Monday, December 27, 2010

Tigers as Pets

Drawing by Brenda Nelson.©

More Tigers are kept as pets than there are in the wild. Sadly many of these pets do not have ideal, or even marginally good, lives and living conditions. Not only are Tigers an “extreme” exotic pet, they are one that requires a high standard of care, often not met due to the cost and work involved. Tigers are not a house pet, although some people do keep them as such.

Most areas that allow tigers as pets require the owner to have a permit. Sadly having a permit does not account for much in some areas. The high cost of meat means many “Pet” Tigers are malnourished. Tigers are frequently found in bad condition, or not found at all... (the market for Tiger bones is huge in China, but USA has the second largest demand for this commodity).

In some cases people try to breed Tigers specifically for color (to produce “White” Tigers) and this results in inbred animals that have loads of health problems, leaving them in pain, for shortened lifespans.  As well many tiger cubs who are born in effort to produce the rarer white tigers, are killed if they do not have the correct color.

Painting by Brenda Nelson ©  I am Not Tony - on Raven House Publishing

Many people grow up dreaming of one day owning an exotic pet, such as a Tiger, but in truth big cats, such as Tigers, are not “Pets” as we know them. They are wild animals, not domesticated to the level of being considered a “pet”. Many people who own Tigers do so for selfish reasons (to be “cool” or to impress others), as opposed to owning them for the “right” reasons (because they can afford to care for it, provide it with a good life, and because it needs a safe place to live).

The facts are alarming, according to Big Cat Rescue, (the world's largest rescue group for large cats) over 1000 big cats were listed as “unwanted” by their owners over a 10 year period (1999 -2009). The rescue saved 79 of these, while only 19 found other homes.

The same site also mentions that 98% of exotic pets die within 2 years of being brought home as pets. Their site offers more alarming stats on Tigers and other Big Cats.  Here is their page on Wild Tiger information.

Other Links

Facts Regarding Owning Pet Tigers
Other Ways of Having a Pet Tiger

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Exotic Pet Hedgehogs

Many people hear about Hedgehogs being kept as exotic pets and wonder about this.  Hedgehogs live wild in the UK and New Zealand, but indeed this is not the only place these spiky little insectivores are from.  There are other species in Africa, and the common pet Hedgehog is typically an African hybrid species, the African Pygmy Hedgehog.

While most areas do not allow capture of wild hedgehogs, keeping a pet African Pygmy Hedgehog may be allowed.

Hedgehogs are sometimes fed cat food but do best on a proper Hedgehog food with meat as a main ingredient (not corn). They can have dried crickets or mealworms as treats.

Probably the biggest issue with keeping a pet Hedgehog, other than laws allowing them, is the fact that they are nocturnal - meaning they are active at night when their owners are trying to sleep.  As well if they get too cold they may try to hibernate and will often die, as this is not natural.  A pet Hedgehog should be taken out of its cage nightly for at least 2 hours. 

Of course, as with any pet, exotic pets like Hedgehogs, are best to be purchased from a breeder, or adopted from an animal shelter, and never bought at a pet store.

8 week old Hedgehog.

This is not a complete guide to Hedgehog care, one should do more research before getting an exotic pet Hedgehog.  Hedgehog Central is a great source of information, and even has a list of breeders.

I will also share with you a link written by my husband with information we gathered, it should be considered a good introductory guide to Pet Hedgehogs, click here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fluffy Pet Chickens, the Silkie Chicken

Silkie Chickens look more like bunnies than like chickens, but indeed they are birds.  Silkie Chickens (sometimes spelled Silky Chickens) are exotic chickens, as they have blue - black skin, flesh, and bones. Another unusual feature is that silkie chickens have an extra toe on their feet. 

Silkie Chickens are one of the most popular chicken breeds for pets.  They tend to be friendlier than most other chickens and often enjoy being carried around, particularly if handled from a young age.  One of the things that make them so popular as pets is the fact they are friendly, even the roosters are not usually as mean as the roosters of some other breeds. However it should be noted that they are gentle even among other chickens and as such tend to be bullied if in with other breeds. 

Silkie chicken hens are terrific mothers and are noted as being very broody hens - often used to hatch and/or raise chicks from other chickens, or even game birds.

photo source - House Chicken, Sweet Treats, having a day at the Park.

Silkie chickens are soft to the touch, and although their feathers look like fur, they should never be brushed.  Their feathers lack barbicels which lock feathers together neatly.  Although most chickens can fly a bit, silkies are considered completely flightless because their feathers are so poor.  Additionally the loose feathers mean they are less able to cope with cold weather. 
Silkie chicks can be purchased from Hatcheries, local farmers, exotic livestock auctions, and bird shows.  Some people enjoy buying "hatching eggs" which are eggs that need to be incubated in order to hatch.  Other people do not want the trouble and buy week old chicks.  Still others prefer to buy more mature birds.

At five months of age the hens start laying light brown eggs, and, like all hens, will lay eggs even without a rooster.  Laying does tend to decrease after two years, but a well cared for pet Silkie can live for more than 8 years.

Our silkie rooster and a chick.

Silkies are small chickens, even their standard size is small, but they also come in a bantam size as well.

When buying Silkie chicks, or chickens, always check to see that the vent area is clean when selecting any bird.  Never buy birds from a farm if you see other sick looking birds around.

Read about what happened to us when one of our hens hatched 9 chicks and one hatched late!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pets that Bounce - Wallabies

Who among us as children did not want a pet wolf, tiger, or wallaby?  Okay perhaps Wallabies were not everyones first choice for a pet, but for some Wallabies are the most desired pets. 

Of course they are not legal everywhere and do have very specialized care and needs that people must be aware of.  There are several Wallaby breeders near me (in Alberta, Canada), and a few people own them as exotic pets. 

One of the biggest cautions is for cat or dog owners.  Wallabies should not be in contact with either of these animals as there are some health problems that can transfer through cat, or dog, feces, and be deadly to Wallabies - Coccidia being of major concern, and much harder to treat or prevent in Wallabies than in pet cats and dogs.

Also be aware there are several breeds of Wallaby, some being better for pets, some being more hardy in cold climates.  One should do more research before rushing out to get an exotic pet Wallaby.
Read more about buying, and keeping, an exotic pet Wallaby, click here.