A Sign of the Times?

Posted in Husbandry How-to at 8:37 am by Jenn

For years, we have lamented the fact that despite how popular small animals like guinea pigs and rats are for pets, the majority of pet retailers could literally care less about their actual needs.  Take this “Guinea Pig Starter Kit” for example, which is made by “All Living Things”.

The cage itself measures 24″x14″.  We have had several of these donated, so I can tell you from experience that that measurement is at the top lip of the cage, which then tapers in slightly towards the bottom.  At the bottom, the cage is more realistically around 22″x12″.  That is barely over 2 square feet.  An adult guinea pig is typically around 10″ long.  They barely have room to turn around, much less to run or express energy.

We frequently see health problem from substandard cages like these.  Males, especially, suffer from impaction problems due to lack of exercise.  These pigs also tend to be obese, having a mostly pellet based diet (you’ll notice that the “kit” doesn’t include any hay).  And more nebulously, the pigs living in these sized cages seem to have a neurosis about them.  They can’t live with a friend, they can’t run or exercise properly, and they really have nothing to do except for sit there, all day, eating, and watching the world go by.  Sometimes they’ll entertain themselves by eating their own hair, sometimes by chewing the cage bars just for something to do, sometimes by draining the water bottle over and over again.  These behaviors cause their own problems…  broken teeth, fungal infections, bumblefoot, etc.

And most pet store cages run a gamut of sizes, but overall, we in guinea pig rescue have been forced to simply say “it’s better to build your own cage” because of these extreme size differences.  Even those that were nearly the correct size (such as some of the “Ultra” or “Deluxe” sized pet cages, were misleading as to their measurements, and were particularly narrow, which we often found caused fighting amongst pigs who couldn’t get away from each other with much ease, and which left the entire cage nearly impassible once you added accessories.

When I purchased my first two guinea pigs (before I had any idea there was such a thing as a guinea pig “rescue”), I bought the largest cage they had, which was 41″x18″.  Again, that was the top measurement, and the pan tapered down, so probably more like 39″x16″.  Once I added in two pigloos (which are 10″ wide), I had a cage that my pigs couldn’t even run around in!

So I upgraded to building my own cage, with the information at Guinea Pig Cages.  I’ve been extremely happy with my C&C cage, but there have been others that were not keen on them for various reasons.  They’re difficult to transport, for one, since the coroplast is rigid.  They can be a little difficult to get together (I’ve had my share of frankencages since — I’m terrible at measuring things like that).  Sometimes the supplies can be difficult to obtain (Target, for example, recently changed their grid sizes, rendering them dangerous to guinea pigs.)

Surprisingly, one company stepped up to the plate, and has released a guinea pig cage that is 7.5 square feet!  Midwest (who also makes the famous Ferret Nation and Critter Nation cages) has produced the Guinea Habitat.  (Pictured to the right).

What I love about the cage:

  • 7.8 square feet of space!
  • Expandable — you can hook as many together as you want.
  • Canvas bottom (waterproof) folds up for transport (this would be a lifesaver at adopt-a-thons)
  • Can buy a separate top for people who have children or other pets

What I don’t like so much:

  • The “PLUS” has a kitchen area which I feel takes away a lot of running room, and I’m not particularly fond of.
  • Not able to be stacked without an external shelving system (but most people are also not fostering animals and probably don’t have a need for this!)

Overall, the pros far outweigh the cons, and it’s a good feeling to know that a company is listening to what pet owners are asking for, and are trying to provide affordable ways to keep those pets happy!  Overall, the Midwest line has shown exceptional quality and care for pets.  The one product of theirs I would NOT recommend is the “Wabbitat”, which is smaller than this guinea pig cage, even though rabbits are easily 3-4 times the size of a guinea pig!  However, this year has shown the launch of several new products, so I suspect they’re also gearing up to relaunch their rabbit line.

So kudos to Midwest, who are doing their best to provide stellar homes to our beloved pets!


Welcome to Willie!

Posted in Day-to-day at 3:28 pm by Jenn

ACR&S is happy to welcome Willie to our adoption program!  Willie is a handsome male chihuahua who was abandoned at a local shelter.  Like many small, older dogs, he had not been socialized well, and going from his comfortable, familiar home to the shelter environment full of strange people, animals, and noises was just too much for him.  Once there, he became defensive and shy, clinging to a single person as his refuge.

The decision was made to bring him into our program with his foster, in order to slowly socialize him to other people and animals.  The behavior he exhibited was not unusual by any stretch.  The shelter is a scary environment, and small “purse sized” dogs are often not given the training needed to survive in such an environment.  In the past, we have pulled these dogs and socialized them with great success and they have become loving, productive family members once they were given the tools to cope with the big scary world.

So a big welcome to Willie, who is getting on his feet again.  It’s never too late for a second chance.


Congratulations to Simba!

Posted in Adoptions at 8:28 am by Jenn

A great big congratulations to Simba, our very own baby hairball hamster for finding his forever home!  His new adoptive mom Kimberly writes to let us know that he is one spoiled hammie!  Every night when he wakes up around 9pm, she lets him out to run around in his ball, and if she doesn’t, he makes sure to let himself be heard!

Simba (formerly Stevenson) is from our Happy Hamster Horde that were surrendered to a local shelter.  6 hamsters (5 females and 1 male) quickly became 14 hamsters (though we were very lucky — not all of the girls were pregnant and the litters were fairly small).

Stevenson’s siblings, aunts, and parents are still looking for adoptive homes on our Petfinder site!


The season of giving.

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:28 am by Jenn

The holiday season is upon us, and since starting to rescue, I have come to dread it.

Christmas/Thanksgiving time has traditionally been my favorite.  I love buying presents, love wrapping them, love having the tree in my house…  the whole 9 yards.  I am one of those crazy people that spends more money on their electrical bill at Christmas than probably the rest of the year.

But the season of giving is different in rescue.  The season of giving generally entails giving away a lot of pets.  The reasons are varied, but predictable.  Usually it’s becuase they’re travelling for the holiday and don’t want to bother to board the animals.  Maybe they’re getting a new pet.  Maybe this pet is old and it depresses them for Christmas.  Sometimes the reasons are never known.

So here are ACR&S holiday intakes for 2008.  They are seeking the gift of permanence.   Of never being in the shelter again, smelling the strange smells of despair.  Of never having to take a 6 hour car trip because their lives depended on it.  And of never being given away again.  The gift of a home.

Willow, Remy, and Rhett

Willow, Remy, and Rhett came to ACR&S from way down south.  Georgia, in fact!  Friend of ACR&S Talishan was contacted by a local vet.  A family in the area was going to dump these guinea pigs off at the local kill shelter, and that shelter euthanized all exotics because they did not have the resources to care for them.  The vet called Talishan, Talishan called me, and we set up a transport train to bring them north.

Willow remained with Andrea in our Charlotte sorority house, and the boys came east to stay in Raleigh with me.  They were pretty shaken up by the long ride, but they graciously accepted a prepared meal of lettuces, dandelion, bell peppers, and carrots when they arrived, showing me that they weren’t too traumatized by this whole trip.

Flower Power Piggies

Zinnia, nearly identical to Poppy and Marigold

The Flower Power piggies are an emergency pull from a local animal shelter.

A mother and father, two aunts, and her litter of four were abandoned, and one of the litter was male!  Unfortunately, the shelter didn’t have the space or resources to be able to seperate by sex, and were were afraid that (if left to their own devices) the adolescent male would shortly come into puberty and soon we would have a whole flower patch!

We opted to go ahead and pull them in the hopes that we could prevent the accidental pregnancies.  As of their vet checkup, we appear to have been successful, although we still have our fingers crossed.  Rodents can be notoriously sneaky about pregnancies, and it’s not unheard of for a female to deliver one or two extremely small babies even though being cleared earlier in the pregnancy.

And so, Bryony, Zinnia, Marigold, Tigerlilly, Poppy, Rowan, and Hawthorne came to ACR&S.  This group is very similar!  Zinnia, Marigold, and Poppy could all be twins.  They’re all a beautiful solid rust color (with Zinnia and Marigold having one white foot each).  Rowan, Hawthorne, and Tigerlily are also all alike, with a broken rust and white dutch pattern.  Mama Bryony is the outlier, and looks like a carton of neopolitan ice cream!

Mama Bryony

Baby Rowan

So join ACR&S in welcoming our  new piggie friends home for the holidays!  They are all asking Santa to bring them a forever home where they won’t ever have to spend a Christmas alone again!


Welcome to Crow and Dove

Posted in Adoptions at 3:29 pm by Jenn

Another great big welcome to Crow and Dove, our newest resident foster ratties.  These girls were surrendered to ACR&S when their young owner became allergic to them and the doctor recommended that the rats be rehomed.  Crow (thought to be between 6-8 months old) is the mother to young Dove (thought to be 3-4 months old).  When they arrived, they had been living in a 10 gallon aquarium on pine shavings.  More than likely, their young friend was allergic to their bedding — and not them.  Numerous studies have shown that many mammal species have unpleasant reactions to both pine and cedar due to their softwood oils.  Aquariums are also singularly stuff habitats, especially for creatures as large and active as rats, and the combined allergens of urine and pine were probably too much to handle.

When they arrived, both were prone to trying to snack on people’s hands that entered the cage.  This, too, is very common when rats are only interacted with to be given food.  Rats are notoriously smart, and they soon figure out that the hands only come in with food, and start associating them with eating.  Sometimes in their excitement, they can be a little too eager to nibble.

After only 2 days of socialization, both rats had already stopped nibbling fingers and trying to snack on knuckles.  Though initially quite shy, they are coming out of their shells, and often await treats by dangling from the top of their cage.  They have also taken a fierce joy in their new spacious home.  They spend much of their time scampering around and wrestling, and are sweet girls that are inquisitive and curious.

Crow, the mother, has shown herself to be the leader.  She is first in all things, and absolutely fearless.  She gained her name on her first evening with us as she ran from hand to shoulder to hand trying to steal my jewelry and hoard it — just like a sly crow!  She is a pretty Berkshire patterned girl (which means she has a white stomach).  Dove, her daughter, is gentle and shy, and prefers to snuggle close to you once picked up.  She is not as brave as Crow, and has taken quite a while to warm up to human companionship.  She has finally made the first big step and started accepting treats from human hands!

So welcome to Dove and Crow — two cuties that are searching for their perfect home.