Do You Keep a Pet?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Alberta is Banning Certain Frogs as Pets

Does government always know what they are doing?  In the case of a recent ban that is to begin April 30, 2015, pet owners tend to disagree with the government's decision. 

The Alberta government decided to ban the ownership of all all poison dart frogs of the family Dendrobatidae and Family Aromobatidae.  Although the name suggests these frogs are poisonous, pet owners have known for years that the captive frogs are not toxic.  Although some species are toxic in the wild, only a few produce enough toxin to be a danger, and they lose their toxins when kept as pets (likely due to the different diet which would not include toxic insects).

The government seems to think these dart frogs are dangerous to their owners, but owners of such species do not handle their pets.  Mostly the frogs are kept in vivariums in a way not much different than how aquarium enthusiasts keep pet fish; they are for display only, not cuddling. 

There is no risk of these frogs being released into the wild.  Firstly they are too expensive for an owner to consider releasing unwanted "pets" and secondly they would not survive if they were released. 

One of the biggest concerns for pet owners is that there are no "grandfather" clauses, meaning that current owners are being told to get rid of their pets prior to April 30, 2015. 

photo source
What are current dart frog owners supposed to do with their frogs?

Current owners of poison dart frogs are being told to "get rid of them"; either to take them out of province, or to sell/give them to a licensed facility, such as a zoo.  This does not make current frog owners happy as many have hundreds of dollars invested in their pets.

A petition?

Anyone who is against this law should sign this petition.  They can also make phone calls to law makers in their area.

What next?

One of the reasons why even non-dart frog owners should get involved is due to concerns about "What is next?"  Granted there are some good reasons why some exotic pets, such as rats, have been made illegal, the worry is to what end will it go, what animal will be banned next.  Had some sort of grandfathering clause been included I am certain people would not be so irate, and at the very least this needs to be amended. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Most Beautiful and Strange Animals in the World

When I was a child my father was an ichthyologist; he studied fish.  We would visit aquariums often and loved poking around in tidal pools when we went near the ocean (which was not often as we lived in Alberta).  We got to know about many fascinating water creatures, not all of which were fish. 

Of all of the creatures in the water, some of the most beautiful, and mesmerizing, are nudibranchs.  Say "nude a branks".  They are mollusks that lose their shell when they mature.  They are sometimes incorrectly called sea slugs.  They are mostly found on the ocean floor, but are found all over the world, in the shallows, in the depths, in warm water, and in cold. 

Without shells to protect them nudibranchs may use their colors to blend in and match the surrounding corals, or to serve as a warning for potential predators.  Some are toxic, but not all are.  Their name means "naked gill".

Nudibranchs are carnivores, mostly consuming sponges (which are living animals), however some will eat other nudibranchs. 

"Glossodoris atromarginata" by Chika Watanabe from Los Altos, USA - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Spanish Shawl nudibranch via Wikimedia Commons

Ceratosoma tenue from Lembeh Straits, Indonesia (and shrimp) via Wikimedia Commons

There are roughly 2,500 known species of nudibranchs, and probably hundreds more undiscovered ones.

Nudibranchs are typically slow moving creatures that just travel along the bottom, but when they move through the water they move with a delicate ribbon like motion that is beautiful to watch.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

What Lilies Are Toxic To Cats?

Many types of lily, including the Easter Lily, are very dangerous to pets but not because of the reasons you may think.  When most people think of toxic plants they worry that their pet might eat the plant, but most pets are smart enough not to intentionally eat a poisonous plant.  Nonetheless it is not unheard of for cats, and sometimes dogs, to die of poisoning because of lilies even though they never eat the plant itself.

Cats are carnivores and usually do not eat plants. On occasion a cat might eat grass because it instinctively knows that grass will make it vomit. Cats sometimes chew grass if they have an upset stomach, worms, or hairball they are trying to bring up. It is rare that a cat will chew on any other garden plants and as such there is very little risk of them being poisoned from any other plant than certain species of lily. 


Lilies are really the biggest risk to cats. The risk is not of the cat eating the plant, but of the cat walking near the plant, or brushing up against it. While the entire lily is poisonous to cats, the risk is the pollen. Cats generally wont eat lilies, but if they have pollen fall on their fur they will ingest it while grooming, and as such will consume the toxic pollen in that manner.

Symptoms of Lily Poisoning (cats may have all or some symptoms):
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Refusing to eat
  • Breathing problems
  • Paws and/or face swell
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Kidney problems; renal failure
  • Death
All lilies are toxic but the worst are the Tiger lily and the Easter lily, others include the day lily, stargazer lily, Rubrum Lily, Japanese Show Lily, and Asiatic lilies. Their toxic pollen is also a concern if the flowers are cut and brought indoors

What to do if Your Cat has Ingested Lily Pollen

Chances are you won’t know your cat has ingested lily pollen until symptoms show up. By that time it is urgent you get your cat to the veterinarian. The vet will work to reduce the toxic effects of the lily pollen, often by forcing the cat to eat activated charcoal, and by putting the cat on an IV to aid its kidneys. Note that kidney failure is often the main cause of death for cats that have ingested lily pollen.

If you happen to catch your cat immediately after ingesting lily pollen (such as if our notice your kitten chewing on the lily flower as playful kittens may be apt to do) you should call your veterinarian immediately in regards to inducing vomiting and the kitten should be taken to the veterinarian to reverse any ill affects from what poison may have gotten in its system.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Where to Find Exotic Pets For Sale for Cheap

Exotic pets are sometimes available for cheap, or even for free, if you know where to look.  Sometimes they even come with a free cage and/or supplies.  An exotic pet is any pet other than a cat, dog, fish, or livestock.   Birds are also often considered as exotic pets too.  As such an exotic pet may be anything from a hamster to a wolf.  Clearly it will be easier to find a free hamster than a free pet wolf.

Some exotic pets are far easier to find than others and are often available for free.  If you use Facebook look for a local "group" as somebody may be giving away a pet there, or selling it for a low price.  In Canada the website kijiji is well known for hosting ads for pets for sale, and Craigslist is another place to look too.  Check the bulletin boards at local stores, veterinarian offices, and livestock feed stores in particular. 

Our pet Reeve's Turtle

Pet stores rarely give animals away for free, or sell them cheap.  Pet stores are in the business of making a profit so if they have a cheap (or free) pet it is possibly unhealthy, or one they need to get rid of quick for some reason or another.

Animal shelters, on the other hand, typically have exotic pets for adoption at a price far lower than you would find the same animal available for in a pet store.  In some cases these animals were surrendered to the shelter with their cage and supplies and as such the shelter may give these away free with the pet adoption.  Many animal shelters (SPCA, Humane Society, etc.) list some of their adoptable pets online but you should also check the shelter themselves to see what they have for adoption.

In some areas (such as where I am in Alberta) there are livestock auction markets that hold odd and unusual livestock and pet auctions in the spring and fall.

Before you get any exotic pet make sure you understand the proper care requirements for that animal.  Make sure you can provide the right kind of environment and food.  Make sure you can pay for any medical needs (ask your vet if they care for exotic pets). 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Why Do Some Animal Shelters Make it So Hard to Adopt a Pet

Many potential pet adopters complain about the steps they have to take when adopting a pet.  They fail to understand why animal shelters require so many steps.  Some people will go so far as to say "Why don't animal shelters just give the pets away for free to anyone?"

The number one goal of an animal shelter is to make sure pets go to good homes; ideally "forever" homes.  If they did not require people to go through an application and screening process many of the pets adopted out would not find good homes.  Even with everything in place there is no guarantee that a pet will find a good forever home.

Sometimes people come to an animal shelter on a whim or with limited information in regards to the pet they want to adopt. The animal shelter asks questions so they can offer tips and advice and perhaps steer the people in a better direction in terms of what pet to get.  As such if a person comes to adopt a dog, for example, the animal shelter uses the screening process to make sure the people are aware of just how much exercise, grooming, training, and so forth, that a particular dog needs in terms of making sure the dog is suitable for the people. 

Dog and owner at park, photo by author
 When people get the wrong pet for their lifestyle they become frustrated with it, and the pet suffers.  Sometimes it is abused, and often it is returned to the shelter.  Any time a pet is returned to the shelter it is stressed.

Additionally animal shelters screen people to make sure they can own a pet.  Some people rent properties where pets are not allowed, if caught the pet can be confiscated.   Some people do not have fenced yards and in some areas it is illegal to keep dogs on chains so the animal shelter must make sure the dogs only go to responsible, prepared, homes.

Animal shelters have questionnaires and contracts because they are adopting pets out, not unlike when human children are adopted out.  Animal shelters do not sell pets, they actually care about who gets the pet and they care about that pet's life after it leaves the shelter.

If you are looking for a new pet, be it a cat, dog, bird, or other exotic pet, always check your local animal shelter first.  The adoption process can take an hour, or more, by the time you select your pet, apply, and complete the adoption process, so you should go early in the day.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Beware of Offering Large Rewards for a Lost Pet

A woman in the city of Edmonton recently had her small dog go missing. She put up posters offering a reward.

A man called her and asked how much the reward was. She told him $200.00. He said he had her dog and to transfer half the money via e-mail. She did, and then he demanded the other half. At that point she questioned him to prove he really had her dog. He threatened to hurt the dog. She sent the other half, and needless to say, did not get her dog.

At that point she called the police.  Here is the actual news article.

Offering a reward for a missing pet is good, if a person found the pet and was thinking of keeping it, this can motivate them to do the right thing. Sadly, offering rewards has also created a problem of dog-napping; where people intentionally steal dogs for the purpose of collecting a reward.  Note of course that it is illegal to just keep a pet you have found, you are suppose to call the local animal shelter and report finding it or can bring it to them. 

author's pet cat

If you have lost a pet and do offer a reward it should be small and never give the reward to anyone until you actually get your pet back. If somebody contacts you about your missing pet and demands a higher reward, or seems suspicious, call the police.

I do hope the dog, named Piper, is found and returned to his owner, and I also hope the man who scammed this woman is caught too.

This article was originally published by me on Bubblews.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

How to Care for a Scared Pet Cat

If you have adopted a new cat and it is scared you need to realize that this is perfectly normal, especially for older cats.  Kittens tend to accept change a little easier, but adult cats are often concerned; cats bond to places rather than to people so a sudden change of environment can be hard for them.  This also applies to current cat owners who move into a new home.

Try to keep the noise level down if possible, this means controlling screaming kids, and keeping music low too.  If you are moving into a new home keeping quiet can be tough as furniture moving is generally loud.

One of author's cats
The cat really should be kept confined in a bathroom, or small bedroom, for a few days while it adjusts to the new environment.  Plopping a cat into the middle of a big house (or even into a small apartment) can be too much for the cat to take, particularly if it was adopted from an animal shelter where it mostly stayed in a small room or cage.

The cat will need its litter box in the room for it as well as its dry cat food and water, which should be placed far from the litter box.  The cat should also have a bed, which can be as simple as a box with a towel.

Make sure to visit the cat from time to time, talking to it softly, patting it, and offering it small amounts of canned cat food or cat treats.  If the cat accepts being held you can do that too but watch for body signals that the cat has had enough.  Here is a link to help you find cool toys and treats for your new cat!

If the cat hides the first few days go ahead and leave it hiding - noting that it is coming out and eating/drinking and using the litter box when all is quiet, but if it continues to hide after three days you may need to bring it out of the hiding area and hold it for a few minutes just to let it know you will not hurt it, offer it the canned food or treat, so that it associates these goodies with you.

It can take up to two weeks for a scared cat to over come its fears and accept you and the new home.  Just take things slowly and do not rush or overwhelm the cat, allowing it to overcome its fear or shyness on its own time is best.