The Cat’s Meow, When cats talk people listen!

September 12, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Pet Cats

People listen when cats talk, and most experts agree that this is precisely why cats are to so talkative towards their human companions!

Some cats are quite chatty while others scarcely make a sound. Some of that’s genetic but there is also the individual personality. Along with vocalization cats use a combination of scent and body language to communicate.

In a cat world without people, adult cats primarily use scent and body language. Cat-to-cat communication is a symphony of subtle symbols and they may also use a variety of vocalizations, but they seldom meow at each other. Meows are pretty much reserved for that special relationship between a mother and her kittens.

Well in a cat-to-people world scent obviously doesn’t work, nor are humans particularly adept at body language. Cats quickly learn that their particular humans simply don’t “get it” and that the only way to get direct communication is through conversation.

In her book “Cat Wrangling Made Easy,” Dusty Rainbold says that one researcher, Nicholas Nicastro, believes that cat vocalizations aren’t even a true language. Cats have simply learned that sounds manage our emotions and they become extremely skilled at using their vocalizations to manipulate us. So cats talk to communicate with us, and that’s why we listen.

How does your cat talk?

In conversations with your cat you’ll hear a wide range of chatters, murmurs, chirps, trills, and kitten-like squeaks. On occasion you may hear growls, spits, and caterwauls as well. But of course our favorites are the purrs and meows.

Cats can make all sorts of sounds, with a lot of variations of the simple meow. Rainbold says that a 2002 Cornell University study documented hundreds of different cat vocalizations, ranging from soft purrs to tomcat battle yowls. Yet what all those sounds mean is a mystery to us.

The sounds domestic cats will make can be grouped into four distant types:

  • There are the vowel sounds that are variations of a “meow.” There’s also that sweet, open-mouthed “silent meow” which is so high pitched the human ear can’t hear it.
  • Chirps and chattering are types of articulated patterns that express frustration.
  • There are the softer sounds of murmurs and purring.
  • Then there are strained intense sounds such as hisses, growls, and screams.

You’ll want to get familiar with your cat’s usual vocal patterns, and then pay attention to any changes. If a silent cat suddenly starts talking up a storm, or a pleasantly chatty cat changes to yowling, it could be trying to tell you something. My Siamese cat is often quite talkative, but when she really wants to be fed, her meow gets loud. If she doesn’t get fed right away, it becomes even louder and sometimes starts to get a little reverberation going.

What’s your cat saying?

You are listening to your cat, so now let’s figure out what your cat may be trying to say. Each type of sound is your cat’s way of communicating its particular need or mood.

  • Meowing
    The meow is very versatile and can have a surprisingly wide range of variations. Meows are mostly your cat asking for something. They can range from kittenish, coy, and shy to forcefully demanding your attention.

    The “silent meow” is basically an ordinary meow. It does make a sound but is pitched above your hearing. Cats can detect sounds up to 50-65 kilohertz, while our hearing is limited to approximately 18-20 kilohertz. We find this meow so adorable that cats quickly learn that it’s highly effective for getting what they want.

  • Chattering
    Chattering is an odd sound your cat will make while watching birds outside a window. It is a rapid click-click sound they make with their teeth. Although there are mixed ideas of what this means, it’s generally thought to be an expression of excitement or a frustration at not being able to pounce on a prey. It is almost always in response to birds, while watching rodents cats will be silent.

  • Chirping
    A soft trill or Chirping sound is used to greet other cats or humans. It is a sweet, friendly vocalization that falls between a meow and a purr.

  • Purring
    The purr is everybody’s favorite cat sound. The purr is often attributed to a contented cat, and cats do purr when they are happy. But it is actually an overflow of any emotion. Cats may purr when content, happy, frightened, furious, or even in pain. In the more distressed situations purring is thought to be a self-soothing and self-healing mechanism. Research has shown that the frequency of the purr aligns with the same frequency that aids in pain relief, wound healing, fracture healing, and bone growth.

  • Growling and Yowling
    These are some of the loudest and most intense sounds a cat can make. Growls, wails, howls, and snarls are warning sounds. These are dramatic and often effective ways to ward of potential combatants or competitors. Cats will growl at each other or at humans as a warning to back off.

  • Hissing
    The hiss is a sound of annoyance, and depending on the situation, is mixed with fear or a lot of bluster. It can also indicate pain or stress, but in all cases it means “back off.” If you’re petting your cat, stop and give him a chance to calm down, and then try to determine the cause. If he hisses every time you touch him in a certain spot, he could be injured or ill.

Cats are wonderfully diverse in their ability to communicate with us. When they talk, people listen. It does makes you wonder, who’s domesticated whom! Visit our World of Pet Cats to learn more about these fascinating animals, or to find your special breed!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

True Percula Clownfish, Nemo’s Look-alike cousin, Under Protective Scrutiny

September 11, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Aquariums, Saltwater Fish

See all types of clownfish

You can rest assured “Nemo” is not under review, rather its Nemo’s Look-alike cousin, the True Percula Clown, that’s undergoing scrutiny!

Concern about threats to our planets animals and their habitats abound. So the recent flourish of articles, describing the Nemo inspired fish from the popular movie “Finding Nemo” as possibly endangered, immediately caught my eye.

I love Nemo, and hate the thought of the fish that sparked his creation being in a dire situation. But no, it is not the Nemo inspired clownfish that’s being scrutinized. The Nemo caricature was designed from the Ocellaris Clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris, which is a fish with a very wide distribution. The clown whose status is in question is the True Percula Clownfish Amphiprion percula, also known as the Orange Clownfish.

Percula Clownfish protective Status review

A petition from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to list the True Percula Clownfish and seven damselfish species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was submitted to the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
two years ago, on September 14, 2012. NMFS announced on September 3, 2014 that the Percula clownfish Amphiprion percula may warrant protection under ESA.

NOAA Fisheries determined that the petition did not present substantial information to pursue the six Indo-Pacific damsel species and the Caribbean damselfish will be reviewed by a regional office. But they do feel the Percula Clown warrants review.

For their review, they are soliciting scientific and commercial information to help in their determination. If you are interested you can submit your comments to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), but they must be received by November 3, 2014.

Ret Talbot gives a really good overview of the status review process in his article, “Orange Clownfish a Step Closer to Endangered Species Act Listing.” He says that “NMFS cited major anthropogenic stressors such as global climate change and ocean acidification as the primary basis for the finding.” He goes on to discuss the perceived threats and the responses of interested parties, including the Marine Ornamental Defense Committee of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC).

All the fuss about “Nemo”. the False Percula Clownfish

The Ocellaris Clown (the Nemo inspired clownfish) and its look-alike cousin, the True Percula Clown, are some of the most popular aquarium fish, and are brilliant favorites to encounter when diving!

No, the Ocellaris Clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris is not the clown whose status is being reviewed. Alluding to Nemo turns out to be is as “fishy” as Nemo himself in addressing the True Percula’s status review.

It’s amazing though, how the “Nemo” theme was picked up on as a sensational title plug. It makes more sense that it has been played up though, when such fanciful statements deftly led the way. “Finding Nemo’s getting harder as global warming and acidifying oceans destroy the coral reefs the clownfish calls home,” was stated in a press release by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). It then goes on to say, “Endangered Species Act protection… will help make sure these beautiful fish survive in the wild and not just in the movies.”

Now I like sensationalism just as much as the next fellow, but I like it to be factual sensation. I guess it’s an honest mistake though, with these two clownfish being so similar in appearance. It takes a very clever eye to discern the differences between these two, even a challenge for experts. In fact, these two are so similar that the Ocellaris Clown has been dubbed the False Percula Clownfish.

True Percula Clown VS Ocellaris (False Percula) Clown, here’s 3 identifying clues:

  • The best way to tell the difference between these two is knowing where they originated from, though their territories do overlap a bit in some locals. The True Percula is found in the Northern Queensland and Melanesia (New Guinea, New Britain, New Ireland, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu). The False Percula on the other hand, has a much wider distribution. It is found in the Andaman Sea (Andaman and Nicobar Islands), Indo-Malayan Archipelago, Philippines, northwestern Australia; coast of Southeast Asia northwards to the Ryukyu Islands.
  • Another clue is the number of spines in the dorsal fin. The True Percula has 10 dorsal spines while the False Percula has 11 (rarely 10).
  • Coloring is a very tricky clue, because these two can be so similar. They both are orange fish with broad white bars. However the True Percula has black margins of around its white bars of variable widths, and they can sometimes be rather thick. The False Percula often has thin black margins, but sometimes may not have any margins at all.

These two clownfish are a win-win species for both the aquarist and in nature. Providing the best environment in the wild is of utmost importance, and these adorable fish provide a wonderful experience for divers. In captivity both species are successful breeders and the captive bred specimens are readily available. Not only have these captive bred fish proven to be very hardy in the aquarium, there are now a number of really cool color morphs available too.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Goldfish Identity Crisis! Which Fish is which?

September 9, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Freshwater fish

Fancy Goldfish TypesGoldfish of all kinds!

You may think you know what a goldfish is but hold on to your hat… knowing which fish is which is no simple task!

Everybody knows what a goldfish is, right? After all, we’ve all read “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss, and watched the wild ride of that poor goldfish in a bowl, and just about everybody has kept a goldfish at one time or other!

Fish keepers and even people who aren’t fish keepers know what goldfish are; at least they think they do. So what’s all the fuss? A goldfish is simply a goldfish right?

Goldfish are such a common fish, and they are seen in every pet store. It may have been true that a goldfish was simply a goldfish if humans had not been thrown into the mix. But when a man sees a lump of clay or anything else in his surroundings, human nature takes over. Man simply has to mold that clay into a beautiful creation, and so it has been with the development of goldfish.

Step into your local pet store and tell them you want to get a goldfish. They will happily take you over to their coldwater system and show you their fine selection. You will see fish that look just like the common goldfish, but you may also see all sorts of different fish. And that’s where the goldfish identity crisis begins!

Set aside that cute Dr. Seuss book and step into the world of fancy goldfish. You’ll quickly see that there is nothing simple about the goldfish. There are over 125 different varieties, each with it’s identifying features.

Here’s a look at the complexities of the goldfish:

Body: Goldfish come in all sorts of shapes (and sizes).

 

There are skinny goldfish…

Shubunkin GoldfishShubunkin Goldfish

But also goldfish that are so fat they may even look like golf balls…

Pearlscale GoldfishPearlscale Goldfish

And some goldfish will have highly arched backs…

Ranchu GoldfishRanchu Goldfish

Head: Although goldfish can have normal heads, they can also be very abnormal.

 

Some goldfish have lumpy heads…

Redcap Oranda GoldfishOranda Goldfish

And then there are those with lumpy heads AND lumpy cheeks…

Lionhead GoldfishLionhead Goldfish

Or how about a goldfish with bushy eyebrows?

Pom Pom GoldfishPom Pom Goldfish

Eyes: Many have normal eyes, but some goldfish will have very funny eyes.

 

Some goldfish have bubble eyes..

Bubble Eye GoldfishBubble Eye Goldfish

Or telescope eyes…

Telescope GoldfishTelescope Goldfish

And even eyes that gaze at the stars…

Celestial Eye GoldfishCelestial Eye Goldfish

Fins: Goldfish may have normal fins, but there’s also some very interesting fins.

 

Goldfish elegance shows its stuff with beautiful long flowing fins…

Fantail GoldfishFantail Goldfish

Or full flowery fins…

Veiltail GoldfishVeiltail Goldfish

But sometimes they are missing a fin, those known as dorsal less goldfish…

Lionhead GoldfishLionhead Goldfish

Color: You would think the color of goldfish would be, well gold.

 

Now this is a typical goldfish!…

Common GoldfishCommon Goldfish

But some goldfish are all black…

Black Moor GoldfishBlack Moor Goldfish

Or they can have a multitude of colors…

Ryukin GoldfishRyukin Goldfish

And some will even look like a panda…

Panda Moor GoldfishPanda Moor Goldfish

So yes, there are those simple goldfish that we all know and love, but with an expanded idea of what a goldfish can be… we can bring the goldfish identity crisis to an end!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

National Wildlife Day 2014, a Lifesaving celebration

September 4, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Reptiles, Wild Animals

See lots of interesting animalsGiraffe family at Hoogle Zoo, Salt Lake City, UT

Celebrating wildlife! National Wildlife Day reminds us of our role in conservation and as animal caretakers!

Since the beginning of time the journey of wildlife has been enfolding. Today is set aside to honor where wildlife has been and where it’s going. But most importantly, it serves to remind us of our responsibility to the animals we share this planet with.

Animal life in its many forms fills us with awe and inspiration. We, as the human species of animal, often think that we are the epiphany of creation. Yet the beauty and sheer diversity of animal species and their many natural attributes like strength, speed, flight, and even living underwater, is incredibly humbling.

Our human role in the animal world is that of wildlife stewards and the overseers of nature. Due to our unique ability to mold and dominate the natural world, it falls to us to be the caretakers of all other life.

Our role as animal caretakers

National Wildlife Day brings awareness of the plight of many endangered animals across our nation as well as globally, and the ongoing need to preserve and rescue them from decline.

This day also serves as a salute to the many outstanding zoos, aquariums, animal sanctuaries and reserves that are helping to preserve so many animals as well as to educate people about conservation, especially our children, as they will be the future caretakers.

Steve Irwin feeding a crocodile, Australia Zoo, December 27, 2005Steve Irwin feeding a crocodile, Australia Zoo, December 27, 2005, Photo Wiki Commons, courtesy Richard Giles

National Wildlife Day was created in 2006 by Colleen Paige, an animal advocate, conservationist, and animal behaviorist. She created this day in memory of Steve Irwin, affectionately known as the “Crocodile Hunter.”

Steve Irwin was an Australian wildlife expert, conservationist, and television personality. He had an incredible love of all animal species and he devoted his life to educating us about many of these amazing creatures. He became best known for the internationally broadcast wildlife documentary series, The Crocodile Hunter, which he co-hosted with his wife Terri.

National Wildlife Week

The National Wildlife Week is another animal species celebration! But it is an even more extensive look at our role as animal stewards. It is the longest-running education program designed around teaching and connecting kids with the awesome wonders of wild animals. It will be held on March 16-22, 2015, which will be its 77 anniversary.

About the founder of National Wildlife Day

Colleen Paige’s love for animals started at a young age. Her first rescue was a cat when she was 5 years old. This and other personal experiences, good and bad, led her to dedicate her life to helping and saving both people and animals.

Colleen volunteered in animal shelters and cared for horses at summer camps. Later as an ambulance driver she helped to rescue people, both adults and children, as well as multiple pets and strays, rushing each in turn to emergency centers. She followed this up with animal behavior training, animal rescue, and working with wildlife.

It was the lack of recognition for the 300+ rescue dogs on Ground Zero after 9/11 that led Colleen to create her first national day, the National Dog Day. Her focus was a day set aside as a lifesaving celebration for dogs, and it met with great success.

Since then she had created another 15 additional livesaving celebration day for other animals. National Wildlife Day is one of these, just a few other are the National Horse Protection Day, National Farm Animals Day, Pet Day USA, National Pet Travel Safety Day, and National Cat Day.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Darn Cute Animal, Do You Know What it is?

August 28, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Wild Animals

See all types of cute animalsPhoto Wiki Commons, courtesyEugenia and Julian

A very cute animal that you may think is a Zorse… but it’s not of course!

This adorable fellow looks kind of like a horse and kind of like a Zebra, but it is neither, nor is it a cross breed!

We all know lots of cute animals. Dogs, cats, and other common pets first come to mind because they are easily recognizable. Yet there are many other really adorable critters out there, and this one is truly unbelievable.

This handsome fellow is known as an Okapi, scientifically described as Okapia johnstoni, and is closely related to the giraffe. In fact, it and the giraffe are the only living members of the Giraffidae family. It is also known as the Forest Giraffe or Zebra Giraffe.

The Okapis have long legs and the robust body shape of the giraffe, but they are missing that long giraffe neck. They are good sized animals too, with adults reaching over 8′ (2.5 m) long from their head to the base of the tail. Adult males will also have short, skin covered horns known as occicones.

Just like the giraffe, one of the most distinguishing features of the Okapi is a very long, flexible tongue. Their tongue is over 13 1/3 inches (34 cm) long. It’s great for striping leaves and buds off of trees, but also comes in handy for wiping the eyelids off and cleaning out its big ears!

This animal species is actually more of a newcomer to the “known” animal world. It wasn’t recognized and described by the scientific community until 1901. Prior to that it was only heard of in a rather vague manner. An early Congo explorer, Henry Morton Stanley, had mentioned it as some kind of donkey and Europeans had also heard mention of it in earlier times. But it was elusive and they came to call it the “African unicorn.”

The Okapi is neither little, nor is it common, but it sure has a striking appearance!

At first look this fellow appears to have the equine traits of horses and zebras. The brilliant white stripes on its front and back legs make it look like it has some zebra in its design. But no, it is neither horse nor zebra, nor a cross of the two.

There is a Zorse of course, a man-made cross of a horse and zebra, but that is a totally different animal. And over a century ago there was also a curious subspecies of the Zebra that had striping only on its head. It was known as the Quagga Equus quagga quagga. This subspecies ranged in the southernmost plains of South Africa until the nineteenth century, but is now known to be extinct.

Unlike horses and zebras, and even giraffes, Okapis are not particularly sociable. They like to live alone in secluded areas. Each Okapi will range across several square miles, foraging along well trodden paths, and their ranges will often overlap. But that doesn’t make them social and males are protective of their territory. A bull will allow females to pass through his domain but these animals will only come together during breeding time.

The population of Okapis has dwindled as a result of habitat destruction and from poaching. A 2013 study estimates that there are about 10,000 living animals, down from 40,000 about a decade ago, and so they are now listed as endangered. The Democratic Republic of the Congo created the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in 1992, but unfortunately the Congo civil war has threatened both wildlife and the conservation workers in the reserve.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Happy Baby Animal, But What the Heck is it?

August 26, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Wild Animals

Wombat baby, see a Ringtail Possum marsupial tooWombat baby recovering nicely after rescue, Photo courtesy Park Victoria-Facebook

This adorable baby animal is a newborn Wombat rescued from its mother’s pouch after a fatal accident!

A mother Wombat was apparently grazing along a roadside in Australia and hit by an oncoming car. A passerby, familiar with the type of animal she was, searched her pouch and found a still living baby trying to nurse on its mother’s teat.

The little baby animal was shivering with cold, so the rescuer quickly made an emergency phone call to a wildlife helpline in Kinglake, Victoria. Kim Hunter, a 48 year old ranger and volunteer animal care giver, soon arrived at the scene to pick up the baby and take it to her home. Although the baby was close to death, Kim was able to nurse her back to health with around-the-clock care.

A sad story for the mom, but a great rescue for the baby. Kim named the baby “Leah,” who now at five weeks of age has doubled in size. She’s grown from a tiny 300 grams (10.4 oz) when found to a whopping 650 grams (1.43 lb).

In Kim’s own words, as reported by John Kelly of Mirror.com.UK, the online edition of a British tabloid The Daily Mirror, “Leah was cold to the touch and weighed only 300 grams when she arrived, she now weighs 650 grams. She’s very lucky, although she was uninjured she was cold to the touch and I’d say she was only a few hours away from dying.

“Wombats often graze at the side of the road and are sometimes hit by oncoming cars, her mother must have shielded her against the blow. Leah is too young to grow her own fur yet so I keep her on a heated mat, I have to bottle feed her every four hours, even throughout the night. But it’s definitely been worth it, we’ve built a strong bond over the weeks, she knows I’m her mum now. The online response to Leah is unbelievable, people have really fallen in love with Leah.”

Wombats are small pudgy looking marsupials that walk on four legs. Marsupials are mammals that carry their young in a pouch. Well known examples include kangaroos, wallabies, possums, opossums, and koalas. Wombats are great burrowers. They use those very long claws you can see on the adult, along with strong rodent-like front teeth to dig extensive burrow systems. A unique characteristic of these marsupials is that the females pouch is backward-facing. This way they don’t get soil in the pouch from their energetic digging.

Wombat AdultWombat Adult at Maria Island National Park, Photo Wiki Commons, courtesy JJ Harrison

A mother Wombat gives birth to a single baby and then carries that baby in her pouch for about six to seven months. The young Wombat weans at about 15 months and becomes sexually mature at 18 months. A full grown adult averages a length of about 3 1/4 feet (1 m) and weighs between 44-77 lb (20-35 kg).

Mother Wombats must forage heavily to feed both themselves and their young babies. They tend to forage along roads, but unfortunately this means often crossing the roads as well as feeding early in the morning and late into the night. Drivers must be very careful.

Kim’s experience with this baby has created quite a stir and its been reported in numerous online publications. Further, with the very curious picture of this baby looking much like a reclining little old man with a big smile on its face, got picked up to become a subject of a Photoshop challenge on Reddit. Thus some creative/crazy humans had a lot of fun and with it and it has become a meme.

Yet what really strikes me is the human capacity for compassion and caring, and that trumps all other sideline fascinations. Big kudos go out to the passerby who rescued the newborn and to Ranger Kim Hunter, for her quick action to save baby Leah’s life and her continuing dedication as Leah’s “mum.” Kim’s got her work cut out for her with these babies not weaning until around 15 months of age, and Leah has lots of growing to do! And lastly, a big thanks to Parks Victoria for posting the photo on their facebook page, helping to bring awareness to this darling animal.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Colorful Macaw enjoys the challenge of the race, and wins!

August 22, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Pet Birds

What could be a more remarkable sight than a pretty Macaw in freeflight and her human friend racing down the road!

Imagine a bird companion that can actually do something as awesome as this; a pet that can go out in the world with its owner to flex and have fun.

This incredible antic, a race between bird and scooter riding man, took place about a month ago near Kolimbithres beach in Paros, Greece. The length of the race was about 3 miles (5 km). The goal, into the village for coffee!

First the Blue and Gold Macaw takes the lead, and then it’s neck and neck as the scooter races forward. But in the end, as they traverse the twists and turns, the colorful bird cheerfully squawks “hello” to her friend as she pulls ahead to lead rest of the race. It was not a fast race, as a Blue and Gold Macaw can fly between 27-30 mph, but it was a fun race.

See more MacawsPolo, a gorgeous Red Fronted Macaw in freeflight!

Keeping free flying pet parrots is not a new phenomenon; in fact it has gone on for hundreds of years. Before it became common practice to keep pet birds in cages they usually had free reign on their owner’s property. Today however, it is a more unusual sight, and is simply not a good practice for every owner.

As with all pet keeping situations, there are pros and cons to freeflight that must be considered carefully.

The parrot owner must be very dedicated and the parrots must be trained, as they are not automatically expert flyers. It can take anywhere from a few months of indoor work, to several years, before they are trained and ready for an excursion in the open. There must also be a place for them to fly that is relatively safe from predators and other dangers.

Darren contributed the above photo to Animal-World showing his lovely Red Fronted Macaw, Polo, in freeflight. He says he will free fly Polo indoors and outdoors, but strongly cautions, “This is done only with much training. Do not try this unless you know what you are doing.”

There are a small number of parrot owners that train their birds to fly freely. Most will chaperone their bird’s outdoor excursions, though a few let their birds fly without supervision. Then there are also those whose parrots are allowed a larger “free space.” This is provided by using aviary netting or walking them with a bird harness.

Owners who practice freeflight believe these birds enjoy a happier, healthier life than clipped birds and if flying is handled properly, danger can be avoided. It takes a very close relationship with a bird to train them for freeflight.

Darren’s close relationship with Polo is obvious from his remarks, “Polo is gorgeous, very loveable, and LOVES to lie on his back in my lap and play. He can be a little nippy, but not hard. He is not loud at all and LOVES attention. They are absolutely fantastic birds and a GREAT joy to have. He is AMAZING… ;)”

Ultimately it’s that very close relationship between keepers and their parrots that keeps the birds around!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Poisonous Snakes Crossing Your Path! Don’t be afraid, be prepared

August 21, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Reptiles, Wild Animals

See all types of snakesSidewinder Rattlesnake from the Mohave Desert in California

An autumn nature hike is enriching and relaxing, but keep in mind… you’re not alone!

August and September are two of the most beautiful months to explore the great outdoors. The weather is perfect and nature during this time of year is awesome.

All is calm and serene with insects buzzing, a bird chirping here and there, and maybe a light breeze or the cheerful sounds of a bubbling stream. What could be more enjoyable?

Yet in this seemingly peaceful environment you must be attentive and prepared for any encounters with wildlife. The great outdoors is the home to many creatures, small and large, and you are traversing their native space. Animals are generally shy and reserved, preferring to go about their business and keep to themselves. But sometimes contact is unavoidable, and this includes running into poisonous (venomous) snakes.

Snakes are very remarkable animals. They have adapted to live on the land in the trees, grasslands, and desert areas and they are also found living in water, including the oceans. They eat meat so will prey on insects, birds, small animals and other reptiles, and sometimes even other snakes.

Being cold-blooded animals they are unable to regulate their own body temperatures, so they are most active when it’s warm and less active as it gets cold. Snakes like to come out when it’s sunny, but not scorching. Sensitive to temperatures exceeding 80 degrees, they are most likely to be seen early in the morning, in the evening, and during the nighttime when it’s warm.

Preventing snake bites

A nice thing to know is that snakes only bite if they are provoked or startled. Most snakes do not act aggressive toward humans without provocation and by simply leaving them alone, you should be okay. Despite a sinister reputation, snakes are almost always more scared of you than you are of them. If you spot a rattlesnake or other venomous snake, you should stop, watch it and let it leave before continuing on.

Avoiding snake bites is not difficult as long as you take precautions. Educate yourself about the types of snakes in your area before venturing out, and then stay aware of your surroundings. Wear the appropriate clothing for outdoor activities too, like long pants and hiking shoes. Although these may not stop every bite they can help deflect a bite.

Venomous snakes have modified salivary glands that they use to inject venom. During a bite the snake passes the venom into a duct into their fangs, and then into its prey. However they can regulate whether or not to release venom, and don’t necessarily inject venom with all bites. A bite without venom is known as a “dry Bite” and will occur between 25-50% of the time. This varies with different species; pit-viper bites will be dry about 25% of the time while coral snakes will be dry up to 50% of the time.

Only a small number of people experience snake bites. On average about 7,000 people in the United States report being bitten by venomous snakes each year. As reported by the Rapid City Journal, the curator of reptiles at Reptile Gardens south of Rapid City, snake expert Terry Phillip says that the No. 1 reason people in this country are bitten by venomous snakes is because they were “trying to catch, kill ‘em or tease ‘em.” Further, of those bitten by venomous snakes, 89 percent are men between the ages of 16 and 30 years.

Phillip further states that if bitten by a venomous snake, make wise choices. None of the common field treatment myths are effective, like the cut-and suck method, tourniquets, nor applying ice or alcohol. He says to remain calm and remove jewelry or anything that will restrict movement from the affected limb, and then seek medical emergency treatment immediately. If you get bit call your local poison control center, then the center will call a hospital in advance for treatment.

Poisonous (venomous) snakes in the United States

There are about 25 species of poisonous (venomous) snakes in North America, with at least one or more species found in each of the 50 states. The most notable venomous snakes in North America are comprised of two groups; the Pit Vipers which include Rattlesnakes, Cottonmouth, and Copperhead snakes, and the Coral Snakes.

Rattlesnakes

The Rattlesnakes are probably the best known venomous snakes, and this pit viper is found all across the United States. They are so named for the “rattle” at the tip of their tail, which when sounding, strikes fear into the heart of the intruder. Their primary method of protection is their camouflage rather than the rattle, so you know they are riled if you hear it sizzling.

There are 32 recognized rattlesnake species in the genus Crotalus, all bearing a large pair of fangs. Though none of these snakes are considered aggressive, if threatened they are known to hold their ground. A few familiar species include:

Western Diamondback RattlesnakeWestern Diamondback Rattlesnake
  1. Western Diamondback Rattlesnake C. atrox
    The Western Diamondback, ranging from California to central Arkansas and south into Mexico, has gained much of its notoriety due to being featured in Western Movies.
  2. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake C. adamanteus
    The Eastern Diamondback is the largest of the rattlesnake species and is the heaviest, though not the longest, venomous species in the United States. It has large range from North Carolina to Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
  3. Sidewinder C. cerastes
    The Sidewinder is a well known snake from the Midwest deserts where is slithers sideways across the sands leaving a zigzag pattern in its wake. It ranges from Utah and Nevada, then south through Arizona and California and into Mexico and down the Baja.
  4. Timber Rattlesnake C. horridus
    The Timber Rattlesnake C. horridus is an abundant snake, and the most populous of rattlesnake in the northeastern United States. It ranges from the northeast south through Florida and into Minnesota and Texas. It is commonly found on wooded hillsides and rocky outcrops.

Copperhead

The Copperhead Agkistrodon contortrix is also a pit viper with 5 recognized subspecies. It is widespread throughout the Eastern and Southeastern United States. It is responsible for most of the bites from venomous snakes, and although the bites are quite painful they rarely life threatening. Still a victim should still get medical attention.

Coral Snakes

The Coral Snakes comprise a large group of venomous snakes, and they are not restricted to just the Americas. However the New World has the largest number, with 65 recognized species in 3 genera. These snakes are extremely toxic. Their venom is a powerful neurotoxin that requires prompt snake bite treatment. A bite from one of these fellows will shut down your nervous system and stop your heart.

Coral snakes are identified by the colored bands ringing the entire length of their body and a blunt black snout. The bands alternate in red and black, with a thinner yellow in between. They can easily be confused with the harmless King Snake, as their body colors are similar looking, though the King Snake has a red snout. It is the arrangement and size of the colored bands that distinguish the two. A rhyme that can help distinguish them goes like this, “Red touch yellow, kill a fellow (Deadly Coral snake). Red touch black, friend of Jack (Harmless King snake).” Three species encountered in the United States include:

  1. Eastern Coral Snake Micrurus fulvius
    The Eastern Coral Snake typically ranges from North Carolina through Florida and along Mississippi.
  2. Texas Coral Snake Micrurus tener
    The Texas Coral Snake typically ranges in Texas, but is also found in Arkansas and Louisiana.
  3. Arizona coral Snake Micruroides euryxanthus
    The Arizona coral Snake, also known as the Western Coral Snake, typically ranges in Arizona and south to Sinaloa in western Mexico

Cottonmouth

The Cottonmouth Agkistrodon piscivorus, also called the “water moccasin,” is another species of pit viper with a serious bite that can be fatal. Although this snake’s aggression is somewhat exaggerated, it is a fast fellow and an occasion male can be aggressive and cranky. It has a thick, heavy body that’s brownish or olive/gray in color and a flat topped head. It is known to stand it ground when annoyed and may gape repeatedly, exposing the cotton-looking lining of its mouth, thus its common name. It ranges across the east, Mideast and southeastern United States.

The beauties of autumn season are yours to fully enjoy when you are aware of the venomous snakes in your area and ready if one should cross your path. Fully prepared, your hiking experience will be fun and relaxing!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Frog Luck, Bringing Changes and Abundance to Life

August 20, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Reptiles

More Good Luck FrogsShelby says her Green Tree Frog, Chucky, is a pretty crazy frog!

When a lucky frog comes into your life that’s a sign of transformation, and it may well spark many wonderful changes!

The frog has been a strong good luck symbol in many cultures all around the world, and throughout history.

Just like people, the frog undergoes incredible changes in its journey to adulthood. It first hatches from an egg into a wiggly fish-like tadpole, then it begins growing arms and legs and its tail recedes. With this curious growth cycle, frogs are seen as a lucky symbol of transformation, fertility, and the awakening of one’s creativity. They also represent save travel, abundance, wealth, prosperity, health and friendship.

Frogs as good-luck symbols

I really like frogs, but when you think about what a frog is… it’s a cold blooded amphibian. It lives mostly in a watery or humid environment, though there are some exceptions in toads, and it can lay a many eggs at one time. Great for reproduction! Thus the frog became a symbol for fertility, and safe travel as well. Here’s some of what’s attributed to the frog as a bearer of good fortune:

  1. Good Luck
    In Japan frogs are a symbol of Good Luck, and the Romans believed that to have a frog would bring good luck into the home. The Irish on the other hand, consider the frog as a close relative of the leprechaun, and thus very capable of playing tricks on you.
  2. Fertility
    The Greeks and Romans both associated frogs with fertility and harmony. To the Egyptians the frog is a symbol of life and fertility, as well as rebirth or resurrection. The frog was a creature born of the annual flooding of the Nile, which in turn made the otherwise barren lands fertile. Thus the frog-goddess of Fertility named Heget (meaning frog), came into their culture and mythology. In the Roman culture, the goddess Venus was also often depicted with a frog.
  3. Abundance
    Partly due to the very large number of eggs that a frog will lay, it became a symbol of abundance as well. For many cultures that depend on rain for rich and bountiful crops the frog is a good luck symbol, a sign of prosperous weather to come. In Native American tradition the frog is often seen as a rain maker. In Australia too, the native Aborigines believed frogs brought the thunder and rain to help plants to grow. To the Vietnamese the toad is the “uncle of the Sky”, and an ancient story tells that it will rain whenever toads grind their teeth.
  4. Wealth
    In ancient China the frog represented the lunar yin and the Frog spirit Ch’ing-Wa Sheng was associated with healing and good fortune in business. Tradition has it that the Chinese god of wealth, the immortal Liu Hai, kept a three-legged toad as a pet. It is a symbol for riches and often pictured with a gold coin in its mouth.
  5. Health
    In Native American culture, the frog is seen as a spirit animal or totem that is strongly associated with the water element and its cleansing attributes. This water connection brings emotions and feminine energies, but also cleanses physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
  6. Friendship
    In folklore the first frog of spring is said to bring you many friends if it does a “hop toad” jump in your direction.

Frogs as bad-luck symbols

Although frogs and toads are mostly considered lucky, there are a few examples where they represent bad fortune. One of my favorites is the common old wives tale that says handling a toad will result in getting warts. This is believed to have originated from the toad’s bumpy skin making it appear like it has warts on it.

Bad fortune is depicted in folklore regarding the first frog of spring. “If the first frog that you see in the spring is sitting on dry ground, it signifies that during the same year you will shed as many tears as the frog would require to swim away in.” Further, if that frog leaps into the water you’ll have misfortune fortune all year, or if it leaps away from you, you will lose friends. In ancient China, a frog in a well is symbolic of a person lacking in understanding and vision.

Frogs in Culture

Though frogs are often thought of as a symbol of luck, and mostly good luck though sometimes bad, they are also featured prominently in many cultures. They have been found throughout the ages in myths, folklore, and fairytales and they are still found today. In popular culture frogs and toads have many appearances, but the tendency is to depict them as kind, often handsome and charming, but with an underlying mysteriousness.

  1. Children’s stories
    Some popular stories for children include an early fairy tale, “The Frog Prince,” originally featured in Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics and then later translated into English by Edgar TAylor. Then there’s Mr. Toad from Kenneth Graeme’s “The Wind in the Willows” and Tiddalik the frog, a legend in the mythology of Indigenous Australians.
  2. Television and Movies
    In the television and movie world, Kermit the Frog appeared in 1995 and became the most famous of Jim Henson’s Muppets. He became even more famous in 1979 as the star of “The Muppet Movie”. Looney Tunes Michigan J. Frog first appeared in 1955 in “One Froggy Evening”. Wearing a top hat and carrying a cane, he happily sings ragtime and other tunes.
  3. Commercials
    A highly favored advertisement was the 1995 Budweiser commercial for Super Bowl XXIX, which featured three large, deep-voiced bullfrogs. They toads were sitting on rocks in a stream in front of a tavern, making a chorus of “Bud,” “Weis,” and “Er.”
  4. Music
    In the music world there was Jeremiah, a bullfrog, as the star in the song “Joy to the World,” written by Hoyt Axton and released by Three Dog Night in 1979.

So frogs have long influenced people and there’s the good, and just a touch of bad, in the world of frog luck. Beyond the joy of keeping frogs as pets, they could very well bring changes and abundance into your life!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Parrot Cuisine, Food Facts Debunking the Fluff

August 15, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Pet Birds

More about Hemingway and Calico MacawsCalico Macaw, Hemingway enjoying a nut! Photo courtesy Linda Poole

Fads and ideas about parrot nutrition and diet have come and gone, but modern avian nutritional research has helped to hone the best parrot cuisine known today!

A healthy parrot is a happy bird. It is interested in life, active and long-lived, but all that is dependent on a well balanced nutritional diet.

The best reward for large parrot owners is a bird that is a joy to be around. A happy parrot looks forward to interacting with you and being part of the family. They love the household routine and many also enjoy learning tricks and talking. Like all of us they love to live a good life, happy and contented with good health and glossy feathers.

Without well balanced nutrition however, a parrot’s good health will gradually decline and it simply will not enjoy a good life. It will gradually become susceptible to disease and illness and its total lifespan will shorten. Even worse, it will start becoming moody and temperamental. It will not want to participate with you or in the family’s activities because it simply won’t feel good or be energized.

It’s absolutely amazing what is found in a parrot’s diet. In the wild parrots will spend about 80% of their time foraging for food items. Although there are some variations from one species to the next, they have a huge variety of natural foods. They are known to eat everything from seeds, fruits, berries, nuts, flowers, nectar, roots, leaf buds and vegetable matter, to grains, palm nuts, corn and other cultivated crops, cultivated fruits, and even insects and their larvae.

Many parrots feed primarily from the tree tops while others feed mostly from lower lying bushes, and some parrots will also forage from the ground. There are many ways to provide optimal nutrition while also accommodating their innate feeding styles, natural behaviors and activities.

As parrots have become more popular as pets, research has made great advances in the knowledge of avian medicine and nutrition. In the early years, most parrots sold as pets were wild imported birds that had to be tamed, and the new owners would by “parrot food” to feed them, which was basically a dried seed diet. But it hasn’t taken long for people to realize that birds need much more, and that those from different areas had different dietary requirements.

Long gone are the days when a companion parrot’s diet was simply made up of a dried seed mix and maybe a nut, carrot, or a piece of fruit thrown in. Today so much more is known about their activities and what they eat in the wild, that it’s almost like a food frenzy going on.

Today parrot owners are having a lot more fun feeding their bird companions. Making cool meals and treats is very rewarding and becoming the norm. Chopping fresh salad combinations, sprouting beans and seeds, and cooking bean mixes all lend themselves to creativity and diversity. People are creating casseroles, grain bakes, homemade bird breads, crackers, cookies and more! Beyond providing a varied and nutritional diet, watching your feathered friend do a tail up dive into the foods you offer is wonderfully satisfying.

Types of parrot foods

Vegetables and fruits

Vegetables and fruits

The perfect parrot diet is still an unknown, especially since it differs somewhat between species. But today it is recognized that vegetables and fruits make up an essential part of a parrots diet. A variety of vegetables will guarantee a balance of essential nutrients, and both fresh and frozen “human” vegetables can work well. Fruits also provide nutrients, but some are high in sugar with less nutritional value.

Fresh foods do tend to spoil quickly. They also loose nutritional value over the time it takes to be shipped and stored before being offered for sale, so get them a fresh as possible. Try sprouting beans or other legumes. Sprouts are one of the best fresh foods you can offer, because they are living plants so are at the peak of their nutrient value

Parrot Seed Mix

Dried Seed Mixes

Almost every parrot species, whether from the arid Australian grasslands or the humid South American rain forests, will eat naturally occurring seeds. This is probably why in early days it was deemed a “no-brainer” to provide seed as a staple food. But like all foods in a parrot’s diet, there are pros and cons.

Dried seed pros:

  • Seeds are a great source of fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6, omega-3 fats and vitamin E. These are necessary nutrients in a parrot’s diet for healthy eyes, skin and feathers. They also help maintain brain function, nourish red blood cells, and fight inflammation.
  • Parrots love them! Parrots have a natural desire to forage, and seeds help satisfy a gathering and hulling behavior.
  • Foraging and hulling seeds is an involving activity, and can provide emotional satisfaction and comfort for the parrot.

Dried seed Cons:

  • The drawback of a seed only diet is that it is not nutritionally complete. Seeds are missing some crucial vitamins like vitamins A and D3, as they are also lacking in necessary minerals like calcium.
  • A seed diet is just too high in fat for the sedentary lifestyles of large companion parrots. It is fine to include the seed mixes in the diet of smaller birds, like parakeets and cockatiels, because there lifestyle is much more active than the larger parrots.
  • Commercial seed is unregulated and the types of seed used in mixes are often not found in the natural diet of a parrot.
  • The quality of commercial seed mixes is dubious, especially by the time it reaches the consumer. It can dry, brittle, and too old to retain nutritional quality.
  • Commercial seed is often highly fortified with vitamins of unknown quality. They may be synthetically manufactured, have little nutritional value, and mostly not absorbable
  • One of the biggest dietary problems with offering seeds is that Parrots like them so much that they will often ignore other offered foods, which leads to deficiencies
Pelleted Parrot Food

Pelleted Food

With the advances in avian nutrition, and the realization that seed wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, all sorts of interesting foods began to be offered. Many were very good and nutritious, but unfortunately parrots, like children, would eat what they liked and ignore the rest, so they still were not necessarily eating a balanced diet. In response researchers developed a formulated pelleted diet. Although containing most of the basic diet requirements, pellets may not be the total diet solution as they have their own drawbacks.

Pelleted diet pros:

  • Pellets contain more nutrients and have a better balance than a seed diet.
  • Parrots can be picky eaters, and pellets eliminate the deficits that result from a parrot’s desire to pick and choose.
  • There is no spoilage or bacterial growth with dry pellets.
  • They are convenient and easy.

Pelleted diet cons:

  • Pelleted diets don’t take into consideration the different requirements for parrots originating from different countries, so are not a total solution to a well balanced diet for all parrots.
  • The heat processing needed to extrude the pellets destroys many of the vitamins, so nutrients (supplements and manufactured vitamins) have to be added after the extrusion process.
  • Different brands of pelleted parrot foods may differ in quality.
  • Parrots are found to get bored with a pelleted diet, even those with dye added for visual stimulation.

Parrot treats and supplemental foods

  • Pasta, cooked grains and legumes
    Cooked whole wheat or vegetable pasta, all sorts of cooked beans, brown rice, and cooked barley are just some nutritious foods that parrots will enjoy. Cooked millet and quinoa are also great. Beans can even be prepared in advance and kept in the freezer to use later.
  • Nuts
    Nuts are a great source of protein and other nutrients, but also add fat to the diet. They are good for macaws to satisfy their chewing instinct and help prevent boredom. They provide the same entertainment for cockatoos and amazons but due to these types of birds needing a lower fat diet, nuts should be offered more sparingly.
  • Table foods
    Pet birds can be offered left over table foods. In general what is good for us is good for them, but with some exceptions. Stay away from avocado as the skin is toxic. Also avoid chocolate and anything with caffeine in it, like coffee, tea, and soda. Any vegetables, fruits, and berries can be offered. You can offer cooked foods too, as well as non-fatty meats like chicken, turkey, and fish. A once-a-week hardboiled egg is fine too.
  • Healthy parrot snacks
    Parrot snacks include commercial treats available at the pet store for parrots, but also all those wonderful concoctions you can make at home. There are all sorts of parrot recopies shared on the internet and fun to make. Homemade birdie breads, bird cookies, crackers and more, as well as commercial treats are nutritious snacks that parrots will delight in.

The key to a balanced parrot diet is variety. Many experts now believe the nutrients available in seeds can be provided through a more balanced diet with fresh vegetables, fruits, and grains.

It is suggested that dried seeds be offered as a treat a few times a week rather than as a daily staple. Pelleted diets may not be the total solution either, even though they are more nutritionally complete than a seed diet. Pellets can make up to about 50% of the parrots diet, with other foods being types that can be varied every day.

The best approach is to offer fresh nutrients daily and something more that the bird will like enough to eat!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

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