Saturday, December 24, 2011

How to Feed a Pet Skunk

If you own a pet skunk, or are thinking about getting a pet skunk you will hear a lot of conflicting information in regards to feeding.  This is in part because very few studies have been done on skunk nutrition, and as well because all food companies that make skunk food (there are only a few) will tell you that their food is the "best".  

In the past a lot of skunk owners have fed cat food or ferret food to their skunk, but both are too fatty and contain too much protein. Skunks fed these diets often became obese.  Many skunk owners now consider feeding a top quality, grain free, dog food to be better (do not contain BHA, BHT, by-products, corn gluten meal, or brewers rice).  However the concern is that the skunk still requires taurine - an ingredient not found in dog food.

Skunk owners can purchase taurine in powder, liquid, or tablets. Taurine should be feed at 200 mg per day. Calcium supplements are also a good idea.  Both can be purchased at a health food store (some pet stores may carry these too).

A skunk's diet should be roughly 65 % meat and dairy products, 30% vegetables, and 5% fruit.

Vegetables can be fresh or frozen (and thawed), canned vegetables tend to be lower in nutritional value.  Skunks should not have asparagus, onions, or iceberg lettuce.

Fruits is safe for skunks except for grapes and avocados. Fruit should be given only two or three times a week, not daily.

Skunks can eat nuts, excluding salted nuts, almonds offer a good source of Vitamin E.

Pet skunks can eat eggs (boiled – shell and all), and most dairy products (including goats milk) except whole milk, cream, and high fat cheeses. You should not feed your skunk yogurt with artificial sweeteners (aspartame), which are often found in low-fat yogurts.

Skunk owners can also purchase crickets, mealworms from pet supply stores. Live crickets may escape so most owners prefer to buy dried crickets.  You can dig up worms for your skunk, but most people prefer to leave the worms in the garden where they are beneficial.

Skunks under 4 months of age should be fed 3-5 small meals a day, do not feed a skunk free choice, it will eat too much and become obese. Adult skunks can have 3 meals a day.  For many skunk owners this means feeding early in the evening, later at night, early in the morning.  Watch to see how much your skunk can eat in 20 minutes time, and remove uneaten food after that.  Monitor your skunk for weight loss or gain and overall signs of eating right.

Skunks are natural foragers, if you leave any food out they will find it, and can open cupboard doors while searching for food.  Keep chocolate of of a skunk's reach it is toxic.

Skunks should have their food and water in stainless steel or ceramic bowls that are built so they do not tip or spill.

Indications of a Skunk with a Diet Problem:

A fat skunk is not a healthy skunk.  You can reduce the amount of food you feed in the winter as they naturally would find less to eat in the winter and this will help reduce the skunk's weight.

A skunk that is skinny and drags its hind legs could be suffering from a lack of calcium.

Hair loss, particularly on the back and tail, indicate an improper diet (or mites).

A skunk with vision problems may be suffering from a lack of taurine.

If a skunk's white fur looks yellow this may be a sign of poor care, or a poor diet.

Further Reading on Feeding and Care for Skunks

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bobcats as Exotic Pets

Many people are looking for more exotic, more unusual, slightly more dangerous, exotic pets; but they still want cute!  As such bobcats and lynxes are now being considered as pets and are slowly entering the exotic pet market.

I personally do not feel a need to own such a creature but did a lot of research on ownership of them which I present to you now. 

In most areas you will require a licence or permit own own a pet bobcat or pet lynx.  Depending on your area this may require getting your property inspected for security.  Your local zoning may be an issue too.  You can only acquire these exotics from licenced breeders who are required to check your permit before selling to you.  Note that you cannot catch and keep a wild bobcat or lynx in most areas as this is illegal, not to mention cruel and dangerous.

Bobcats are about twice the size of a domestic cat, and the Canadian lynx is slightly larger, so you must be sure you can accomodate such a big animal, offering it enough room to play, and as well you must consider the higher costs of feeding and over all care.

Some people breed their own rabbits for the purpose of feeding their pet bobcat or lynx, others use premium commercial diets.  Meat must be the main part of the diet as, like all cats, bobcats are true carnivores. 

You need to be certain you have a veterinarian willing to treat and care for such an exotic pet. 

Keep in mind that a bobcat or lynx is very playful, they will be more destructive than a regular house cat and require plenty of things to climb on.  They may also see any smaller pets as prey.  Like most cats they spend the majority of their day sleeping, but like to be awake in the morning and evening.

If you are intersted in getting a pet bobcat or pet lynx the first thing to check is what licensing and/or permits are needed in your area.  Contact a breeder to see what their requirements are in terms of space and fencing, as most breeders insist on doing home checks before selling to a buyer - they may require a deposit made before they actually have kittens ready to sell.

You should plan on spending $1200 - $1800 USD to purchase a pet bobcat.  Make sure it has been vet checked and vaccinated first.  It should be no younger than 8 weeks of age and should come with health guarantees.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fainting Goats

Back in 1880 four goats were abandoned by a Canadian man in Tennessee, these goats soon had kids and somebody noticed a peculiar trait among their offspring.  It seemed when they got a sudden scare they fell over as if in a trance.  The condition was recognized as a rare condition that also occurs in humans, myotonia congentia.

When given a sudden scare the muscles in the legs of the goats freeze up, the animal quickly topples over as a result and may lay there frozen for 10 seconds or so.  For many years Myotonic goats were used as meat goats, intentionally scared so they would build up muscle in their leg from repeatedly freezing up.  Now they are more likely to be kept as pets or occasionally for cashmere fiber that some produce in the winter.

Myotonic goats are also called fainting goats and are smaller goats, often black and white, but they can be any color.   They are pretty easy to keep, needing shelter in cold and wet weather, and they are less likely to climb fences than other goats. 

If bred to another goat the fainting gene is recessive.  Younger fainting goats are more likely to fall over as the older ones learn how to brace themselves.  Of course any animal that falls down when frightened may be an easy target for predators, or thieves.  As such it is a good idea to keep your goats well fenced and secure.  

Read here if you wish to learn more about goats and goat care.