Saturday, October 22, 2011

What does a Weasel Look Like?

Have you seen the television commercial where a little girl asks her iPhone "What does a weasel look like?"?  Let's find out more about what weasels are and what they look like.

Although there are 17 types of weasel the one most of us are familiar with is the ferret.  Ferrets are a pretty good example of what all weasels look like, some other weasels may be a bit larger, some may be a bit smaller, but in general all weasels have the same body shape and structure as we see in the ferret.  Weasels are long animals with short legs and a fairly pointed head.  They are carnivores, meat eaters with sharp teeth.

Black Footed Ferret
Some species of weasels have been used for fur, and for hunting, some species (the domestic ferret and polecat) have been kept as pets.  In fact the domestic ferret has been kept for over 2500 years and was commonly used to chase (to "ferret) rabbits, and other vermin, out of their warrens. 

domestic ferret in a playful war dance
Weasels come in different sizes from 5 inches long (12 cm) to 18 inches long (45 cm), with additionally long tails. Their bodies are very streamlined and thin. They have small rounded ears, and pointed noses.   Many weasels are brown in the summer, with a white stomach, and moult to become white in the winter.

If you are considering getting a ferret or polecat as a pet, be warned, they are playful and active.  Ferrets need lots of attention, and if you have other pets, such as rabbits or birds, the weasel's natural prey drive may result in a disaster  Pet ferrets need at least 2 hours out of their cage every morning, and another 2 hours every evening.  As carnivores ferrets need to be feed a food with a high meat content. They can have fruits and vegetables as treats or snacks but only in small amounts. Be sure you have a veterinarian that is familiar with them as well.  Female ferrets must be spayed unless they are to be kept and used for breeding.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Exotic Sphynx Cat

Although not an exotic pet, the Sphynx cat is an exotic looking breed of cat to say the least.  Having only peach fuzz type fur, and very defined features, this cat is sure to catch attention.

photo source

The original breed of Sphynx cats nearly died out in the 1800's but some of there genetics may have remained as recessive genes in other cats.  In 1966 a hairless male kitten was born in Toronto, Canada, named Prune he was bred to his mother in an attempt to produce more animals of this type.  Inbreeding resulted in the deaths of many kittens, and the line never did get established.  Other hairless cats were found, and with some shorter haired Devon Rex cats, the breed finally was able to be considered healthy and viable.

The Sphynx cat is often marketed as a cat ideal for people who suffer from allergies, but they are not truly allergy free, and do require special care.  Sphynx cats should not go outside as they are at risk for sunburn and have poor tolerance for cold weather.  The fact that they lack hair means these cats are particularly fond of curling up on a warm lap, but are otherwise a more playful and active type of cat.
photo source

Due to their relative lack of hair, the Sphynx cat does require regular washing, and should be bathed once a week to prevent body oils from building up on their skin and in the folds of skin.  The cats should also should have their ears cleaned on a weekly basis.  This is because they do not have hair in their ears that would normally draw out the ear wax.  As such the Sphynx cat may require more maintenance than a furry cat.

If you are interested in getting an exotic pet cat, such as the Sphynx you can find breeders at cat shows and in cat magazines, however you should be aware that it is especially risky to bring one of these hairless cats home before it is 12 weeks of age as they are more prone to respiratory problems while young.