Archive for the ‘Pet Care’ Category

The Best Pet Snakes for Kids and Beginners

Posted on June 14th, 2014

Okay so we’re going to try taking a new route today – a fun one, an interesting one, a reptilian one. I realize my blog is mostly about dogs, cats, animal welfare and all that four-legged jazz, but I thought you all might want to take a walk on the wild side with me and learn something new from “Jim the Reptile Guy.” Jim has raised snakes for practically his whole life and is also a great writer. He’s very passionate about all kinds of snakes, not just his own, as well as geckos, lizards, turtles, and other reptiles.

So we all know that there are tons of guys and gals and kids just like Jim all over the world. I mean, there are literally hundreds of thousands of young boys out there begging Mom for a snake or lizard right this very minute, right? So Jim has kindly put together a very detailed and informative article on the best snakes for beginners and kids. You’ll hear from Jim the Reptile Guy again in a about a month!

Who knows, maybe BlogPaws Nashville will see an appearance of a snake… or gecko…? (After all, we did have a Capybara this year!) (+ I would have to borrow one, lol!)

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Are you a budding reptile enthusiast or a parent to one? Do things with scales and shells appeal to you more than those with fur or feathers? Perhaps you’re a lover of all animals and are simply looking to add a cold-blooded critter to your family? No matter the reason, the rhyme, or the season, anyone interested in learning more about reptiles is welcome company in my book.

Today I’m going to be sharing some basic information on my favorite member of the reptile family – the snake. More specifically, I’m going to be talking about which snakes make the best pets, especially for your little people (children.)

I’m an animal enthusiast, but there’s just something about snakes that I’ve always loved. While many in our culture see them as the villains of the animal kingdom (thanks a lot, Bible), or the stuff of nightmares, there’s no denying that snakes are one of the most unique animals on the planet. They can perfectly adapt to a variety of environments and, while not all snakes would be happy living with humans, there are a handful that, when cared for properly, do make wonderful pets.

First things first, though. Before we talk about which snakes may be a good fit for your home, there are some things you’ll need to understand:

– Snakes are NOT domesticated like dogs and cats. While most snakes in the pet trade have been born into captivity, that doesn’t mean they’re domesticated. They’ve evolved over thousands of years to eat, breed, and survive. It’s our job as their caregivers to understand this first and foremost. If you start treating a snake like a cat or dog, letting them roam free, bringing them out for every guest to greet, and not considering their needs first, accidents can and will happen.

– Snakes are reptiles, and reptiles are cold-blooded animals. Snakes use thermoregulation to manage body temperature, thus, you’ll need a hot side and a cool side for your tank or terrarium.

– Snakes and reptiles kept as pets will likely require veterinary care at some point in their lives. Before you add a reptile to your family, please be sure to have access to a veterinarian who specializes in reptiles.

– A snake is a long-term commitment – many live 20 years or longer.

– Snakes eat rodents. While frozen/thawed rodents are best, some snakes (like Ball Pythons,) can be finicky eaters and may eat only live rodents. Make sure you have access to these should the need arise.

– Snakes are known in the reptile community as master escape artists, so be sure to have an escape-proof tank.

– When considering a snake as a pet for your child, consider the size and temperament of the snake and always supervise children when handling. I’d recommend six as the minimum age at which you’d acquire a snake as a pet for a child.

Now that we have the prerequisites out of the way, let’s look at some great options for you or your child’s first pet snake! I’m going to list the top five breeds I’d recommend for a novice snake owner, five being the one I’d recommend least and one being the best.

5. Boa Constrictor

Boas make the list at number 5 because they’re commonly found in pet stores and are a favorite in the pet trade. I do NOT, however, recommend a Boa for a first snake, especially

Boa Constrictor

Adult Boa Constrictor

for a child. I own a Boa. I’ve owned many Boas and love them. They are absolutely my favorite snake, but I’m an experienced guy who’s been keeping snakes for years (I’ve even bred them). So why don’t I recommend them for a beginner or a child? Because Boas get BIG!

Big snakes need big enclosures. Big snakes also need bigger food. Lastly, bigger snakes are harder to handle. They are heavy and while most experts will tell you that any snake over nine feet will require at least two adults present when handling, I say seven feet. A female Boa can easily reach the 8-13 foot range while males will usually reach between 6-8 feet. Your child may be very happy with a baby or juvenile Boa, but once that cute little baby reaches adulthood, your eight or nine-year-old won’t even be able to handle it. The snake will simply be too big, and at that size, could overpower a child.

A Boa is a terrific intermediate snake for those who’ve gained the experience and have the desire to add a larger snake to their home. Captive Boas come in a wide variety of beautiful color patterns. They are often a favorite among teenage boys.

Appearance: “The coloring of boa constrictors can vary greatly depending on the locality. However, they are generally a brown, grey or cream base color, patterned with brown or reddish brown “saddles” that become more pronounced towards the tail. It is this coloring that gives Boa constrictor constrictor the common name of “red-tailed boa” (per Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boa_constrictor)

Size: Typically, they range in length from 20 inches as neonates to 13 feet as adults.

Life span: Captive life expectancy is 20 to 30 years.

Food: Baby Boas will eat pinky rats and mice. Juvenile boas will eat small rats and graduate up to medium, large, XL, and big adults can eat Guinea pigs and rabbits.

Jim's Daughter with Bianca, his Boa.

Jim’s Daughter with Bianca, his Boa.

Here’s a picture of my six-year-old daughter, Mena, with our Sharp Sunglow female Boa, Bianca. Bianca is a little over one-year-old in this picture and is still growing like a weed. Bianca has been handled regularly since she was a baby and Mena has also been well versed (by me) as to the proper

Jim's Daughter with His Boa, Bianca.

Jim’s Daughter with His Boa, Bianca.

handling and care of our pet. Because of my love for the snake, Mena has been raised not to fear them. She simply sees a beautiful animal that she loves. Over time, though, Bianca will get much bigger (see the adult female pictured above.)

 

4. Milk Snakes

Milk Snakes are generally very docile, hardy and are good snakes for beginners and children. They come in a wide variety of color combinations, but the most common is black/red/yellow.

Size: Hatchling milk snakes range in size from 12-15 inches in length. Adult milk snakes reach anywhere from 3 to 5 feet depending on the locality from which they originated.

Life span: Usually 12 – 15 years, though they can live as long as 20 years.

Milk Snake

Milk Snake

Food: Baby milk snakes will eat pinky mice and graduate up to hopper mice. Adults will typically eat a large mouse or weanling rat.

Fun Fact: The common milk snake is often confused with the deadly coral snake because of the similar colors and pattern. A milk snake has yellow bands with black bordered on either side. A coral snake has black bands bordered by yellow bands on either side. Here’s a handy rhyme I learned as a boy that will help you differentiate between the two:

“Yellow then black, venom they lack. Black then yellow will kill a fellow.”

Coral Snake

Coral Snake

Milk Snakes are a good beginner snake for kids because they’re easily handled, and are pretty active in their cages. Ensuring you have an escape-proof enclosure will be paramount. Also, because of their colors, kids really seem to like them. Please note, however, that baby snakes (no matter the breed) can be a little nippier. They are tiny and vulnerable, so until they get bigger and are used to being handled, they may bite if they feel threatened. No worries, though, the bites are painless.

 

3. King Snakes

King Snakes, like Milk Snakes, are generally very docile, hardy and good snakes for beginners. They come in a wide variety of color combinations, but the most common is the California King Snake which is black/white.

Size: Hatchling King Snakes range in size from 12-15 inches in length; adult King Snakes reach anywhere from 3 to 6 feet.

Life span: Usually 12 – 15 years, though they can live 20 years or longer.

King Snake

King Snake

Food: Baby king snakes will eat pinky mice and graduate up to hopper mice. Adults will typically eat a large mouse or weanling rat.

King Snakes are a good beginner snake for kids because they are easily handled, and are pretty active in their cages just like Milk Snakes. Ensuring you have an escape-proof enclosure will be paramount. While their colors aren’t as varied as Milk Snakes, they’re still quite beautiful. As with Milk Snakes, baby King Snakes may be a little nippier at times.

Fun Fact:

King snakes will eat other snakes as well as lizards, fish, and rodents. Because of their willingness to eat other snakes, they should always be kept alone. King snakes are also immune to the venom of rattle snakes and will eat them in the wild!

A beautiful subspecies of King Snake is the Grey Banded King Snake.

Grey Banded King Snake

Grey Banded King Snake

 

2. Ball Python

The Ball Python is my personal favorite as far as a beginner snake. They grow to a maximum size of only 3-5 feet. They’re also docile and easy to handle. Their name comes from the fact that, when threatened, they roll themselves into a ball, using their big bodies to protect their small heads. Were it not for the fact that they can sometimes be very finicky eaters, they would have been #1 on my list.

Size: Hatchling Ball Pythons range in size from 12-15 inches in length. Adult Ball Pythons reach anywhere from 3 to 5 feet. Females grow larger than males.

Life span: 20 years or longer.

Food: Baby Ball Pythons will eat mice and weanling rats. Adults will typically eat small rats.

Ball Pythons are a great beginner snake for kids because they are so docile and so easy to handle. They aren’t active until nighttime, though, so if your child is looking for a snake that will be active during the day, a Milk, King, or Corn Snake would be a better choice. As with Milk Snakes and King Snakes, baby Ball Pythons may be a little nippier at times, especially near feeding time. On the opposite end of the scale, they may be so shy that they don’t eat at all. While docile and lovely, Ball Pythons require a lot of patience. Making them feel comfortable means maybe not picking them up for a week or more. Excited kids wanting to interact with their pet may find this a difficult task.

Fun Fact:

Because of their popularity in the pet trade, Ball Python breeders have selectively bred animals over the last 20 years or so for a wide variety of color and pattern mutations. We refer to them as “morphs,” as they are genetic mutations. Here are a few examples:

Normal Ball Python as they’d be found in the wild (and in most pet stores)

Normal Ball Python as they’d be found in the wild (and in most pet stores)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a dominant mutation known as a Pinstripe:

Pinstripe Ball Python Picture 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a co-dominant mutation called a Pastel:

Pastel Ball Python Picture 11

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a recessive mutation called an Albino

Here’s a recessive mutation called an Albino

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Corn Snakes

Normal Corn Snake

Normal Corn Snake

Corn Snakes are #1 on most “best pet snakes” lists and they clinched the #1 spot on my Best Snakes for Children/Beginners list as well. They are very docile, hardy and great snakes for beginners. They come in a wide variety of color combinations, but the most common is red/orange.

As a pre-teen, I owned several corn (and rat) snakes. They are easily kept, handled, fed, and they seem to have a very outgoing personality. Yes, snakes have personalities. I’ve met Corn Snakes who were jerks and ones that seemed sweeter than many dogs I’d known.

Size: Hatchling Corn Snakes range from 12-15 inches in length. Adult corn snakes will reach anywhere from 4 to 6 feet.

Life span: 15-20 years or longer.

Abbott Oakeetee Corn Snake

Abbott Oakeetee Corn Snake

Food: Baby Corn Snakes will eat pinky mice and graduate up to hopper mice. Adults will typically eat a large mouse or weanling rat.

Corn Snakes are the best beginner snake for kids because they are easily handled, reluctant to bite, active, colorful, and big enough to be cool but not so big that you’d worry about your child handling his or her pet. Ensuring you have an escape-proof enclosure will be key as Corn Snakes are pretty active. They come in a variety of colors and there are now even scaleless Corn Snakes! As with Milk Snakes, baby Corn Snakes may be a little nippier, especially near feeding time, but with regular handling and a full belly, this will quickly fade.

Albino Corn Snake

Albino Corn Snake

Fun Fact:

Like Ball Pythons, Corn Snakes are extremely popular as pets. Also just like Ball Pythons, Corn Snakes are available in a wide variety of color and pattern mutations. Here are a few examples:

Snow Corn Snake

Snow Corn Snake

 

 

 

 

Scaleless Corn Snake

Scaleless Corn Snake

 

So there you have it, my top five. Now you’re probably wondering where to potentially acquire one of these awesome critters. Well, believe it or not, all of the varieties I’ve talked about can probably be found in a local pet store, especially one that specializes in reptiles, but they won’t have all the color and pattern mutations. If you’re interested in acquiring a morph, my two favorite sites are http://www.kingsnake.com and http://www.faunaclassifieds.com. The former has a classifieds section and the breeder should be able to ship your new pet priority overnight right to your door.

*Habitat setup is the most important thing you can do as the owner of a new pet snake, but we’ll talk about that in another article!

Jim Moorman is an author, father, and reptile-lover; you can learn more about him on his websiteJim has been keeping reptiles for over 20 years and has learned through hands-on experience, through research, and from being an active part of the reptile community how to best care for and keep many types of reptiles as pets.

1-800-Pet-Meds Thermo Kitty Mat™ is Purrrr-fect for Tired Little Tiger-Kitties

Posted on January 4th, 2014

It’s a heated cat bed – yes, a heated cat bed. And your cats will love, love, love it! The Thermo Kitty Mat™, which we received as a donation from the wonderful folks at 1-800-Pet-Meds, has gone over with flying colors in the Smith house.

In fact, the 12.5” x 25” heated cat bed is so popular, I often find Sasha and Tater waiting in line (as much as cats can wait in line) to lay on it, which is on my bed.

We also have, as many of you know, what we call our garage kitty, Maxwell. Max was abandoned in a parking garage in downtown Cleveland in the middle of winter and had humble beginnings there (he used to jump into the cabs of semi-trucks and cuddle in to get warm until they were done dropping off their loads!).

Old habits are hard to break I guess, right? Even for our four-leggers. Max love, love, loves to spend time in the garage still. (Of course it’s warmer in ours than it was downtown in the open air). So we put the 1-800-Pet-Meds heated cat bed out on his little counter in the garage. I plugged the bed in and the very first time he went out there, instead of snooping around and sniffing the cars and playing hide-and-seek behind the wheels with me, he went right to the bed. So cute.Maxxy Heating Blanket

This heated cat mat is so safe and effective that I bought one for my aunt and uncle. They have a senior female cat, Camille, who they used to use a regular heating pad for. Now they use the Thermo Kitty Mat™ heated cat bed under a blanket for her. It’s her favorite spot in the whole house!

This awesome heated cat bed is safe and energy-efficient (it uses less energy than a night light). It also has a removable cover for washing and is thermostatically controlled to warm directly under your pet. Pretty cool, huh?!  The Heated Cat Pad is designed to remain 12 to 15 degrees above ambient air temperature and warms to your cat’s normal body temperature when in use. It is ideal during the winter for senior and arthritic cats because the warm surface helps to relax muscles and reduce joint inflammation and stiffness. *Please note: the heated cat pad does not get hot.

Maxwell, Sasha, Tater Tot and I all give this heated cat mat an enthusiastic four-paws up (well, I give it two-thumbs-up since I don’t have paws)!

Balanced Nutrition is Key to a Healthy Pet Diet

Posted on November 27th, 2013

Have you heard the phrase “a little will do a little good; a lot will do a lot of good?Hills Image 1 Post 5

Has this phrase ever been true for you? What about your pet?

It’s scary to think about what would happen if we didn’t get enough of a basic need for life such as water, or if we got too much of a basic need for life such as sodium. That’s why I’m going to talk with you about why “balance” is the ideal approach to a nutritious diet.

The best approach to just about everything in life is “balance” – work/life balance, and a balanced diet. Nutrients are essential to health for us and for our pets. We can control our diet choices, but our pets rely on us to choose for them.

So, what is precisely balanced nutrition and why is it so important?

Let’s look at key nutrients that your pet’s body needs to maintain good health and energy. Those nutrients are protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Sounds, reasonable, right? But, what if any one of these nutrients is too high or too low (a little will do a little good; a lot will do a lot of good)?

Protein is a vital nutrient that helps support lean muscle tissue for adult pets. For growing puppies and kittens, protein nourishes growing muscle tissue. If a pet’s diet is too low in protein this could lead to poor growth. If a pet’s diet is too high in protein, this could increase the workload of the liver and kidneys to get rid of excess nitrogen. That’s because your pet’s body will only absorb a certain amount of protein – everything in excess must be processed by the liver and kidneys. You can see how over time this extra work could affect these organs.

Fats are very beneficial in your pet’s diet. Fats – in the appropriate levels – are excellent for healthy skin. Fats nourish the skin and make it soft. What’s more- fats help with a luxurious coat and contribute to shiny fur! We know what happens with too much fat: weight gain. But what if there isn’t enough fat? Potential for a dull, dry and flaky coat.Hills Image 2 Post 5

Vitamins and minerals are also essential in your pet’s diet. Vitamins support the immune system; minerals help puppies and kittens grow strong muscles and healthy teeth. If the vitamins levels are deficient, your pet could experience fatigue or weakness. If the vitamin levels are too high, this could lead to organ stress. If the minerals are too high, your pet could be at risk for bladder stones.

Fiber, we all love fiber! It’s great for healthy digestion, but if your pet’s diet is too low your pet could experience loose stools. Not good! How about too much fiber? Your pet could experience gas! Equally NOT GOOD!

So the moral to the story is “balance.” Each of these nutrients is critical to survival. For optimal health, choose a food for your pet that provides proven, perfectly balanced nutrition.

Balance is the reason that we choose to feed Franklin and Ramsey Hills® Ideal Balance™ Dog Food. It is chockfull of vital vitamins and equally crucial nutrients in perfectly proportioned amounts. Plus, the boys gobble it up like it’s going out of style.

If you want to know if you are feeding your cat or dog a healthy, properly balanced diet, check out the following pages:

–          Check here to see if your dog’s food contains properly balanced nutrition and see how to make a change if it doesn’t. You can also check this handy comparison tool for dog food.

–          Check here to see if your cat’s food contains properly balanced nutrition and see how to make a change if it doesn’t. You can also check this handy comparison tool for cat food.

 Important Takeaway Points:

–          Balanced nutrition is key to good health

–          Nutrient excess can lead to certain health conditions

–          Nutrient deficiency can also lead to certain health conditions

–          Good nutrition isn’t just about ingredients – it’s about the right balance of nutrients

–          As ingredient quality increases, so does a pet’s ability to absorb and use the nutrients for optimum health

 

 

All opinions in this article are those of the author. Author has been compensated for completion of this article. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. is not responsible for the content of this article.

10 Warning Signs of Cancer in Pets — and What to Do: PET CANCER AWARENESS MONTH

Posted on November 13th, 2013

1-in-5-catsCancer in pets is not a laughing matter. In my life I have lost several dogs and cats to the horrible disease.

Did you know that 12 million dogs and cats are diagnosed with cancer every year, according to PetCareRX?

I’m helping to spread the word because it’s Pet Cancer Awareness Month – I’d like to tell/show you some ways that loving pet parents can put a “paws” on cancer… So today, ThoughtsFurPaws.com is sharing a few infomemes created by PetCareRX – and the 10 warning signs of cancer in pets.Warning signs of cancer

If your pet exhibits any of these signs, it’s time to get them to a vet for a checkup. Remember, though — all of these symptoms can be caused by other health issues, too. What’s important is getting your veterinarian involved and getting a professional diagnosis.

How You Can Help Pets with Cancer

For every Facebook page LIKE PetCareRX receives, they are donating 50 cents to the National Canine Cancer Foundation; their goal is to raise $5,000 so go and LIKE them now please! It only takes a second!

pet-cancer-awareness-month

 

On a side note: I would like to dedicate this post to Gibson and Theodore… I love you and will never forget the years of dedication, love and enrichment that you brought to my life…. RIP at the Rainbow Bridge and I’ll see you again someday.

 

Urban Resource Institute & Purina Announce Collaboration In Support of URIPALS— People and Animals Living Safely

Posted on October 21st, 2013

URIPALS Logo

Purina to provide welcome kits to residents with cats in URI’s domestic violence shelters

 

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Urban Resource Institute and Nestlé Purina announced today that they are teaming up in support of URIPALS—New York City’s first initiative to allow victims of domestic violence to enter shelters with their pets. Beginning today, Purina will donate much-needed welcome kits and educational materials for families entering URI’s largest domestic violence shelter.

PURINA logo

This marks an important collaboration between one of New York City’s largest domestic violence service providers and a leader in the pet care community. By working together, URI and Purina hope to raise awareness about the impact of abuse on the whole family—including pets—and reduce barriers to escape and recovery.

Photo Credit: Nestle Purina

Photo Credit: Nestle Purina

“When victims of domestic violence flee abusive situations, they are often forced to uproot their entire lives, leaving behind key belongings and supplies,” said Nathaniel Fields, President of URI. “Our goal at the Urban Resource Institute is to provide survivors—including pets—with the resources and services they need to rebuild stable, secure lives. We are grateful for Purina’s support of URIPALS, which will provide critical supplies to ensure that families entering shelter with their pets have the resources they need to recover together after escaping abuse.”

“We are proud to support the Urban Resource Institute in its mission to provide comfort to victims of domestic abuse and their pets,” said Michael Kotick, senior brand manager, Purina. “At Purina we believe people and pets are better together, and the strong bond between pet owners and their pets can prove to be beneficial no matter what the circumstances.”

Currently in its six-month pilot phase, URIPALS is accepting families with cats and smaller animals into its shelter, and hopes to expand the program to include dogs this December. As such, Purina’s welcome kits during this phase of the program will be tailored to cats, including items such as food, toys, crates, and other accessories. Purina is also donating a year’s supply of food and litter to families upon leaving the shelter. In addition to these welcome kits, families will receive educational materials designed to guide them in best practices for caring for their pets.

Photo Credit: Nestle Purina

Photo Credit: Nestle Purina

“Years ago, when I realized my daughter, two pets and I would have to leave our abusive situation or we might not make it out alive, everything happened so quickly,” said Muriel Raggi, a survivor of domestic violence. “I didn’t even have time to think, let alone pack the things my pets and I would need. I am confident that through Purina’s program with URI, survivors and their pets can get the support they need to move forward together.”

To learn more about URIPALS and for tips on keeping the entire family safe in domestic violence situations, please visit www.urinyc.org.

About Urban Resource Institute

Urban Resource Institute (URI) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides comprehensive, holistic, and supportive human services programs that help individuals and families in the New York metropolitan area overcome obstacles and better their lives. With a rich 32-year legacy of social service research and expertise, deep community relationships, and a flexible, innovative approach to program development and service delivery, URI is uniquely equipped to provide solutions to the challenges affecting New York’s most vulnerable populations. URI’s hands-on programs for victims of domestic violence, the developmentally disabled, and people struggling with addiction and substance abuse are specifically tailored to meet the needs of the individual, while advocacy and community outreach initiatives build wider visibility and support for the issues that have an impact on our clients’ quality of life and New York’s urban communities. In June 2013, URI launched a pilot program called URIPALS—People and Animals Living Safely. It is the first initiative in New York City to allow victims of domestic violence to enter shelter with their pets. For more information, please visit www.urinyc.org.

 

Photo Credit: Nestle Purina

Photo Credit: Nestle Purina

About Nestlé Purina

Nestlé Purina PetCare Company is a global leader in the pet care industry and promotes responsible pet care, humane education, community involvement and the positive bond between people and their pets. The North American headquarters for Nestlé Purina is located at Checkerboard Square in St. Louis, Missouri. Nestlé Purina is part of Swiss-based Nestlé, the world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company.