Friday, July 29, 2011

Den size and crating

Sometimes when I try to explain animal behavior to commenters on Youtube, I feel like I'm talking to a brick wall. Most often I find myself trying to explain things on a friend's channel - see, she has a fox. No, not from an "exotic pet" breeder. Hers is a fur farm rescue. She used to have two, but recently lost one due to old age. I do not often condone the owning of wild animals, however in some cases where it's clear they are being properly cared for, I do admire the caretaker's ability to bond with a non-domestic critter. This friend of mine is one of those people. She made a point of learning  her foxes' habits and patterns, both in terms of how foxes in general act, and their individual personalities. And I do believe animals have to be treated as individuals.

To get back on the subject, the other day she posted a video showing her fox's sleeping quarters at night, telling her viewers that the fox got scared alone at night now that her companion is gone. The new sleeping quarters consist of a large dog crate with a few good inches of straw along the bottom. Naturally, one of the commenters started going on about how the cage was too small, and how did she know the fox got scared anyway?

Enter the animal behavior nut, who still has not gotten a response. I tried explaining first of all that if you know an animal and its normal behavior patterns, you also learn to know what abnormal behaviors mean. I don't know about you, but I find it VERY easy to determine when my animal companions are scared. Besides which, it is already a known fact that this particular fox has terrible separation anxiety.

As for the cage, it was plenty big enough for the fox to pace in a circle if she so wished. However, this is not her full time enclosure. This is her sleeping place. Unlike most foxes, this little oddball seems to have synced up to her human momma's diurnal sleep schedule. If anything, that cage is too BIG. Anxious animals tend to like close quarters. It's comforting. In the wild, a fox's den is only really big enough to stand up and turn around in. Even for a denning mother, babies only take up so much space. Sound familiar? Yes, that's exactly the guidelines you are given when picking out a dog crate. The smaller space feels like a den, which is where an animal goes to feel safe. So no, the cage is most certainly not too small for a nighttime sleeping arrangement.

Please, PLEASE, before you try and harass someone about how they keep their animals, take the time to both research what you're talking about, and to find out more about the person. A single video is only a small slice of the day. Trying to accuse people of abuse for things that are not will never help your cause. It diminishes the reality of actual abuse that goes on every day, and worries people that if they vote in favor of anti-abuse laws, that it will also ban perfectly acceptable practices that are misunderstood.

On an unrelated note, I am very proud of Anubis. For months we have been trying to show him that the other two litterboxes in the house are also his to use. Finally after this last time we dumped and hosed them out, he has started using the one in the middle of the house. It only took a few good cleanings and James putting him in it to tell him that he could go to the bathroom there. Part of the issue, we think, was that it smelled so overwhelmingly of Simba that he had written it off as her territory, and someplace he wasn't to go.