Man-made animals are real live animals!… not animal wannabes like chia pets, furbies, or virtual pets.
Some of the most popular and favored animals that we encounter everyday are basically man-made. These animals are not a new phenomenon; many have been around for thousands of years.
Today’s domestic pets are some earliest animals to be developed. Yet for some of the most popular man-made animals, the original species are no longer found in nature. In fact there are contrary opinions on some, about which species they even originated from.
Since the time when the first wild dogs began skirting human encampments to catch snacks and waste to fill their bellies, the crafting of animals began. Man with his incredible creativity took specific species, domesticated them, and then began to develop them to fill all sorts of needs. They were selectively bred for optimal forms and vocalizations so that they could provide protection, aid in hunting, carry loads, and even be a food source.
Man then took the next step and began to craft animals for more than just practicality. Select breeds began to be developed for unique appearances and for song. New body shapes emerged as well as longer or shorter limbs and tails along with unusual and attractive skin coverings of feathers or fur. But a favorite development has been, and still is, the incredibly beautiful new color forms.
Popular man-made animals are mostly developed from a single species, selectively bred for particular traits. There are also hybrids and mutations. Hybrids result from crossing two closely related species while mutations result from a change in a gene or a chromosome.
Looking at the history of any particular group, however, you will find that a number of breeds are also now “extinct.” Those are animals that lost favor for one reason or another, so were no longer developed.
The 8 most popular man-made animals:
The dog Canis lupus familiaris is the first domesticated animal. Although there are varying studies, it is believed its domestication could have started as early as 34,000 years ago. Other closely related dog types are wolves and foxes. At one time was a popular belief that the ancestors of today’s domestic dogs were wolves, but that lineage has pretty much been disproven in more recent studies.
There are well over 300 breeds of dogs, not including all the newer designer dogs being developed today. The breeds we see today however, are at most only a few hundred years old.
The categorization of dogs differs slightly between breed registries. In the United States we usually follow the groupings as set by American Kennel Club (AKC). These groups are the herding dogs, working dogs, hound dogs, sporting dogs, non-sporting dogs, terrier dogs, toy dogs, and mixed dogs.
The domestication of cats is believed to have started at least 8,000 years ago. This is indicated by a cat jawbone found on the island of Cyprus in 1983, which dates back to about 6000 B.C. The first record of domesticated cats is from about 3000 to 1450 B.C.
The African wildcat Felis silvestris lybica is the ancestral subspecies from which domestic cats are descended. In Northern Africa, somewhere around 7000 to 5000 B.C., these small, tabby-striped wild felines arrived in human settlements and started the process of domestication. The domestic cat was first classified as Felis catus by Linnaeus in 1758, but can also be called by its subspecies name, Felis silvestris catus.
Today there are not only the natural breed cats, but also hybrid cat breeds, cat breed mutations, and exotic cats.
The modern horse is the direct descendant of the Eohippus, which lived about 60 million years ago. Their domestication began around 4000 BC and is believed to have become widespread by 3000 BC.
There are three types of horses, medium sized light breeds that originally evolved in the southern hemisphere, large heavy (draft) breeds that evolved in the northern hemisphere, and the shorter durable Pony breeds that evolved in both.
The horse breeds can further be divided into three groups based on temperament; the light horses are the “hot bloods” known for speed and endurance, the heavy or draft horses and ponies are “cold bloods” used for heavy work, and the “warm bloods” are crosses between the two with a focus on riding.
Today there are more than 300 breeds of horses, each developed for particular uses. There are also a number of wild horse populations, called “feral breeds”, in numerous countries around the world.
Rabbits have been around for at least 3 to 4 million years. All domesticated rabbits are descended from the European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus. This is the only species of rabbit which has ever been domesticated. They were first domesticated in Spain, but then became widely distributed by the seafaring Phoenicians. Still today wild European Rabbits can be found in countries all across the world.
Rabbits have a great capacity to multiply themselves and so can be readily raised. They have been domesticated and used for many different purposes. Today there are at least 40 known breeds and around 130 varieties. There are also 10 or so varieties that are now extinct.
Pet rabbits can be categorized into four broad groups; fancy breeds, lop breeds, fur breeds, and rex breeds.
All domestic canaries are descended from the Atlantic or Island Canary Serinus canaria. Since 1478, when the Spaniards conquered the Canary Islands, these canaries became favored for their beautiful song, coloration, and feathering.
Today there are basically three breed types of domestic canary and numerous varieties in each breed and there are many mixed breeds. The breed types include: the Color Canary bred for various colors, the Song Canary bred for their song, and the Type Canary bred for distinct characteristics of shape, feathering.
Some canary types that were popular at one time are no longer available, having made way for new varieties and the varieties that are currently popular.
All the goldfish of today originated from Central Asia (Siberia). They are descendants of a wild carp fish known as the Prussian or Gibel Carp Carassius gibelio (syn: Carassius auratus gibelio).
Goldfish are one of the first aquatic animals in recorded history to be kept as pets. They were originally developed in China, beginning somewhere between the years 265 – 420. They were then traded to Japan in the 1500’s, to Europe in the 1600’s, and to America by the 1800’s.
The results of this century’s long endeavor are the wonderful goldfish varieties we see today. They have been developed for body shape and form, finnage, and a wide variety of beautiful colors. It is estimated that there are over 125 types of gold fish.
- Guinea Pigs
The Guinea Pig Cavia porcellus, is also called the “Cavy,” and is a species of rodent. The popular guinea pigs of today are believed to be the result of the hybridization of three closely related cavy species. They were domesticated between 9000 and 3000 B.C. by the Incas of Peru, and were used for their fur as well as used for food. English and Dutch slave traders took some of these guinea pigs to Guinea (thus the name “guinea”) and then to Europe, where they became popular pets.
There are many breeds of guinea pig or cavy that have been developed to become very appealing pets. The English or American Short-haired, Abyssinian which has a rough-coat, and the Peruvian which has a long-coat, are the three “core” breed that the others were developed from. Today there are at least 13 recognized breeds, a number of unrecognized breeds, and many color varieties of each breed type.
- Pigeons and Doves
All domestic pigeons and dove have come from a single species of wild pigeon, the Rock Dove Columba livia. There is no scientific separation between them, but in general the term ‘pigeon’ is usually applied to the larger species and ‘dove’ to the smaller species. They are generally recognized as one or the other by the common names given to them over the years.
It is not known when these birds first became kept in captivity, but they have been bred and hybridized for various purposes for thousands of years. They have been crafted for specialized traits such as the homing instinct, aerial acrobatics, and unique feather structures. There are over 200 domesticated pigeon and dove breeds with at least 1250 varieties of these breeds.
There are all sorts of other animals that have also been developed through selective breeding. They include not only mammals, but also birds, aquatic species and reptiles. A lot of exciting new varieties being crafted today, yet they still represent only small a handful of animals when you consider the hundreds of thousands of species found throughout the Animal World.
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
5 Best Pets for Small Spaces
Guest Post by Michael David
There are many health benefits that come with owning a pet. They lower allergy risk in children, help you stay social, lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol, help you get more exercise, and boost your mood. But not everyone has the space for horses, a monkey sanctuary, or even a 150 lb Great Dane. Here are a few pets that will do wonderfully in a small apartment or home with a little yard.
Fish are a hands-off pet, require no training, and can be left alone all day and not cause trouble. Studies have also shown that watching a fish swim around for 10-15 minutes a day will lower stress levels. You don’t even need a huge aquarium or a school of fish; a couple of goldfish or a Betta in a small tank sitting on your desk will work just as well. They are also good for those on a tight budget; goldfish and small aquarium supplies can be quite inexpensive.
You could also find a hermit crab for something a bit more exotic. They are very social, and so keeping at least two together is recommended. They do not need a lot of space, and can be quite happy simply with some sand to dig into or rocks to climb on.
- Small and Scaly
In this category there are quite a few options – geckos, box turtles, small frogs, and snakes. These are also more solitary animals, content with a stick or a couple rocks to climb around, although once you have gained their trust they will let you hold them for a while. They do well with being left alone for long periods (as long as they’re fed), and are fairly easy to keep clean.
Be sure you know how large your chosen pet will grow to be, though; if you only have a small space available for a snake, you don’t want to be surprised later on when it grows to eight feet!
- Small and Furry
Guinea pigs, hamsters, chinchillas, and small rabbits can be good for apartment living because they can stay in a smaller, centralized area that can easily be cleaned and maintained. They are more hands-on, cuddly, and social than fish or reptiles, but also can be left alone during the day while you’re working. If you have time for more maintenance, a ferret would also be a good option. They like having the run of the house and are temperamental towards visitors however, so keep those points in mind.
Cats are more costly and time consuming than your other small furry pet choices, but also do very well in small apartments. They are easy to train to use a litter box, are very independent, which makes them great if you are gone all day, but can still be playful and interactive.
Dogs are the most hands-on pet on this list, so if you are hardly home or have no time to play, then it may be best to choose a different pet. Dogs are playful, social, and always happy to see you. They like to play outside and go for walks, so a small grassy area or nearby park would be good for them. Larger breeds will have a much harder time living in a small apartment, but smaller breeds will do just fine. Some of the smaller breeds to choose from include the Pomeranian, Corgi, Cocker Spaniel, Yorkie, Pug, Boston Terrier, or Chihuahua.
When choosing your new animal companion, be sure to put forth some serious thought before going out and buying the first thing that catches your eye. Make sure your apartment permits that type of pet and that you have enough time, funds, and knowledge to properly care for your pet.
Pets provide many wonderful benefits from health to companionship, and anyone can enjoy a pet no matter how small your living space is.
Michael David is a freelance journalist and blogger living in New York City. Michael loves writing about DIY projects, home improvement, and garden-related topics. He has recently been writing for Big Al’s Pets.
Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Chinchilla!
I have to admit, one of my all-time favorite pets has been the Chinchilla. I didn’t start owning them until I was in high school, but after I got my first one, I was in love! I have owned 5 Chinchillas since that first one! Many people who keep chinchillas as pets will attest to their wonderful pet qualities. A niche market for chinchilla fur also exists and chinchilla breeders around the world abound for this very purpose.
Chinchillas are believed by many to be wonderful and personable pets. Being very loving and curious, they can easily bond with their owners. They also love exercise and are quite active little critters! In general chinchillas don’t have much of an odor and are very clean. Although I would recommend chinchillas as pets, they do have some more stringent care requirements. I learned from my personal experience that chinchillas are quite fragile and do not do well with stress or extreme temperatures. They also require regular dust baths to keep their fur in good condition.
Did you know that the chinchilla has the most fur per square inch of any mammal? About 60 hairs emerge from every hair follicle. Their fur is extremely dense and soft which makes for a very nice feel. Chinchilla pelts are desirable for this very reason and are used for many different garments. The chinchilla fur trade has been going on since the 1500’s and many breeders only breed for the purpose of selling their furs. Two varieties of Chinchillas are available in the United States for the most part. The Chinchilla lanigera is usually the pet variety, while the Chinchilla brevicaudata is usually the kind used in the fur trade.
South America is the native home of these little guys. Peru, Bolivia, and Chile originally housed Chinchillas in the Andes Mountains, however they are now found only in Bolivia. This is because of extensive illegal hunting. In the wild the Chinchilla is very endangered. Domestic chinchillas are doing pretty well, however, with thousands of chinchilla breeders in the United States. The term “chinchilla” came from the Spaniards, who gave them their name based off of the South American Chinca Indians who lived there in the 1500’s.
Chinchilla Housing and Care
You will most likely want to keep your chinchilla inside your house, especially if it gets over 80 degrees Fahrenheit in your area. Chinchillas have extremely dense fur and have no sweat glands, so they can easily overheat. You will want to be careful on that. Provide a large, roomy cage with non-toxic bedding. Stress can be a problem for these little guys, so make sure to provide a hiding area for him to sleep in and feel comfortable in. Keeping more than one together is also a good idea, because in the wild chinchillas are very social.
Food is pretty simple. You can offer them commercialized chinchilla pellets, which contain just about all their needed nutrition. Give occasional treats, either commercial treats or fresh greens or fruits. Their teeth grow rapidly throughout their lifetime and they must chew regularly to keep them trim. For this reason you will also want to provide chew blocks to keep their teeth healthy. Dust baths 2 or 3 times a week are also a must. Rolling around in dust and then shaking themselves off is how they keep clean. Because of their extremely dense fur, getting wet is not ideal for them. If they get wet and stay wet, their fur can become a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria. Not healthy!
Chinchilla Health Conditions
As I mentioned earlier, I know from personal experience how fragile chinchillas can be! Not only are they extremely heat-sensitive, they also cannot be dropped or played with roughly. One of mine fell from the top of his cage and broke his leg. I took him to a veterinarian and they sedated him and fixed his leg. But, the whole experience stressed him out so much that he refused to eat or drink anymore and eventually passed away.
Other relatively common health problems are diarrhea, constipation, and runny eyes or respiratory problems. These can be caused by their diet or environmental conditions. Raisins are good to help clear up constipation. Also reduce the amount of greens you are giving if your chinchilla has diarrhea. If the symptoms don’t clear up on their own in a few days you will want to take your chinchilla to a vet to determine what’s going on.
Finding a chinchilla for a pet should be relatively easy. You can look up chinchilla ranches online or go to your local pet store. Pet stores will either carry them or can special order one for you. Finding a local chinchilla breeder might be more difficult, but you will have a lot more choice on what type and color of chinchilla you get!
Are you in the chinchilla pet business, or the chinchilla fur trade business? What are your thoughts?
Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Abyssinian Guinea Pig!
Would you like a small pet but want something a little more out of the ordinary? An Abyssinian Guinea Pig may be just the small pet you are looking for! These guinea pigs have a very interesting patterning to their fur. They are also known as “Rosette” guinea pigs because they have 8-10 whirls in their fur, which are called rosettes. Popular as show guinea pigs, these are a big hit among many people. Many Abyssinian babies however, do not meet the standards to be shown and end up as pets. I owned three of these guinea pigs when I was growing up and I always thought they were the most beautiful. Other people think their fur just looks wild!
Guinea pigs in general can make great small pets. They are clean, friendly, hardy, and easy to care for. If you make sure to acquire a baby guinea pig, your child can bond with him/her early on and have a great companion growing up. Abyssinian Guinea Pigs make wonderful pets for children. In my experience, these guinea pigs are quite energetic and can be a bit more spunky than some other breeds. But this also makes their personalities that much more endearing. Some can learn to do a few tricks and are smart enough to open their own cages and escape!
Domesticated guinea pigs have been around for a very long time. Records indicate their being kept with humans since around 5000 BC, most likely to be eaten as a food source. Specific breeding most likely began around 1200 AD. Initially they were kept as pets only by the wealthy upper class, but eventually became a favored pet of everyone. Different variations of guinea pig breeds became popular and specific traits were bred for. When the American Cavy Breeders Association was founded, one of the very first breeds they recognized was the Abyssinian breed.
Showing guinea pigs is a specialized hobby enjoyed by many. Ideally, Abyssinian Guinea Pigs should have one rosette on each shoulder, one rosette on each hip, four rosettes across the back, and two rosettes on their hind rumps. This gives a total of ten rosettes. As I mentioned before, many Abyssinian guinea pigs don’t quite make the standards for showing and end up as pets only. Your Abyssinian pet may still be eligible to show though, as long as he/she has at least eight rosettes which are symmetrical. Abyssinian’s come in many different colors and most of these can be shown.
Caring for and maintaining a home for your guinea pig should be relatively simple. Provide a cage large enough that he/she can run around in comfortably. Change out the bedding and clean the cage at least weekly. A good commercial guinea pig food should be offered daily, along with some fresh vegetables (i.e. lettuce and carrots). Water bottles work great for providing water. It is a good idea to provide chew sticks to keep their teeth trimmed. Also keep in mind that guinea pigs do get bored and they do need exercise. For this reason try to schedule in time every day where you can take him/her out of the cage to roam around for a bit.
Abyssinian Guinea Pigs are hardy animals and rarely get sick if they are kept in clean environments and out of drafts. If you are concerned your guinea pig is sick, read about Guinea Pig Illnesses. They are readily available. It should not be difficult to find them at pet stores or online. Guinea pigs are very social critters, so you may want to consider purchasing two to ensure they don’t get lonely.
Have you ever shown one of these guinea pigs? What was your experience with it?
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
World of Small Pets
“There are so many small pets you can choose from!”
Children have an inborn fascination with animals, and keeping a pet is something most children will want to experience (and should!). It is likely that if you have a young child, you have heard them ask, “Can I have a pet?” If you haven’t heard it yet, you likely will someday soon! The question then becomes which pet should we choose? Well, believe it or not, there are plenty to choose from, all with their own perks!
Before jumping into the pet world with your child, you will want to consider all the aspects of pet ownership and go over them with your child. Many factors will determine what type of pet you ultimately decide upon. The child’s age, maturity level, and how responsible they are all come into play. Also keep in mind that as a parent, you will ultimately be responsible for any new pets well-being.
Benefits of children owning pets abound. It helps teach them responsibility, it provides them with unconditional companionship, and, because most pets do not live as long as people, it gives them the opportunity to learn about and experience death. In general small pets for kids are the most ideal. This is because of their small size, relative ease of care, and because they don’t entail a long-term time commitment. Next, I will go over the qualities of many of the more popular small pets for kids you might consider..
The Different Types of Small Pets
1. Hamsters. Hamsters are a very popular small pet – One of the most popular in fact! This is one of the very first animals many people consider purchasing for their child. And they actually do make very good small pets for kids. They sleep during the day and are active at night. As long as they are tamed while young and held regularly, there is usually not a huge problem with biting. Hamsters can make wonderful pets for young children.
2. Rats. These critters are many peoples favorite. Rats have an astounding reputation for being quite smart. They can learn many basic tricks, including coming when you call their name. They can be trained to ride around on shoulders and give kisses. They are very loving and affectionate to their human owners and are definitely kid-friendly pets! In addition, they are very clean and don’t have much of an odor to them!
3. Mice. Mice are very easy to take care of. They require little time or maintenance and can be great for very young children. Mice aren’t quite as interactive as rats, but they are still easy and fun to handle.
4. Guinea Pigs. Guinea pigs take a little more care than some of the smaller animals and can live somewhat longer. Because of this, they are better pets for older children. Guinea pigs rarely bite, but can get jumpy when frightened. They need larger cages than rats, mice, or hamsters. But, they can be very loving and usually respond well to human interaction.
5. Rabbits. Rabbits are another small pet which are often recommended for older children. There are several different rabbit breeds however, and some are better suited for younger children than others. In general, rabbits require higher maintenance. They are larger and live longer than other small pets. Needing a lot of interaction, their owners have to be able to dedicate time to petting and handling them. Many people like to brag that rabbits can be litter box trained. This is a definite plus!
6. Gerbils. Gerbils are one of the all-time favorite “pocket pets” available! They are great for kids, and crave plenty of interaction and love. It is actually a good idea to get at least 2 gerbils, to ensure they don’t get lonely. Gerbils are extremely clean with little to no odor.
7. Degus. Degus are good for older children. They require really delicate handling because their tails are prone to breaking off. A good way to win over their hearts is to offer treats often.
8. Chinchillas. Chinchillas require much more specialized care than some other small animals. They need to be given dust baths, and should be handled gently. If chinchillas fall, they are prone to breaking their legs or going into shock. They also cannot be exposed to extreme temperatures (especially heat) because it will kill them. Because of these needs, chinchillas are really best for older children who know how to be gentle and are ready to take on the responsibility of caring for them.
9. Ferrets. Ferrets have very strong personalities. It is hard not to love them! They are also always on the go and very curious – they want to check out everything! Many people compare them to having a small child in the house. Because of this, they are not a very good pet choice for small children. Older children often love them and do well having them as companions. They do need dedicated time where they can interact and explore outside of their cage, and they do need some training to keep them from getting into trouble! Biting can also be a problem. They can bite a person or another pet if they feel threatened, or they may attack smaller animals in the house for no apparent reason. Having them de-scented is also a must, because these critters can smell.
10. Sugar Gliders, Squirrels, Hedgehogs. All of these small pets are more high maintenance and require special care. If an older child wants one, they should prepare to do some research and really plan to dedicate time to being a good, interactive pet owner. They are quite rewarding and unique pets to have around!
I hope this gives you a good start on determining what the best small pet for your child might be. There are many considerations that have to be made!
Have you gotten a small pet for one your children before? Are there any other factors you would like to add to these?
Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Dwarf Hotot Rabbit!
Here is an adorable, small, and playful bunny rabbit! A little late for Easter, but these Dwarf Hotot Rabbits actually make fantastic pets! They are not quite as common as some other pet rabbits, but they are oh-so-cute! I am not sure if we ever kept any of these rabbits at our pet store, but they were available for special order and I’ve definitely run into them at rabbit shows. Many people like them to show them! Being petite and a beautiful pure white color with black bands around their eyes, they really stand out. Their name is pronounced Dwarf “Oh-Toe” Rabbit and are also known as Eyes of the Fancy.
Many people think Dwarf Hotot Rabbits make good pets because they are so playful. In fact they enjoy playing with both people and toys! They usually are quite affectionate with their owners if held regularly and are easy to hold. Because of this they are one of the better pet rabbits for children. They are a dwarf breed and so do not get as large as a regular full-sized rabbit. They only reach 2 to 3.5 pounds and can live in a smaller enclosure than a 10 to 15 pound rabbit could. They can live to be around 7 to 10 years old.
Dwarf Hotot Rabbits do not have a straightforward background history. It is often assumed that they are just a “mini” version of the regular sized Hotot Rabbit. This is not the case, however. While they do have the larger Hotot Rabbit in their genes, it took quite a bit of cross-breeding before the Dwarf Hotot Rabbit was declared. Baroness Bernard of France developed the very first Hotot Rabbit near the beginning of the 20th century. After this breeders in both West and East Germany were cross-breeding the Hotot Rabbit with several different breeds of rabbits. These included the Netherland Dwarf Rabbit and the Blanc De Hotot Rabbit. After these efforts were continued for some time the Germany breeders came together to try a combined effort in the 1970’s. The dwarf size first appeared when they crossed black Netherland Dwarfs with albino red-eyed rabbits. The German breeders crossed the two separate breeds they had come up with, and this is where our current Dwarf Hotot Rabbit originated from! Very interesting.
The American Dwarf Hotot Rabbit Club (ADHRC) was established in the United States in 1981. This was after Elizabeth Forstinger brought 7 rabbits from Germany to California to show them. The Dwarf Hotot Rabbit was officially recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) in 1983. And ever since then, they have been a popular show rabbit in the United States! Some things to note when showing these rabbits. A show specimen cannot be over 3 pounds in weight and they should appear to have no neck. They also cannot have black anywhere on their bodies (including their ears) except around their eyes. Other color varieties are recognized, such as chocolate and black, they just cannot be shown.
The care and maintenance of Dwarf Hotot Rabbits is typical of most other pet rabbits. As I mentioned above, they don’t need a large enclosure. A 2X2 foot cage would be sufficient. Especially if you let them out of their cage regularly! They also love to play so make sure to provide them with a couple toys. Feed these rabbits the same fare you would feed regular rabbits. They do well on a diet of commercial rabbit pellets with some fresh vegetables thrown in on occasion. Treats would also be welcomed on occasion. Dwarf Hotot Rabbits do need to be groomed. Ideally this should be done weekly to prevent them from accidentally ingesting too much fur. Intestinal blockages are a common problem in this breed if excess hair is not removed often.
Other than intestinal blockages, another health problem these rabbits run into is called malocclusion. This is when their lower teeth are directly below their front teeth, instead of behind them. This can cause them to have trouble eating or to accidentally snag their teeth on something, making them lose them. The remedy is having a veterinarian trim their teeth as they grow every 6 to 8 weeks. This is a simple solution, but it does take commitment to making sure it is done regularly.
Dwarf Hotot Rabbits are great little bunnies, for both showing and as pets! Breeders are usually easy to find online and prices range from $15 to $75 depending on whether you want a show animal or just a pet. I hope you enjoyed reading about these adorable rabbits!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The African Pygmy Hedgehog!
I decided to talk about a pet that is a little more on the exotic side this week. The African Pygmy Hedgehog! Many people who have owned these little critters will give you glowing recommendations of how great they are to keep as pets! While we did not carry Hedgehogs in the pet store I worked at, I did have a friend who owned one. I was able to regularly see and interact with her hedgehog named Dizzy! Dizzy was almost always asleep when I came to visit. This is because Hedgehogs are nocturnal. Sometimes my friend would wake Dizzy up just so I could hold her, and she would act very sleepy until she was allowed to go back and rest!
The African Pygmy Hedgehog Atelerix albiventris, is a small animal that can fit easily inside of an adults palm. They don’t make much noise or cause much odor. As long as you hold them regularly they will be unafraid and friendly towards you. They are a good pet for adults and children who are responsible. If you are a very busy person, a Hedgehog can be a great pet because they don’t need much attention. You can work or be out all day and not worry about them being lonely. They are solitary creatures in their natural habitats and only become active at night. They don’t need a huge environment or a lot of room to roam in, which makes them appeal to apartment dwellers as well.
African Pygmy Hedgehogs are part of the Erinaceidae family, which is the oldest living insectivore family. Yes, Hedgehogs are insectivores, not rodents. However they do not only eat insects. They will also eat many fruits, vegetables and sometimes even frogs or snakes or bird eggs. Their natural habitats are located in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Their preferred environments are fields, woods, hedgerows and gardens or farms. Although they are not native to North America, they were imported regularly until 1990, when importation of Hedgehogs was banned. Because of this ban, people came together to form the North American Hedgehog Association (NAHA). This organization was dedicated to the continued breeding and keeping healthy of Hedgehogs in North America.
Housing your African Pygmy Hedgehog is simple. They can be provided with a relatively small enclosure (with no wire bottoms) about the size of a rabbit cage. They love to have a regular place to sleep and “hide” so a sleeping hut or other cave type hiding place is a must! They will not feel at home or feel very comfortable without one! Provide bedding on the floor of the enclosure. Many Hedgehogs can be litter-box trained, so you may want to provide a litter box as well. Change out the bedding and thoroughly clean out the cage at least once a week to keep your Hedgehog’s home healthy. If you would like to keep more than one Hedgehog, it is best to keep two females in a large cage and to give them separate sleeping huts. Two males are much more likely to fight. Remember that in the wild Hedgehogs are solitary animals!
The care and feeding of domesticated African Pygmy Hedgehogs is also fairly simple. As a base, it is best to offer them a commercially prepared Hedgehog food, to ensure they are getting proper nutrition. In addition to this you can offer them small amounts of fresh vegetables, fruits, and insects such as crickets and mealworms. They need fresh water daily too, and the best way you can provide this is with a water bottle.
The African Pygmy Hedghog is available almost everywhere in the United Sates. Some places require you to have a permit to own them, and they are illegal in California and Arizona.
Here is some additional information on Breeding Hedgehogs and on Common Hedgehog Health Problems. If you have more specific questions or concerns regarding these topics, these are good places to start.
Has anyone reading this owned an African Pygmy Hedgehog or had experience with them before? If so what do you think about them? Would you recommend them as a pet?
Thanks for reading!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Animal-World’s Featured Animal for this week is:
In commemoration of Groundhog Day I figured that the Groundhog is the perfect animal to talk about this week! Although Groundhogs are not considered a normal pet, they are very well-known little animals. Groundhog Day falls on February 2nd every year and is traditionally a forecast of when spring will arrive. Groundhogs will hibernate throughout the winter and then pop up on Groundhog Day. The theory goes that if the groundhog sees its shadow then there will be 6 weeks of winter left. If it cannot see its shadow, then spring is just about to start! Of course, it doesn’t always work out this perfectly, but it is a somewhat helpful tradition!
The Groundhog Marmota monax is native to North America and can be found over most of the United States. Some people know them as Woodchucks and they are actually rodents! These are one of 14 species of marmots and marmots belong to the Squirrel family. Groundhogs are the biggest members. Their average weight varies anywhere from 4 to 9 pounds and in some regions they can even reach upwards of 30 pounds! In length they are in the general range of 16 to 26 inches. The fur of a Groundhog has two layers. One dense and short undercoat, and one longer and thinner overcoat which consists of banded guard hairs.
They tend to stuff themselves full of food all through the summer time. This way they will have enough fat built up in their body to keep them going through winter. They reach their heaviest mass around the end of summer. By October they are becoming lethargic and looking for a place to burrow down for the winter. They then spend all winter hibernating and asleep in their underground dens. While sleeping their heart rate slows way down, allowing their body temperature to drop. Their temperature can actually get down to around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s pretty low! This keeps them from needing as much energy. When they wake up in February Groundhogs have often lost about half of their body weight.
Groundhogs usually live in grassland areas near woods and rivers. This suits their diet well because they have access to a large variety of plants, grasses, and fruits. They also get their water from eating luscious plants. Farms are a favorite place of theirs as well because this helps ensure they have food! Which of course can be quite a dilemma for farmers, who depend on these crops. During their non-hibernation time Groundhogs are very active little critters! Believe it or not, they can climb trees and swim through water! Every Groundhog digs out a burrow with their powerful arms and thick claws. Often more than one groundhog can be seen living together and they will build very large burrows. These burrows will have several entrances to allow quick escape from predators.
Groundhogs can live around 6 years in the wild but in captive environments have been noted to live as long as 14 years. Most Groundhogs can begin breeding in their second year of life. In March or April, after they’ve awoken from hibernation, a pair of Groundhogs will mate and then stay in a burrow together. Mother Groundhogs produce litters of around two to six young after 31 or 32 days of gestation. It takes a couple months for the young to open their eyes, grow fur, wean, and begin searching for their own areas to burrow. During this time the babies mimic their mothers behavior to learn how to fend for themselves. Many young are preyed on by snakes. Older Groundhogs have to look out for other predators as well, such as foxes, hawks and bears.
Groundhogs are not usually kept as pets. However many zoos and other wildlife habitats do keep them for the general public to come and see. And of course many farmers are familiar with them as well. Farmers consider them pests and deal with them as such. Groundhogs are also hunted for sport in many places. This helps somewhat in keeping their numbers in check.
If you think the Groundhog is cute and would like to keep a similar animal as a pet, check out all these different types of Small Animals! I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more about the Groundhog!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Netherland Dwarf Rabbit!
The Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus is one of the most popular show rabbits. Many people who love rabbits breed and buy these guys simply for the love of showing them. At our pet store, we almost always had one or two baby Netherland Dwarfs available and they always went out the door quickly. I, of course, loved them! Rabbits are one of my favorite pets and I never passed up a chance to hold one of these little guys!
The first thing about these rabbits that pops out to many people is the dwarf part. These are very small rabbits! Even at full-grown size they only reach 2 or 2.5 pounds. This is part of their initial appeal for many people. They are cute as babies and they stay super cute as adults, as well! In general the Netherland Dwarf Rabbit is a friendly rabbit and easy to tame. One of the downsides is that they can get rather testy once they reach breeding age. So unless you plan to breed, it is a good idea to have your rabbit spayed or neutered to avoid negative behaviors. You can do this anytime after 4 months of age.
The Netherland Dwarf Rabbits are believed to have been bred form the British Polish Rabbit breeds. They were developed in Europe, mostly likely being first recognized in Holland. This is where the Netherland part of their name comes from. In Europe the Netherland Dwarfs are also called European Poles. In 1969 the United States decided to recognize them as a breed and they are now shown all over the states.
These rabbits look very similar to the the Polish Dwarf Rabbits. However, they are smaller than them. They are the smallest known rabbits! They have short and dense fur with short ears which stand straight up. As I said before they only reach 2 to 2.5 pounds and are popular show rabbits as well as pets. There are also 36 different color variations of the Netherland Dwarf Rabbit! Only 24 of these are recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association, however. Just to give you an idea, these colors include blue, chocolate, silver marten, lynx, opal, black, otter, fawn, tan, steel, lilac, and white. The white rabbits can have either red eyes or blue eyes!
To care for a Netherland Dwarf just follow the recommended Standard of Care. They require pretty much the same attention and care as most other rabbits. Keep them in a rabbit-friendly environment, which can be an indoor enclosure or an outdoor hutch. If outdoors, make sure it does not get too cold or too hot and that you provide protection from the elements. If indoors, make sure they have a large enough cage to get some exercise or that you let them out on a regular basis to roam. Clean their cage out once or twice a week and provide them with fresh water and food.
Rabbits need three main things in their diets: grass hays, cecotropes, and green foods. Purchasing a commercial pellet food can work fine in providing them with their grass hays. Cecotropes are actually their droppings! Their bodies produce a certain type of dropping which contains microorganisms to help break down their food. So you do not have to provide them with that part of their diet, they do it all by themselves! Green foods should be offered regularly and can include kale, cabbage, romaine lettuce, broccoli, mustard greens, and many others. You may also provide them with occasional supplements or treats, but these should be on a limited basis.
Are you looking for a show rabbit? If so, the Netherland Dwarf Rabbit may be a perfect choice!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
When it comes to classroom pets or even pets for small kids, we think of gerbils, hamsters and sometimes guinea pigs. What about rats? Do they make good pets?
The last rat you may have seen could have been in a tray in your biology class stuck down with pins. But, rats are more complicated and fascinating than you may first think. You might even consider them as your new family pet.
The past has given them a bad image in people’s eyes. There was that thing in the Middle Ages and the bubonic plague but that can’t all be blamed on rodentia. Here are a few interesting facts you might want to know about rats.
Rat Facts both Interesting and True
1. Rats are clean animals – This might be refuted by their perceived history with humans, but actually they are very clean. Much like cats, they groom themselves. In their habitat, they are careful to keep their nest away from the place where they “use the facilities.” If you own a pet rat, it will make for easier cleanup if you provide a separate area for the facilities.
2. Rats are smart – This is one reason that they make good research models. Pet rats can be taught tricks like running though mazes and how to jump.
3. Rats love affection – If you own a pet rat, they will always want to cuddle and be around you. Because of their intelligence, they are interested in everything. A rat would love to sit on your shoulder and watch you cook or even read a book. They will be your constant companion.
4. Rats can swim – Ever heard of following rats on a sinking ship? They will find the way out. What they don’t tell you is that they can swim farther than you can.
5. They can survive without water – This doesn’t last indefinitely but they can survive for long periods of time without drinking water if none is available.
6. Rats like company – They enjoy being with their owners, but are more social with another rat. Try to always have at least two pet rats (of the same sex). They would love more but you might not.
7. Rats don’t live long – Even at their best, their life expectancy is only a couple of years. During those years, you can experience a lot of fun from your pet.
Rats are better pets than their other rodent counterparts because they are clean and even tempered. They require a lot of attention but give back that love in return. If you are considering a pet for your home for young children, think about a rat. Just don’t own any cats at the same time.
Read Animal-World’s Guide to Pet Rats to learn even more about them!