10 reasons why guinea pigs make great pets

10 reasons why guinea pigs make great pets – by James Alston writing for ExoticDirect

ExoticDirect offer pet insurance for guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, mice and other small pets. They also insure parrots, reptiles, tortoise and even pygmy hedgehogs! Learn more about them and what they do.

Guinea pigs are pretty easy to look after

Guinea pigs are a perfect pet for someone who wants an animal that is affectionate and playful but can’t offer the level of care required for a higher-maintenance animal like a dog. But it’s not only that. All pets are prone to diseases, but guinea pigs can be relatively healthy when compared to other species of animal. As long as they’re given the right TLC. The most common health problems are often dental disease and digestive problems – so the correct diet, regular exercise and regular medical check ups are really important. With all these requirements ticked, guinea pigs can be quite hardy, giving you lots of love over the years.

Guinea pigs live longer than other small pets

Most guinea pigs live four or five years, but they can live longer, with some having been known to last right into their teens. Of course, this means it’s no small commitment to purchase a guinea pig, but of course, it’s nothing on a tortoise!

Guinea pigs live off a diet of hay (hay is mega important), vegetables, and special guinea pig pellets. Their bodies also can’t produce vitamin C, so they’ll need special supplements to remain healthy. But don’t give them a Barocca!

Check out what you can feed Guinea Pigs in ExoticDirect’s diet advice article.

Children love them

Guinea pigs are a common pet for children, seeing as they’re relatively easy to look after and have reasonable lifespans. They’re also very docile around humans, so they aren’t usually a danger to children’s fingers, and they’re generally not as delicate as rabbits and not as skittish as hamsters and gerbils.

Owning a pet as a child can also help children to learn empathy, responsibility and, when the pet comes to the end of its life, deal with grief in a healthy way. But aside from the serious stuff, owning a guinea pig can just be really good fun!

They’re fun to watch and play with

Guinea pigs are sociable around humans, and when excited in their homes they do a thing called popcorning. This is when they run, jump, and backflip around like crazy! Once frequently used in lab experiments, the slang ‘human guinea pig’ is used when people feel they’re the subject of tests or trials. Guinea pigs are actually quite smart, too and can navigate paths to food and some have even been litterbox trained.

Check out what setup Guinea Pigs need in ExoticDirect’s best setup article.

They’re social animals – which means more guinea pigs!

Guinea pigs live in social groups of up to 10, and guinea pigs – especially female ones – thrive in groups of two or more. Guinea pigs will groom and play together, and they learn to recognise each other and bond. In fact, in Switzerland you’re not allowed to own a lone guinea pig, as it’s seen as detrimental to their health!

Be careful if you have other rodents—it’s generally advisable not to house gerbils or hamsters with guinea pigs, as they can carry infections and get each other sick. As long as you house them separately, though, you should be fine. If you want to, you could turn your house into a veritable zoo!

You can rescue guinea pigs from the RSPCA just like you do rescue dogs

Some people prefer to go to a breeder to get their pet. However, many pets are abandoned every year, and sometimes, people simply cannot afford or are unable to look after their pets any longer.

Guinea pigs need love and attention just like any other pet, and one of the best things you can do is to adopt one and give it a loving home! The RSPCA offers a service to find a pet near you that needs a home, and this includes guinea pigs. Head to https://www.rspca.org.uk/findapet to find out more.

They’re very active, so there’s always time to play

Aside from popcorning, guinea pigs don’t have much of a regular circadian rhythm. This means they sleep for short periods and are awake a lot of the time, sometimes for up to twenty hours a day.

Guinea pigs can be ‘active’ in other ways too, so make sure you only house guinea pigs of the same sex together, especially after they’re a month old. (Yes, that early!) Bear in mind too that boars will have to be neutered if they are housed together, otherwise they may not get along. Sows and neutered pigs are generally fine, though.

It’s easy to go on holiday, as long as you have someone to look after them

Like all animals, guinea pigs need to be looked after if you go away on holiday or if you’re just out of town for a few days. Their cages will need daily spot cleaning and to be cleaned completely at least once a week, and of course, they need fresh food and water regularly, as well as social interaction – remember, they’re very sociable! Your guinea pig won’t mind not going to Magaluf with you, but it still needs food and water!

Guinea pigs love humans

They might not seem it at first glance, but guinea pigs are often very affectionate with humans. Some may squeal or climb up their cages to meet you, and of course, they love being held and petted. It’s not only other guinea pigs they love!

There are even clubs dedicated to the showing and breeds of guinea pigs. The British Cavy Council governs clubs in the United Kingdom. You never know, you may just own a prize winning pig!

Most important, they’re cute!

Guinea pigs come in a wide range of breeds, each with their own specific traits and colours. Some may have simpler coats whereas others can be very brightly coloured. Guinea pigs come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from 700g to two and a half kilos and usually measuring between 20 and 25 centimetres long.

Whatever shape, size or colour your guinea pig is, one thing’s for certain: they’re very cute, and they make brilliant pets.

What you need to know about dog flu

Canine Influenza (Dog Flu) continues to threaten our pets: there are 413 known positive cases in the US right now, up from just over 180 at the beginning of the 2018 calendar year. This infographic has helpful information to help you keep your pup healthy.

Uncomplicated Canine Flu cases can cost pet parents an average of $797 (for treating symptoms like coughing). For severe cases requiring hospitalization, costs can start at an average of $1,157 (respiratory tract illness). Costs based on 2017 Petplan claims data.

According to Petplan Advisory Board Member, Dr. Ernie Ward: “There are a lot of myths, a lot of misperceptions out there, so I want to set the record straight and make sure we do everything we can to save our pet loved ones. This is an outbreak and this is shaping up to be one of the more concerning outbreaks we’ve had in recent history.”

Click here to read Petplan’s blog (authored by Ward) for more information on the dog flu.

Click here for more information on the current Canine Flu outbreak numbers provided by the California Veterinary Medical Association.

Puppy Proofing Your Home: Everything You Should Know

Puppies are arguably one of the cutest things on the planet, but they also come along with a great deal of intrigue that comes from a natural sense of curiosity and a sense of exploration. Just like toddlers, they’re “into” practically everything they come across on their level. So similar to older infants, it’s important to puppy proof your home in some of the very same ways as you would for a toddler.

When it comes to the Labradoodle breed specifically, they have a natural love for water so often standing liquid like inside toilet bowls can be problematic. Keeping the lid on the bowl and door to the bathroom closed at all times might do the trick, but you could invest a small amount of cash into a toddler-proof latch or other device just in case one forgets one of these measures.

Safe Spaces

Just like closing the bathroom door, all the doors to interior rooms and especially those that lead outdoors should be closed and latched at all times. Think about getting spring type hinges for doors that lead to outside spaces so they will automatically close and latch behind you. Still always keep a close eye when you enter and exit the premises because little puppies can be quick and sneaky when it comes to escaping … think Houdini hound!

Strings And Cords

Electrical outlet covers are also a good idea for curious pups who could get quite the shock when sniffing one of these open, unused outlets with their wet snout. Accompanying electrical cords can be especially problematic for puppies who will chew on practically anything and everything. Be sure to go around the house and tape down any of these exposed cords to keep them out of harm’s way.

Window treatments, especially blinds, often have cords that reach down to the floor. Besides the fact your little pooch may chew these to ribbons, they also pose a significant choking hazard for both children and pets. While some solutions are in the works for this dilemma, it’s best to keep these tied up out of the reach of animals and small kids.

Garbage And Other Toxic Substances

If you keep garbage uncovered, like underneath the kitchen sink, again you should invest in some childproof cupboard latches. Many homeowners also store detergents and other toxins in this same spaces, so be wise and get a device to keep them out of these areas. Any type of medicines, detergents, insecticides, any and all other types of toxic substances should always be stored safely and out of their reach.

Food And Plants

We all know better than to feed our animals things like chocolate, but there’s a huge list (available from the Humane Society) of other foods that can be toxic or even deadly for dogs. Play it safe and keep all human foods away from your pets and out of their reach. Houseplants may seem harmless enough, but many of them could have flowers, seeds, leaves, stems, roots or other parts that may be poisonous if ingested.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you believe something in your home could cause injury or illness for your puppy, put it away, get rid of it or take some kind of safety precautions. Don’t take a chance on their safety or health in order to ensure they’ll have a long, happy and healthy life with you.

Author bio:
Born in Chicago and raised in Boston, Jenn Johnson is a journalist and a freelance writer. She completed her PhD in Journalism from Northwestern University. You’ll find this pet enthusiast and freelance journalist living happily with her husband, three kids and their two beloved dogs, Thunder and Lightning in the Back Bay area of Massachusetts, just outside Boston.

10 Fun Facts About Parrots

10 Fun Facts About Parrots by James Alston writing for ExoticDirect pet insurance.

1. There are nearly 400 species of parrot
There are 393 species of parrots (though more are being found all the time). Parrots also like the heat with most being found in the tropical and subtropical regions of Australia, Asia, Central and South America and Africa.

However, some parrots do live outside tropical environments. The Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot, living in New Zealand and nesting in the roots of trees.
The Maroon-Fronted parrot, meanwhile, lives in the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains of Mexico, sometimes nesting in limestone cliffs as high as 3,500 metres. Don’t look down!

The Maroon-Fronted parrot is also endangered, with perhaps as few as 2,500 still living in the wild.

2. Parrots can mimic humans – but some know more than you think
We’ve all seen videos of parrots saying hello and copying the things their owners say. But did you know that some budgies have vocabularies of up to 2,000 words?
There is even debate within the intellectual world as to whether parrots have a cognitive understanding of the things they say.

Alex, a famous African grey parrot, had a vocabulary of about 100 words. However, some studies showed he could tell the difference between small and larger objects, and could even identify different objects by their shape.

Interestingly, if captive talking parrots are released back into the wild, the rest of their flock can pick up some of their phrases, even if they have not been trained from a young age.
So be careful what you say around parrots – they just might be able to understand what you’re saying!
Own a parrot? Did you know you can get parrot insurance from ExoticDirect pet insurance.

3. And it’s not just human language
Parrots have an intricate system of sounds, shrills and squawks that can tell other parrots things, from warning them of predators to telling them there’s food in the vicinity. (Most parrots don’t have many predators except larger birds of prey. When a parrot is younger though, it may have to watch out for things like snakes and even monkeys.)

Some parrots use their feathers to communicate too. Cockatoos have crests on their heads that they can raise or lower at will.

They use these feathers to communicate with other parrots – for instance, to attract a mate – or to warn off potential predators. Some crests in domesticated parrot species are made from selective breeding or mutations. Also, it’s not totally understood how or why this particular trait has stuck around in domesticated parrots that don’t need a crest, and research into this is common. Perhaps they just love looking glamorous. Who’s a pretty boy, then?

4. Parrots are cleverer than you think too
We’ve seen that many parrots can mimic humans, with some budgies having a vocabulary of up to 2,000 words. However, that’s not all parrots can do!

The Kea parrot has been shown to be particularly intelligent, learning to push and pull certain things in order to get food. Keas can also work together to achieve certain objectives, and have even been observed fashioning tools from sticks in order to experiment with animal traps and get food. Reportedly, some will use pebbles to mash up cockle shells in order to get their calcium.

Keas are known as the ‘clown of the mountains’ because of their cheeky nature. They’ve been observed flying off with unguarded items of clothing and food scraps. So if you’re ever around a Kea, make sure you hide your gear!

5. Not all parrots can fly
Almost all parrots can fly, with some, such as the Hyacinth Macaw, having a wingspan of nearly a metre and a half. The Hyacinth Macaw also reaches lengths of nearly 1.2 metres from head to toe.
However, less well known is the critically endangered Kakapo, sometimes known as the Owl parrot. This flightless bird, the heaviest known parrot, roosts under trees or in the ground, and is nocturnal.
As of June 2016, there were only around 150 Kakapos left. This is mostly due to the introduction of predators into its native New Zealand such as cats and rats.

Kakapos have been studied extensively and have even been filmed for The Life of Birds, a documentary narrated by David Attenborough – and who doesn’t want to listen to him talk?

6. A parrot’s not just for Christmas…
Many people don’t realise, but parrots sometimes live as long as humans. The African Grey parrot, for instance, can live between 50 and 70 years.

One of the oldest parrots, Cookie, a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, died in August 2016. He was believed to be one of the oldest parrot of his species in captivity, dying at the ripe old age of 83. He was recorded as being the oldest living parrot in the world by the Guinness World Records.

It’s important to bear this in mind if you’re thinking of buying yourself a parrot, as it could be a lifetime commitment. But it means you’ll be able to show it off to your grandkids!

However, often parrots in captivity won’t live quite as long as those in the wild. To help your parrot live out her years, you should make sure she eats a suitable and varied diet, has the right kind of stimulation and exercise, and that your home is safe, comfortable and free from dangers. You should also consider pet insurance, as this can cover unexpected vet fees. ExoticDirect offer a range of policies.

7. One true love
Most parrots are monogamous, meaning they mate with only one partner for their whole lives. These ‘pair bonds’ as they are known are preceded by courtship displays. This means parrots will dance and sing songs in order to win a mate. These mates usually then work together to raise their young.

Only the El Oro parakeet and the Golden parakeet have been shown to exhibit polygamous behaviour. While this means they may take more than one mate, or collectively breed, it also means that multiple females may help each other in raising their young. These parrots know the meaning of teamwork!

Generally, around five eggs are incubated by females for around a month. In monogamous pairings, the mother feeds the young while the father brings them food.

8. Problem child
Though most parrots lay between two and seven eggs, some lay just one, like the Palm Cockatoo.
These parrots are known to have particular trouble breeding. One study followed the Palm Cockatoo for nearly three years, and observed that 81% of nests didn’t produce any young. Meaning that there was only a 19% breeding success rate in nests.

The study suggested that this was because these parrots are particularly sensitive to changes in their environment. They have even been referred to as the giant pandas of parrots because of the trouble they have breeding. Just as cute, but with feathers!

9. Feral parrot populations
In the mid to late 20th century, a number of escaped Rose-Ringed parakeets escaped from captivity and started a population in the south of England, mostly in London.

Even now, if you go to Crystal Palace Park or Hampstead Heath, you can see Rose-Ringed parakeets sitting in trees! These parrots have adapted to a life in an environment extremely different from their natural habitat. And it’s not just in the UK, either; the Rose-Ringed parakeet can be found in the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and even Germany, and some have even spread as far as the United States and Lebanon.

So next time you’re walking around London, keep an eye out for one of your colourful friends sitting in a tree.

10. Something that would be useful at the pub
Many parrots have a hinged upper and lower beak. This means that both mandibles can move, rather than like in us humans – we only have a lower mandible that can move.

These powerful beaks are useful for opening seeds, the main diet of parrots. There are probably lots of people out on a Friday night who wish they had this ability.

They also use them for other things, like courting, feeding their young and preening themselves.
Parrots are also one of the only species of bird that moves food to its mouth using its feet. You might have seen a parrot holding a seed with its foot while its lower mandible crushes it in order to get the nutrients inside. Thankfully, humans can just take a vitamin pill.

ExoticDirect offer insurance for a wide range exotic pets, including parrots. If you own an exotic-y pet, why not find out how we can help you?

Preparing Pets for Hurricanes

Too many times we see pets abandoned during weather-related disasters and with yet another Hurricane possibly headed our way (Irma), Petplan pet insurance wants to remind responsible pet parents to be aware of these simple tips to keep their pets safe and sound.

The Basics

Before the Storm: Keep calm and prepare. Pets can sense barometric pressure changes, so ease worry by speaking in a reassuring voice and distracting pets with games, toys and natural calming remedies.

In the Thick of It: Take shelter and keep pets inside—do not let them out in your yard off-leash! Stock up on puppy pads for an indoor bathroom solution. If you evacuate, make sure your dogs have ID tags and cats are in crates.

Aftermath: Proceed with caution. Pets can become injured or ill from breathing toxic generator fumes, drinking dirty water or eating spoiled food.

Hurricane Evacuation Kit Checklist for Pets (click here for info on each item)

  • Pet carrier
  • Medication for two weeks
  • Food and water for one week
  • Two slip leashes
  • Printed and electronic copies of medical history
  • Identification and contact information
  • Take a photo of your pet before you leave your home
  • Litter, piddle pads and trash bags
  • Shampoo, brush, towels
  • Plenty of patience

No one plans on a natural disaster disrupting his or her lives. What you can prepare for is how you’ll respond when the crisis occurs. Good luck, be safe, and may we all be pet-prepared should disaster strike.