Avian Cage Hygiene: A Clean Home Is A Happy Home

Good hygiene is a crucial part of avian husbandry, as many pet birds are confined to a relatively small living area in which they are forced to carry out the majority of their daily activities, such as eating, drinking, defecating & playing. Due to these confined living arrangements, pet birds will commonly defecate in their feed & water bowls, on perches and over other items in their cage. If not cleaned regularly, faeces and discarded food items can accumulate on your bird’s cage floor, resulting in proliferation of bacteria and some fungi, such as mould. Provide your loved ones with a sparkling clean home they can show off to their feathered friends.

Hot water and detergent can be safely used to clean all items in your bird’s cage, providing they are rinsed thoroughly with clean water. For more effective disease control however, use a disinfectant such as Avisafe or F10. These disinfectants are recommended for the control of standard bacterial or fungal disease. Virkon or bleach (1:32 dilution – bleach to water) can be used for resistant bacterial or viral diseases. Regardless of the cleaning agent you use for your bird’s cage, ensure you always follow the directions on the label and if ever in doubt, contact your avian veterinarian.

Feed & water dishes should be emptied and cleaned at least once daily. Once clean, thoroughly rinse with fresh water and allow to dry. Several sets of food and water dishes should be maintained and used interchangeably. At Noah’s Ark Pet Resort we use stainless steel dishes for both food & water, as it is far more hygienic than plastic dishes or water bottles which can be difficult to clean properly. We also recommend round dishes as opposed to square or rectangular ones, as the corners of food and water dishes are the most common areas for bacterial build up. To reduce the amount of food contamination on the cage floor, as well in your bird’s bowl, only feed what your bird will eat in one day. Any uneaten food will quickly become stale and can be be a breeding ground for organisms detrimental to your bird’s health.

Perches should be kept clean at all times. Hot water & detergent or a disinfectant, combined with a scrubbing brush or scourer can be used to remove faecal matter & organic debris from perches. I don’t think any of us would appreciate living in a house where the floors are constantly contaminated with our own faecal matter, so we should not expect any less from our pet birds. Natural perches are preferred over dowel, plastic or rope perches and can easily be replaced on a weekly basis. Fresh branches will also provide regular environmental enrichment opportunities for your pet bird.

Cage floors should also be thoroughly cleaned at least once a day, as this is the main collection area for faeces, discarded food, water and other unwanted items. The most efficient and cost effective floor covering is newspaper. Most newspapers use soy-based ink, thus making it non-toxic and completely safe for your bird to chew. The bottom tray should be removed weekly and the entire cage along with it’s contents, thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned. Owners should use this time to inspect perches, dishes, toys and other cage items for wear & rust. Any toys displaying signs of rust and frayed rope toys or perches should be replaced immediately.

In order to keep your feathered family healthy and happy, ensure you provide them with a clean home at all times. If you have any queries or comments regarding avian cage hygiene, feel free to contact us at Noah’s Ark Pet Resort and we will get back to you promptly.

Environmental Enrichment For Your Rat Or Mouse

Rats & mice are extremely active and intelligent animals, and thus require exercise and mental stimulation for optimal health. These animals are often purchased as pets for children and many are housed in smaller than adequate cages with only the bare essentials such as food, water and an exercise wheel. Just imagine how bored you would be living in a bare room with an exercise bike as the only form of mental and physical activity?

There are a number of fun and easy ways you can provide toys and enrich the environment of your pet rat or mouse;

Toys to CHEW – These are necessary for dental health, as rodents teeth grow continuously throughout their life and need to be constantly worn down. Safe chew toys for rats and mice include rawhide chews, nylabones, untreated wood, cardboard rolls, boxes and egg cartons.

Toys to SHRED – Softer items such as toilet paper or tissues, sisal rope and straw provide hours of entertainment for your pet rat or mouse. They particularly enjoy shredding these substances to use as bedding material to line their sleeping areas. Ensure you do not give your pets any toys containing soft rubber, soft plastics, leather or string as these materials can cause an intestinal obstruction.

Toys to PUSH & CARRY – Many rats and mice love to carry or push small toys around. Sturdy, hollow plastic cat toys with bells inside or acrylic toys provide great entertainment for your pet.

CLIMBING Toys – Ladders, branches, hammocks, ropes, PVC tubes, boxes and bird perches can provide numerous climbing opportunities for your pet rat or mouse. These items can be secured to the sides or top of the cage to increase the amount of play area in your pet’s cage.

FORAGING Toys – Rats and mice in the wild spend much of their day foraging for food. In captivity, we often put out a bowl of food for our pet rat or mouse and that bowl is simply placed in the same area, with the same food in it every day. Our pets quickly become lazy, bored and overweight from the lack of enrichment and foraging opportunities in their lives. Provide your pet rat or mouse with mental stimulation by hiding their food in specially designed foraging toys, treat balls, cardboard rolls or tubes. Bird foraging toys made from bamboo or cholla cactus can also be used for rodents.

TUNNELS – Rats and mice in the wild use and construct tunnels from items in their environment on a regular basis. Tunnels made of sturdy plastic, acrylic or PVC can be placed in the cage or attached to the side or top of your pet’s house. Ensure you select a tunnel with a large enough diameter to prevent your rat or mouse from becoming stuck in the tunnel. Blocks of untreated wood can also be hollowed out to make tunnels which rats and mice may enlarge themselves. You can provide ready-made tunnels for your pet, or allow them to construct their own from various materials provided in their environment.

EXERCISE WHEELS & BALLS – Activity wheels provide an excellent way for your rat or mouse to exercise within the confines of their cage. Solid wheels made from plastic or acrylic are safer and preferable over wheels with wire bars that can trap your pet’s feet or tail.
Exercise balls are also a great fitness tool for your rat or mouse outside of the cage. Always monitor your pet while they are playing in an exercise ball to ensure they do not overheat and are always playing in a safe, flat area.

If you have a pet rat or mouse, use your imagination and enrich their life by providing them with a range of toys that will keep them entertained for hours.

Whilst boarding at Noah’s Ark Pet Resort, your rat or mouse will be provided with ample foraging and enrichment opportunities and allowed free flight time out of their cage daily.

We encourage you to contact us at Noah’s Ark Pet Resort if you require any more information about environmental enrichment for your rat or mouse.

Environmental Enrichment For Your Bird

Have you ever taken the time to think about how different the lives of our pet birds are compared to those in the wild? A wild bird devotes as much as 6 to 8 hours per day actively searching for food and engaging in foraging and feeding behaviour. Sadly, the majority of our pet birds are not given this opportunity and devote less than 1 hour of their day to foraging and feeding. As responsible pet owners, it is our job to provide our feathered friends with an environment that allows for such activities in order to keep them motivated, challenged and happy.

The first rule of thumb for a pet bird is, the BIGGER the cage the BETTER. Birds in the wild have expanse areas in which to forage, compete for space and feed. Many pet birds however are expected to live happily in a small cage with just enough space for 2 feed dishes, a perch or two and maybe a couple of toys if there’s still room. We wouldn’t be happy living in a house the size of our bedroom for the rest of our lives, so why do we expect our birds to be? As birds need room to stretch their wings, a long flight cage is much more suitable than a tall, narrow cage.

Traditionally, enrichment has been delivered to pet birds in the form of relatively inanimate objects, such as a mirror, swing, or ball with a bell inside. These items often lack opportunities for a bird to behave ‘functionally’ as they would in the wild and does not engage or stimulate their minds. Pet birds require enrichment that is far more engaging, challenging and motivating than a few blocks of wood or a piece of plastic on a chain.

The most successful form of enrichment that you can provide for your pet bird are opportunities to ‘forage’ or actively work to find its food. Offering your bird its entire daily meal in one or two conveniently placed bowls is just as unnatural for your loved one as being left alone all day, or not given the opportunity to fly. These three situations are the most common precursors leading to the onset of behavioural problems in pet birds.

With the extensive range of new foraging toys and enrichment ideas now available, there is no reason we can’t provide our feathered friends with a stimulating environment, to keep their active little minds (& beaks) busy.

Foraging and enrichment toys don’t have to be expensive. Native flowers, nuts and pods, pine cones and tree branches make perfect enrichment toys for your bird and most can be found in your back yard. Cardboard rolls filled with newspaper and your bird’s favourite treat can provide hours of entertainment. If you don’t mind a mess every now and then, pull a few pages of an old phone book through the roof of your bird’s cage and let them tear it up. To create foraging opportunities for your bird, place multiple food bowls in the cage and alternate which bowl has food in it every few days. You can also place a treat in one of the bowls and cover the bowl with paper. This will teach your bird that they have to work for their food and will help keep their minds active.

Whilst boarding at Noah’s Ark Pet Resort, your bird will be provided with ample foraging and enrichment opportunities and allowed free flight time out of their cage daily.

We encourage you to contact us at Noah’s Ark Pet Resort if you require any more information about environmental enrichment for your bird.

Birds And Egg Laying

It is now Spring and we are getting an increasing number of phone calls from clients concerned about their egg laying birds. Pet birds will lay several times throughout the year, but more commonly during Spring.
If in the presence of a mate, female birds (hens) will be more likely to ovulate and produce eggs. It is a common misconception that female birds need a mate to lay eggs. Hen birds will lay eggs in the absence of a mate, however these eggs will not be fertile.
There are many problems that can be associated with egg laying birds and unless an experienced and confident breeder, it is best to avoid egg laying at all costs. Egg laying problems include egg binding, where the egg is ‘stuck’ in the cloaca or abdomen, egg-related peritonitis, where the yolk leaks into the abdomen, resulting in severe infection, and calcium deficiency, causing paralysis and neurological issues.
There are many ways that you can reduce the incidence of egg laying problems, but the least invasive way is through behavioural modification to stop the production of eggs. Behavioural modification aims to change the hen bird’s laying cycle so that they cease laying and can be extremely effective if done correctly.
Medical and surgical treatment options are also available, but you should always consult your avian specialist veterinarian first.
Please feel free to post any questions or comments you may have regarding behavioural management of egg laying.

Guinea Pig Nutrition & Dental Disease

Good teeth are essential to your guinea pig’s health and well-being. Guinea pig’s teeth grow continuously throughout their life and a nutritious diet consisting of a high quality grassy hay, a variety of vegetables and adequate vitamin c will help to ensure your pig does not develop dental disease.
Dental disease is disturbingly common in guinea pigs and can be easily prevented by providing your pig with an unlimited supply of a long-stranded, high-fibre grassy hay and a vitamin c supplement.
Grassy hays including Timothy, Oaten, Barley and Fescue hay are high in fibre, low in protein and low in calcium. Grassy hays are therefore responsible for maintaining a healthy and functioning digestive system and reduces the risk of developing soft stools, urinary tract and bladder issues, gas and bloating. Grassy hays can be purchased from any good produce store, pet store or veterinary clinic.
Vitamin C is essential for guinea pigs’ growth and is responsible for bone development and tooth root formation. Guinea pigs are unable to produce their own vitamin c and it is for this reason, that it must be supplied in their diet. Vitamin C is unstable in water and should therefore be given to guinea pigs in the form of an oral tablet or liquid.
Please feel free to post any questions or comments you may have about this topic. If you have any vet related questions, I am more than happy to refer you onto a veterinary clinic that can help.