it again for me, my brother and my partner, because it’s still fun). But someone in our house is still a bit of a child: Doggy. He’s almost 6 years old and he loves to search for treats.

When he’s asked to go into the corridor, he already knows what’s going to happen. Excitedly he’ll go in there, (watch out for the wagging tail) pretending to be patient. Or maybe he is, because he knows how much fun he’ll have within 10 minutes. Sometimes we’ll check the windows of the door, because no peeking allowed (but he knows that)! Usually he can’t wait that patiently without someone around (he even sits), so I wonder how he keeps himself calm. Maybe he has a mantra for himself or has another way to prepare himself physically and mentally.

When he comes out, he’s a different kind of dog. He’s a serious grown-up dog, a rescue dog with an important goal, a matter of life and death: finding the doggy treats. His tail which is usually low, is now rolled up high. Focus. A few test rounds with his sniffer. And then: action. The sniff sounds he’ll make are extremely loud, like a steam train. He thinks he’s quite good at it. We don’t want to tell him we actually think his nose apparently always has a cold. But he likes it and we like it too and provide him with some mental support, during his search duty (yay, well done, go find the other ones)

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[Image of a Jack Russel Terriër dog standing up straight and holding a magnifying glass for one of his eyes].

We do not only have ‘words/commands’ for him so he knows he has to go into the corridor or can start sniffing (as if he needs a word for that). We also have one when he’s finished. Otherwise, he would probably never stop and that would be sad. When he can’t find any (because he already walked past it 10 times), he’ll look up at us. Asking if we are sure that there are still treats. Despite the mental support, we might help him a bit more, with a pointing finger. I’m not sure if he normally understands people pointing around (never payed attention to it), but I always learned animals don’t understand that. Well, Samurai Doggy is in a special focus mode, so he does understand and he will rush towards the area we pointed out.

When he found them all, he’s our hero and gets cuddles and praises. What’s not to like? Treats, cuddles, praises, an audience and an important job to help out your Hippos. Oh and he’ll casually, absolutely not suspicious or obvious, walk around and to some places again. With his nose a tiny bit low and a few licks on areas he found treats. You never know right?

He’s very energetic and also seems to be an intelligent dog. He enjoys mental stimulation. It seems to tire him more than physical (such as running around the forest) and is a nice change.  If you have a dog, maybe you can try this out as well. We break the dog treats in very small pieces, so he won’t have a lot. An idea is to not only hide things on the ground, but also go for higher places (which the dog can still reach). It might take a moment before they grasp this 😉 We once even put one on the automatic vacuum (which is very low) while it was moving. It was a lot of fun, Doggy following the thing (without realizing that!) in a zig-zag pattern. Sometimes going back, because he didn’t quite understand at the beginning. His eyes when he found it were just marvelous!

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Outdoor fun for an indoor cat: the balcony

It is said that a cat needs to go outdoors (in general). Otherwise, it will get bored, which can lead to a lot of problems. The fresh air and the sun can also strenghten the immune system and your cat might get some extra exercise. However, there are a lot of reasons why a cat can’t or isn’t allowed to go outside. For example because you’re afraid your cat will get hit by cars. Cats often don’t watch before they cross the street and cars often drive fast and don’t pay attention to it. If you have an indoors-cat, there are many ways to get him an outdoor experience or to keep him busy.

Cats love looking outside windows, tracking everything that comes and goes. They also like lying in the sun. If you have a balcony, this might be even more interesting for your cat. Then it can also hear and smell ‘outdoors’. This doesn’t have to be the entire balcony of course, you can also give him a corner.

Very important is how you secure this place. You don’t want your cat to be able to really get outside and go to the ground. There are special nets for sale to protect cats, but if you’re handy, you could also make a little fence by yourself. Keep in mind that it has to be able to endure the different weather situations and temperatures. You don’t want to buy or make one every month 😉 Also keep your cat’s personality in mind. Does it like hunting and will it jump against the fence/net, when it sees a bird? Does it chew on everything? Then you need to make sure the materials are more sturdy.
You also need to check the regulations, if you live in a rental house/apartment. Maybe your landlord will have to approve this net/fence or some comity.

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[Photo of a beige cat sitting in front of a vertical net. Behind the net is a tree and a house.]

To make the balcony a fun place, you can put all sorts of things in there. A place where the cat can rest, in the sun and in the shadow (and shelter against the rain) or maybe a hangmat? (My hamster used to have one and he loved it!) Maybe an activity tree, if yours is active. If your cat is older and has stiff joints, make sure the resting place(s) are easy accessible.

A lot of cats also enjoy a pot with some grass (or other plants – but make sure they aren’t poisonous for cats). If you have poisonous plants and you don’t want to get rid of them, place them somewhere where the cat can’t reach it. They’ll probably nibble on everything that’s in their reach.

If you don’t have a balcony, you can also place a pot with some grass or catnip inside the house. Or a box with some sand, but this might get a bit messy!

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Facts about the bat

Do you like bats? Or do you immediately think about rabies and Dracula?

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[Photo of a bat with one of his wings wrapped around his body and his tiny claw touching its face. Its head is tilted to one side].

At my parent’s home, we often see them flying around the garden (in spring/summer) at twilight. Which is logical, because they hibernate (they usually start when the temperature of evenings drops to 10 degrees Celsius). They are incredibly fast and rather small, but they’ve a very recognizable flying pattern. We’re happy when we see them flying over, because they are great against mosquitos. Below a few facts about the bat, to help against the negative stigma they have.

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[Photo of four baby bats lying next to each other, wrapped in towels with only their heads sticking out]

  • They are the only mammals who can actually fly
  • They use echolocation (but you probbaly already knew this). However, their eyes are also good for looking around at twilight.
  • To stay alive they have to eat an amount of insects equal to 25-50% of their body weight.
  • On a warm evening a single bat can eat around 3000 insects (mosquitos, moths etc.).
  • Sometimes they wake up during their hibernation to catch some insects. However, this costs so much energy that they can’t do this too often, or they won’t make it till the end of the winter.
  • In Europe all bat species eat insects. In tropical countries they may also eat fruit, nectar, fish or meat.
  • Only 2% of all the bat species around the entire world eat blood, meat or fish.
  • The vampire bat is known for having blood as their only food source and lives in South America (they usually get this from sleeping cattle).
  • The bodies of bats are adapted to hanging upside-down. It doesn’t cost them any muscle power.
  • There are over 1000 different bat species.
  • Last but not least, they won’t fly into your lovely hair-do (but they can come close).

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[Photo of a bat holding a bottle containing milk with his wings and drinking of it. With his hind legs he’s holding a stuffed koala bear to his body.]
How convenient! Now he can drink and cuddle at the same time.


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Common misconception: giving milk to a cat or hedgehog

Maybe you’re lucky to live in an area where there are hedgehogs. Hedgehods are lovely and it is only natural if you want to help them a little. Their life is hard enough because of humans, such as cars and building roads everywhere, which can shred their area. And of course they also have a lot of trouble with all the poison we throw in our gardens. But I would like to write a different blogpost about making your garden (if you have one) hedgehog friendly.
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[Photo of a hedgehog looking in the camera with a white background]

A lot of people give a hedgehog a platter with milk, when they see one. This is very saddening, because you try to help the hedgehog, which is a good thing. But by doing this, you’re making it worse. You should never give a hedgehog milk. They aren’t tolerant for the lactose in it and it will give them diarrhea and other indigestion problems. This is very dangerous and could lead to their death, for example due to dehydration.

If you see a hedgehog, you can give him some water, this can really help them with their journey and life. If you want to give him some food, you could give some cat or dog food or some cooked eggs or scrambled eggs without milk. Neder give pieces of bread (again lactose) or herbs.
Hedgehogs like humid foods. Hedgehogs are omnivores and a big percentage of their diet exists of worms, snails, wood louses etc. This is one of the reasons why  having hedgehogs in your garden can be great. Giving them water regularly, can make them come back to your place.

Since we’re talking about milk being bad for a hedgehog, even though a lot of people don’t know this, I also want to connect this to a similar case: cats. You shouldn’t give cats milk either, again because of the lactose. Adult cats can’t digest it, so you shouldn’t give it to them, even though they often do like milk.
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[Photo of five kittens next to each other (two are orange striped and three dark striped). From left to right: dark striped kittin sitting, orange striped kitten sitting and about to stand up, 0range striped kitten standing and has it’s paw on the head of the next (dark striped) kitten lying on the floor. And finally another dark striped kitten sitting, leaning on the lying kitten].

You shouldn’t give kittens cowmilk either. They don’t contain the necessary nutrients. There is special catmilk, in case you have a kitten who can’t get milk from its mother. You can also find special powder to make it yourself at the vet.

In a lot of pet stores, you can find catmilk. This is a treat for your cat and you shouldn’t give it to them regularly, even though it’s specifically for cats. Catmilk contains a lot of calories and doesn’t contain necessary nutrients. It’s best to always give water.

Please remember that it’s best to give water. Water is necessary for them and it’s very helpful if you give it to them. It’s not ‘boring’ for them or ‘sad’ that they always drink water. Also keep in mind that these animals often do like milk, so they will still drink it, even though it’s bad for them. So that’s not a good indicator of whether it’s bad for them or not.
If you encounter a situation in which someone wants to give milk, please tell them they (the animals) can’t have it. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing it or being wrong, but it’s so much better for the animals if we inform each other.

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Tips for taking care of your pets and buying supplies in the pet shop: small rodents

In a pet shop you can usually find a section for small rodents, even if it’s a small shop. Usually, you can also buy the rodents there, but I hope that will stop. That you, for example go to a shelter to buy a rodent and that they’ll help you to find one that matches you. They also take the time to find out if you match and give advice on how to care for them.

Rodents are often bought, because they’re cute. They’re cheaper than other (bigger) animals (birds, dogs, cats, horses etc.) and in theory you can still stroke them. I say in theory, because rabbits for example, are usually not fond of cuddling. Of course, you might be able to ‘tame’ some of them, but it’s not in their nature. They are often frightened if they’re picked up and cuddled. That’s the first thing to keep in mind, especially if you’ve children.

You also need to think of a good place to put your rodent, inside or outside the house? Will it be able to walk around freely in the house? If it will, is it safe (no cables, can’t get outside, can’t get stuck etc.)? You probably get a cage as well. I’m still surprised to see that the supplies pet shops have, are often not according to the regulations/advice. They are often too small and sometimes even dangerous. Cages are rather expensive in shops, so people buy a small one. But even a Russian dwarf hamster needs a larger cage than you think. Maybe you can look on the internet for a good cage that’s cheaper, or go to a thrift store. Make sure that you know the minimum sizes and keep in mind that that’s often not enough if the pet has to stay inside all the time. This also accounts for bird cages (birds should be able to fly around. Check if the bird could maybe fly in your room) and aquariums.

There are a lot of different foods you can buy for your rodent, often species specific. So hamster food for a hamster, rabbit food for a rabbit etc. Usually the foods are all good, because of strict regulation. Make sure that the food isn’t too fat or contains too much sugar, especially when you buy sweets for your rodent! It’s better to give them something natural, than for example yoghurt drops.
The food depends on your budget and if your rodent has special needs (maybe it has an illness?). I’ve had rodents who would be very picky and only eat one specific thing that they liked the most and leave the rest in their bowl. If they do that, they don’t get all the nutrients they need. A solution is to buy ‘pallets’, which are all the same and contain everything.
Often, a water bottle is preferable over a water bowl. A water bowl can flip and can make everything messy. Your pet can also poo in it’s water, but usually doesn’t want to drink from it anymore then. You don’t want your pet to fall inside it either. Make sure that the bottle is large enough. I always buy one size up. It’s surprising how much an animal actually needs to drink (often we don’t notice that). Make sure that the water and bottle are clean and that it’s never empty. They always need acces to water.

Toys

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[Photo of a metal hamster wheel which is open so the paws can get through the bars]
Unsafe ‘open’ wheel

Some toys for your rodent can be really nice. They need to be able to enjoy themselves a little. For most rodents a friend (of the same species) is necessary as well, keep this in mind, since you’ll also need a bigger cage. People often put a rabbit alone or put it together with a guinea pig. Rabbits shouldn’t be alone, but it’s not the same to be together with a guinea pig. They speak a different language and won’t understand each other. So it’s almost if they’re still alone and they usually won’t have body contact with each other.

You don’t have to buy toys in the pet shop. With a little creativity you can make a lot of them by yourself. Make sure that the products are safe. It’s a rodent, so it will chew -> no poisonous stuff.

For hamsters and rats a wheel is popular. It doesn’t take up a lot of space, but it gives them a lot of exercise. My dad had this theory that hamsters in the wild, secretly had this place filled with hamsterwheels. Because they always know how it works and love it, even if they haven’t seen one before. However, they can be very dangerous as well. Never buy a wheel that’s open! They can break their paws or tails. And please don’t say that it doesn’t matter because the tail will grow back… That’s the response I often get from people, when I kindly point out that they have a dangerous wheel. I think it’s absurd…
A closed one is so much safer, I totally don’t understand why pet shops still (are allowed to) sell the dangerous ones. Also make sure that the wheel is big enough, you don’t want your pet to scratch open his back to the ‘pin’ in the middle.

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[Photo of a green plastic wheel without holes or gaps. And a big orange Syrian hamster a.k.a. Golden hamster running in it.]
A safe ‘closed’ wheel.

Lastly, I want to discuss the hamster ball. A hamster ball doesn’t have to be a bad thing. But you need to keep a few rules in mind.
1. The hamster shouldn’t be in the ball for longer than 15 minutes each time and a max of 1 hour a day. You can’t use a hamster ball as a substitute for a cage. I always led my hamsters decide by themselves if they wanted to go inside the ball (open the cage door and put the ball in front of it, so they could walk in it or not).
2. If the hamster is in the ball, keep watch over it. Don’t leave it alone. They can get stuck (they don’t realize they’re suddenly a lot bigger). It’s possible to have a dog and also a hamster in a hamster ball, but you need to train the dog for that (don’t touch the ball and the hamster always goes first). It’s funny to watch your hamster run/roll around, so it shouldn’t be a problem to stay around. Usually they get at high speed.
3. The size. Pet shops still sell hamster balls that are too small. That way the hamster is forced to keep running and then the hamster ball isn’t fun for them. The hamster needs to be able to sit down in the hamster ball, and the ball will stay on it’s spot. Then you roughly know it’s big enough. My advice: buy the biggest one you can find. A hamster ball can’t be too big. I had one that was officially for ferrets and my dwarf hamster loved it. For a ferret the ball would have been too small anyway.  If the pet shop only has small ones and you’re unsure, don’t buy it. You can buy a large one somewhere else, or on the internet.

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[Photo of a very large hamster ball and a small one].
A large hamster ball and one that’s too small.

I hope these tips will help you. Having a pet can be very enjoyable. For now I have to stop, because this blogpost is already very long. I still have many more tips, so more blogposts will probably follow 😉

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The adventures of doggy: The return of the Hippo

I suspect him of somehow knowing the day of the week and approximately what time it is. He knows how long it takes for my dad to pick me up, or at what time I arrive when I go by myself. Even when he can’t read the signs, because nobody is with him or because the others don’t know it yet. Often, we know because he showed us (with his body language).

At least 5 minutes before the car arrives, he’ll sit in front of the door. First a bit more to the back of the wall, but slowly he’ll go more forwards to the door, until he sits against it and I, Hippo, won’t be able to open it until he moves.

Eagerly and in extreme alert he sits there. Silent. His eyes hardly moving. Almost as if he’s ready to attack. Minutes pass and nothing happens. He doesn’t respond to (most of the) noises, which is very different from normal. After a while he can’t hold it any longer. A soft squeek escapes from his nose (which my father refers to as the ‘nose whistle’). The nervosity he has, shows a little. A tiny lift with his butt. A spasm in his paw. Then he’s a statue again, until it takes too long.

He can hear the car when it’s at the beginning of the street, when the humans in the house can’t hear it yet. He can distinguish between the different car sounds. My parent’s car, my car, the cars of our multiple neighbours, random car etc. So his statue breaks when he hears the right car (mine or my parents – he already figures out before for which one he’ll have to listen. Is my car gone? Didn’t my dad leave about 2 hours ago? Then it’ll probably mine. If my father’s car arrives, he won’t respond. He was waiting for me. Very cute, because sometimes we can confuse him by going with the ‘wrong’ car). He moves more closely to the door. Sits again, wiggles his tail, from slowly to faster, more eager, to very enthusiastic. Quickly he stands up, wigging his tail or sometimes literally rotating it (we still haven’t figured out how that’s possible). He seperately lifts his paws a little and puts them down again – in random order. Maybe a little squeek escapes from his nose again. He doesn’t know what to do. It’s taking so long… he sits down again. This can go over a couple times. It gets ‘worse’ when we’re parking at the ramp. Depending on how long it takes before I get out of the car (and unpack it a little).

The car door closes and he gets in action. Immediately, all the stiffness and calmness is gone. He’s overjoyed and starts to jump. He knows he’s not allowed to scratch the door and by now he can jump very high or extend his paws or stay in the air for a longer period of time. Sometimes he stands on his paws for a long time, ‘dancing’ or hopping. I’m not in sight yet, but that doesn’t matter. He’s certain I will come. I look through the net curtains and see him. He sees me too and becomes even happier. A tail-wiggling kangaroo. I open the door, call his name and then – he gets confused. The Hippo leaves again, oh no. He stands still – looking worried. Quickly I return, calling his name. I would never leave without saying goodbye (and he knows that), I just had to get some bags out of the car. When I’m in the hallway, only one door is still between us. He’s dancing in front of it and I watch him and talk to him, while trying to dump as much of the bags randomly in the hallway. Hoping I’ll get a hand free to stroke him – because that’s what he wants and needs.

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[Photo of a Beagle puppy jumping straight up]

My dog isn’t the same breed as the one on the photo. Because of my anonimity, my dog has to stay anonymous too (there are photos of him on the intergalactic network). I didn’t have the heart to tell him this, because it would make him really sad.

When I open the door, something happens. He knows he can’t jump at me because of my disabilities. So suddenly he keeps his paws on the ground, well most of the time. Of course he wants to dance with me too, so sometimes, if I allow him, he’ll stand at me, with his paws reaching over my shoulders. I can grap them and dance a little, he even likes that, but I won’t do that too long because I don’t want to strain him.

Kisses everywhere, a tail that hits everyone hard who is near him (he can actually leave a bruise) or sometimes hits a wall which sounds very painful. He doesn’t show, all he shows is extreme happiness. I stroke and cuddle him, he follows me to the couch so I can do that better since I can’t bend over. Every little fibre in his body shows happiness. Hippo returned safely again and we should celebrate that. Now he can look forward to a cuddle servant for the period that I’ll stay in this house and are in the living room. After a couple minutes, it’s enough. All this enthusiasm takes it’s toll and he’ll lie down, happily. Ready to jump over the coffee table if I call him (he literally does that, even though it’s easier and less far away if he just walked past it).

If someone else entered the house too, that person will be greeted with extreme enthusiasm as well – but it depends if he knows the person, although he treats everyone as a friend. Secretely I find it funny, that he’ll jump at those people if they don’t put their hands low and stroke and cuddle him. Reassuring him that they like him and will be friends. Of course I do tell him to sit and instruct the people how to act. And it depends on the other person if it works. Since my fellow Hippo and I lived in this house for a long time, he exactly knows what he wants and tolerates as well.

When he’s happy, he’s extremely happy. You can feel it everywhere in the house. It’s contagious, since we have him almost everyone is happier. And he gets happy for the smallest things. We could really learn something about that from him and I’m happy to say that I”ve already done that a little.

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