Belinda Says Hay: “A Tax Day Surprise”

Hello. It’s Belinda.

Nothing new to report on my roommate’s sneaky phone call about “Earth Day cards.”

Dusty Bunneh wrote on the company Facebook page that he’s not after my job. Everyone could see his comment so I guess I should stop worrying.

I have other things on my mind anyway. Big changes coming.

First of all, I have a big birthday coming up on April 22. So I’m trying to focus on that instead of nonsense from my roommate. She hasn’t even mentioned my birthday because she’s in a panic about taxes.

That’s the second thing on my mind. Turns out you’re supposed to send papers to the government if you have a job. After they check your math they send you a “tax refund.”

The TV commercials talk about it. “Enjoy your tax refund with a trip to Disney World.”

Well I wouldn’t mind tapping into that Disney money. But I would go to New Zealand. If I lose my spokesrabbit job maybe I’ll just stay there.

The thing is I need help getting the numbers together. I haven’t been paid since I started this job back in September so not sure what to send in.

My roommate isn’t sure either but with her own taxes. She has been sitting at the dining room table all week moving papers from one side to the other.

Some little scraps fell to the floor and I ran over to help and she yelled, “No! My receipts!”

That’s what it’s been like here. I was digging in my kitchen box like usual and I hear, “Belinda! I’m on the phone with my CPA!” Which meant I was too noisy.

Later I got onto my roommate’s laptop and looked up “CPA” to see what the big deal was. That’s when it all clicked. A CPA could help me get my refund money.

But that’s not all.

Some CPAs are also notaries. That means they put a stamp on your papers to make them official. If I hand you a document and you see a notary stamp you have to do what it says.

And that is how I dug up my birthday gift to myself. Because I’m going to be five years old and it’s time to do things my way. Especially at work.

And with help from my new friends at the notary office, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.



Spokesrabbit, Small Pet Select

The Best Treats for Ferrets

​Ferrets may be close in size to our favorite vegans - rabbits and guinea pigs - but that's where the similarities end. Your ferret is a carnivore, although not a steak-and-potatoes kind of guy. His diet more closely resembles that of a cat. In fact, too many fruits and veggies can cause intestinal trouble for your little weasel. 

A ferret needs a high-protein, meat-based diet low in fiber, sugar, and carbohydrates. While treats aren't intended to make up a large portion of any pet's diet, it's always a good idea to make sure anything your ferret eats is nutritionally appropriate.

So, can ​I feed my ferret cat treats?

​Yes and no. The problem with cat treats isn't necessarily that they are, well, made for cats. Many, if not most, commercial cat treats aren't great for cats either. Ferrets (and cats) need a high-protein diet that's mostly meat. The American Ferret Association recommends at least 36% protein for ferrets when buying packaged diets. You may be a pro at looking past the shiny packaging to check the protein content on the back. But, that little % symbol doesn't tell the whole story. ​​Plant-based proteins can skew the picture. Make sure your treats are meat-based, listing one or two animal proteins as the first ingredients. If what you're feeding is made mostly of corn or other cheap fillers, call the guaranteed analysis a liar and toss it in the trash.

​​Healthy packed treats do exist

​Packaged treats aren't all bad. It can just be a treasure hunt to find a good one. Commercial treats don't need to be marketed specifically for ferrets; the ingredients are what's most important. You can't go wrong with a starch-free raw meat treat. 

​In general, the fewer ingredients the better. You want a treat without added sugar and an ingredient list you can understand and pronounce. This doesn't mean treat-time has to be boring! Try a variety of different protein combinations and chances are your ferret will pick a favorite and be dooking in no time.

​DIY recipes

​If you want to bust out the apron, there are plenty of safe recipes for ferrets that offer more nutrition and less fillers and preservatives than many store-bought treats. Truth be told, your buddy may be just as happy with a tasty morsel that takes a bit less effort. Avoid table scraps, but go ahead and tempt your ferret with freeze-dried or cooked meat like turkey breast without added salt and seasonings. A bit of 100% meat baby food (no starches added) or egg is usually appreciated also. 

Avoid feeding any foods high in carbohydrates as a treat. Peanut butter, rice, fruit, sugary cereal, chocolate, and dairy products are inappropriate for ferrets. Sharing a salad may seem like a healthy choice, but ferrets aren't able to utilize the nutrients in vegetables due to their lack of a large intestine to digest fiber. The fiber can also fill them up, making them less likely to eat their meat-based ferret food. A ferret's diet should be less than 3% fiber, even lower than the guideline for cats and dogs.

​Treats aren't a necessary part of your ferret's diet, but they can make for a fun reward and bonding experience. Make sure all treats are ​species-appropriate and the bulk of your ferret's diet is nutritionally complete, healthy food. You don't want to create a picky eater or let your ferret train you to give more treats to replace a balanced diet. Older ferrets with decreased activity levels may put on weight, so adjust your treat allowance accordingly. 


Belinda Says Hay: “Something Weird is Happening”

Hello. It’s Belinda.

Something fishy is going on and I’m not a fan. It all started with my roommate acting funny.

A few days ago, I woke up from my half-nap because I had an itch. Hay crumb in my ear.

I heard her upstairs in the kitchen on the phone. She was laughing and carrying on about something and I heard my name not once but twice.

No way to sleep after that so I walked up the steps as slowly as I could. Skipped the one that creaks.

Stopped near the top with just my head showing. Didn’t dare step onto the kitchen floor with the clicking.

 “She has no idea. Her agent told everyone to keep quiet.”

Her back was to me and she was fiddling with something at the counter. I heard bags.

“Right, it’s a Sunday. April 22.”

I turned so I could listen with my strong ear. She started banging things around, opening and closing drawers.

Mumbling but it sounded like “Earth Day cards” and “Rusty Bunny” and “great to work with.”

Rusty Bunny?

I kept hearing that over and over, like it was doing laps. Rusty Bunny Rusty Bunny. Finally it stopped doing laps because I realized she meant Dusty Bunneh. From California.

Who I thought was my friend.

I was so startled I tilted forward a little and then it happened. I tripped and stumbled into the kitchen and that was the end of that.

My roommate spun around and said “Ah-Belinda-hi!”

Then she said I’ll call you back and put the phone in her pocket.

Now this may not seem like a big deal but here’s the problem. I have been living here since September 2013, when I was six months old. I will be five in a few weeks and the fact is my roommate has never spun and said “Ah-hi!” to me before this.

She smiled at me but her eyes were funny, like she was watching a bug fly around. I went back downstairs and tried to sleep. Kept waking up thinking about Rusty Bunny Rusty Bunny.

I figured the only way to get to the bottom of this would be to stick my neck out and just ask Dusty Bunneh. Not sure if I’m supposed to use the Small Pet Select social media sites for personal business but I have no choice. They won’t give me the email password after what happened back in October.

That’s when I saw it. A post on the company Facebook page with comments but it was all in grey. Just a bunch of shapes instead of words. Like I was blocked. Clicked on it but nothing happened.

Since then I have spent most of my time under the steps. Not sure if I should ask Dusty Bunneh anything. Because when you see grey shapes instead of words you might really be seeing the writing on the wall, if you know what I mean.

My roommate and my agent are trying to get Dusty Bunneh on the team. That’s all I can think. To replace me as spokesrabbit. Sounds like they are starting with some sort of special cards for Earth Day.

I probably shouldn’t even be writing this but I can’t think about anything else right now. Not even alfalfa, that’s how much of a wreck I am.

For those of you who missed seeing a post on Easter because I had the day off, thanks for having my back and asking about it. I’m sorry today’s post is so gloomy but if I’m right and Dusty Bunneh takes over maybe he won’t be such a “Debbie Downer.”



Spokesrabbit, Small Pet Select

Why Chinchillas Shouldn’t Be Bathed

​Chinchillas and traditional baths are like oil and water. Literally. Your chinchilla perfects her stuffed animal look and feel by packing in 80 or so hairs to every follicle. Overachievers, some would say.

When such a dense coat becomes wet, it understandably can create an uncomfortable, compact mess. A wet chinchilla doesn't dry at any sort of reasonable rate. This can lead to a chilly chin that contracts a respiratory infection, or a host of skin issues like a fungal infection.

​Rub-a-dub-dub, no chins in the tub (please)

​She's not a witch in disguise. She won't melt. However, when a chinchilla's dense fur gets wet, she can become quite chilled. Because they take so long to dry, even on a nice day this can create a cold chin that's set up for a respiratory infection. Upper respiratory infections in rodents shouldn't be taken lightly. Unlike a simple cold in humans, respiratory infections can quickly turn into something more serious, like pneumonia. Small animals also are at risk for other complications, like GI stasis from refusing to eat when not feeling well. 

​A damp coat can also cause problems with the skin and fur itself. Fungal infections are just as fun as they sound. Moisture trapped in a chinchilla's undercoat creates​ an environment where fungus can thrive. Ringworm, usually to blame for fur fungus, isn't species-specific. Yep, this is the same headache that plagues dogs, humans, and spreads to other animals. Over the counter medications do not technically "kill" fungus either (although they ​stop it from growing so over the course of ​several weeks the immune system can kick it to the curb).

​Too late?

Don't panic. Plenty of chins are messy drinkers or forget their manners and spray their pals with urine and everyone still lives happy and healthy lives. Sometimes accidents happen and nothing but a damp cloth to the surface of the coat will solve the problem. A soaking wet chinchilla isn't advisable, but if you find your buddy a bit damp all is not lost. It's damage control time. Dry her off with a towel first and use a no-heat blow dryer or the low-heat setting held around two feet away. You want to keep the room warm so she doesn't catch a chill, but avoid overheating her with the blow dryer.

To prevent damp chinchillas in the future, swap drinking bowls for sipper bottles and supervise playtime for those get-into-everything types. Be sure to clean out the cage and sleeping areas often to control both moisture and odor.

​Just add dust

​No amount of cute can stop stink (probably what they're thinking about us, too). All hope is not lost. Not only is there a healthy alternative for bathing chinchillas, but it's actually vet- recommended. Chinchillas instinctively enjoy taking dust baths and it will keep their skin and coat healthy and fresh. It's also an adorable sight to watch ... win, win, win! The dust is meant to mimic the volcanic ash chinchillas would use in the wild to remove dirt and oil from the floof (highly technical term).

​Chinchillas shouldn't be bathed in water to avoid fungal infections and other health issues. Luckily, they're generally self-cleaning machines and don't need too much help to stay fresh and soft. Just provide the dust​ in a safe bath hut​ for 10 minutes or so a few times a week. They'll enjoy the fun, and you'll enjoy the cute! Now get to YouTube and enjoy some chins bathing appropriately with reckless abandon. 

Caring for Your Senior Guinea Pig

​The average lifespan for a guinea pig is about five to seven years. Many vets consider four-year-old guinea pigs to be approaching their golden years, but there is no hard and fast rule. It's almost impossible to gauge the age of an adult guinea pig after they are full grown. We treasure every year we have with our rescue piggies, never knowing how much time we really have.

Just like us, guinea pigs age differently and at different rates. Signs of aging appear earlier in some guinea pigs, and later in others. ​A senior guinea pig may lose muscle tone and weight. She may become less active (fewer popcorns and more naps) and stop using ramps. An X-ray can confirm arthritis, often obvious in the knees, and other medical concerns may start to pop up, like dental problems.

​Keeping your senior comfortable  

​Senior guinea pigs spend more time sleeping and less time exploring, so it's important to make their environment a cozy one. Soft bedding and plush beds will be appreciated. Ramps may pose a new challenge. Consider converting a two-story cage to create more first-floor space. Hold off on frequent redecorating, though. Seniors may suffer from vision loss and will feel more secure knowing where to expect their furniture and accessories. 

Senior guinea pigs tend to stay in one spot longer, so be sure to spot clean daily and change the bedding more frequently, if needed. Long haired pigs may benefit from a trim, especially around the back end. Seniors seem to become less concerned with their self-cleaning beauty routine as time goes on.

​Watching for health issues

Guinea pigs, as prey animals, hide illness like it's their job. Instinctively, it IS their job in the wild. With seniors, it becomes extra important to catch health problems early on. One of the easiest ways to pick up on a health issue early is to weigh weekly, and more frequently in aging or ill guinea pigs. 

Weight loss is commonly the first sign that something is awry. This could be simple, such as pain from arthritis that's easily managed with medication from your vet. Or, it could be a sign there is something more going on. Older guinea pigs can suffer from heart failure, kidney trouble, and overgrown molars, among other ailments - all that begin with vague symptoms.

Ladies and gentlepigs

Female guinea pigs are prone to ovarian cysts as they age. She may seem extra moody, mount her cagemates, lose hair on either side of the belly, and develop crusty nipples. Normally, spaying a guinea pig is the recommended course of action. However, not all seniors are ideal surgical patients. Talk to your vet about alternative treatments and how to monitor your ladypig if surgery isn't a good option for her. 

Male guinea pigs come with their own problems later in life. Loss of muscle tone is a normal part of aging. In boy pigs, this can lead to impaction. He may not be able to expel the soft caecal pellets that accumulate in the perineal sack. Your guinea pig may need help for the rest of his life cleaning this area out so poop doesn't get backed up. Offering the removed material can provide important nutrients. If they don't eat it, a vitamin B supplement may be necessary. Providing a high-fiber diet (unlimited grass hay) can help prevent the condition in all guinea pigs.

​Guinea pigs may become skinny pigs  

​Not the hairless variety (although a former fluff losing hair should be seen by a vet ASAP)! Weight loss tends to plague senior animals and worry their human counterparts endlessly. Weight loss that's accompanied by drooling, a foul odor, an interest in food but inability to eat, dropping pellets instead of chewing them, neglecting to eat hay and tough foods like corn husks, and biting veggies into little pieces but spitting them out signifies tooth problem. Older cavies are more prone to tooth trouble because loss of muscle tone in the jaw can cause molars to wear unevenly. 

If overgrown molars and other illnesses have been ruled out, weight loss isn't as scary. That being said, a skinny pig is at a disadvantage if the DO become ill or need to go under anesthesia down the line, so putting on a few ounces can offer insurance. Senior guinea pigs can be allowed some extra treat foods like raw oats and corn on the cob. Offering a variety of hays (psst ... try this) and sprinkling some fragrant herbal blends on their hay may entice them to keep eating as much as they should.

​Senior guinea pigs can still enjoy satisfying lives and even stronger bonds with you. Floor time might just be replaced with extended cuddle sessions ... no complaints here. 


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