Knowing your pets can make understanding them a lot easier



Five hours before my rat had babies, I removed her cagemates and placed them in a separate cage.

Seven days before my tarantula molted her exoskeleton, I increased the humidity in her tank by 15%.

When our guinea pigs squealed at my husband in the kitchen, I told him they wanted a piece of grapefruit. He brought them apple, which they ignored. He went back for grapefruit, which they immediately started eating.

My husband thinks I'm an animal psychic, but really, I just know my pets.

Spending time with a pet is the most important thing you can do for it. Not only is it good for both you, psychologically and emotionally, but it pays to understand your pet's moods and habits. Many pet owners have gotten a feeling that "something isn't right" before any symptoms of a disease start showing. They may not be able to pinpoint what is wrong -- maybe Fluffy wasn't as interested in usual in being petted, or Rex didn't seem as hungry for his dinner -- but they know something is different.

For most pets, a change in behavior is your first warning that something is wrong, or that a significant event, such as giving birth or shedding a skin, is imminent. Most illnesses cause our pets to change their daily habits in slight ways. Your pet may feel sick, but not yet have a runny nose, hair loss, or other symptom. He may instead show his feelings by wanting to sleep when he would usually play, or by turning up his nose at a favorite treat. By recognizing that your pet is acting differently, you are getting a jump on treatment.

Some of our pets aren't far removed from their ancestry in the wild. Birds and lizards, in particular, instinctually hide their symptoms from observers, since otherwise, in the wild, they could be targeted by predators as easier prey. Often, by the time a bird or lizard shows a symptom, the illness has progressed dangerously far and the animal is just too weak to hide it any longer. The illness will now be much harder to treat sucessfully.

By spending time with your pets, and getting to know their routines, moods, and history, you have an invaluable jump start on their care.

I knew my rat would give birth that day because I knew how approximately how long she had been pregnant, and she and her cagemates started showing interest in smelling her nether regions. Giving her some privacy helped the birth be a little less stressful.

I knew my tarantula would molt soon because she stopped eating crickets, her abdomen had a new bald patch, and I knew she hadn't molted for about 10 months. Increasing the humidity in her tank helped her wiggle out of her old exoskeleton.

I knew my guinea pigs wanted grapefruit, because I give them a slice at the same time every evening, and they expected it. Guinea pigs can't metabolize Vitamin C on their own, and it breaks down so quickly that it must be provided fresh daily.

Once explained, my "insights" no longer seem very psychic. However, I did have to spend time with each of these pets every day, in order to recognize the changes each of them were going through, or in the case of my guinea pigs, know their routine. Do the same with your pets, and you have another weapon the fight to keep them healthy and happy.

Copyright 2001, Steph Bairey -- All Rights Reserved

Steph Bairey is a web developer and pet owner, with 25 years of pet
care experience and 30-40 pets at any one time. Get immediate,
reliable answers to your pet care questions at Steph's website,
Practical Pet Care, located at: http://www.practical-pet-care.com.

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