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.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Writer's block=repost.

I seem to be at a loss for anything to post lately, so instead I am reposting an entry from an old forgotten blog, posted back in January of 2007.

We had a slight adventure this morning.

Remember how dad and I stuffed the holes in the floor so the mice couldn't get in? Well we stuck glue traps just in case, so I could find out if they were able to get back in.

This morning I caught something.

See, I had gone into the cupboard to get a plastic baggie to take something to work. Wasn't in any rush to shut the door - cat seems afraid of going under there anyway. Go to put my shoes on, and finish with the first. I hear this frantic scraping noise. Get up to go look - it's coming from the cupboard. I duck down to peek inside, and out shoots the cat.

As soon as I noticed the glue trap was gone, I realized what had happened.

So, off I go, chasing the cat across the house with one shoe on. Cat runs into the spare bedroom and under the bed. I follow to try and catch her. Cat runs out of the bedroom - gets one of my shoes stuck to her somehow in addition to the mouse trap, and starts running faster.

The cat loses the shoe somewhere en route to the living room, and hides under a stand. Now that she's cornered I can finally grab her to pull the trap off her foot. Thankfully, these are the ones with what I call "snot glue" on them, rather than the flypaper type stuff, so it's fairly easy just to pull her foot out of the goop, and it sticks to itself so there's not much residue left on her paw.

That was my morning... all before breakfast. And with only one shoe on.

Hopefully my cat will forgive me for laughing at her expense.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pets and stress

"Into each life a little rain must fall" - or so the saying goes. No matter how well your life is going, there's bound to be some stressful moments. We all have them, and we all need to deal with them in one way or another. But many of us forget how our stress can affect our pets.

James and I are no exception. Both our cats are very good at sensing when something is wrong with either of us, and usually they take it in stride and try to stick by us with purrs and snuggles to try and make it all better. Lately, though, since we both manage to injure ourselves slipping around on the ice and snow, we haven't been able to get out and blow off steam with a good dose of exercise like we normally can. So, naturally, we've taken to ranting a bit while at home to air out complaints in private, whether they be about work, politics, or whatever happens to be going on. Now, this is a normal practice and one most wouldn't think anything of. It's not like we're yelling at or about each other, just grumping about those pet peeves that we can normally just walk off.

The trick comes when you've got a cat who, by our reckoning, seems to have the approximate intelligence of a human toddler. There's a reason most people don't like to let Junior see Mommy and Daddy yelling - it upsets him, and for a kid that young it can be hard to explain. Anubis is very much the same, except for him, it's impossible to explain given that you can't just sit down and have a talk with your cat to tell him what's going on. He may understand a bit of language (no, down, good kitty, food, that sort of thing - especially food, that's the important one), but he has his limits, it's just not within his scope.

Also much like a child, Anubis has a habit of acting out when he is confused and upset. Many animals do, in fact, for various reasons. The problem being that although a child can tell you what's wrong - your pet can't. So when Anubis started chasing after Simba when she was clearly done playing, and trying to play too rough, at first we couldn't understand why he had suddenly stopped being polite. More than this, he was not listening when daddy told him "no", which is a very rare occurrence.

It was just this morning that we discovered the reason, as we had the time to really notice the succession of events. We were having a good rant, raised voices and all and after staring back and forth between us for a moment, Anubis made his way straight toward Simba and started swatting at her. The light bulb turned on. He thought we were yelling at each other. Last time daddy got yelled at by somebody that much, daddy had to move. Besides which, he is used to seeing us quite a bit calmer around each other, so the change was cause for confusion. It was not normal, and not-normal things very often make pets very upset. So when he heard us yelling, he ran off to do something he knew would make daddy come get him. It was a predictable reaction, and one he had some degree of control over, as well as a way of getting attention. Of course, we have no way of explaining to him that we aren't really fighting and that his position in the household is not in danger, so in order to change his behavior, we have to change ours.

So we have decided from now on if there's something worth yelling about, it needs to be done outside of the house as much as possible so Anubis won't go taking his confusion and frustration out on Simba.

That's part of the trick of handling behavior problems in pets - the behavior doesn't always match the cause as much as you might think, you have to do a bit of sleuthing and really figure out what changed around the time the problem started. Sometimes it is as simple as pooping in your shoes because you suddenly started going to work or school every day again after a long time of being home. Sometimes it's more complicated. And from my experience, the smarter your pet is, the more complicated their problems can be, not least of which because they can come up with much more creative ways of getting into trouble.