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10 Things to Expect When Owning Sugar Gliders

Sugar gliders are "squee" cute and lots of fun, but are they right for you? Learn the top 10 things to expect when you own sugar gliders.
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Welcome to my series featuring pocket pets, birds and reptiles where guest experts will give you the pros and cons to help you decide if a particular pet is a good fit for you. Today’s guest poster is my friend Emily Hall who will be telling you about sugar gliders. I have been involved in rescuing relinquished and confiscated sugar gliders and know first-hand how adorable they are and the challenges they present.

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10 Things to Expect When Owning Sugar Gliders

Sugar gliders – those adorable pocket pets that seem to be growing in popularity as of late. Yes, they are “squee” cute, and yes, they are lots of fun. I always tell my cats I wish I could put them in my pocket and carry them around with me everywhere; with my gliders, I can, and I do! They play, they snuggle, they “fly,”… let’s face it, they are just plain cool. I absolutely love my two sugar gliders; however, I will be the first to admit to you that they are high maintenance.

You may be thinking, “Are they really that much different than having a cat, dog, rabbit, hamster, etc?” Yes, they are. Sugar gliders are considered to be an exotic pet, which means they have special needs and considerations. They are not for everyone. What makes them so different? Read on to find out…

Sugar gliders are "squee" cute and lots of fun, but are they right for you? Learn the top 10 things to expect when you own sugar gliders.

 

1. They are nocturnal.

Yep, that’s right – sugar gliders are nocturnal animals, meaning they are most active during the nighttime hours. That doesn’t mean you can’t interact with them during the day though. My sugar gliders usually wake up around 8pm and go to sleep around 8am, but I carry them around in a bonding pouch or in my shirt when I’m home during the day and even take them with me when I run errands. They usually just sleep through it all.

Warning: Because of their nocturnality, I wouldn’t recommend keeping their cage in your bedroom if you are a light sleeper. They do make a lot of noise during the night scurrying around their cage, running on their wheel, and eating. They also chirp, hiss, crab, and bark!

Sugar gliders are "squee" cute and lots of fun, but are they right for you? Learn the top 10 things to expect when you own sugar gliders.

 

2. They live a long time.

Sugar gliders have an average lifespan of 12-15 years – similar to a cat or dog. That is considerably longer than most pocket pets though. If you add a sugar glider to your family, you are in it for the long haul, so be sure you are committed before bringing them home!


 

3. You can’t have just one.

People joke and say you can never have just one cat (I’ll attest to that – I have six!). With sugar gliders though, it is absolutely true. Sugar gliders are colony animals, which means they belong in a group. Lone sugar gliders will often become depressed and start over-grooming, refusing food, and even self-mutilating. Sugar gliders should always be kept in pairs, at least. As much as you may hang out with your glider, human interaction is no substitute for the companionship of another glider.

Sugar gliders are "squee" cute and lots of fun, but are they right for you? Learn the top 10 things to expect when you own sugar gliders.

 

4. They have very specific nutritional needs.

Sugar gliders get their name because they glide like a flying squirrel, and they LOVE sweet things. If they had it their way, they would eat nothing but sugary foods. However, they actually require an extremely balanced diet of protein, fruits, and vegetables. An unbalanced diet can cause health problems such as a very smelly glider to hind leg paralysis. Unfortunately, there is no commercial sugar glider diet available that meets all of their nutritional requirements. To be sure that sugar gliders are getting a diet that meets their needs, it is recommended that they eat what is known as a homemade “staple diet.” You can find the recipes for these diets at www.sugie.info. I personally feed the Pet Glider Exotic Diet (TPG) to my gliders. It takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to make a month’s supply and is very easy and inexpensive to prepare.

 

5. They require a stimulating environment.

Sugar gliders can easily become bored which leads to depression, so it is important to provide them with a lot of mental stimulation and exercise. A sugar glider-safe exercise wheel is a must have item. You can also provide them with foraging toys (toys that you can hide treats and food in) and special treats like eucalyptus leaves and branches. In the wild, sugar gliders are tree dwellers, so it is also important to invest in a large enclosure that has a lot of vertical space (minimum dimensions of 2 feet deep by 2 feet wide by 3 feet tall) so they have plenty of room to jump and climb.


 

6. They require an exotic veterinarian.

Unfortunately most regular veterinarians do not treat sugar gliders, so you will want to make sure you have an exotic vet nearby before you bring your gliders home. You wouldn’t want to get stuck in an emergency situation and not have a vet to take them to. Exotic veterinarians are also usually a bit more expensive than a regular vet, so be prepared for a larger bill than for your cat or dog.

 

7. They will not be your best friend right away.

One of the biggest reasons sugar gliders get returned or turned over to a rescue is because many people don’t understand how much time, work, and patience goes into bonding with them. They expect for their sugar gliders to love them instantly, and when that doesn’t happen, they think something is wrong with the gliders. Sugar gliders are exotic animals and are not naturally trusting of humans. Bonding with them is a slow process that can sometimes take up to a year. It took a few weeks before my gliders would even let me touch them; a few months before they would climb into my hand; several months before they would let me pick them up. Patience is definitely key – if you try to rush the bonding process, you can do more harm than good. This is definitely a case when the old adage “Slow and steady wins the race” is absolutely true.

 

8. They are not legal everywhere.

The legality of owning sugar gliders varies from state to state. Some states ban them entirely, while others ban them only in certain cities. Some states require you to have a permit to own them, while others require no documentation at all. Below is a list of the places in which there is some type of law regulating sugar glider ownership:

  • Sugar gliders are completely illegal in California, Hawaii, and Alaska.
  • Sugar gliders are illegal in the cities of New York City (NY), Salt Lake City (UT), and St. Paul (MN) but are legal in the rest of the state.
  • New Mexico, Utah, and Pennsylvania require that you have a special permit to own sugar gliders.
  • Georgia requires that sugar gliders must be purchased from a USDA licensed breeder.

Sugar gliders are "squee" cute and lots of fun, but are they right for you? Learn the top 10 things to expect when you own sugar gliders.

 

9. They should not interact with your other pets.

Believe me, I know how tempting it is to want to try to get your gliders to bond with your cat/dog/other pet. I imagine all the time how adorable it would be to see my two gliders snuggling with my cats. In reality though, that would be extremely dangerous for the gliders. Gliders move quickly and suddenly, which can trigger the prey instincts in cats and dogs. They are also very small and fragile, so even a playful swat or nibble from a cat or dog could be deadly to them. On the flip side of the coin, sugar gliders have been known to kill other small animals such as rats, gerbils, birds, etc. Of course you will find photos online of sugar gliders with other pets, but any responsible glider owner will tell you that it isn’t worth the risk. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of gliders who had been friends with a cat/dog/bird/you name it for years, and then in a matter of seconds it all came crashing to a halt. Just don’t do it. Better safe than sorry, I always say!

 

10. You will become addicted.

Yeah, so sugar gliders are a little more high maintenance than the average pet. They are also loads of fun, absolutely adorable, and will steal your heart. The more time you spend with them, the more you will fall in love, and the more you will want MORE! Trust me. They are worth every bit of “hassle” that they may be – and once you get used to taking care of them, none of it even seems like a hassle anymore. It is all worth it to have a couple of little creatures that want nothing more than to be on you all the time. You will find yourself carrying them around with you all day, not wanting to leave the house without them.

 

So, do you think you want a couple of sugar gliders?

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Sugar gliders are "squee" cute and lots of fun, but are they right for you? Learn the top 10 things to expect when you own sugar gliders.

 

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Emily Hall and Sophie of Kitty Cat ChroniclesEmily Hall is the blogger behind Kitty Cat Chronicles – a blog focusing on life with her six crazy cats, her dog, and her two sugar gliders! Writing about anything from special needs animals, to traveling with cats, to feline health and wellness, to product reviews, to the daily antics of her crazy fur-gang, Emily aims to entertain and educate. Stop on by to say “Hi” to Emily, Delilah, Sampson, Sophie, Sassy, Caster, Kylo Ren, Lucy, Jubilee, and Sydney (and her husband, Bobby)! Besides on their blog, you can find them all on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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If you are a blogger and interested in contributing to this series, please email me at info@savvypetcare.com.

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Canning Raw Pet Food – Why Do It?

There are a few good reasons why canning raw pet food is something you might want to consider. Read about the benefits of canning raw food.
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OK, I can hear you raw feeders out there all the way over here. Why on earth would I want to can my raw food, you are asking. There are actually a few reasons why canning raw pet food is not a bad idea. I’m not suggesting you can all the raw food you make, but to have some canned on hand for emergencies is actually a good idea.

Benefits of Canning Raw Pet Food There are a few good reasons why canning raw pet food is something you might want to consider. Read about the benefits of canning raw food.Last September, when the Butte fire broke out, I was just getting ready to make a batch of raw when the power went out. We got our generators set up and I was going to make it the next day but, before I could, we were evacuated. I’m bad about waiting until the last minute to make the next batch and I had NONE in the freezer.

I had the cats’ things all ready to go except for food! I couldn’t even buy more at our local store because their power was out too and they were closed. In all the chaos, I didn’t think about stopping to buy some when we were down the hill evacuating the horses. Thankfully, (I think the cats were more thankful than I was) I had a big bag of treats and that’s what they had for dinner that night and breakfast the next morning.

That second day, I was able to go down the hill to the pet store in Jackson to buy food. Oh my gosh. I read and agonized over labels for what seemed like hours. I started feeding raw because Christy has chronic diarrhea on canned commercial cat food and I hadn’t really looked at labels in years. I am still looking for a commercial food she can eat for times like this but it hasn’t happened yet.

My friend Kelly’s relatives were kind enough to offer us a place to stay while we were evacuated but they had dogs and there was not a good place for the cats. I have an SUV and decided the best place for them was in the car. I really didn’t want Christy to have an issue with diarrhea in my car so it was especially difficult to decide what to feed them.

As much as I am against feeding dry food to cats, I decided she would be less likely to get diarrhea from it and I hoped it would only be for a short time. So, I settled on what seemed to be a high-quality dry food and that is what they ate for the next few days. If I had a supply of canned raw food on hand, it would have been easy to grab and put in their go boxes and I would have been much less stressed.

Recently, I went to a pet blogging conference and took Christy with me. I knew taking frozen raw food on the trip would be very impractical so I decided to try canning some of her food to take along. I made it a couple of weeks ahead of time to have time to try it out on her. I wanted to be sure she would eat it and she loved it!

Benefits of Canning Raw Pet Food

  • You know exactly what is in it
  • It is the same food your pets are used to eating
  • It’s convenient to have on hand
  • It is safe for human consumption in a pinch

Canning Raw Pet Food - Should you do it? There are a few good reasons why canning raw pet food is something you might want to consider. Read about the benefits of canning raw food.If you want to try this, check out my instructions for canning raw pet food coming next week.


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Pet Peeve: Pet Does Not Mean Dog

Pet Peeve: Pet Does Not Mean Dog
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Do you have pet peeves? I don’t really have anything I would call a pet peeve because if something bothers me, I try to ignore it and move on. No point in wasting energy on something I probably can’t change. However, lately, one thing is becoming a “pet” peeve for me and that thing is the way people use the word pet when they really mean dog.

Pet Peeve: Pet Does Not Mean DogDon’t get me wrong. I love dogs. I have had many over the years and am a sucker for every dog or puppy I meet. I just don’t currently have one. For me, cats fit my current lifestyle better and that’s what brings me to my pet peeve.

I recently attended the BlogPaws pet blogging conference in Chandler, AZ. I wanted to take my cat, Christy Paws (who is the star of her own blog) with me. I wanted to take her last year when the conference was in Nashville but it just didn’t work out. This year, a photo on her blog was nominated for a Nose-to-Nose Award so I thought it would be especially fun to have her there.

I decided to drive for a couple of reasons, but the main one was that I wanted to stop in Orange County to take care of some business and visit some friends. I decided to stay there two nights in each direction.

What Does Pet Friendly Mean?

I started looking for a pet friendly hotel through gopetfriendly.com. Sounds easy, right? Well, it should be. Their website is packed full of info with a great listing of hotels.

I started calling hotels in the area where I wanted to stay. Go Pet Friendly says pet policies change so to confirm with each hotel.

That’s when the fun began and this pet peeve began taking shape. One after one, even though they claimed to be “pet” friendly, said they do not accept cats. In fact, the only “pets” they accept are dogs. Then why don’t you say you are dog friendly and save those of us with other pets some phone calls? One even went so far as to say they only accept service dogs. Um, excuse me, that’s the law, that’s not even dog friendly.

Have you seen the Trivago ad about the pet friendly hotel and the rabbit convention? That really hit home for me that there are other traveling pets out there.

Pet Peeve: Just what does pet friendly mean?After a few frustrating phone calls to hotels, I contacted a friend who often travels with her cat, and asked her for a recommendation. I called both Red Roof Inn and La Quinta Inns and Suites. I wasn’t happy with the customer service from Red Roof Inn’s general manager so decided on La Quinta Inns and Suites in Santa Ana. They were over the top friendly, helpful and welcoming to all pets.

My Pet Peeve

This trend of pet means dog isn’t limited to pet friendly hotels. I’ve seen pet photo contests that were just for dogs, pet food that is dog food, and pet product suppliers that only have things for dogs.

So, my pet peeve is this: When did pet become synonymous for dog? If you look up synonyms for dog, pet is not one of them. A pet is any domestic or tamed animal or bird that is kept for companionship or pleasure — not just dogs. Using pet when you mean dog can be frustrating and confusing to pet parents of pets other than dogs. It’s OK to say dog when you mean dog.

If you own cats or other pets, have you experienced this? Am I the only one who has noticed or is frustrated by it?


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Are Pet Rats a Good Fit for Me?

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Welcome to my new monthly series featuring pocket pets, birds and reptiles. Each month, an expert will give you the pros and cons to help you decide if a particular pet is a good fit for you. I’m excited to have Abby Chesnut as my first guest, telling you about pet rats. I have had pet rats in the past and just adored them.

green stripeAre Pet Rats a Good Fit for Me?

So you have seen all the cute photos and videos of these fluffy, smart, and whiskery rodents and you are thinking about getting some as pets. Don’t get me wrong, they make wonderful pets, but there are a few pros and cons you should know before diving into the world of pet rats.

Things to consider before purchasing pet rats

  • Lifespan – The average for rats are around 2-4 years. Rats age very quickly compared to cats or dogs and this can be disheartening for many, but I like to think of that quote where they say for you, your pet might not be your whole life, but for your pet you are his whole life. Just gives you more reason to spoil them, right?
  • Health – Depending on where you get your rat (pet store or breeder) you will most likely run into some health problems that require you going to a vet. Before you decide that you want to have a pet rat please make sure that there is an exotic vet in your area that sees them. Costs can get high depending on where you live so it is always nice to have money stored up for an emergency.
Pet rats, brothers Delmar and Everett

Pet rat brothers Delmar and Everett

  • Social Animals – Rats need buddies so it is very frowned upon to get just a single rat. They live happier healthier lives when they have another rat to cuddle and interact with. The only thing I would say is more costly about having 2 rats compared to 1 is higher vet bills. Food doesn’t cost much and I mean come on, who doesn’t look cool with a rat on each shoulder?
Double Critter Nation Rat Cage

Double Critter Nation Rat Cage

    • Environment – Rats love to climb so they need enclosures that are more tall than long. Aquariums are not ventilated and can harm their fragile respiratory system so wire cages that are similar to bird cages but made for small pets like rats are the best. There are many cage calculators online that can help you find out if a cage is big enough, but overall for price and ease of use I always recommend the Critter Nation cage. Cleaning is important as well (they can get smelly), and you will need to clean your cage at least 1-2 weeks depending on how litter box trained they are (yes, it is possible), what bedding you use, and how big your cage is. Don’t forget that you will need to fill your cage up with toys, huts, hammocks, chew toys, a litter box, bedding, water bottle, and food!


Baby Delmar and Everett playing in their wheel (click the picture to see the video)

  • Exercise – When I first had my rats as babies they would go so crazy at night on their wheel! It was definitely hard to sleep at first, but what really helped that over the years is getting them out of their cage to release some of their energy. A lot of people put them on their bed with a dedicated rat blanket, or let them roam the bathroom, and even some people have their own rat rooms (a girl can dream). With many dogs and cats in my household, I put cardboard boxes on top of their cage and they go and play there while still being able to go back in for potty breaks and getting water. No dogs can get to them, and I supervise when one of my rat crazy cats is around. My point is that you can get creative, but exercise is very important for pet rats.

So I have touched on some major points to consider when you decide that you are serious about getting a pet rat (or two, or seven). Let us look at what makes them great pets!

Clicker training Delmar and Everett to spin (click the picture to see the video)

What makes rats great pets

  • Super smart – Some people have compared them to dogs when it comes to smarts, and they aren’t wrong. Did you know that rats were the first animal to be clicker trained? Mine actually love to do tricks, even though they only know two (spin and stand up) and they were so quick to catch on that it surprised me.
Pet rat Delmar - male rat

Delmar

  • Adorable – Rats are super cute! Despite the horrible stigma people have against them, those big eyes and whiskery noses are the best things to come home to after a long day. They will greet you at their cage door to say hi and eagerly await dinner. Afterwards, they very well would probably enjoy a shoulder rub! (I know my Delmar does) Rats do this cool thing where they brux (grind their teeth) and boggle (eyes bulge out because of the brux) when they are content. Some people think it is creepy, but I see it as a sign of a happy rat!
Pet rat Delmar being held by a young female attendee at the pet parade

Delmar spreading the love at a pet parade

  • Just Plain Cool – Have you ever walked around and seen a person with a rat on their shoulder? No? Well, you could be the next. I love to go to public events like pet parades and pet shows to educate the public about how amazing rats can be. So many people think that they are disgusting, once they learn how much grooming they do (as much as a cat) and pet them a little bit, you can change minds.

Overall, I think rats can make a great pet for older children (rats claws can be sharp and their bodies are fragile) and people of all ages can enjoy them just as well. If you aren’t ready for the big commitment for a dog or cat, but looking for a great small pet I think rats make a great animal companion!

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Abby ChesnutAbby Chesnut is a pet product influencer on her blog The Chesnut Mutts which has been around since November 2014. Jada and Bailey are her two mutts who have mostly taken over her blog with high-quality pet product reviews and giveaways, but her cat Shipoopi, pet rats Everett and Delmar, Emilio the betta fish, Tyrone the Apple Snail, and other household sharing dogs & cats pop in frequently. She loves to make people smile and laugh either by her photography, videos, or just her humorous and laid-back reviews.

You can follow Abbey and The Chesnut Mutts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

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If you are a blogger and interested in contributing to this series, please email me at info@savvypetcare.com.

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MidWest Critter Nation Animal Habitat with Stand, Double Unit, 36 Inches by 24 Inches by 63 Inches (Misc.)


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3 Reasons to Rotate Proteins in Your Pet’s Diet

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How many of us have found a food our pets like and eat well so we stick with that? We feed them the same thing at every meal, day in and day out. How would that go over with you? How healthy do you think your diet would be if you ate like that? I doubt we would choose that for ourselves, yet we choose it for our pets.

3 reasons to Rotate Proteins

3 Reasons to Rotate Proteins

Alleviate Boredom

I think this one is pretty obvious once you think about it. We would find eating the same food every day pretty boring, at least eventually. I realize we are not dogs or cats, but in the wild, our pets’ ancestors did not eat the same thing every day. They are designed to eat multiple sources of protein to meet their nutritional needs. Different tastes and textures will make mealtime more exciting for your pet and reduce the chance of them becoming a picky eater. Once they are used to the same thing over and over they are less likely to want to try new foods.

More Complete Nutrition The 3 Reasons to rotate proteins in your pet's diet

Just like we need a variety of foods for complete nutrition, so do our pets. All pet food on the market must meet the standards set by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials); however, it is unlikely that any one formula is the ideal food for the life of your pet. No matter how complete and balanced a food claims to be, it is unlikely it contains everything all dogs or cats need for their entire lifetime. If a formula is low in a particular nutrient, your pet could become dangerously deficient. Nutrients like amino acids, fatty acids and minerals all vary from protein to protein. Varying what your pet eats means they will get a better balance of nutrients.

Prevent or Heal Food Allergies and Intolerances

Pet food allergies develop due to overexposure. For decades, pet food has been made from chicken and beef which, by no coincidence, are the most common pet allergens. In order to make pet food cheaper, animal protein was partially replaced with plant protein from corn and wheat, the two most common grain allergens. By rotating proteins and feeding foods that are grain-free you will reduce the risk of your pet developing a food allergy or intolerance and can likely heal an existing one.

 

You can rotate proteins in your pet’s diet using a combination of canned, freeze dried, and raw. I don’t recommend dry food but at least dogs don’t have the hydration issue with dry that cats do. Rotate brands as well as protein sources.

Remember to change food gradually if your pet has a sensitive stomach and is used to one food. I feed my cats homemade raw food and change their protein with every batch I make — about every 10 days. They are used to eating a variety and don’t require a gradual change.

Rotating proteins will help your pet live a longer, healthier life.

Are you already feeding your pet a rotation diet? How does it work for you? If not, have you considered it?


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DIY Pet Treat Jar — Repurposed Plastic Container

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DIY Pet Treat Jar finishedI try to be green whenever possible. I recycle, compost and try to reuse whatever I can. When I have an especially cool and useful-seeming plastic or glass container, it makes me crazy to put it in the recycle bin. So I have a collection of glass and plastic containers that I try to find ways to reuse. This DIY pet treat jar is a fun way to use them.

I like to give my clients a little something at this time of year and many of my saved containers are perfect for holding healthy, homemade pet treats. If you aren’t into making treats, you can always fill them with store bought treats for the pets in your Flourworld.

This square plastic container is one of my favorites. The ones I have came from Costco with shredded cheese in them. I use them to hold things like partial bags of baking chips, small amounts of flour, etc. They are also a good size for treats for a medium to large dog or cat treats for a multiple cat household.

DIY Pet Treat Jar Instructions

1. Remove the label from the container by running it under hot water for a few minutes then gently pulling it off. If you are going to cover the entire area with another label like in this project, you don’t even need to worry about getting the residual glue off. If you are going to decorate in another manner, you can get the glue off by rubbing it with cooking oil. It may take a little while, but it should all come off. Wash and dry your container.

2. Measure the area for your label. This container’s label is 7½ inches by 3¼ inches. I created a document in Photoshop with those dimensions. I always take a lot of pictures of my clients’ pets so I had plenty of photos to choose from. I laid out the design and added the text. If you are artsy, you can simply draw your design on the label which would probably be even more appreciated by the human recipient. I’m not an artist so I stick with Photoshop!DIY Pet Treat Jar project laid out

3. I printed out a test on regular paper and cut it out to see how the placement worked. I made a few adjustment to the layout and printed on a full sheet of label paper.

4. I used a rotary cutter to cut it out so the edges would be nice and smooth but scissors will work just as well.

5. Carefully place the label and smooth out any air bubbles.DIY Pet Treat Jar lid

6. The lid also has a label that you can leave on if you are going to cover it up or remove as above if you are going to embellish the lid in some other manner. I cut out a circle the size of the lid and used a rubber stamp and embossing powder to decorate it.

7. You can continue embellishing with raffia, ribbon, stickers, tags or whatever else strikes your fancy. A gift tag will be my finishing touch on this DIY pet treat jar once it is full of homemade treats.

Left side of pet treat jar
Right side of pet treat jar

Now I’m off to the kitchen to make those treats. Look for the recipe next time along with a roundup of my favorite treats on the internet.


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Dangers of Dry Food – Part 2 – How It’s Made

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In Part 1 of Dangers of Dry Food, I told you about some of the main ingredients in dry food — the “meals.” They might be a named meat meal like chicken or turkey, a by-product meal or the hodge-podge of ingredients in meat and bone meal, each one less desirable than the one before.

In addition to the meat meals, there are various grain and soybean meals used in making dry food. Generally speaking, the lower the price of the finished product the more likely it is that it is high in grain products and lower quality meat meals. Although price is not a guarantee, you can see that a manufacturer could not afford to sell a product for a low price and make it with a high-quality, more expensive protein.

The most common process for making dry cat and dog food is through extrusion. The machines used for this were adapted from machines originally used to make puffed breakfast cereal.

The manufacturers “recipe,” which usually contains a mixture of meat and grain meals as well as antioxidants (preservatives), is made into a wet dough. It is pre-heated then goes into the extruder where it is cooked at extreme heat and pressure. At the open end of the extruder, the dough passes through a shaping die and is cut off by a knife into small pieces. These pieces rapidly expand into kibble once they are exposed to normal air pressure.

Kibble is then dried in an oven until its moisture content is low Dangers of Dry Food - Part 2 - How It's Made - Kibbleenough to make it shelf stable. Once dry and cool, the kibble goes into a drum where it is sprayed with fats and a “flavor enhancer,” without which, your pet would probably not touch the kibble. This enhancer is “animal digest,” another rendered product. Due to these additives, kibble only has a shelf life of 10-12 months, even less if the manufacturer used natural preservatives like vitamin E and C. These enhancers can easily become contaminated with salmonella as many recalls and human illnesses have proven.

To make pet food nutritious, manufacturers must “fortify” it with vitamins and minerals because the quality of the ingredients they are using are often extremely variable and the harsh manufacturing processes destroy many of the nutrients the food had in the first place.

Proteins are especially vulnerable to heat, and become damaged, or “denatured,” when cooked. Because dry foods ingredients are cooked twice — first during rendering and again in the extruder — problems are much more common than with canned or homemade foods. Altered proteins may contribute to food intolerances, food allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease.¹

Enzymes are special proteins that aid in thousands of chemical reactions in the body. They are especially fragile to heat and are destroyed at even relatively low temperatures. The normal food enzymes that would help digest the food are destroyed by the heat processing that dry food undergoes. This forces the pancreas to make up for those lost enzymes. Over time, the pancreas can become stressed and enlarged, and even get pushed into life-threatening pancreatitis.²

Dangers of Dry Food - Part 2 - How It's Made - pet food label - Do you think this is a low or high-quality dry food?

Do you think this is a low or high-quality dry food?

What You Can Do

  1. Read your labels carefully
  2. If you must feed dry, be sure to use it before the expiration date
  3. Practice safe food handling
  4. Try feeding canned, homemade or raw

Read More


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Dangers of Dry Food – Part 1 – Ingredients

Dangers of Dry Food - Part 1 - Ingredients - Savvy Pet Care
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As a cat parent and animal lover who wants the best for all pets, I am passionate about sharing the importance of a species appropriate diet. Dogs and cats are both carnivores and require high amounts of protein in their diets. Dogs can eat some vegetables and fruits in their diets but cats lack the enzyme required to properly digest and use carbohydrates.

I feed my cats raw but realize this is not practical for everyone. Even for me, this sometimes presents a challenge, so I am always looking for substitutes for my homemade raw food, meaning raw meat suppliers, packaged raw food and high-quality canned food for emergencies. I’ll let you know about these in the future.

I hope with this series on the Dangers of Dry Food I can at least convince you to stop feeding your cats dry food even if you don’t move all the way to raw. Although this article is aimed at cats, the ingredients information applies to dry dog food as well.

Rendered Ingredients

Take a look at the ingredients label on your favorite bag of dry food. Does it contain chicken meal, poultry byproduct meal, or meat and bone meal (MBM)? Chances are good that it contains at least one. Do you know what this means or how it becomes “meal?”

These meals are rendered ingredients that are made by first putting animal-source proteins through a large grinder to chunk them up. These chunks are boiled until they turn to mush. After the fat is skimmed off, the remainder is dried to a powder. These meals are used as a cheap source of animal protein.

Chicken meal is potentially the least contaminated as it is made in a plant that is usually associated with a slaughterhouse that processes only chickens. Chicken meal, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), is the dry rendered product from a combination of clean chicken flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from whole carcasses of chicken, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails.

By definition, chicken by-product meal is made from grinding clean, rendered parts of chicken carcasses and can contain bones, offal and undeveloped eggs, but only contains feathers that are unavoidable in the processing of the poultry parts. FDA regulations for rendering plants are fairly loose, using phrases like “as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.”

At the far end of the spectrum is MBM — meat and bone meal. The raw ingredients in this “dumping ground” may include:

  • non-meat parts of cattle, sheep, swine and poultry that are not suitable for human consumption (including diseased parts)
  • restaurant waste and out of date supermarket meat (including the packaging!)
  • animals that died on the farm, in zoos, roadkill, were euthenized, etc and may be decaying
  • animals too sick to walk into the slaughterhouse

Ann Martin, in her book Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food says,The most objectionable source of protein for pet food is euthanized cats and dogs. It is a common practice for thousands of euthanized dogs and cats to be delivered to rendering plants, daily, and thrown into rendering vats–along with pet collars, I.D. tags, and plastic bags–to become part of an ingredient called ‘meat meal.’ If you see the term ‘meat meal’ listed as an ingredient, there is no guarantee that the pet food does not contain euthanized cats and dogs.” The drug used to euthanize animals does not degrade with rendering!

MBM is no longer allowed to be fed to cattle (ruminants). It is believed to be the cause of the spread of mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the 90s. Cattle can get the disease by eating less than one gram of diseased meat and bone meal fed to them as a protein source, yet this meal is allowed in our pet food in the US.

Most inexpensive dry foods contain poultry by-product meal or meat and bone meal. Even these are sometimes too expensive for manufacturers to make the necessary profit so they use vegetable proteins such as corn gluten meal, soybean meal, and plant protein concentrates to get the protein up to minimum acceptable levels.

Dangers of Dry Food - Part 1 - Ingredients - Savvy Pet Care
Dangers of Dry Food - Part 1 - Ingredients - Savvy Pet Care
Dangers of Dry Food - Part 1 - Ingredients - Savvy Pet Care
Dangers of Dry Food - Part 1 - Ingredients - Savvy Pet Care

Click on the photos to enlarge so you can read the ingredients.

Carbohydrates

A cat’s natural prey is about 9-10% carbohydrates, mostly from the liver and some from the undigested contents of the prey’s stomach. There is a wide range of carbohydrates in dry cat food, but they average about 30%. Often, when carbohydrate levels are lower, they have been replaced by fat rather than protein.

Carbohydrates in pet food come from grains or starchy vegetables. The simplest form of carbohydrates is sugar and all carbohydrates are a configuration of sugar. Carbohydrates equal calories.

Pet food manufacturers will tell you they add carbohydrates to food for energy. Cats use protein and fat for energy, and although they can digest and absorb carbohydrates, most of them are turned to fat and stored. Carbs do not satisfy a cat’s need for protein so they do not get the “signal” to stop eating. Dry food is a leading cause of obesity in cats.

The high carbohydrate levels cause spikes in blood sugar in the bloodstream. This continual stress on the metabolic system is a major contributor to feline diabetes.

Preservatives

Canned food is preserved by the act of canning and is sealed, but dry foods need preservatives (antioxidants) to ensure a long shelf life. Preservatives can be “natural” or synthetic. Commonly used natural antioxidants include tocopherols (vitamin E), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), citric acid, and rosemary. Synthetic preservatives include butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), propyl gallate, propylene glycol (also used as a less-toxic version of automotive antifreeze), and ethoxyquin.

There is a lot of controversy over the safety of synthetic preservatives. BHA and BHT have been suspected of being carcinogens and ethoxyquin has been associated with a myriad of medical problems in dogs. Further investigation is needed to determine the full health impact of these preservatives.

Keep in mind, if you purchase dry food with natural preservatives, they don’t have as long a shelf life as foods preserved with synthetics.

What it doesn’t contain – Moisture

Cats are engineered to derive their fluids from their prey. They don’t have a big thirst drive and, in fact, don’t usually start drinking water until they are about 3% dehydrated. This contributes to many serious health issues.

Choices

When you go to a pet store that carries a wide variety of pet food, the choices are almost overwhelming. If a cat only needs meat, do they really need a different formula for every breed or scenario, like hairball, indoor, etc? The answer, of course, is no. The truth is that the more formulas a brand has, the more shelf space it gets.

Dangers of Dry Food - Part 1 - Ingredients - Savvy Pet Care
Dangers of Dry Food - Part 1 - Ingredients - Savvy Pet Care

And, oh my, reading all those labels! My suggestion, obviously, is to stop feeding dry, then you won’t have to read them. I truly believe that the cheapest wet food is better than the most expensive dry food.

Have I convinced you of the dangers of dry food and to stop feeding dry food to your cats?

If this post hasn’t convinced you to stop feeding dry, come back for future posts on the Dangers of Dry Food. In the meantime, if you must feed dry, please be sure your dry food meets these minimum standards:

  • Uses named meat protein sources such as chicken, turkey, lamb, beef — not vague descriptions like poultry or meat
  • Contains no by-products
  • Contains no fillers such as corn, wheat or soy
  • Contains no artificial ingredients or preservatives

Protein is the most expensive ingredient in dry food and carbohydrates are the cheapest, but don’t let the price of your food fool you. A higher price does not guarantee better quality. Check the ingredients.

Be sure your cat has access to fresh water at all times.

Further reading:


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Jackson Galaxy on Spay/Neuter

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This is an excellent, short video by Jackson Galaxy on spaying and neutering your pets.

He answers all the basic questions:

  • Will my cat gain weight if spayed/neutered?
  • What are the health risks of NOT spaying/neutering?
  • Isn’t the surgery too invasive?
  • But I want my cat to have just one litter. Is that OK?
  • But I want my kids to see the miracle of birth. Is that OK?

 

A recap of the statistics:

* 6-8 million animals are booked into shelters yearly
* 70,000 cats and dogs are born daily 
* 3-4 million adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized yearly.
* In the US, 1 healthy adoptable cat and dog is euthanized every 11 seconds
— Source: The Humane Society of The United Statesspay and neuter

* 3-4 million animals are adopted yearly 
— Source: http://www.animalsheltering.org

* It costs over 1 billion dollars of taxpayers money to round up, house, euthanize and dispose of homeless animals yearly (MANY other sites state it is about 2 billion) 
— Source: http://www.bestfriends.org

To find a low-cost program near you, search the ASPCA Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Provider Database by simply entering your zip code. They are constantly adding to the database so if you don’t find anything in your zip code now, check back. Many low cost clinics offer services for as little as $30-$50 for cats and $40-$75 for dogs.

Spay/neuter

 


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Wordless Wednesday: Think Adoption First!

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Think Adoption First!


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