Saw a Facebook post this weekend about a woman who was concerned her dog kept chasing and killing wildlife, chipmunks, bunnies, etc. Some people suggested muzzles. leashing, fencing, etc. I suggested a simple bell. It gives the wildlife a bit of a warning so they have a fair chance to get away. I always encourage people with outdoor cats to make sure they have bells on their collars as well. Why not give the chipmunks a chance?
If you are going to put a collar on your cat, indoor or outdoor, I highly recommend a break-a-way collar. I had a cat get stuck once, and it was scary. Thankfully, I was there to fix the problem right away. My indoor cats don’t wear collars anymore. They are microchipped, so on the off chance they were to escape, they have that for ID, but my cats are all pretty afraid of the great outdoors, and we are careful to keep an eye on our doors.
Cali got a haircut this weekend, well I cut her hair. I love how she looks when her hair is longer, but with her itchy skin, it just isn’t good for her. Clipping her short allows me to keep a close eye on her skin, and also makes it easier for her weekly baths. I find oatmeal shampoo baths really help with her itchiness. I’ll see how the winter goes. I like letting her hair get a bit longer when it gets cold.
First of all, I miss this blog! Not sure why I’ have gotten out of the writing habit, but hoping to get back to it regularly!
I just heard about a new dehydrated dog food called Sundays Food. Looks like a premium food, no fillers. I got a discount code to try it out, so I’ll check it out and post a review. Cali is doing pretty well with her Cytopoint injections, but maybe a healthier food option will also help. Let me know if you’ve tried it.
Not exactly pet related, but sort of… I got a new tattoo. I had a vision of some kind of tattoo that could incorporate a bunch of my present and former pets. I had the idea of a footprint path, and my amazing tattoo artist, Benjamin Jeness at Summer’s End Studios, helped bring my idea to life.
From my ankle heading down, there are parrot claws, 4 sugar glider feet, then two each of rabbit, turtle, lizard, rat, chinchilla, ferret, cat, and dog. We simply had to include 4 glider feet since their fronts and backs are so different. I love the way it came out! I really wanted a horseshoe or two in there, but it just didn’t work out design-wise. Maybe I’ll find a way to add one another time. They are good luck!
This handsome boy is Marty. While I consider him part of our family, he is not my kitten, he is my son’s. He is living at college and loving life. Marty is keeping my son company, helping to relieve college stress, and even providing lessons on responsibility. Marty will join our crew when my son is home on breaks. Looking forward to getting to know him better.
Marty loves to go for walks on his leash, and loves meeting new people. He expects everyone he meets to pat him!
In general all the pet-family is doing well. I’ll post more detailed updates soon, and of course a review of that Sundays Food when Cali gets a chance to test it.
Working at home definitely has some challenges. Trying to stay on task can be hard! Aside from the usual distractions of ringing phones, texts, laundry, etc. There are extra challenges around here!
The cats will jump on my desk and leave me toys to throw for them, or just get in my face for pats.
The dog is actually usually pretty good, other than her constant need to bark at anything.
The dragon occasionally looks at me and bangs on the glass of her tank with her little foot so I’ll let her out. She’s easy and will happily hang out on my shoulder while I work.
This morning, Hector was the needy one. She was strutting across the floor, chewing her boxes, chasing the cats, and finally, nibbling my toes! She said “Wanna come up”, so I picked her up and put her on the back of my chair. That lasted about 3 minutes before she got bored and started screeching in my ear. Time to go back to your cage Hector!
About three years ago, I got a text from a friend who knew I had kept reptiles in the past. I used to have two snakes, and she has been pet sitting for me for years. She had a friend that needed to find a new home for a snake and a Bearded Dragon. Was I interested in either?
I definitely knew I did not want another snake. I like snakes, I think they are really interesting creatures, but I can’t stand feeding them. I didn’t really know anything about Bearded Dragons, so I told her I needed to think about it.
Dexter the Ball Python
Time to research! Bearded dragons are omnivores, so they need veggies and bugs. I can deal with that. I don’t love feeding bugs, but I won’t have any more pets that need to eat other pets (mice, rats, etc.) This particular dragon came with a tank, lights, pretty much everything I would need. Why not?!?
When I started researching, it seemed that many people believed bearded dragons shouldn’t be housed on a loose substrate, so no sand, dirt, etc. I lined my tank with some plastic shelf liner that had a little bit of texture to give my lizard some grip. The reasoning was that lizards could eat the substrate and it would cause a bowel impaction.
For over two years, I kept her on the shelf liner, she had hammocks to bask in, branches to climb, caves to hide in. Eventually, the shelf liner started to wear out, and I started researching again. Should I just replace the shelf liner? It is easy to keep clean, inexpensive, easy to replace. I started thinking it would be really nice if Wena could have some real plants instead of the fake ones I had in her tank. I researched lizard safe plants.
I came across some websites, particularly Josh’s Frogs, and The BioDude, that had articles about bioactive enclosures. More info was definitely needed! This seemed like such an amazing idea to me. My lizard could essentially live in a terrarium, live plants, bugs to live in the soil and keep the tank clean naturally!
The research told me I needed a mix of soils, sands, etc. that would help maintain the right humidity, and allow the cleaning crew insects to thrive and do their job. Josh’s Frogs offered a mix ready to use, so I purchased a bunch of that. More reading to learn what plants were safe. I found that many of the succulents I already had would be perfect for the tank, so I used a bunch of what I had and bought just a couple of bigger plants to fill in.
This is Wena’s tank today. It’s a work in progress. She has killed many plants by eating or crushing them, so I’m still replanting, and trying to figure out what works best, but here’s the thing… I LOVE this tank! It’s nice to look at now. I enjoy seeing all the plants instead of the ugly plastic tank.
It’s SUPER easy to take care of. There are springtails and isopods living in the soil. I almost never see them, but they clean up lizard poop, leftover dragon food, and decaying plant matter. Bearded Dragon poop smells awful. It is enough to stink up the entire room, but now, it just gets buried in the soil and the bugs take care of it. For maintenance, I spray the tank down with a mist of water every morning when I feed Wena. I’m sure in a few months I’ll want to do a deep clean, maybe change out the substrate, or at least some of it, but that’s it.
Here’s the best part of all, Wena is a totally different creature. She used to scratch at the glass of her tank when she saw me. I thought it was cute that she wanted attention, but in hindsight, I think she was bored and restless. Since switching to the bioactive tank, she eats better, she poops more regularly, she climbs, and digs, and eats some of the live plants in her tank. She hunts for bugs. She no longer taps on the glass. Sometimes when I look at the tank, it takes me a minute to figure out where she is. She has choices. Wena no longer basks in the same spot all day, every day.
I love having pets, but I do sometimes worry about them being in captivity. I think about poor Hector who never really learned how to fly. I always do what I can to enrich my pets lives and keep them mentally stimulated. I truly believe that my dragon is happier and living more naturally now. She’s more relaxed. She doesn’t just sit in the same spot all day. She made herself a nice bed of dry leaves where she sometimes naps. She has branches to climb and leaves to nibble.
Back to the reason for this article, always be learning. Three years ago when I set up the dragon tank, I thought it was the best thing for her. I didn’t want to risk impaction with a loose substrate. Now, I’ve read more. I’ve learned that with the right lighting and diet, there really isn’t a risk from the substrate. I’ve seen how happy my girl is to be digging, foraging, nibbling live plants, climbing, basking, all these natural activities are now available to her. It’s amazing to see the change. Part of being a responsible pet owner is being willing to learn, grow, and change. Take care of your pets physically and mentally. Enjoy them!
The other day my husband was commenting that maybe we have a few too many pets. Of course I disagree, but I started wondering why I always want new pets. Yes, I enjoy spending time with them. I love watching them and learning about their behaviors, but I also love the research that happens when I get a new pet, and for a long time afterwards. I think that may be why I love exotic pets so much. Not only is there so much to learn to give exotics everything they need and keep them healthy, but the research is always changing.
I did some research before I got the sugar gliders. I knew they had strange dietary needs, needed a big cage, and might smell a bit musky. I figured out the basics, but once I had them, it was time to figure out what worked for me, and what worked for these four new little guys that I just brought into my home.
There is experimenting going on still. Which type of food bowls do they like best? Should I feed them near the top of the cage or on the bottom? How often do I need to clean them? Do they like their fruits and veggies mixed with their blended diet or separate?
A routine is finally coming together for the gliders. I’m happy with the diet I’m feeding them, they are eating well. I’ve learned I need to clean them often, but not too deeply. Too much cleaning and they get nervous and mark their territory again.
One of my gliders, Miney, is really small. I was a bit worried about him when I first got them. He’s adjusting, gaining a little weight, and becoming a bit more comfortable here. He seems to be more nervous than the others, so I’ve supplemented his feeding, and now I’m putting plenty of food in the dark, back corners of the cage where he seems to feel safest to make sure he eats.
Diet still may evolve as I have them longer, we’ll see! Another thing to be learned was nail clipping. I didn’t realize they would need their nails clipped every 3 weeks! They grow super sharp points, and not only does it hurt when I handle them, but it can also be a danger to the gliders because their nails get stuck on things. After watching about half a dozen videos on Youtube about how to do it, my system is falling into place. I clipped their nails again yesterday, and the boys are starting to get used to the process. They get overloaded with treats, so hopefully they are learning to see nail trimming as a positive instead of a negative.
I’m always reading and learning about my pets and animals in general. I have no doubt my glider care will evolve over time.
It took years of having Hector D. Byrd before I got to a routine that I was happy with, a diet I liked for her that she would eat well, toys she liked, routines she liked, etc. I did change her diet drastically a few months ago when I discovered Bird Street Bistro foods (which I reviewed in another post.) How could I resist a reasonably priced, healthy food that took the work out of the homemade mix I was making?
Next time I’ll share some of what I’ve learned about my bearded dragon, check back soon!
I hate that I got out of the habit of writing this blog. Time to get back to it! I have so many ideas of things I want to share.
Although we are still pretty locked down with the pandemic, I did travel a couple of weeks ago. Our son needed help moving out of his dorm room, so we got to spend a week in the Portland, OR area, beautiful!
Cats, Hector, Gliders, and the Dragon stay at the house when we travel, and I have someone come in once a day to feed them and visit. Cali goes somewhere else to stay. I don’t think she would do well being at the house without someone living here.
I have a couple of friends that will take Cali into their homes, so I never worry about leaving her. I think she has only been to a kennel once or twice in her life. Nothing wrong with kennels, they just aren’t the best fit for her. She has so much anxiety, and the commotion of the other dogs, loud noises, being caged, it just really throws her off.
Leaving the pets was a little nerve-wracking. I hadn’t left the gliders before so I had to figure out what would work for them and the pet sitter who happened to be my daughter this time. I wanted to make sure they had everything they needed, but that it would be simple and easy for my daughter.
The system I came up with for the gliders worked so well, that I’m doing it for myself now. Basically, I’m making up big batches of their blended diet, and freezing it in serving size containers along with their fruits and veggies. To change things up, I add different fruits and veggies to some of the containers, and some containers I mix the blended diet with the fruits and veggies, and others are divided containers. The containers are just flat storage containers that the gliders can also use as a food dish.
After I finish my own dinner, I take out one of the frozen containers and put it in the glider cage. By the time they are ready to eat it has defrosted, but it stays fresh. They also always have pellets in their cage, and of course fresh water. Sometimes things get changed up, I’ll add some yogurt to their staple foods once in a while, or a bit of egg. It’s easy to do when I’m home, but not necessary for the week I traveled.
One thing I learned while prepping the sugar glider foods before the trip was that I had been really over feeding them! I used to think they don’t eat much, and they don’t, they are tiny! But I went back and looked at the portions for their diet. They are supposed to get 1 tablespoon of their blended mix, one tablespoon each of fruit and veggies. I think I was probably feeding them close to double that, what a waste! Now I feed them about 5 tablespoons blended for the four of them along with the fruits and veggies. The best part is now I can actually tell when they are eating well. Some nights they definitely eat more than other nights, and now I have a better feel for things, and my food batches stretch out more.
The bottom line is that my daughter had easy directions for taking care of all the pets, and the pets were all happy and healthy while I was gone.
The dragon is doing great. She seems to love her new terrarium set up and is making it her job to try and eat all the insects that are supposed to be keeping her tank clean. I’m guessing I’m going to be needing to add more bugs before they have a chance to reproduce! I did add some mealworms to the tank. We’ll see how they survive. It’s awesome to see how active she is nibbling plants, checking things out, digging, climbing, etc. I’m really happy for her.
Cali is not happy about her increased walk schedule and decreased treats, but she’s doing well. The lump is definitely just fat, so not a problem, just something to keep an eye on. She is slowly getting weaned off of Apoquel and doing well so far. I plan to take her in for another shot of Cytopoint at the end of the month, and we’ll see how it goes from there. Cali also had a bath and haircut last week, I miss her fuzz, but she seems happier to have some of that thick mess gone.
Hector is Hector. She is doing great. I was worried about her getting cold a couple of weeks ago when the house felt a little colder than normal. She usually hates having a cover on her cage, but with the cold, I wanted to insulate her a bit. She’s getting used to having her blankie on each night, and actually seems to like it. I just put a small fleece over the top 1/4 of her cage. It gives her some insulation, but doesn’t block her view. So far so good!
The kitties are all doing well. Logan’s blood work all came back within normal ranges, so she is scheduled to have her teeth cleaned and the broken tooth removed on Thursday. Bean is very excited about all the outside animal activity as the weather is warming up a little. He’s found a new spot to hang out and hunt.
The gliders are also doing well. I was getting a little bit worried about my little guy, Miney. He has been smaller than the others since I got them, but I started to worry that he might be losing a bit of weight. I reached out to a glider expert through a FaceBook group to get some advice. She recommended “Glider Crack” which is a high protein temporary diet to help add weight to a sick or needy glider. The problem is that my other three boys definitely don’t need extra food!
It has been a bit tricky getting him out alone, but I’ve been able to do it for the last few nights. I wait until it is close to the time I think they will wake up, about 9pm usually, and I disturb the pouch where they all sleep. I offer treats to the three other boys to encourage them to leave the pouch, and I make sure their food is all set up for them. Once I get the three big boys out of the way, I remove the pouch with Miney in it from the cage. I’ve been hand feeding him the special Glider Crack, and he loves it!
In case you were wondering what kind of deliciousness is in Glider Crack, it is canned chicken, avocado, scrambled egg, calcium supplement, and water, all blended together into a lovely green slime.
Miney seems to be doing well. Other than being a little thin, he seems totally fine and healthy. I’ve added more food bowls and separated things out more in the cage, so hopefully if he is getting chased from food, he will have a better chance to get at it now. I’ve hand fed him for the last 4 or 5 nights, so I plan to take a night off. I don’t want him to become totally dependent on hand feeding. I’ll offer him more Glider Crack tomorrow night, and obviously I’m keeping an eye on him.
Two updates in one day! Last month the three cats went in for their annual check ups and I found out Logan had a bad tooth. I should have just scheduled removal at the time, but the vet said to keep an eye on it.
Last week, I found Logan drooling. I called another vet figuring I’d get a second opinion on what was going on. I didn’t want to put her under anesthesia until I was certain that the removal was the right thing.
She had the tooth checked today, and it definitely needs to come out. The vet thinks the drooling was from something getting caught in her gum and irritating it near the bad tooth. We did a blood test today to make sure there isn’t anything going on that we should know about before we do the cleaning next week.
We also found a lump on Cali’s side last week, so she also went in for a check up today. Thankfully, they are 90% sure that it is just a fatty deposit. They took a quick sample of it to be sure, but it doesn’t seem like anything to worry about.
Time to try something new for Cali’s allergies. She’s been taking Apoquel for years, and sometimes it seems to help more than others. We are going to slowly wean her off the Apoquel and see how she does with just Cytopoint injections. She had one today, she’ll have another in 30 days, and then we will see how she does. I’m excited to have her off Apoquel. I hope the new plan works.
Seems that Cali has also put on a few pounds. She weighed over 15 lbs today! She’s usually about 11. Time for more exercise and a doggie diet! That’s fine. Just thankful that the lump doesn’t seem to be a problem.
Sometimes you do something and it is so awesome you wonder why the heck you didn’t do it X-number of years ago. This was definitely one of those projects for me. Yesterday, I turned my bearded dragon tank into a living, bioactive terrarium! I’m so excited! My dragon was so excited she was nibbling at the plants on the ground as I was prepping the tank!
So, let’s start at the beginning. This was my dragon tank:
This is kind of a stripped down messy version of the tank because I had already started pulling some decorations and changing things around to get ready to convert it.
Going bioactive means that my tank will help take care of itself. Tomorrow, I’ll be getting some isopods and springtails, affectionately known as my clean up crew. These little guys will live in the soil and will help keep the soil clean and aerated. They will help decompose dead plant matter, leftover lizard food, and even lizard poop.
Lots of research has gone into this project. It’s important to get the “dirt” just right. It needs to be the right combination of materials to help keep the right humidity for my species of lizard. Bearded Dragons like it dry, so I can’t have too moist of a substrate, but it needs to have a moist layer so that things can decompose properly, and the bugs can prosper. My hope is that my clean up crew will thrive and reproduce in the tank, so it is important for them to have the right environment as well as the lizard.
Besides holding just the right amount of water, it needs to be the right weight. You don’t want too heavy of a substrate that the insects can’t get around, and a light substrate will just collapse all the time.
There are many companies that make substrates for this purpose. If you want more details, check out Josh’s Frogs, or The BioDude. Both have great info, instructional videos, and they sell the products you need to create your tank.
I ended up buying my substrate from Josh’s Frogs. I like that the substrate they sell is basically one bag for me to pour in my tank. The basic set up was to add about an inch of substrate to my tank, then water it until it started sticking together, and then add another 2-3′ of substrate on top of that. I bought some live oak bark from the same website and made some perches for the dragon to climb, these will also help nourish the soil and provide nutrients for the clean up crew. I added some dried leaves for hideouts for the bugs, and also to help jump start the bioactive process with an easy thing to decompose. The next thing I did was add plants.
Lucky for me, I have many plants here. I figured I would buys some new plants for the tank at some point, but that I would start with what I had available. First I did research on every single plant I wanted to use in the tank to make sure it was lizard-safe. It turns out I had many plants that would be perfect!
The last few years I have been playing with succulents. I’ve planted a few terrariums, and restarted a bunch of plants. Succulents are such fun! You can break off a piece and plant it and grow a whole new plant. My succulents were honestly starting to over run my house. I gave a bunch away in the Fall, and I still had too many pots.
I also have many spider plants, like the succulents they are prolific! When my son was in nursery school, he came home with a bit of spider plant. He had it stuck in some dirt, but it didn’t have any roots and kept falling out of the pot. He was SO proud that he had planted that little plant for his Momma. I had to save it! I carefully rooted it and loved it, and it has now grown into a monster spider plant. To give you an idea of how long I’ve had this plant, my son is now in college! Over the years, I’ve given babies of this plant to friends and family, and I have many babies of my own that are doing well in their own pots.
Most of the succulents I have, and spider plants are lizard-safe! I tried to pick a nice variety, and also to consolidate some of my many, many pots. I ended up using about a dozen of my own plants, and the tank is pretty full! At some point, I’d like to add a nice big plant, maybe a jade or a big spineless cactus, but for now I’m very happy not to have to spend money on plants as I get this tank set up.
Here’s what the tank looked like when I first set it up yesterday. It still needs some work, but I’m really happy with it for now. I’d like to get rid of that green hammock in the corner and replace it with another branch that she could climb. I don’t love the artificial cave in the back corner, but I feel that it is important for the lizard to have a hide, and it will also help maintain the tank. I’m supposed to keep a protected/humid spot what I can water every week or so. I’ll soak that corner to help get water down to the lower layers of the substrate without having to soak the whole tank. I will also be lightly misting the entire tank once a day.
This morning there were a couple of plants with exposed roots, presumably from Wena running over them and uprooting them, but overall everything held out pretty well. I’m sure she will end up munching on some plants and replacements will be necessary in the future. I’m planning to add some herb plants which grow fast, and lizards are known to like to munch.
This is the tank this morning after I fed Wena and replanted the plants that needed it.
Tomorrow, the Clean Up Crew arrives! I’m really excited to see how this tank grows and develops over time. I plan to continue splitting and propagating my plants that aren’t in the tank in case I need to replace plants. Maybe tomorrow I can also find the right branch to replace the ugly green hammock.
I know how to have a fun weekend! Yes, pandemic is putting a damper on things, but I found a new pet project to brighten up my weekend!
Hector has been very entertaining lately. A couple of weeks ago she started coughing. I was really worried! Every time she coughed, I would get up and go check on her, but she seemed fine, breathing was good, no discharge, eyes looked good, eating, drinking, pooping normally, I was stumped! The next day she coughed and I ran to check on her and she started laughing. I realized she was coughing for attention! It’s developed into a new routine around here: Hector coughs, I ask if she is OK, “oh poor poor birdy! Is my baby bird OK?” She coughs again, maybe a couple of coughs in a row. “Poor Hector! what a terrible cough! Maybe you need a treat?” She laughs, I bring her a treat. This is what it is like to be owned by a parrot.
As I’m writing today, Wena the dragon is hanging out on the back of my chair. Bean is very concerned that she is going to eat me, or maybe he just wants to play with her, but here’s the look I’m getting.
The gliders are settling in really well. I’m still not sure they like me, but they don’t bite me, so it’s all good. I’ve been reading that a lot of glider owners use mosquito net bed tents to let their gliders run and play. While I think this sounds like an awesome idea, I also know how incredibly messy my boys are, and they believe the entire world is their bathroom. I wasn’t excited about the idea of cleaning up a tent, as well as not wanting to buy or store the tent.
Eenie, Meenie, Miney, and Mo have been hanging out with me in my glass shower stall. It’s a double stall, like bathtub size, and it works out really well. The boys can run around, and when it is over, I can just clean the shower. The problem is, other than the corner shelf unit, there isn’t much for them to climb on in the shower. This weekend, I had the best idea!
This pile of PVC was a homemade parrot stand I made for Hector years ago. She never liked it, so it has been up in the attic. Rebuilt, I was thinking I could convert it into a climber for the gliders!
I took the original structure and made sure it fit in the shower, and it did! Next I took a bunch of the fleece pieces I had for the gliders and hung them from the stand to give them more climbing options. I wasn’t sure if I would need to wrap the PVC in fleece or add something to make it easier for them to climb.
As soon as I let them out in the shower, two of them climbed right up the PVC pipe! They had no problems with it at all, especially Miney, the tiniest of the 4 by far. He is also the craziest! Every night Miney is the one running like a maniac in the wheel. Climbing this structure was definitely right up his alley. It took him maybe 2 seconds to figure out how to get from the structure I built up onto the shower head. At one point, he was running up one side of the fleece and down the other, over and over again.
Mo found himself a comfy spot on the 2nd layer and mostly hung out there.
Meenie enjoyed climbing, and went all the way to the top, but was a bit more cautious than crazy Miney. He explored carefully and checked out all the different parts.
My Eenie is my big boy. He’s chunky. He’s the one I most often find at the food bowl when he’s awake. He never left my body while they were out this time. His friends would come over and pester him, but he just hung out with me.
He sat in my lap, he hung out on my shoulder, he did some climbing, but only on me. At one point he tried to climb across my face, ouch! Thankfully the scratch is small. Not looking forward to trimming nails again, but it might be almost time.
Eventually, Miney really got into crazy mode, and just started running and leaping. He made his way to the shower head, then made the leap to the top of the shower doors. From there he was looking around and I knew I was in trouble. I put away the other three boys, and watched Miney leap about 8ft from the top of the shower doors to the towel rack. Scooped him up from there, and they all went back to their cage.
I’m sure over the next few weeks I’ll be adding/changing toys to the climbing structure, but I’m so excited to have it! Now I don’t feel the need for a messy tent, and the boys have a great new play area. I just have to figure out how to keep Miney from the gap at the top of the shower!
Next project I’m working on is creating a BioActive terrarium for the Dragon! I’m learning all about substrates, clean up insects, and safe plants. I’ll update soon.