tortoise

Tortoise

Introduction

Mediterranean tortoises originate from the countries surrounding the Mediterranean and the Middle East.  Their natural habitat is grassland and shrub where there is a lot of sunshine and light shade. The most common species kept in the UK is the Hermann s tortoise. Although other species such as the Spurred thigh and Marginated tortoise are kept.

A species requiring similar husbandry in captivity is the increasingly popular Horsefeld s tortoise. Tortoises will grow annually in the right conditions and their shell scutes grow like the rings of a tree. Mediterranean tortoises can reach sizes in excess of 20cm. Life expectancy up to 80 years or more.

General Care

A healthy tortoise should be bright and alert with shiny eyes. Its body should be carried above the ground and the head and limbs should withdraw if alarmed. The shell should be hard and there should be no signs of the following:

  • Diarrhoea: this can be caused by incorrect feeding or internal parasite infestation.
  • Respiratory problems: signs include fluid or mucus from the nose.
  • Mouth rot: cheesy deposits appear in the mouth.
  • Soft shell disorders: can be due to a lack of calcium and/or vitamin D. Or incorrect lighting.

Your tortoise should be bathed weekly. If you are at all worried about the health of your tortoise you should consult your vet or a specialist reptile vet as soon as possible. Some reptiles carry a form of salmonella. Salmonella is most usually contracted by ingestion. Good hygiene and washing hands after handling or cleaning your tortoise should be sufficient to prevent any risk of infection.

Housing

Ideally your tortoise should have an indoor area and access to outdoors. Indoor accommodation: An escape proof vivarium with good ventilation is the most suitable type of indoor housing. The minimum cage size for an adult should be 90x30x40 cm for babies up to a 6cm carapace, rising to 2 square metres for adults.

  • Outdoor accommodation: Tortoise should have access to escape proof outdoor accommodation whenever the whether is suitable. Ideally situated where there is natural non-toxic vegetation. Provide a basking area and opportunities to climb.  All outdoor accommodation should be fox proof and a fully covered enclosure is essential for small tortoise to protect them from airborne predators.
  • Temperature – All reptiles are cold blooded and need an external heat source to maintain their body temperature. Each species requires different degrees of heating, but all will benefit from a range of temperatures within the vivarium. One end of the vivarium should be heated. This creates a thermal gradient allowing the tortoise to choose its preferred temperature. Thermometers can be placed at each end of the vivarium to monitor the temperature range. The overall vivarium temperature should be controlled
    by a thermostat.  Wire mesh guards should be fitted over all hot heat sources used in order to prevent thermal burns. Gentle heat can be provided by using heat mats and more intense heat by spotlights or UV heat lamps. Petwise can advise on heating products and their use suitable for your tortoise. Create a thermal gradient of 18°C at the cool end and 32°C at the hot end.  Night temperature can be dropped to 18°.
  • Lighting – Tortoises are diurnal and require UVB lighting to fully absorb and utilize the calcium in their diet. This light should be left on for 12-14 hours in the day. The bulbs will need replacing from time to time and Petwise staff will advise you.
  • Furnishings – The floor of the cage should be covered with a suitable substrate such as Calci-sand, Coconut bark chips, Aspen wood shavings, or artificial grass. Provide a spot light or UV heat lamp for basking and place climbing rocks or branches beneath it. Provide a shelter, perhaps with a piece of cork bark and additional bark or branches to create areas for climbing.
  • Cleaning – Remove droppings and uneaten food daily.  Water and food bowls should be washed, dried and refilled daily. Vivariums should be completely cleaned out and disinfected with a pet-safe disinfectant regularly. Soiled substrate should be disposed of and replaced. Deodorisers can be used in the vivarium – Petwise can advise.
  • Hibernation– This is a complicated procedure and you should ideally seek professional advice before you hibernate your tortoise., However before you consider hibernating your tortoise, it should be of sufficient size and weight and be showing no signs of illness to cope with the stress of hibernation. Your tortoise should be fasted for 2-3 weeks before hibernation (though fresh water must be provided). Your hibernation box should be well ventilated and be made of rat roof materials. The temperature should not fall below 2-3 C and not above 8C (optimum temperature is 5C). You should check your tortoise at regular intervals during hibernation.

Feeding

Mediterranean tortoises are herbivores. Provide a varied high fibre diet low in fat and protein. Commercial pellets are available as pert of a balanced diet and your Petwise can advise.

Vegetables: Mixed vegetables and weeds such as, dandelion, groundsel, clover and sowthistle.

Fruit: apples, berries, fresh and frozen (thawed) orange, grapes, kiwi, pear, fed occasionally in small amounts.

Fruit and vegetables should be washed and dried before feeding and offered in bite size pieces. A Calcium supplement and a separate multi vitamin should be provided. Fresh water should always be available.

The Law

Mediterranean tortoises are protected by CITES regulations, all are sold, with the exemption of the Horsefeld tortoise, with a Defra exemption certificate. They must be micro chipped when big enough.

Shopping List

  • Vivarium
  • Heat mat/spotlight
  • Substrate
  • UVB tube/UVB heat lamp
  • Thermometers x 2
  • Thermostat
  • Food and water bowl
  • Calcium supplement
  • Pet safe disinfectant
  • Cage furnishings
  • Vitamin supplement
  • Tortoise care book

All the items required can be purchased at Petwise Aquatics.

Remember: Never release your pet into the wild.

Parrot

Parrot

Introduction

Including Parakeets, African Greys and Amazons.Parrots make interesting and enjoyable pets. However a single caged bird will require a lot of attention and stimulus if it is not to become bored and frustrated. Parrots are natural acrobats and mimics. Some can learn simple words and phrases and are excellent whistlers. Many parrots have a long lifespan and are therefore a long term commitment.

Choosing and buying your Parrot

A healthy parrot should:

  • Be bright and alert.
  • Have no signs of discharge from the eyes or nostrils.
  • Have a clean vent area.
  • Have feathers flush to the body and not fluffed up.
  • Have no signs of breathing problems.
  • Have fluent movement with no signs of lethargy.

Housing

Although parrot cages make suitable homes for short-tailed parrots, longtailed varieties should be kept in an outside aviary or an indoor flight, as can short-tailed parrots. A single caged bird will require a lot of attention and stimulus if it is not to become bored and frustrated (a common cause of feather plucking). If the bird is to be left on its own for long periods it is better to give it a companion.

Love birds should always be kept in pairs or small groups. A roomy cage is  a necessity unless housed in an aviary and must be large enough for your parrot to stretch its wings and fly from perch to perch. Parrots are climbing birds so it is preferable to choose a cage with horizontal bars. A removable tray will make cleaning easier.  You should avoid putting the cage in draughts, direct sunlight or in damp or humid conditions. Sandsheets or cage bird sand should be placed in the bottom of the cage and replaced regularly. The cage should be furnished with perches of different diameter and one or two toys. Do not overcrowd the cage. Try and buy a selection of toys and rotate them to avoid boredom. Remove droppings daily. The cage and furnishings should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected with a pet safe disinfectant weekly.  Do not place perches directly above food and water pots. Outside aviaries must have a sheltered section to provide protection from wind, rain and strong sunlight and for many species may need to be heated. This is where you should position the roosting site (the highest perch or nest box) and the food containers. The cage/aviary can be furnished with nonpoisonous wood branches such as fruit wood which will add interest and aid with keeping the beak short.

Introducing your parrot to its new home

Before introducing your parrot to its new home fill the food and water pots and sprinkle a little extra onto the floor to ensure that he has enough to eat until he finds its seed pots. Make sure all windows and doors are closed and fires are guarded. Gently open one end of the carry box and let your parrot walk into its new home. If he appears anxious or does not settle drape a cloth over three sides of the cage until he settles. This can be gradually removed as he settles.  Leave him to adjust quietly.  Only cover the cage at night if the room temperature is likely to fall.

Feeding and Water

It is important that you give your parrot a varied diet. Each day you should offer food from the following categories.

  • Cereals – A good quality parrot mixture is available from your pet shop. Check the seed dishes daily and remove any empty husks. Refill as necessary.
  • Fruits – Apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, pears, cherries.
  • Vegetables – Celery, carrots, beetroot, lettuce, cabbage, spinach, fresh peas and beans.
  • Supplements – Cuttlefish is a source of calcium and helps to keep the beakworn down. A mineral block will provide essential minerals and trace elements.
  • Vitamin drops should be added to the water.
  • Millet seed can be given as a treat as can honey bells and seed bars.
  • Fresh foods must be thoroughly washed before being offered.

Food and water pots should be washed regularly. Fresh water should always be available.

General Care

Properly cared for your parrot will live a long and happy life. Early signs of illness include loose droppings, discharge from the nostrils, laboured breathing, feathers raised to give a puffed up appearance, resting with head under the wing and both feet on the perch. If you are at all worried about your parrots health, contact your vet.

Feathers – These should not be allowed to become too dry.  You should use a suitable fine mist spray, together with a special solution to spray on. Your pet shop will advise.  Some parrots do enjoy a bath but not all.

Colds – Chilling causes colds.  The bird will be listless, with feathers fluffed up and wheezing. Keep it warm and do not bath. Consult your vet.

Diarrhoea – This is commonly caused by an excess of green food, mouldy or contaminated food, a change in diet or lack of fresh water.  Keep him warm, make sure he has plenty of  fresh water and consult your vet.

Mites – Usually the red mite, this is a parasite which feeds on birds blood, causing itching and weight loss. Mites are easy to destroy with a suitable spray. Your pet shop or vet will advise.

Beaks and nails – Should they become overgrown you will need to get expert help.

Feather plucking – This can be due to a poor diet, lack of exercise or stimulation. Spend time with your cockatiel and provide novel toys. If the condition persists, consult your vet.

Shopping List

  • Cage and cage stand
  • Cage cover
  • Water pot
  • Seed pot
  • Perches
  • Seed guard
  • Food
  • Bath
  • Toys
  • Sand/sand sheets
  • Vitamin drops
  • Cuttle fish
  • Mineral block
  • Pet safe disinfectant
  • A good book on parrot care
rabbit

Rabbit

Introduction

Rabbits were introduced into Britain in the Middle Ages. Some rabbits escaped and colonised the countryside. Later fanciers bred rabbits for exhibition, which is why there is such a variety of rabbits available today. Rabbits are traditionally kept in a hutch outdoors but are increasingly popular as house pets. Rabbits are sociable animals, usually enjoying the company of other rabbits. If you wish to keep 2 or more, the best option is to have them neutered. Rabbits can live up to 8 years and are most suitable for older children.

Choosing and buying your rabbit

There are many varieties of rabbits available that vary greatly in size and temperament. Dwarf lop eared rabbits are very popular due to their appealing looks, attractive colours and docile nature. Although a dwarf lop is smaller than English or French lops. they can still be quite large when fully grown and can weigh more than 2kg. Longhaired rabbits are less suitable as pets because they usually need daily grooming, which is time consuming and must not be neglected.

Whatever variety is chosen, rabbits should be at least 8 weeks old. When you buy a new baby rabbit, it should be fed only hay and water for the first day and allowed time to adapt to its new home. You should continue to feed whatever the rabbit is used to for at least the first few weeks. Any change of diet should be made slowly over a period of 7 to 30 days.

Housing

Rabbits should be provided with as large cage as possible in which they can comfortably stand on their hind legs. A hutch for outdoors should be sturdy and water proof. It should be raised off the floor by about 25cm and placed in a sheltered position or inside a shed. Rabbits must be protected from inclement weathers as well as strong sunlight. (a hutch cover, blanket or piece of old carpet will often offer added protection on cold nights)

House rabbits are often kept in cages similar to those used for hamsters, only much larger. These should be placed in a cool room and out of direct sunlight and draughts. All rabbits benefit from access to a pen or run in the garden. Avoid using pesticides nearby and ensure that the enclosure is secure enough to keep the rabbit in as well as other animals out.

Bedding and hutch maintenance

A hutch or cage should have a layer of shavings on the floor with plenty of hay or straw provided for nesting. Any shavings or bedding that become wet should be removed daily along with any uneaten fresh foods.

Hygiene is extremely important, particularly in summer. If not kept clean the hutch will attract flies and other undesirable pests. As a general rule, cages should be cleaned thoroughly at least once a week. A good quality, pet-friendly disinfectant should be used and all the bedding and shavings replaced with a fresh supply. Rabbits often use the same area for their toilet every day. This allows them
to be trained to use a litter tray which can be easily cleaned out daily. Outdoor runs should be moved regularly.

Feeding and water

The most important part of a rabbit’s diet is good quality hay or freeze dried grass. This should be fed liberally and be available at all times. Rabbits need to nibble all day so hay gives them something to do. Most importantly, it provides the fibre needed for a healthy gut and helps to prevent dental problems.

A wide range of prepared foods is available and many are now formulated for rabbits of different ages or sizes. Be very careful not to overfeed as this can lead to obesity. Fresh foods are always enjoyed but should be given in moderation. Baby rabbits in particular should only get very small amounts and contrary to popular belief, lettuce should be avoided. Suitable fresh foods include kale,
spring greens, broccoli and carrot as well as fruit like apple. Fresh foods should be washed thoroughly before feeding and should not be allowed to become frosted or frozen. Anything that is not eaten should be removed regularly.

Fresh clean water must be available at all times and is best provided by a gravity-fed bottle.

General care

Adopting a good routine and feeding plenty of hay will help keep your rabbit healthy. Pet rabbits should be allocated some of their owner s time everyday and usually enjoy attention. Grooming them with a soft brush can be one means of interaction.

Rabbits can become stressed very easily and are prone to digestive disorders. Any signs of ill health should be referred to a vet without delay.

Vaccinations against myxomatosis and another serious disease known as VHD are available and recommended. It is also prudent to have rabbits neutered as this helps prevent some behavioural and health issues. Pet rabbits should be registered with your vet and insurance against unexpected veterinary costs should be considered.

Fly strike: It is recommended to check your rabbit underneath regularly, especially during the summer to ensure they are clean.  Flies are attracted to soiled areas around the rabbit s tail and can lay their eggs there, which will then develop into maggots.

Shopping List

  • Outdoor hutch/indoor cage
  • Rabbit food
  • Shopping List
  • Run or pen for the garden
  • Ceramic food dish
  • Water bottle and bottle brush
  • Hay or freeze dried grass
  • Hay or straw for bedding
  • Shavings
  • Treats
  • Toys
  • Gnaw block
  • Mineral block/vitamin drops
  • Pet safe disinfectant
  • Fly repellent
  • Rabbit care book
finch

Zebra & Bengalese Finch

Introduction

The Zebra finch originates from Australia, but the Bengalese finch is not seen in the wild as it is a product of many years of selected
captive breeding. Zebra and Bengalese finches naturally live in flocks and should not be kept singly. Either keep them in pairs in cages or in small groups in aviaries. Zebra and Bengalese finches can be kept with canaries. Properly cared for, your finch will live for several years.

Choosing and buying your finch

A healthy finch should be:

  • Bright and alert
  • Have no signs of discharge from the eyes or nostrils
  • Have a clean vent area
  • Feathers should be flush to the body and not be fluffed up
  • Should have no signs of breathing problems
  • Movement should be fluent with no signs of lethargy

Housing

Bengalese and Zebra finches can be housed in a cage or in an aviary. A roomy cage is advisable and should be large enough for your finches to stretch their wings and fly from perch to perch. You should avoid putting the cage in draughts, direct sunlight or in damp or
humid conditions. Sand sheets or cage bird sand should be placed in the bottom of the cage and replaced regularly.

The cage should be furnished with perches of different diameter and one or two toys, but do not overcrowd the cage. Try and buy a selection of toys and rotate them to avoid boredom.  Remove droppings daily. The cage and furnishings should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected with a pet-safe disinfectant weekly. A removable tray will make cleaning easier.

Care should be taken not to disturb your finch at night. Night fright can cause the birds to fly into the cage wire, so be sure to cover the cage at night.

Bengalese and Zebra finches are keen bathers and shallow dishes should be provided. Outside aviaries must have a sheltered section to provide protection from wind, rain and strong sunlight.  This is where you should position the roosting site (the highest perch or nest box) and the food containers.

Feeding and Water

A good quality finch mixture should be available from your pet shop. Check the seed dishes daily and remove any empty husks. Refill as necessary. Thoroughly washed, fresh green food may be given, such as lettuce, chick-weed and dandelion and sweet apple. Be careful not to overfeed. Cuttlefish is a source of calcium and helps to keep the beak worn down. A mineral block will provide essential minerals and trace elements. Grit helps with the digestion and should always be provided. Food and water pots should be washed regularly. Fresh water should always be available.

General Care

Properly cared for your finch will live a long and happy life.

  • Colds – Chilling causes colds. The bird will be listless, with feathers
    fluffed up and wheezing. Keep him warm and do not bath. Consult
    with your vet.
  • Diarrhoea – This is commonly caused by an excess of green food,
    mouldy or contaminated food, a change in diet or lack of fresh
    water. Keep him warm, make sure he has plenty of fresh water and
    consult your vet.
  • Mites – Usually the red mite, this is a parasite which feeds on birds
    blood, causing itching and weight loss. Mites are easy to destroy
    with a suitable spray, your pet shop or vet will advise.
  • Toenails – Overgrown claws need to be clipped. If left they will
    endanger the bird by becoming caught in the cage wire.  Care must
    be taken when cutting nails to avoid cutting the blood vessels and
    nerves. Consult your vet or pet shop.