New cat or kitten? Wanting to let them roam the big, wide world outside? Stop and think before you do, to ensure the safest way to introduce your cat to the outdoors.
You must note that there are differences in introducing a young kitten and an adult cat to the outdoors.
With an adult cat, keep them indoors 3-6 weeks before letting them venture outdoors; cats have a great ‘homing beacon’ and if you let them out straight away will find their way back to where home was before you brought them home with you. Keeping your cat indoors for minimum of 3 weeks will sort of ‘re-set’ this, so your home becomes theirs and they will then find their way back to you. This also applies with adult cats when you move house – keep them inside until your new location becomes theirs.
With a kitten there is a bit more preparation before letting them outside – this is first for a new kitten! Ensure your kitten is micro-chipped in case they get lost; vaccinated to avoid illness or disease; and neutered at the appropriate age to avoid any unplanned litters!
Work on recall in the home before letting your cat/kitten out – calling them and shaking their favourite bag of treats, or something similar so they know to come back when called.
If you want to put a collar on your cat/kitten (many people choose to so a bell can be added), ensure you get a collar that can has some sort of [emergency] release so the collar will break if it is stuck on something, and it won’t harm your pet. Bells on collars do reduce the success rate of hunts, however won’t ever completely prevent the occasional successful hunt.
At first it is wise to monitor your cat/kitten on their first adventure outside to ensure they don’t get into too much trouble, and so you’re on hand if they do! You may wish to firstly take your cat/kitten out on a harness and lead to let them get used to the smells and surroundings and layout of your garden in a controlled environment.
Whilst outside, sit and play and explore with your pet to allow them to get used to, and enjoy this new setting. Practise recall in the garden with your pet, being sure to reward, fuss and praise them when they come back when called.
Eventually allow your cat/kitten more time outside without you, until they want to venture out on their own.
As cats are nocturnal, they spend the nights active and hunting – to allow your pet outside of an evening/night it is advisable to get a cat flap. With a cat flap, you won’t have a restless cat that has been cooped up all night, and you won’t be disturbed by your pet asking to be let out. The best options are cat flaps that open via magnets (one in the flap and one on the collar of your cat(s)), or that open when registered microchips are within a certain proximity. These kinds of flaps ensure no cats that are not of your household can enter.
For any further advice or any questions on this topic, please do not hesitate to contact me via any of the methods below.
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With the warmer weather (supposedly) on its way, now that spring has arrived & Easter is on its way, it got me thinking rabbits! Partly because of the Easter bunny, partly because all the little, wild baby bunnies (kits) will start to appear soon with their parents, to begin life above ground! So here is my bunny post… Bunny Basics.
Some Basic Terminology
An adult female is called a Doe
An adult male is called a Buck
(like many deer species)
Baby rabbits are called a kitten or kit (for short)
Bunny is an affectionate term for rabbits as a species, sometimes mistakenly thought to be the term for baby rabbits
A mother rabbit will have a litter of kits
A group of rabbits is known as a colony, warren or nest in the wild
A group of domestic rabbits is called a herd
Caecotrophs are feacal-like pellets, that are very soft. It is full of undigested nutrients that the rabbit will re-eat to gain the nutrients it missed the first time round the digestive tract
The process of caecotrophy,or more accurately coprophagy,is when the rabbit eats the caecotrophs (do not be alarmed by, or discourage your rabbit from, eating its’ waste)
For many years, rabbits were wrongly classified as Rodents – they are not. Rabbits are classified as Lagomorphs.
Classification of Rabbits
The domestic rabbit, a.k.a. the common rabbit, a.k.a. the Old World rabbit, a.k.a. the European rabbit, is classified as follows:
Kingdom – Animalia – it is an animal Phylum – Chordata – it has a back bone with nerves, that does or at some point did extend past the anal opening(Sub-Phylum – Vertebrata – it has a back bone, a stiff rod of uniform composition) Class – Mammalia – it is a mammal; produces milk from mammary glands for its young Order – Lagomorpha – meaning “hare-shaped”; it is a small to medium sized, terrestrial herbivore – hares, pikas, and rabbits Family – Leporidae – hares and rabbits Genus – Oryctolagus – native to Europe and North West Africa, however has been introduced world-wide Species – Oryctolagus cuniculus – common rabbit
Today, they exist in the wild on every continent except Asia and Antarctica, and exist domestically world-wide. With the vast population of rabbits, humans introduced a disease to attempt to control the wild population – myxomatosis. This is a nasty, air-borne virus that affects both wild and domestic rabbits – it will result in death, whether via the progression of the disease, or via euthanasia. Domestic rabbits can be vaccinated against this – so make sure you get your rabbit(s) to the vet and keep up with this inoculation regularly, especially if you and your rabbit(s) live in close proximity to a wild rabbit colony.
Be careful, especially in warmer weather about parasites too! Keep you rabbit up to date with anti-parasite precautions, such as worming tablets and flea/ mite spot-ons. One of the worst things your bunny can get in warm weather, and poor hygiene, is fly strike! Fly strike is where the smell of a dirty bunny or a dirty hutch/ cage attracts flies, and the flies lay their eggs on the rabbit (usually around their tail and rump). The maggots hatch and begin to eat… the live rabbit. This, obviously, can be fatal. If caught in time, and gotten to the vet in time, they can survive. This is a painful experience and very unpleasant (as you can well imagine). Keep your bunny and his house clean and smelling as nice as a rabbit and his house can! Especially in summer!
Pellets or muesli-type rabbit food can be bought, and fed according to the guidelines on the packaging. Do your research into good food brands – cheap price usually means poor nutrition. In my personal opinion Excel are brilliant at rabbit and guinea pig food (but not dog or cat food), and the pellet type I have used with my rabbits in the past. Russell Rabbit food is a good muesli-type, and very popular too. There are a lot more brands out there so do some research, and also see what your rabbit prefers.
Some rabbits will pick out the bits they like from muesli-type food, and leave the rest (as mine used to). Rabbit that do this are better suited to the pellet diet so that they get all the nutrients provided in the food, and do not miss out on any because they’re being picky! Now if you keep rabbits and guinea pigs together, know that guinea pigs do not make vitamin C in their body like rabbits do – guinea pig food is safe to feed both rabbits and guinea pigs on, however guinea pigs will get a vitamin C deficiency if they are fed on rabbit food.
Fresh fruit and veg can be given to rabbits, but be careful what you give them! Grapes, onion and garlic are toxic to bunnies – as with dogs. Tomato leaves are also toxic to bunnies. Do not feed you rabbit anything with a high water content such as lettuce (particularly iceberg) and cucumber; foodstuffs too high in water content can cause bloat, which can be painful, smelly, and on occasion – fatal. Do not feed grass cutting from your lawn-mower; this is not good for your rabbits’ digestive system.
Dark green veggies are great – cabbage, broccoli, sprouts, pea shoots, green beans… Not forgetting the classic bunny food – carrots! These can be fed in their entirety – leaves, roots and all! When thinking what to feed your bunny abide by the “if in doubt, leave it out!”rule.
If you let your rabbit in the garden, make sure there is nothing toxic growing out there that could be the end of your rabbit! Daffodils, foxgloves, ivy, poppies, hemlock, snow drops, tulips, and many more common garden plants are toxic to rabbits – take a look around your garden and check up on the plants before letting your rabbit run free – alternatively, get a run for him!
Roughage is approximately 70% of your rabbits diet. This is a very necessary foodstuff that your rabbits requires. Roughage means dried grass, mainly hay but there are other types out there – although not straw. Rabbits do not eat straw, however it can be used as bedding. Fresh hay ought to be provided daily, and any soiled hay removed.
Bedding needs to be soft, warm and absorbent – wood shavings are commonly used as they are highly absorbent. Ensure wood shavings are dust free as much as possible, so your rabbits is not coughing or sneezing due to the dust. Straw can be provided for extra warmth, however a lot of rabbits will make a bed out of the amply supply of hay – breakfast and bed! 😉
If you are new to rabbit ownership, I would advise you to get a book about rabbit care, with a good reputation.
These will contain basic care information and food do’s and don’ts.
If you have any questions, comments, or would like more information; leave a comment below or contact me via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.