Welcome Douglas!

Posted in Day-to-day, Medical at 1:23 am by Jenn

Douglas is our newest guinea pig intake.  As has seemingly been par for this summer, Douglas made a mess!Douglas was abandoned at a children’s preschool camp in a filthy aquarium.  On his aquarium was a sign, “CHEWY – FREE TO GOOD HOME”.  I am always appalled when someone keeping an animal in filth and squalor has the nerve to advertise an animal as “free to good home”.  After all, they certainly weren’t providing a good home!

In addition to this substandard care and lack of concern for whoever would pick up this poor animal, they were ignoring a serious health concern for Douglas — he had a huge lump on his right side that had obviously been ignored for months, if not more than a year.

A good Samaritan took pity on Douglas (then Chewy) and took him home.  She bought him some basic supplies to get him through the night and then started contacting vets to help him out.  Unfortunately for her, the lump removal was going to be rather pricey.  She opted to contact ACR&S and seek our help in rehabilitating Douglas.

So our ever-intrepid Charlotte coordinator, Andrea, made the trip to pick up this poor piggie, and then transported him out to me to be de-lumped, neutered, and paired up with a buddy.  I guesstimate him to be 1-2 years of age, and he seems to have spent his entire life in that tiny hell.  When encountering a C&C cage for the first time, Andrea reports that he popcorned, ran, and frolicked as though he had known no greater joy.  (He probably hadn’t.)

Despite all this, he is an unusually friendly and nosy pig.  He likes to come over and see what we’re doing, complain to us about his lack of vegetables (he seems to feel like he should have all he wants instead of carefully measured portions), and tell us about what he’s doing.  He likes to popcorn and seems to be grateful for what he’s finally been given — the very basics.

Douglas, Post Surgery

Douglas went in for his surgery on September 12, 2008.  It was initially planned for him to have this enormous lump removed and to be neutered at the same time, but the lump was too massive, and removal took too long.  Dr. Munn was nervous of keeping him under any longer, especially given the enormous size of the surgical site, as seen to the right.

Doug has taken his surgery in good stride.  He begs for treats frequently, hams for visitors to our house, and tries to appear pitiful when medication time rolls around.  His staples will be coming out this Friday, and he will be on the lookout for his new home.

UPDATE: Due to the odd nature of the growth, our vet isn’t convinced that this is a one-time problem. Therefore, we think Douglas will have to stay in the Sanctuary. He may be able to be considered for adoption to experienced pig owners only, with the understanding that he will be special needs and may have life-long medical expenses.


No rest for the wicked

Posted in Day-to-day, Humor at 4:58 am by ACR&S

Early in the month, we took a long-overdue vacation. My partner and I have literally not had a vacation away from the animals, of more one or two nights, since at least 2002. With the dwindling number of sanctuary residents, the day-to-day support of our three NC coordinators, and the fortuitous presence of our vet student friend to petsit, we set off for a seven day vacation in California, to revisit some of my favorite grad-school haunts.

We weren’t in Cali for 24 hours when we found ourselves back having to do some animal rescue.

We were meandering along a path lined with olive trees in Davis, when I felt compelled to take a picture of the olives. So we turned off of the path, and right in front of us was a common pigeon, curled at the base of a tree. I picked him up and felt that he was bone-thin; further examination showed that his lower beak was broken off. It was not a recent wound; the beak had mostly healed. He’d probably been having trouble eating for a while and was finally weakened nearly to death. So we paused our trip down memory lane and started calling around to find a wildlife rehabber.

We found one, about a half an hour away at the old McClellan Air Force Base. The rescue was actually housed in the base’s old radar station! They felt hopeful he could recuperate, given enough good, easy-to-eat food, although he may never be able to be released.

What are the odds of us going down into that part of town, right at that moment, and turning aside precicely at that place?

Pretty good, as far as the pigeon was concerned.


Outsmarted by Rabbits

Posted in Day-to-day, Humor at 1:41 am by Jenn

Wendy and BB came back to foster at my house this previous weekend.

I have to admit, I had been spoiled by fostering Sinatra. He was the best, most docile bunny in the world. He liked being snuggled, and tolerated being picked up when it was needful. He rarely chewed things, stayed in his bunny room, and seemed content to explore quietly and amuse himself.

Wendy and BB are much rambunctious than the sweetly reserved Sinatra.

The first thing they did during their very first floor time was work the perimeter of their enclosure until they found an opening and escape. They are avid extreme sportswomen. They like trying to climb onto things (especially things which they shouldn’t be on) and have a knack for teamwork which is a little frightening. (I saw both of them work together just last night to topple over a carefully stacked selection of periodicals)

But so far, their best trick has been with the water dish.

Their previous foster mom made it very clear that Wendy and BB were serious water drinkers. I did not pay close attention to this their first day, and I returned home to an upset, empty water dish that had been thrown up onto the second story of their cage, and two very disgruntled rabbits.

The spirit of ingenuity filled me, and that was when I made my fatal mistake. I tried to outsmart the rabbits.

It started well enough. I decided that I would give them an automatic waterer. That way, I reasoned, they would have at least a half gallon of water available to them throughout the day while I was at work, and I could then refill it when I got home, and there would be much rabbit rejoicing.

Luckily, as our cat has chronic renal failure, we have a plethora of water dishes, bowls, fountains, and dispensers. I selected the tried and true Petmate waterer.

I dutifully filled it, added it to the cage, and then watched the rabbits drink from it. I was successful, the rabbits were happy. I went to bed secure in the knowledge that I had been a good provider.

The next morning, I woke up slightly late, and so had to hurry to do my morning feed. (This usually takes around 30 minutes depending on the number of animals. Currently in residence are 11 guinea pigs, 2 rats, 2 rabbits, and 3 hamsters) I typically do the rabbits last as they are the most involved, and it gives them a bit of time to stomp around while I clean everything up.

I opened their door and immediately noticed two things:

  1. they were both on the second floor, which is unusual as they prefer the ground floor
  2. they both looked pretty smug

I reached in to pet them, and put my hand into the bottom of the cage for support myself, and my hand went into half an inch of standing water. At some time during the night, they had managed to drain the entire waterer. On top of that, they had also managed not to move it an inch. AND it still had the very small amount of water in the dispensing bowl.

I said several inappropriate words, grabbed a handful of towels, and was watched with amusement by a pair of rabbits as I tried to clean up half a gallon of water wearing my nice office clothes without getting hay and poop on myself.

I replaced the waterer with a bigger bowl, and we’ve been ok since.

Finally, this morning they were let out to roam around a bit and get some morning exercise. About 20 minutes in, I hear a series of especially angry sounding thumps and grunts. BB had managed to jump into the bathtub, but was having difficulty getting out. So, of course, she thumped for room service.

This was followed by Wendy wedging herself between a large full bucket of pellets and the wall while trying to eat the wallpaper. “Hey! What are you doing?” I asked. She shot backwards out of the hole, ran across the room, skidded 180 degrees, spun out, and then dove into the cage. We are calling this move “GTA: Bunny”.

Prior to fostering rabbits, I definitely knew they were intelligent, but living with them has only proved to me that they are insanely smart, and people are very lucky that they don’t have opposable thumbs.

This is excerpted from Susan describing to someone how to bunny proof a bathroom:

The bathroom *could* be a good option, but you’d still want to rabbit proof the following:

a. add a toilet seat latch so bunny doesn’t nose up the seat, get in, and drown.
b. add cabinet latches so bunny doesn’t nose open the cupboard and eat the Drano.
c. put grids all along the baseboard/cabinets/doors so bunny doesn’t eat them/start peeling off the wallpaper
d. move the shower curtains and towels out of reach so bunny can’t pull them down and eat ’em.
e. move the toilet paper out of reach because MY GOD WHAT A FUN TOY until you come home to bunny’s paper nest all over the floor
f. move all the toiletries off the counter, because sure as sunshine, the bunny will figure out how to get from the floor to the toilet to the counter and then he’ll decide to share your toothbrush

Initially, you sort of laugh, but then you have a rabbit in your house that’s motivated and you realize in about a day that all of those things are possible.


Bladder Stone Trouble

Posted in Day-to-day, Medical at 3:36 am by Jenn

I haven’t been updating the blog recently because of a medical crisis in one of my sanctuary piggies, MnemosyneMnemosyne. Mnemie is around 3 years old, and was pulled from a local shelter. When I got back from Fozzie and Kismet’s excellent adoption 2 weeks ago, I went and cleaned all my cages, only to discover that Mnemie had lost weight and was sitting in a puddle of blood.

I got her into our vet the next day, we got x-rays, and it was confirmed that she had bladder stones. Bladder stones can form in the case of a very inappropriate diet which does not have a balanced calcium to phosphorus ratio, has way too much oxalic acid in it, or for no real discernible reason, but seemingly genetically related.

Initially, because of her rather older age, I opted to try and have her pass the stones on her own. The x-rays revealed that she had 2-3 rather smallish stones, and they seemed positioned well to pass. So we went home, with a lot of pain medication, antibiotics, a setup for subcutaneous fluids, and a lot of Pedialyte, and spent a week trying to help her pass them.

At the end of the week, the followup x-rays showed that they hadn’t moved at all, so we opted to try the surgery anyway.

Bladder stone surgery is not easy on pigs, and I was terribly worried. The morning of surgery dawned, and I dropped her off in the early AM with plenty of veggies and lots of good wishes. I received a call at my job at 9am. Dr. Munn had her open, but he couldn’t find her bladder. My initial response, I must admit, was outrage. How could a vet not find an entire organ!? But, he went on to explain, when Mnemie was spayed (at the local shelter) she had formed a intricate knotwork of adhesions. These fibrous bands of scar tissue had basically solidified all of her organs into a giant lump in the middle of her body.

I asked him to try and break them and find her bladder, but gave my blessing to euthanize her on the table if for some reason organs were damaged. It’s extremely common to do so, because adhesions are tough to get around. I fully expected to be burying Mnemie next to poor Ferdinand.

An hour later, I received the call I never expected. He had managed to find her poor bladder by breaking the adhesions as gently as possible. Nothing had been damaged, Mnemie was stitched up and sleeping and they were watching her to see if she woke up.

Mnemosyne's Bladder StonesWhen I arrived to pick her up, the stones they showed me were frightening. Her whole poor bladder had been full of stones. It was very thick walled and irritated (obviously from all the stones), but the inside of the bladder was also deeply crenelated, and all of those crevices had been filled with tiny stones and stalactites of stone. The largest of the stones are pictured here.

Unfortunately, that gives her a less than promising prognosis, since it seems like her bladder is custom-made to sieve off any stone forming materials and collect them in pockets to develop bigger stones.

2 weeks of recovery followed. She was incontinent, and she leaked pee constantly and stayed filthy. She was preferential to veggies, and tended to have loose stools. We did nightly subcue fluids, which she hated and screamed at me for, and I hated because she hated. She stayed mostly on a very low heating pad because she had problems maintaining her body temperature.

And then 2 weeks later, I tried reintroducing her to Hobo and Lethe, her cagemates, because she seemed to be doing much better (although she was still very underweight). Her reintroduction caused massive weight loss within a day, and I can only imagine that she is still not feeling 100% despite her weeks of healing.Mnemie with Hobo and Lethe

But now I am left wondering if I made the right decision. Mnemie is now living by herself, and seems overall to be happy. She begs for vegetables each morning, and seems delighted for new hay every day. But she is still underweight, and can’t live with her friends. She also is still incontinent (which Dr. Munn says may eventually go away — in dogs and cats he’s found it can take 4-6 months for those muscles to redevelop themselves). Because of her incontinence, her poor vulva is almost always irritated from urine. I powder her twice a day to help keep her dry, and change her bedding every other day, but this still remains a problem.

We have made changes to her diet, to try and make it even more balanced (though all of the pigs here in Raleigh have a relatively balanced veggie diet). Lots of water, which is all filtered or bottled, and cranberry juice as treats to help stave off UTIs are now par for the course. She gets her bottom powdered twice a day now, which stings her, and makes her cry.

It is hard for me, as a caregiver of a small animal like this to discern if I have truly made the right choice for this pig. All I know is that 3 weeks after surgery, covered in pee, and with bed sores on her tiny feet, she crawled up to my chest and lay her head next to mine. And then she licked my cheek over and over again for about half an hour. She has never done it before, and she has never done it since. I hope that it is her way of saying that she’s still “in the game” and appreciates the chance.


Congratulations Fozzie and Kismet!

Posted in Adoptions, Day-to-day, Medical at 12:33 am by Jenn

This past Saturday (July 19), Fozzie and Kismet, the longest fosters we have had at ACR&S since I became the local coordinator, went to their forever home.

Fozzie was from a litter of shelter pigs whose adopters contacted us for help in placement. Kismet was purchased pregnant from a big box pet store (you know, the ones that sell only one sex to prevent missexing?), but ended up being pregnant. Her owner dumped both her and her young son off at a dog rescue in South Carolina. Her son was adopted as a partner for an older male, and his new owner called us, distressed, asking us if we had room for Kismet.

So she caught several rides north and came to ACR&S, where she and a neutered Fozzie quickly became close friends.

But while other pigs were adopted, nobody seemed interested in this pair. Even older pigs who were considered “less” adoptable, like our 4 year old boys from a hoarder bust, found homes as Fozzie and Kismet were left behind.

This weekend, it quickly became clear that they were waiting for a special family of adopters to move cross country in order to find their perfect home! Jamie and her family opened up their hearts (and fridges) to the duo, and in a very short time it was clear that it was love as first sight.

They quickly settled in, and now their new mom says:

Right now Fozzie is on the couch and Kismet is mad that she is not out. I walked past her home and she ran up to me, she has learned fast that lap time = treat time.
Guinea pigs are lovable, but they are not above being mercenary with their affections. With the correct bribing, they do quickly learn that the loud bipeds who wander around generally come with food and are to be tolerated.


The story goes on and on…

Posted in Day-to-day at 10:33 am by Jenn

This is the story of Ferdinand the guinea pig, and how he came to an end at the hands of humans without compassion.

I was called on Tuesday, July 22rd, around 12pm on the rescue line at work. I listened to the voicemail when it came in. Two guys, working at a small office in a neighboring city, had come into possession of two guinea pigs. They had been found outside that morning, and could we come and pick them up? They admitted they were nice animals, but they had no experience or personal desire to keep said nice animals, and really felt like we knew more of what we were doing.

I asked some questions about their health to ascertain how emergent the situation was. He said their eyes were clear, they were moving around the cage, and that he couldn’t see any mucous caked around their noses, and that both were nibbling at food and that he heard the water bottle being used (and saw water disappearing, consequently). All of these things sounded completely normal for two very freaked out pigs who had just survived a night in the parking lot. I made plans to pick them up after work.

When I arrived, the very nice people at the office had actually made an emergency supply run to the local Walmart to procure some bedding, a water bottle, a cage, just for temporary use. But even with completely new supplies, the pigs smelled absolutely fetid.

I pulled each pig out in turn, checking sex to see if we were soon going to have a lot of stray pigs. Luckily, both were male.

The larger of the two seemed to be in fine shape. An almost completely black abbyssinian, he was big and frisky and chowing down heartily on the food they’d purchased for him. Unfortunately, nearly his entire underside was bald and covered with scabs. He appeared to have “urine scald”, which happens when animals stay in their own urine and feces for extended periods of time. The acidic nature of urine will actually burn the skin.

The second pig was not in good shape. He was much smaller, and for whatever reason, the entire ordeal had been much harder on him. When I picked him up, he flopped like a rag doll, and some clear liquid (perhaps water?) streamed out of his mouth onto my hand. I thanked the office profusely and told them we were going go the vet.

I arrived at our vet’s office 20 minutes later. Both pigs were examined, and the smaller one actually sat and retched repeatedly during his gentle palpations. I was told, basically, that he was not doing well, but that anything we could do may make him worse from stress. Take him home, give him pedialyte at room temperature, wait, and say a prayer to the deity of my choice. He was breathing in gasping, heaving breaths.

I arrived home at 5:30pm. Knowing that the smaller of the two pigs was not likely to survive, I enlisted Anthony to help me ready their living area. We quickly sat up my largest quarantine cage (much smaller than a C&C, but 3 times as large as the cage they had been in), and inserted the pigs. The bigger pig immediately started wolfing down pellets and nibbling at hay, but the smaller one was not interested.

He felt very cool to the touch. I got some Pedialyte that hadn’t made it into the fridge, got a 1CC syringe, and started slowly working some liquid into his system. While I did that, Anthony grabbed the laptop and we started looking for names. He deserved to have a name and a home if the worst happened. The horrible people who had abandoned him in a parking lot had taken everything from him — identity, home, health, and now even his hope. He deserved to have something of his own.

While browsing, we saw the name Ferdinand, and both of us were reminded of the book, “The Story of Ferdinand” about a bull who didn’t want to fight, but wanted to smell the flowers instead. This little guy certainly needed a bull’s strength, but had such a kind, patient eye, that the name seemed perfect. The actual meaning of Ferdinand was “to be courageous”. It was appropriate.

It took about an hour of careful syringing to get an entire CC into his poor little body. As I finished, he wheeked at me weakly, and gave me a small headbutt as I petted his head. I put him back into his cage so I could grab a quick bite of supper and then come back to continue nursing him.

30 minutes later, I heard him scream and saw him convulse. I knew it wasn’t good. I called Susan on my cell phone, and we decided to run for the emergency vet. He was probably going to have to be euthanized, but at least he wouldn’t be in agony for hours. I threw on my shoes and tucked him into a cat carrier, wrapped in a fleece. I called the vet on the phone to let them know I was coming.

I opened the carrier for the trip, and stuck my hand into the fleece so that he could feel me. His breathing had finally calmed down. About a mile out of my driveway, I felt him draw a deep, ragged breath. He seemed to sigh and laid his head down against my hand. I told him with a choked voice that it was ok to go, because I knew he was hurting. And then he died.

I pulled over into the parking lot of some warehouse and pulled him out of the carrier. I didn’t want to believe it. It wasn’t right that he should die. He didn’t do anything wrong. He was so young, only a baby. He couldn’t have been more than 7-8 months old. But he was gone. And I sat there with him for several minutes and cried.

I returned home with him. It was 7:24pm. I had known him for 3 hours, and now he was dead. He awaits burial in my freezer. It was pouring and lightning last night, so it wasn’t in the cards.

So this is the story of Ferdinand. Of a guinea pig that had everything taken from him, even his hope. And who was left in a way that made death the only option left for him.

Ferdinand left behind his buddy, Sullivan, the black abby pig. Sullivan is getting along very well, and eating with hearty appetite. He will be looking for his forever home very soon.


Cat rescue: I have always been a sucker

Posted in Day-to-day, Philosophy at 2:11 am by ACR&S

Well, I recently posted about some of my early kitten-rescue days and I’ve been asked to elaborate on that story. It was my first experience working with an organized rescue, and really helped set the stage for later opening my own rescue, so here you go:

Back in 1998, I accidentally got involved in cat rescue. I was living in a smallish apartment complex in High Point, NC; small enough that my landlord lived in the apartment across from me. She was an animal lover, and knew I was too, although at this point I didn’t have any pets apart from my birds.

One morning my landlord called and said, “Um, can you come over? I need your help!” I trooped over and found that she had rescued a litter of five tiny baby kittens. There was some construction being done in the back of the complex, and they’d been huddled in the shade under a bulldozer. She had to move them or they would have been crushed. After several hours of not seeing any sign of the momma cat, the landlady gave up and brought them home.

She wanted to know if I knew anything about cats, and could I help her raise them. I told her what little I knew (that she needed to buy KMR [kitten milk replacement] and wipe their butts to get them to defecate). She asked me to take them – I balked, having never raised kittens, and not being particularly fond of them in the first place. Well, if I couldn’t take the kittens, could I help her find a home for this older cat that she had rescued a few months earlier?

So I started calling around, looking for rescues who would take or help us place this cat and the kittens. I found a group called Feral Cat Management (now the Feral Cat Assistance Program). The weren’t a shelter, they explained, but if my landlord and I could keep the cats as their foster parents, they could provide vet care, spay/neuter, even litter and food, and of course help with placement.

With my costs covered, I had no problem being talked into fostering my landlord’s older kitten. The landlord definitely had her hands full with five infants needing to be bottle-fed and butt-wiped, so even though it wasn’t my problem, I couldn’t refuse. Enter Belle, AKA Jezebel, dually named for her beauty and for the tawdry way she would stick her bottom in your face to be petted. She was about 4 months old, another kitten from the feral colony who lived behind the apartment complex.

After about a month, Belle was old enough to be spayed and start going to adoption events. At this point, my landlord begged me to take the five younger kittens. They were eating solid food and using a litterbox, so it wasn’t as bad as it would have been a month ago. I think she used the excuse that she had her own human baby, who was learning to walk and starting to require more active supervision. For whatever reason, I agreed, and now I had six crazy furballs in my house.

FCAP was as good as their word, and covered all my costs except toys and a few supplies. They helped me get one kitten after another placed, and I found that I really enjoyed helping them. I enjoyed going to adoption events, I enjoyed meeting adopters, I enjoyed watching the kittens explore their new homes. One by one, the herd dwindled.

Now, to reiterate: I had never before, as an adult, owned a cat. I didn’t even particularly like cats. But I was a sucker. And that was clear to the good folks at FCAP. I didn’t have cats of my own, therefore, I had no personal kitties who would be at risk if I could be persuaded to foster the, um, difficult cats. As the original Gang of Six started to be adopted, FCAP asked, or rather begged, me to take one cat after another who, for various reasons, couldn’t be placed into a foster home where the foster parent had cats of their own:

There was Abbie, who had explosive diarrhea of unknown origin. It got worse due to the very known origin of eating an entire pound cake while I was away for Christmas vacation (a pound cake given to me by the FCAP petsitter, left sitting on the counter by said petsitter, while I was out of town).

There was Yoda, who taught me that tapeworm eggs look just like sesame seeds.

There was Ghost, who at eight weeks old was the most hateful, feral little monster ever. He bit and scratched whenever he was handled; I still bear the scars. After three months he was among the friendliest cat I’d ever seen.

There was Maggie, who had ringworm. For sixteen weeks I had to bathe the cat, the laundry room, all her supplies, and myself, in bleach and sulfur dip, twice a day. I STILL caught a spot of it on my arm.

There was Tang, who had a urinary tract infection that had to be treated with antibiotic tablets. I learned that cats can have a pill shoved 8″ down their esophagus and still hork it back up without swallowing it. I also learned that a 170 lb adult male human is not stronger than a 3 lb kitten when the kitten is holding onto the underside of the couch and does not want to be pulled out to take his pill.

DK, molested by kittens.In just 10 months, I had fostered a total of 11 cats for FCAP. I had not had less than three foster cats in that entire time. If only I had known what I was getting into when I agreed to take that ONE, first kitten.

We started to think about moving to Chapel Hill, so I had to tell them that I needed to wind down my foster role. My last foster was in the early fall of 1999, a young adult cat with FIV. When she got adopted, it was so weird to come home and think I didn’t have a single litter box to clean, a single food bowl to fill.

Less than six months later, I met my first guinea pig…


One from the vaults

Posted in Day-to-day, Humor at 12:01 am by ACR&S

The following is an old story which has never before been recorded, back from the days when I used to be involved in cat adoption.

I don’t work with cats any more. Stories like this are the reason for that.

Several years ago, I was a foster home for a cat rescue group. I fell into it by accident (that’s another tale for another time), but at one point I had six young kittens living with me.

After a couple of weeks, the kittens got big enough that they started roaming the house instead of staying nicely in their nest box. In general, this wasn’t a problem – we kept the door to the office and bedroom closed, so they never bothered our things or our birds. However, it became a problem once the kittens had enough energy to get up and play during the night, and decided that the Humans were great fun, and that it was Not Acceptable that we spend 8 hours at a stretch lying down quietly in the dark. Three AM is the best part of the day, you guys are missing it!

The kittens started by having early morning wrasslin’ matches right outside the bedroom door. When they realized that this caused us to get up and open the door and make loud noises at them, they started playing with the door, banging it and scratching at it and meowing loudly because the opening at the bottom was only big enough for a paw or nose and not a whole kitten. We blockaded the hallway with an up-ended kitchen table – and six 4-month old kittens quickly learned that they could leap about twelve times their own height to reach the door despite us. For about three days we were both getting up for work by 4am, because that’s when the kittens absolutely refused to let us sleep any longer.

The fourth day, by accident, I hit on the perfect solution to midnight kitten madness.

I had tried to block off the door itself by sticking the vacuum in front of it – outside the bedroom – under the assumption that the kittens, who disliked the vacuum, wouldn’t climb all over their nemesis to reach the door. Didn’t work. Bracing against the door, they could more easily attack the cords and hose, which made great, loud fun! If I got up and turned on the vacuum for a moment, they’d run off, but would be back as soon as I closed the door again.

Then I realized that there was a wall outlet within easy reach of the bed, and the vacuum cord could reach under the door and all the way across the room. So I went to sleep with the vacuum turned on, but unplugged, and the cord draped over the nightstand.

That morning, when the kittens started their matins, I half-awoke, grabbed the cord, and plugged it into the wall socket for just a second:


Under the vacuum noise, I heard a hailstorm of twenty-four little kitten paws tearing away down the hallway. Then, silence. After a moment, a tentative miao? was distantly heard from the vicinity of the kitchen.

Kittens can be persistent, but they can also be very fast learners. They soon understood that their presence near my bedroom door would awaken a Big Growly Monster instead of a person who could operate a can opener, and we were able to sleep through the night.

It wasn’t the nicest thing I had ever done, but it meant I could go back to sleep. I made peace with my demons,and I’d certainly recommend this strategy to anyone with a kitten infestation.


More pigs find homes!

Posted in Adoptions, Day-to-day at 1:42 pm by Jenn

We’ve had another busy, amazing week at ACR&S!

This past Saturday (June 28th), baby Ruxpin (the runt and only boy of the litter pulled from the Cumberland County Animal Shelter) went to his forever home! We paired him up with Cindy’s lucky pig Maxwell. Maxwell was already a beloved family pet who was quite spoiled — he had his own 2×6 C&C cage, with a ton of toys, organic hay, and lots of yummy pellets!

On the couch.Unfortunately, Maxwell had already failed one introduction, quite badly, with a guinea pig from a different rescue. Since Maxwell was a teenager (the age where a pairing failure is most likely), we thought that a docile young baby may be the key.

It turns out we were right! Although Maxwell spent almost an hour rumblestrutting and showing how manly he was, Ruxpin was young and scared to be by himself, and decided that he would rather have a loud, somewhat pushy friend than no friend at all!

Once we saw the rumbling and posturing had slowed down, we left the boys on the couch with Cindy’s oldest daughter to supervise as we cleaned out the cage and scrubbed down all the accessories, and as you can see from the picture, they quickly squished in on top of each other for comfort and eventually fell asleep like that.

According to an email we received a couple of days later, Ruxpin and Maxwell will snooze together in a pigloo and are having a wonderful time together as best buddies! Ruxpin is also quickly calming down and becoming more confident now that he has an older brother to look out for him!

Then, on Monday the 30th, we were lucky enough to send home Niblet and Petal with Carrie and her family!

Their mom emailed me once they were settled in:

The girls are doing great. They stayed in the 2 x 2 kitchen the first night but this morning I helped them find and climb the ramp and now Petal/Pumpkin is running up and down with abandon. Niblet can definitely climb up but I haven’t confirmed that she will climb down yet so I moved her down when I added their fresh veggie bowl tonight. (both levels have water and hay)
Both girls are eating like pigs and drinking well. They have wonderful personalities. They are a little hard to catch (which I expected) but so sweet once you pick them up. They had a play time this afternoon on a fleece blanket on the kitchen floor (and loved playing in the 5 different ferritunnel tubes that Nick set up for them) and tonight they joined us on the couch for an episode of a kid’s show. They are great lap girls!!!
Thanks for the great girls. I will try to send pictures soon. Petal/Pumpkin is the bold one (like you said) but Niblet has been comfortable enough to move around on the kitchen floor and come out of the hiding areas in the cage so I think she’s adjusting well.
Congratulations to Petal and Niblet and their new family, it sounds like they’re loving their new C&C mansion! Guinea pigs do make great buddies to snuggle up with on the couch and watch a little TV!
As always, thank you to our wonderful adopters. We are truly lucky to have such a large group of caring individuals to offer homes to our guinea pigs, rabbits, and other small exotics!


Welcome, Gracie!

Posted in Day-to-day, Husbandry How-to, Sanctuary Spotlight at 2:33 am by ACR&S

We’ve got a few new residents up here at the Sanctuary. On June 19, I spent about 5 hours waiting for Midwest flight 2704 from Raleigh to Milwaukee, which had a special climate-controlled, pressurized cargo compartment carrying three new Sanctuary residents. I’m spreading their introduction over two posts, so today I’m pleased to introduce Gracie.

Gracie is a spayed female Californian rabbit, between 6 and 8 years old. She was owned for 5.5 years until a job transfer made her owner decide to give her up.

GracieCalifornians are huge rabbits, in the 10lb range, having originally been developed for meat and fur production. Gracie’s size, age, and some fairly minor age-related health concerns would have made it nearly impossible to find an adopter for her, so although it’s not standard practice for owner surrenders, we agreed to a direct transfer to the Sanctuary.

This transfer would also be advantageous for us: we have an existing bonded pair of very large rabbits, Roo and BunBun. Roo is only 7 or so years old, but his partner BunBun is nearly 12. With BunBun clearly showing his age, we’ve been having to give thought to a future partner for Roo once BunBun passes. But we don’t have any other potential bondmates for Roo in the Sanctuary (our primary candidate, Jeannie, has proven beyond a doubt that she hates him and will murder him if given the opportunity), so practically any solution required bringing in another rabbit.

Ideally, it’s best to form a triple in a situation like this, so that there is no solitary grieving period when the eldest bunny passes; the other two can comfort one another. At the same time, making a triple is very difficult. The existing pair-bond is strained, and the difficulties of introduction and bonding are doubled. But I thought we might have a better than average chance with Gracie, Roo, and BunBun, because of some unique circumstances in their history:

Gracie has outlived two previous partners, both neutered males, so she has a proven track record of being able to bond with other rabbits. The members of the Sanctuary pair are both males, the most difficult pair to achieve, so adding in a female wouldn’t strain the relationship to the same extent as if they were a mixed-sex pair. Roo and BunBun also had a female third at one point early in their bond, when all three were still being offered up for adotion (Paula was later placed with one of our board members into a new pairing). Finally, since all the rabbits are members of large, mellow breeds, I didn’t expect the furious scuffling that can occasionally arise in introductions with smaller, more fiery breeds (Jeannie is an exception to this rule).

When planning an introduction, I always schedule it for a weekend when I plan to be home pretty much continuously. Rabbits do best when allowed to work out their dominance issues without too much human interference – one rule of thumb is, “don’t separate them unless you see blood”. Not strictly true, of course (see these pages for detailed HRS introduction techniques), but it gives you the idea that you want to interfere as little as possible. To do this safely, you have to be available to be home and to observe the rabbits carefully in case things turn sour.

So Friday night, I began the introduction. I decided to start by violating one of the main guidelines for intros: using neutral territory. Instead, I dumped Gracie into Roo & BunBun’s cage. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, KIDS. It’s an excellent way to end up spending your Friday night at the emergency vet.

Whether by intuition or luck, I was right: there were no major problems. Gracie decided to show that she’s the new boss, and for all her enormous size (she’s a few pounds bigger even than Roo!), she spent some time chasing and humping both Roo and BunBun. Fortunately, both figured out quickly that they could just go into a litterbox and hide from her, and she’s too lazy and fat to follow for very long.

Once their chubby butts were all tired out and the chasing had stopped, I offered some fresh hay and some veggies and pellets to see whether they fought for resources. Not at all. They contentedly shared hay, veggies, and pellets, occasionally grooming one another’s noses or ears as they happened to brush against them. This is a very excellent sign and indicated to me that they were probably not going to escalate beyond mounting.

[Aside: In the picture above, you can see tufts of fur sticking out all over all three rabbits. In young rabbits, this could be a sign that they had been fur-pulling or biting one another, but in these guys, it’s just a result of their poor grooming habits. Failure to self-groom is a common sign of aging; BunBun in particular needs to be groomed by human hands every few days, otherwise he looks like a dandelion about to explode.]

After two full days and three nights, they’re still doing wonderfully. Mounting has almost totally diminished as of yesterday afternoon. This morning, I caught Roo and Gracie laying side-by-side (BunBun, as is his habit, was snoozing a few feet away in his hidy box). I think we have our triple, and now I have a little more peace of mind about Roo’s future when BunBun crosses the Bridge.

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