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Ultimate Guide To Kitten Care: Nutrition, Health, and Hygiene

One has to have a heart of stone not to fall in love with a kitten. My first cat came into my life when I was seven years old. Minky was a tri-colored farm cat. We fed our cats milk, which they shared with a nocturnal hedgehog family that lived in our shoe closet. How we look after young kittens and adult cats has changed drastically. We’ve learned so much about kitten nutrition, good hygiene, and health. Kittens provide a lifetime of companionship and contribute to our well-being. Here’s what you should know if you decide to make a kitten part of the family. Crucial Factors to Consider Before Bringing a Kitten Home Kittens are easier than puppies. True. However, that doesn’t mean that choosing a kitten is easy sailing. Kittens need the following: Balanced nutrition (solid food, canned or wet meat protein kitten food) Feed-free feeding or a controlled feeding style; it works for most kittens Safe drinking water Veterinarian access to checkups and vaccination Sanitation access to litter Love and affection Undivided attention Basic understanding of feline needs In return, you’ll get to watch them grow rapidly into loving, playful cats.   Ultimate Guide to Kitten Care Here are a few tips to get you going: Make your home kitten friendly Cats and kittens tend to be curious and playful. Therefore, ordinary household objects can be harmful. Remove and store these items: Fragile items that your new kitten might knock over Remove and safely secure household chemicals, alcohol, perfumes Store delicate fabrics to prevent clawing Read up on house plants as some are poisonous Put up barriers to prevent escaping Have a cat bed Prepare a sanitation station litter box Have suitable clean water and feeding bowls Bring kitten necessities Kittens and cats have basic needs. You can save on toys by providing safe household items to play with, like cardboard boxes, paper rolls, and strings to entertain a kitten. But you can’t scrimp on proper nutrition and veterinarian health care facilities. These are the must-haves: Age-appropriate food fit for a cat or kitten's diet that is low on plant-based sources Access to clean drinking water A litter box or device A cat bed (though the kitten will more than likely make do with a sunny spot or your lap) Some toys Caring for a kitten (we hope you opted for one from an animal shelter) takes time. Luckily, there is a bunch of new tech gadgets for pet owners that provide convenience, peace of mind, and enhanced care for pets. According to World Animal Foundation, an automated litter box is one such device that offers several benefits for both cats and their owners. It saves time and effort by automatically scooping and disposing of waste, ensuring a clean litter box environment. Find a vet Being a pet owner means having a good rapport with veterinarians and their staff. A vet should make you and your feline comfortable and answer your questions and concerns. A vet not only provides basic health care like: Routine physical health checks Vaccinations Microchipping Flea and tick remedies Grooming advice Veterinarians are also an excellent resource to help you decide on a diet for your kitten and tips on understanding the complicated nuances of feline parenting. Start following a proper hygiene routine When your kitten enters your home, introduce them to the litter box. Cats are super easy to train, but you must provide the resources. Kittens take quickly to automated litter boxes, and it’s the perfect time to introduce them. Automated litter devices make your life easier. Here are some litter options: Clumping and non-clumping Wood Paper Clay Pine Wheat Grass Corn Walnut shell Hygiene isn’t just about litter. It’s also about grooming, getting the kitten used to your touch, and handling its ears, toes, nails, and all parts of its body. Caressing your cat is therapeutic for both of you. Don’t overlook the socialization thing Cats get pigeonholed as solitary creatures. They need socialization and contact with others at different stages of their life. You can introduce a kitten to your neighbors, friends, and the family dog. When you bring a kitten into a pet family, the introduction should be slow. Have a plan. Train your Kitten Cats are trainable despite what dog people say. A cat learns its name, and I suggest sticking to a simple two-syllable name. Repeat the name but don’t overuse it. Basic obedience training Cats respond well to methods like clicker training, positive reinforcement, and auditory markers to initiate your cat to words like ‘good cat,’ ‘yes or no,’ and other positive commands followed with affection. Set these conditions for training: The cat is awake and engaged Limit training to 1 to 5 minutes only Reward with treats or praise Repeat but don’t overwhelm the cat Train before supper but never withhold food Teach one skill Litter training Many pet parents can appreciate how easy it is to litter train a kitten. Provide a safe, accessible, yet private place for the litter box or automatic device that the kitten can access freely. Keep it away from noisy or high-traffic areas. Once you introduce a kitten to the area and box, they’ll remember. Tip: Keep the litter box tidy. It’s unhygienic for the entire family.   Mental Stimulation Needs and Exercise Cats are good at entertaining themselves with their tail. But here is what you can do to make life fun for your furry friend. Engage your kitty in puzzle games Puzzle games are a beneficial activity for cats. It provides mental and physical stimulation and echoes a feline’s natural hunting and stalking instinct. Further, it’s a great way to exercise a cat. Cat obesity is rising and leads to many health and joint issues. Puzzles make them work for their food. Play hide-and-seek Cats are natural game players. Hide and seek comes naturally to them, and don’t be surprised if they lurk behind furniture to pounce on you and yell 'Surprise!' Engaging cats and kittens in hide-and-seek can work both ways: they hide and you seek, or you hide and they seek. You can get their attention by calling their name or rattling their favorite toy or snack. Daily walk and exercise Harnessing and walking cats has become a popular activity. Training a kitten to a harness is easier than asking a senior cat. A senior cat will likely convey their discontent through body language. Train a kitten to walk in a harness by: Starting at a young age Getting a proper and secure harness that is escape proof Building a routine Making it fun Health Checkups This is the most expensive part of cat ownership. Though most cats are healthy and only require essential medical attention, there are a few musts. Vaccinations Protect your cat from diseases by keeping their vaccinations current, even if they're house cats. Animal healthcare professionals define vaccines as core and lifestyle vaccines. Core vaccines and lifestyle vaccines are routinely administered starting at 6 to 8 weeks. Some shots are also required by law. FVRCP Rabies FeLV Spaying/neutering Sadly, our shelters are full of loving cats. In the US alone, we have roughly 58.3 million pet cats and 30 to 80 million feral cats. Repeat this worldwide. Please spay and neuter your cat and consider rescuing it from your local shelter. Spaying and neutering not only protect from overpopulation but also promotes animal health. Tip: A spayed and neutered cat will not spray your bedding or soft furnishings with urine. No amount of cleaning or disinfecting will get rid of this odor completely. Grooming Needs Cats are famous for grooming themselves and have flexible and compression ribcages to reach tough spots. Brushing Helping your cat by brushing its fur promotes bonding and a healthy, shiny coat and removes excess fur. Start brushing your kitten to get used to the habit. They may make a game of capturing the brush. Bathing Good luck! Leave bathing cats to professionals. Cats don’t need to be bathed; they can swim but are not fussed about getting wet. Exceptions, of course, exist, and cats like to make liars out of us. Oral and dental care A healthy diet with crunchy food to help clean teeth is a good start, but cats can also develop tartar and gum disease. We recommend that kittens get used to having their teeth brushed; after all, all the cleaning they do with their cat tongues invites bacteria. Ask your vet how to establish a routine. Conclusion Nutrition, health, and hygiene are the foundation of kitten and cat parenthood. When you bring a kitten home, you promise to commit to its lifetime with love, patience, and ongoing care. Don’t forget to take advantage of the hundreds of valuable tips from vetted organizations.    
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What Do Guinea Pig Noises Actually Mean? How to Interpret Their Adorable Sounds

Facebook @briochepig Wheeking, chutting, and rumbling, oh my! These are just some of the noises that the most vocal of rodents, the guinea pig, use to communicate with each other, and you!  In this blog entry, I will dive into what many of the noises guinea pigs make actually mean.  Let’s start with good sounds and work the way down to the not so good sounds. READ MY FIRST BLOG POST ABOUT GUINEA PIGS   WHEEKING  The sound most people equate to guinea pigs is “wheeking”. This is a loud whistle that is essentially asking or demanding a treat. A happy noise. But, not all guinea pigs wheek. In fact, a guinea pig I have now, Cosmo, is the first one I’ve had that wheeks in almost 6 years! And his cage mate, Bentley, sits back and enjoys all the fruits of Cosmo’s efforts. So if you have a guinea pig that doesn’t wheek- no worries- they don’t all wheek.  A wheek is also often used when one pig is calling out for another, especially when a young pig loses track of his/her mother or cage mate.  In this video, Cosmo (black and white) is wheeking when he hears me with a treat bag.    In this next video, you will first hear a baby Cosmo call out for Bentley and Bentley immediately runs to him. In the second part, you’ll hear Bentley as a baby call out for his new cage mate and big “brother” Baxter, who also comes immediately over to Bentley.       BUBBLING  This is a very quiet noise that a content guinea pig may make. It is usually associated when you have a piggy super relaxed in your lap with a very gentle rubbing of teeth. Sometimes a light pet on their jaw when relaxed will bring this action and sound. But beware, teeth rubbing/grinding can also be a very bad noise- more on that later.  CHUTTING  This is my favorite of all noises. Also sometimes called “clucking”, these are noises a super happy guinea pig makes, usually when exploring around during floor time. They tend to make this noise in conjunction with each step they take. They will also occasionally make the sound in their pen, but one is most likely to hear it during floor time.  In this video you will hear Bentley and Cosmo chutting as they are running around. Bentley’s is not as loud as Cosmo.    RUMBLING  This is generally neither a good nor bad noise. For the most part, rumbling refers to “rumble strutting”. Rumble strutting is used when a guinea pig is courting another or, when between two or more males, is used to determine and define a hierarchy. Even if an “alpha male” has already been determined, the behavior can sometimes reoccur to make sure no one forgot what their role is. Among guinea pigs that are already bonded, this is a perfectly natural behavior and sound that may occasionally occur, whether courting or determining who’s in charge. However, this behavior is most likely to occur during bonding and generally not an issue unless a small “fight” breaks out and then only if blood is drawn. Rumble strutting is usually accompanied by a “butt wiggle” and a warning sound as well as teeth chattering (explained later).  Here, Cosmo (black and white) is attempting to remind Bentley (brown) that he is in charge. Bentley really doesn’t want any of it, but does try and stick up for himself. But no worries, these two are bonded buddies and 10 minutes later were napping next to each other.    Rumbling might also occur if an unfamiliar noise briefly startles a guinea pig. Usually it is a quick rumble noise followed by a temporary freezing of the pig’s position for a couple of seconds.  WHINING  This is a more soft noise where the guinea pig is not necessarily excited or pleased with what is going on. Usually it can be heard when you pick up and put a piggy in your lap but he/she isn’t exactly 100% in the mood. Many times a treat or chin scratch will make the piggy relaxed and accepting of “lap time”, but if the noise continues, you might want to consider returning him/her to the pen for a little while and try again later.  SHRIEKING  This is an unmistakable sound sure to catch your attention. The guinea pig is yelling at you to stop what you are doing immediately. If you suspect or have a sick guinea pig, the shriek can actually be helpful for a vet to diagnose just where the problem is in a hurt guinea pig as the shriek will occur when the problem area is touched. Sometimes the shriek can be a simple “don’t pick me up'' quick one. That is not one to usually worry about. Any other instances of shrieking when touched should be looked at by an experienced veterinarian.  TEETH CHATTERING  This sounds just like the name indicates. It is often included as part of a “who’s the boss” rumble strut. It is one or more guinea pigs telling the other to get away from me, I’m not in the mood for your antics right now. It can often foretell a fight. If you hear teeth chattering and it is accompanied by rumble strutting and likely loud noises, keep your eye on the situation. If things become too aggressive that a fight starts and you see blood, you will need to separate them. BUT, you can also get injured trying to do that so extreme caution is advised. Guinea pigs rarely bite humans, but as a last resort, they will. I still have a small scar of piggy incisors on a finger from when I tried to break up a fight 23 years ago and got chomped on!!!  One thing I recently learned through slowing videos down, is when a guinea pig is irritated with another, for whatever reason, an aggressive lunge towards the other pig looks very bad and makes me check for any blood. But as it turns out, the initial objection shown by the aggressor actually does not involve teeth. The guinea pig actually will cover up his/her teeth just before contact so no contact with teeth is made. So it amounts to a sort of “push” rather than a “punch” to the other piggy.  In this slowed down video, you will see that Bentley, most likely annoyed that Baxter is in his favorite spot, gives a warning look and then lunges/jabs Baxter. But you can see that just before he does, he covers up his teeth with his lips.     THESE NEXT TWO SOUNDS DO NOT HAVE A DEFINITIVE AGREEMENT ON WHAT THEY MEAN.  The first is chirping. This is a relatively rare noise that most pigs will never make. But it sounds just like a bird chirping quickly. My personal opinion is that it is a warning to others of a sensed danger, similar to a rabbit’s thumping. But again, there is no general consensus on the exact meaning of chirping.  From 2017, my guinea pig Biscotti is under the tv stand, but you clearly hear him chirping.     The second is purring. If you have a pig that purrs, it will most likely occur when you are petting him/her from mid body and back. Sometimes I’m able to mimic the sound, then immediately pet the pig and get him/her to “answer” me back. Once again, there is no general consensus on what purring means, but I believe it is a mostly positive sound.  Cosmo is having a “purring session” with me in this video.    HONKING, HOOTING, CRACKLING, WHEEZING  These are sounds that demand immediate veterinary intervention. As predatory animals, even after hundreds of generations removed from their wild ancestors, guinea pigs try very hard to hide symptoms of illness. Any one or more of those sounds, mainly during breathing, indicates a high likelihood of a respiratory illness that has already developed, which is why an immediate trip to the vet is needed.  TEETH GRINDING  If your guinea pig is grinding his/her teeth while resting, he/she is likely in pain. Most frequent cause would be a kidney/calcium stone, but no matter what the reason, this also requires an immediate trip to a veterinarian. Often the grinding is accompanied by a whimpering sound.  This is a photo of a calcium stone that Biscotti had. You can see it in the x-Ray and also see the actual stone that was removed. How painful that must have been for him. He was both whimpering and grinding his teeth in pain, and then began to lose appetite. This is why an immediate trip to a veterinarian is necessary if such behavior/sounds are noticed.    So these were many of the most common sounds these cute animals use to engage in a surprisingly sophisticated form of communicating. Hopefully this blog helped you learn something new about these furry pets.  In the next blog, I’ll explore guinea pig anatomy. How well do they see? Hear? Smell? Why is it so important their digestive system always has something going through it? How fast does their heart beat?  I hope you will join me for that next time!  Guest Post by Craig N. - long time Guinea Pig parent, currently of Bentley and Cosmo (pictured above), and they invite you to follow their antics @ https://www.facebook.com/briochepig  Until next time…. Learn more about Guinea Pigs here           
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Interesting History Facts About Guinea Pigs and What You Should Know Before Adopting

Facebook @briochepig March is here and it’s “Adopt a Guinea Pig” month! These furry, vocal, and docile little guys can make a great pet!  In this blog we’ll review some interesting history of guinea pigs and some basic information on the many advantages of adopting from a guinea pig rescue besides just giving a needy guinea pig a forever loving home.  In future blogs, we will discuss topics like; guinea pigs’ many vocalizations and what they mean, guinea pig behavior (including signs your guinea pig might be sick), some anatomy facts included things like, “How well do they hear, see, smell?” and so on, the different breeds, proper cage size, time out of cage (floor time), why I choose to use carefresh bedding exclusively over the last 7 years, and proper everyday care including diet. Read this review from Pet Keen  GUINEA PIG OR CAVY HISTORY  Early history can trace evidence of guinea pigs all the way back to 9000 BCE! And the first signs of domestication still go as far back as 2000 BCE! (The accepted date period of domestication is not agreed upon by all- but is generally accepted that it was in that general time period) But you still have to go way back to the early 1500’s when it was believed that Spanish conquistadors brought them to Europe from their native South America to primarily be used as pets at that time. They were introduced to North America in the early 1800’s. They were also popular pets among the wealthy and members of Royalty. In fact, Queen Elizabeth I is reported to be one of the earliest fans of guinea pigs way back in the late 1500’s! They aren’t from the country of Guinea and they aren’t pigs, so where does their name come from? First, in a lot of the world guinea pigs are referred to as cavies (cavy) which is taken from their proper Latin name “Cavia porcellus”.  One very common theory on the word “guinea” comes from the fact that they may have been sold for a “guinea”, an English gold coin. But the coin wasn’t created until the 1600’s and documentation of the word “guinea” being used to describe them goes back to the 1500’s. So why “guinea”? Well, that’s a good question. There are many theories, none of which are confirmed. So then, let’s look at the word “pig” used for them. This is also a mystery but the general consensus is it has to do with the grunting noises they make that can resemble some noises an actual pig makes. What a rich and mysterious history these little critters have!   INTERESTING GUINEA PIG HISTORY FACTS  The first accepted evidence of a guinea pig shown in art dates all the way back to 1580 in a portrait of three Elizabethan children with the middle one holding her pet guinea pig!    Many well-known people have had guinea pigs as children or adults. I’ll highlight a couple of them.  In this 1972 photo, the future Princess Diana is seen with her guinea pig, “Peanut”.     Deborah Harry, the lead singer from Blondie, a favorite band of mine growing up, is seen here with her Peruvian guinea pig.     And in New Zealand, a police department named Elliot an official Constable. Elliot was a guinea pig! He was used to bring attention to driving safety including proper speed in school zones. He was outfitted with his own uniform! Elliot had become a bit of a celebrity in New Zealand.      SHOULD YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE? DOES SWEDEN REALLY HAVE A LAW MAKING OWNING JUST ONE GUINEA PIG AGAINST THE LAW?    The answer is yes and yes. Guinea pigs are very social animals and are absolutely most mentally healthy with at least one other guinea pig. In 2008 Sweden enacted law stating animals classified as “social creatures” , of which guinea pigs are classified as “social creatures” in their law, must be given “adequate social contact with animals of the same species”! So yes, it is against the law to have just one guinea pig (among other species classified in the law)! So unless there are some very unusual circumstances, someone considering getting “a” guinea pig should count on at least a pair.     WHY ADOPT? In addition to the obvious reason “they need a home” there are lots of other advantages. Most rescues specific to guinea pigs will only adopt in pairs unless you need a companion for your current solitary guinea pig.  Rescues do a health exam and usually will have incoming pigs spayed or neutered (usually soon after arrival or when one is healthy enough to undergo a surgical procedure, or at a proper age) and that helps control one of the main reasons guinea pigs end up in rescues- unwanted babies.  Rescues will also be happy to discuss any aspect of guinea pig care and behavior. A pet store associate, unless an experienced guinea pig owner, will only know the bare minimum basics learned during training.  Bonding is crucial. Guinea pigs have a hierarchy and when adopting from a rescue, the two (or more) guinea pigs will have already been bonded and ready for their new home. If you are getting just one as a companion for your solitary one (perhaps recently lost a mate), the rescue will usually have you bring in your guinea pig to be introduced to a prospective companion and start the bonding process to see if the two appear that they should be a good match.  A common misconception is that two boys can’t live together. However, as long as there isn’t a female in with them (in which case neutering would be recommended even if female has been spayed), most boys will successfully bond. In fact, over the last 7 years, I’ve only had boys in pairs.  While my future blogs will dive into important topics, including the most basic things to know for now, if you are considering adopting guinea pigs, but if you can’t wait, it’s very important to remember:  Be prepared for a 5-8 year commitment which includes proper medical care expenses. If you are adopting as pets for a child (children), their time with the guinea pigs should be supervised and perhaps most importantly, you need to be ready to give appropriate care if the child gets “tired” of the guinea pig.      There are many good websites for guinea pig care information, but I recommend using a guinea pig specific rescue’s website. In fact, most rescues are happy to receive messages or phone calls to help with questions related to care. So when you adopt from a rescue, you aren’t just giving homeless cuties a home, but you are getting pets that were prescreened, and treated if necessary, for health problems. You get to know the history of the guinea pig including how well it adapted to the new environment of the rescue and how easily bonding occurred. You’ll know any behavior “quirks” and possible recommendations on any special care prior to choosing. And perhaps most importantly, a place to go for information or questions after the adoption.  Of course other places, like your local Humane Society, are also good places to adopt, but keep in mind that often you won’t know anything about the guinea pig except a reason given to the shelter for surrender.        Guest Post by Craig N. - long time Guinea Pig parent, currently of Bentley and Cosmo (pictured above), and they invite you to follow their antics @ https://www.facebook.com/briochepig  Until next time…. Learn more about Guinea Pigs here   
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Natural Wood Cat Litter vs Clay & Silica: What's the Difference and Why Make the Switch Today

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Top Reasons to Adopt a Bunny and What You Need to Know

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