Wildlife 411: Opossums

The Virginia Beach SPCA’s Wildlife Program cares for a lot of local wildlife, including the Virginia opossum. More than 65 species of opossums exist in the world, but the Virginia opossum is the only surviving marsupial in North America and Earth’s oldest surviving mammal with fossil remains dating back over 70 million years. Despite this unique status, opossums have always had a bit of a PR problem since they were first documented by John Smith in Jamestown. With quite a few distinct characteristics, an opossum has more teeth than any land mammal on the continent (50), opposable thumbs on their hind feet, and a hairless, prehensile tail. Many people don’t like having opossums around, but opossums help out a lot more than one might think. These nocturnal introverts are very adaptable when seeking shelter and are attracted to areas where they can easily find food and water. In return, opossums rid our neighborhoods unwelcome and harmful pests that would otherwise contribute to the spread of disease. Your feelings of aversion may turn into acceptance after learning more about this misunderstood marsupial.

One major benefit to the presence of opossums is that they eat ticks. Ticks spread dangerous Lyme disease that can infect animals and humans alike, however opossums are extremely efficient in eliminating these creepy crawly parasites. In fact, a single opossum can consume between 4,000 to 5,000 ticks in a single season. Rick Ostfeld, a senior scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies who has written about Lyme disease ecology, explains that opossums essentially protect our health. “In a way, opossums are the unsung heroes in the Lyme Disease epidemic.” Opossums groom themselves like cats killing over 95% of ticks they encounter, in stark contrast to the ticks that are carried around on other wildlife contributing to the spread of Lyme disease.

Beyond eradicating ticks, opossums are valuable in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Their diet also eliminates pests like cockroaches, rats, mice, and even carrion (dead animals). Opossums also enjoy trash, which hasn’t helped their reputation; however, this nuisance behavior also encompasses the consumption of spilled garbage and overripe fruit left on the ground. So they may eat your garbage, but they also minimize it.

Far from being a nuisance, opossums are also advantageous for gardeners because they love to eat snails and prey on slugs, insects, and sometimes small rodents. And for those of you who fear snakes, the National Wildlife Federation emphasizes that having opossums around can minimize chances of encountering venomous species close to your home. Opossums actually prey on venomous snakes and are partially or totally immune to venom from the Eastern Copperhead, Northern Cottonmouth, and Timber Rattlesnake, all of which reside in Virginia.

However, despite their immunity to snake venom and prehistoric roots, these hardy neighbors have a below average survival rate. Opossums can have up to 20 babies in a litter, but fewer than half survive to adulthood. Even adult opossums have one of the shortest lifespans for mammals of their size, living only 2-4 years. Opossums are generally slow moving and cannot outrun predators. Therefore, if they cannot deter a perceived threat, opossums will resort to playing dead. Playing “possum” is actually an uncontrolled response where the opossum becomes paralyzed, saliva will foam at the mouth, and the animal will emit a foul odor. Thie paralysis can be be triggered by a moving car, which means roadways pose a constant threat. If left unharmed, the National Wildlife Federation reports that it takes about 1-4 hours for a catatonic opossum to recover.

Many people worry that seeing an opossum out in daylight means it is carrying rabies, but that is often not the case. While there have been rare cases where opossums have tested positive for rabies, their body temperature is generally too low for the virus to exist in their system. In fact, the National Opossum Society says that “Opossums are more resistant to rabies than any other mammal,” including humans. If you see an opossum in your yard, don’t be alarmed; however you should be aware of your own pets to avoid any animal confrontation. The Humane Society of the United States explains that opossums are not aggressive animals and their open-mouth, defensive hissing is merely a bluff to look vicious. Opossums are generally docile and simply want to be left alone. In the meantime, you can prevent opossum interaction by using tight fitting lids on garbage cans, not leaving food outside overnight (including pet food), and remember to pick up any fruit that has fallen from trees or any other “leftovers” in your yard.

Opossums seem to have developed the perfect alias for sanitation superheroes, quietly doing the ecosystem’s dirty work, eradicating ticks, protecting gardens, and even reducing venomous snake populations, all while being cast as a nuisance. Wherever they are, opossums are valuable assets to any habitat. However, tolerating our hidden helpers doesn’t mean inviting them over. Remember to keep your yard clear and your trash secure. Also, please have compassion for our local wildlife and avoid collisions whenever possible. If you come across an injured opossum, call the Virginia Beach SPCA Wildlife Referral Line at 757-263-4762. Even deceased opossums may have babies in their pouch that need assistance.

Compassion in the Community: December

‘Tis the season for compassion. Even if you’re not looking to adopt a new furry friend, you can support the Virginia Beach SPCA’s mission of compassion while you’re out in the community. This December, enjoy a special performance of the The Nutcracker, get a picture of your pet with Santa, or participate in a donation drive for a free treat!

Month of December – Brixx Pizza Blanket Drive
During the month of December, Brixx Pizza in Landstown Commons is collecting blankets and towels for the VBSPCA. Donate a blanket or towel and get a free pizza coupon!

Month of December – Chick-fil-A Angel Tree
Chick-fil-A on Virginia Beach Blvd will be hosting an Angel Tree benefiting the VBSPCA. You can receive a free milkshake with each donation! Peppermint chocolate-chip milkshake anyone?

Sunday, December 9th – Pictures with Santa
Santa Claus is coming to town and he’s stopping by the Virginia Beach SPCA Shelter on Sunday, December 9th to take photos with your family – dogs included. For a $5 donation you’ll receive a digital photo and printed photo. In addition to photos, shop our collection of holiday themed merchandise. We have products for both pets and pet lovers, including t-shirts, holiday themed pet toys and collars, and our new VBSPCA Holiday Cards! 100% of proceeds go back to helping animals at the VBSPCA. Last but not least, enjoy the bake sale with holiday sweets made by VBSPCA Volunteers.

Sunday, December 9th – Pupcracker
Richmond Ballet will have a special Sunday matinee performance at 2pm of The Nutcracker at Chrysler Hall, featuring special guests from the VBSPCA. Adoptable dogs will be mingling in the lobby until intermission and some furry friends will make a special appearance onstage during the show!

Home for the Holidays*
Thinking about making a new pet a part of your family this holiday season? Beginning December 9th, for every pet adopted from the Virginia Beach SPCANorfolk SPCA, and Chesapeake Animal Services, Priority Automotive will pay half of the adoption fees! ‘Tis the season to adopt a shelter pet and bring them home for the holidays.

*Home for the Holidays promotion begins December 9th and lasts until funds run out which is typically right before Christmas.

National Pet Obesity Day

Take a walk through the Virginia Beach SPCA’s Kennel and Cattery and you’re bound to find animal profiles indicating a special prescription diet. This can sometimes be concerning to potential adopters but you shouldn’t let it deter you from learning more. Prescription diets aren’t always indicative of a chronic health issue, and a specialized diet may instead offer a nutritional approach to dental care, allergies, hairball control, sensitive skin, urinary issues, and weight loss… just to name a few. By approaching your pet’s health from a nutritional standpoint, you have the chance to prevent more serious health issues from developing down the road.

One example of a very common pet health issue is obesity, and we see this frequently in our shelter pets. In a 2017 clinical survey, The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 56% of dogs and 60% of cats were classified as clinically overweight or obese by their veterinary healthcare professional, which equals an estimated 50.2 million dogs and 56.5 million cats nationwide. This is no small thing, because pet obesity can lead to serious health issues.

According to VBSPCA Medical Director, Dr. Woyma, “ Overweight pets can develop orthopedic disease, such as tears of their cruciate ligaments and arthritis, and they are also much more prone to becoming diabetic. Pet diabetes is particularly common in cats, which can lead to a lifetime of insulin injections, frequent blood work, and regular vet visits, all of which are associated with elevated medical costs. Pets who are not eating a healthy diet are also more prone to gastrointestinal disease, such as pancreatitis.” Other health issues caused by excess fat in pets include skin disorders, cancer, metabolic disorders, respiratory disorders, and kidney dysfunction.

If you think your pet has packed on a few too many pounds, make an appointment to see your veterinarian who will help you determine both the source of the issue and the right nutritional approach for your furry friend. Keep in mind that prescription food does cost more, which is a common consumer complaint; however, even though prescription food can have a higher upfront cost, it pales in comparison to the vet bills that would accompany more serious issues down the road.

The goal with a prescription diet is to improve your pet’s quality of life and keep your pet healthy and happy. Similar to human nutrition, what we put in our pet’s mouth matters and food can be used as a preventative care tool. Talk to your veterinarian and learn about how you can make better choices for the health of your pet, ensuring that you and your furry friend have many happy healthy years together.

Compassion in the Community: November

Fall has finally arrived! While you’re getting out your jackets and boots, make sure to support the Virginia Beach SPCA’s mission of compassion in the community. There are lots of ways to help the animals this November, including beer tasting, holiday shopping, fundraisers, and adoption events!

November 9th-11th: The Lemon Cabana
Get some of your holiday shopping taken care of with the selection of gifts and home decor at The Lemon Cabana. From November 9th through the 11th, 10% off sales will be donated to the Virginia Beach SPCA!

November 9th-11th: PetSmart Charities National Adoption Weekend
Both the PetSmart Luv-A-Pet Centers on Virginia Beach Boulevard and on Dam Neck house adoptable VBSPCA cats and some small animals. During their adoption weekend, some of our adoptable canine companions will be there as well on Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 2pm. Stop by and meet your new best friend!

Sunday, November 11th: Pints for Pups
Bring your best furry friend to Commonwealth Brewing Co. from 1pm to 4pm for an afternoon of craft beer, live music, and awesome eats from Bodacious Pizza, Flying Pig Malbon’s BBQ and Pittsburgh’s Best food trucks. Plus, you can save by buying your tickets in advance! Each ticket purchased includes 2 beer tickets and all proceeds benefit the VBSPCA. We will have adoptable dogs there too! Click here for more information.

Saturday, November 17th: VBSPCA’s Family Volunteer Day
On November 17th, the VBSPCA welcomes families to participate in a day of service to the animal. Sessions are available starting at 1:00 and each hour long visit includes a shelter tour and animal time. For more information or to reserve your spot, please visit our website or email: volunteer@vbspca.com Sign up today and make a difference in the lives of animal in our community! Limited spaces are available.

Thursday, November 22nd: Thanksgiving
What is the Virginia Beach SPCA thankful for? YOU. While the shelter is closed for the holiday, we want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. We are grateful for a community of compassionate people like yourselves. Thank you for all of your support.

Saturday, November 24th: Small Business Saturday
The Virginia Beach SPCA Pet Supplies and Adoption Center is hosting a special event for Small Business Saturday. Stop by our location at 983 Providence Square Shopping Center and check out our selection of humane pet products. 100% of all proceeds go right back to helping homeless animals. Plus, meet adoptable animals and take a spin on our Whisker Wheel to win some prizes!  Be prepared for unconditional love and great deals!

Tuesday, November 27th: Giving Tuesday
This November 27th, join the movement and give the gift of compassion by supporting the VBSPCA on Giving Tuesday by making a donation at www.vbspcadonations.com/givingtuesday. You can give a general donation, help cover the cost of an animal’s medical treatment, or give to specific programs like Humane Education or Wildlife. Have a difficult person to shop for? Make a donation in honor of a loved one, coworker, friend, or anyone else on your list. Find out all the ways you can give on our website.

And, as always, be sure to support the Virginia Beach SPCA by shopping at Second Chance Thrift on Shore Drive, voted the best thrift store in the state of Virginia in InsideBusiness.com. A portion of all sales at Second Chance Thrift are donated to the VBSPCA!

You can also support the Virginia Beach SPCA by shopping at Kroger. All you have to do is sign up to participate, swipe your Plus Card when you shop, and a portion of the sale will be donated back to the VBSPCA! Sign up to participate here.

The Virginia Beach SPCA is incredibly grateful for the continued support from our local community. If you are interested in hosting a fundraiser or donation drive in support of the VBSPCA, please contact Jessica Traynor at jessica.traynor@vbspca.com.

Everything You Need to Know About FIV Positive Cats

The Virginia Beach SPCA is pleased to announce that we are now adopting out FIV positive cats. While FIV is certainly a serious disease, a little extra TLC can provide these cats with a long, happy life. We’re excited for this new opportunity to help more animals find forever homes!

What is FIV?
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a lentivirus, like HIV, that affects cats around the world. Dr. Woyma, Virginia Beach SPCA’s Medical Director, explains that the virus attacks and compromises a cat’s immune system, making FIV positive cats more susceptible to infection. FIV is often confused with Feline Leukemia Virus (FelV). While Feline Leukemia can also cause immunosuppression, Feline Leukemia also leads to the development of cancers, anemia, kidney disease, with a much worse prognosis than FIV.

FIV is only contagious among cats and difficult to transmit. It is also slow-acting, so cats generally do not show any symptoms until years after being infected. The amount of time it takes for the virus to make a cat become immune compromised can vary, but once symptomatic, FIV positive cats are more vulnerable to contracting other diseases. However, with the proper care, FIV positive cats can live healthy, happy lives.

Diagnosing FIV
Since there are no obvious signs of FIV, a blood test is used to determine if a cat is FIV positive. Infected mother cats can transmit FIV antibodies to nursing kittens, which can cause kittens to test positive for a few months after birth. However, most of these kittens aren’t truly infected. The Virginia Beach SPCA recommends retesting kittens every 60 days until at least 6 months old to be sure about their FIV status. An adult cat can test positive as early as two to four weeks after exposure, but Best Friends Society reports that it can take up to eight weeks in some cases. According to the ASPCA, once a cat is determined to be FIV-positive, that cat is capable of transmitting the virus to other cats.

Transmitting FIV
First and foremost, only cats can contract FIV.  The virus is primarily transmitted through bite wounds, and it can also be spread through blood. Although any feline is susceptible, un-neutered, outdoor males have the highest risk of being infected because of their propensity to fight. FIV is not usually transmitted through mating. Dr. Woyma explains, “Unlike HIV, it [FIV] is not typically spread through sexual contact and also very rarely transmitted from a mother cat to her kittens.” FIV is also rarely transmitted through casual contact, like sharing food bowls and litter boxes, social grooming, and sneezing. The unlikelihood of transmission, however, does not mean transmission isn’t possible and pet owners should always err on the side of caution.

Preventing FIV
As a responsible pet owner, it is always important to prevent exposure to FIV. The best way to prevent your cat from contracting the virus is to keep your cat indoors and never let your cat roam free outside. Indoor cats have the lowest risk of contracting the virus. In addition, if your cat is going to be spending any time around other felines, make sure all cats have tested negative for FIV. The Virginia Beach SPCA tests every cat for FIV and recommends to know the FIV status of any recently adopted cat prior to entering your home.

Please take note that although a FIV vaccine exists, the Virginia Beach SPCA and the overwhelming majority of veterinarians do not recommend it.  In fact, the Virginia Beach SPCA does not carry the FIV vaccine at all. The vaccine has been proven to be ineffective. Additionally, your cat will always test positive after the vaccine is administered despite the vaccine’s inability to protect your cat from the virus. No test can differentiate whether a positive result is from the vaccine or from the virus, and the Best Friends Society cautions that in some areas, if a cat escapes and is picked up by local animal control, the cat may be euthanized if positive for FIV.

Caring for an FIV positive cat
As aforementioned above, it is extremely important to keep an FIV positive cat indoors. This not only decreases their exposure to secondary diseases, it also prevents them from spreading the disease to the rest of the feline population. Having your cat spayed or neutered is another important consideration in preventing the spread of disease, since altered animals are less likely to fight.

It’s also very important to feed your cat an appropriate, well balanced diet. For example, raw diets are becoming a very “trendy” thing to do for your pets- however these have the potential to contain bacterial, parasitic, or other forms of disease to which an FIV positive cat would be susceptible. Dr. Woyma also recommends that FIV positive cats have a wellness visit with their veterinarian every six months, and they should also have wellness bloodwork done routinely to monitor for any changes or early signs of disease. It is  important for pet owners to monitor their FIV positive cat very closely for any signs of disease and get any signs or symptoms addressed as soon as possible.

There is no direct treatment for FIV. Therefore, focus is on extending the asymptomatic period and easing the secondary effects of the virus.The average lifespan for an FIV positive cat is lower than average, however FIV positive cats can still live a great life! The ASPCA agrees that infected cats receiving supportive medical care and kept in a stress-free, indoor environment can live relatively comfortable lives for months to years before the disease reaches a chronic stage. Cats with FIV can have a great quality of life for a very long time.

Interested in adopting a FIV positive cat?
Someone who wants to adopt an FIV positive cat from the Virginia Beach SPCA will receive special counseling to make sure they are well informed about the care that FIV positive cats need as well as the potential complications for their cat. As with any of our cat adoptions, we do require that the cat be kept strictly indoors. In addition, we will not adopt an FIV positive to into a home with any cats that are negative for FIV. Of course, we are happy to adopt out a pair of FIV positive cats or kittens together if someone is looking to add two feline family members!

Compassion in the Community | August 2018

Despite the back-to-school and Halloween displays you may see in stores, summer’s not over yet! You can support the Virginia Beach SPCA’s mission of compassion by participating in fundraisers, art exhibits, and even in our 17th annual Puttin’ for Paws Golf Tournament, all happening this month. We hope to see you there!

Now until August 19th: MOCA Compassion Exhibition
Virginia MOCA partnered with the Virginia Beach SPCA for the theme of their Open (C)all 2018 exhibition: Compassion. View artwork inspired by compassion and made by local artists of all ages on display until August 19th. A Closing Celebration will take place on Sunday, August 19 from 1pm-4pm, including a reception with refreshments and hands-on art activities for all ages. If you haven’t done so yet, stop by!

Wednesday, August 1st through Saturday, August 25th: Chick-fil-A Change Canister Drive
In honor of National Dog Day on August 26th, Chick-fil-A on Virginia Beach Blvd is having a Change Canister Drive for the VBSPCA starting August 1st through August 25th. The Virginia Beach SPCA will even be there with a dog or two on Saturday, August 25th from 11pm to 2pm.

August 11th-18th: Clear the Shelters
Once again, the Virginia Beach SPCA and other local shelters are participating with Wavy TV 10 in the nationwide adoption event, Clear the Shelters. The Virginia Beach SPCA will be offering a special discount of $25 off adoptions for dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens starting August 11th!

August 11th-18th: Clear the Shelves
Can’t adopt?  No problem! The Virginia Beach SPCA will also be hosting Clear the Shelves at the VBSPCA Pet Supplies and Adoption Center during the same time as Clear the Shelters. Receive a free gift with $20 purchase as well as greatly reduced prices on select pet products! On Saturday, August 18th, the VBSPCA Pet Supplies and Adoption Center will host a special Clear the Shelves Finale Event from 10am-2pm. Guests can take advantage of our adoption and retail specials as well as win prizes on the Whisker Wheel!

Friday, August 17th: Puttin’ for Paws
Grab your friends and hit the links at Greenbrier Country Club on August 17th for a day of fun at our annual golf tournament, Puttin’ for Paws. This tournament features great raffles, hole-in-one prizes, a delicious dinner, and awards for our top players. And, of course meet and greet time with adoptable animals! Register now for our 17th annual Puttin’ for Paws Golf Tournament at www.vbspca.com/golf.

Next Month: Sunday, September 2nd – American Music Festival
The Virginia Beach SPCA will be joining you to enjoy some great music at the American Music Festival on Sunday, September 2nd. Stop by and say hello!

In addition to the May events, you can always support the VBSPCA by shopping at Kroger. All you have to do is sign up to participate, swipe your Plus Card when you shop, and a portion of the sale will be donated back to the VBSPCA! Sign up to participate here.

And, as always, be sure to support the VBSPCA by shopping at Second Chance Thrift on Shore Drive. Second Chance Thrift was recently featured on InsideBusiness.com as the best thrift store in the state of Virginia!  They are big supporters of the the VBSPCA, and a portion of all sales are donated to the shelter.

The VBSPCA is incredibly grateful for the continued support from our local community. If you are interested in hosting a fundraiser or donation drive in support of the VBSPCA, please contact Sarah Parrish at sarah.parrish@vbspca.com.

What Rabbits Really Eat

Rabbits have a very complex digestive system, and making sure your rabbit is eating a proper diet is very important to your rabbit’s wellbeing. In fact, improper eating habits are closely associated with the most dangerous and common health problems in rabbits. Rabbit.org explains that rabbits, like many animals, naturally gravitate towards high calorie foods that are high in sugar or starch. Foods high in starch and sugars create a change in the pH of the cecum and eventually results in dangerous GI disease. A healthy diet consists of a variety of grass hay (80%), fresh vegetables (10%-15%), and good quality food pellets (5%-10%), all of which need to be given in proper proportions. Anything besides that should be considered a treat and given in limited quantities. Clean, fresh water needs to be available at all times, which can be dispensed in either a bottle or ceramic bowl depending on your rabbit’s preference.

Hay (80%)
The most important component of your rabbit’s diet is grass hay, rich in Vitamin A and D as well as calcium, protein and other nutrients. A diet of 80% hay can also act as preventative health care for your rabbit, promoting healthy teeth and a healthy digestive tract. Rabbits’ teeth continually grow approximately 12 centimeters a year, even their back ones. Overgrown teeth can cause many issues including eye problems, but the side-to-side motion from eating hay naturally grinds teeth from getting too long. Hay is also essential to a rabbit’s health by providing roughage which reduces the danger of hairballs. Despite regular grooming, rabbits lack the ability to cough up hairballs. Rabbits need to constantly snack on hay throughout the day to keep things moving inside and help prevent blockages which can often be fatal. Apple tree twigs also provide good roughage but should be given as a treat and not a main food source.

You want to provide your rabbit with grass hay such as Timothy, Orchard, or Brome, and be sure to avoid legume hay like alfalfa or clover for adult rabbits. Alfalfa is like rabbit candy and contains too many calories, can cause bladder stones, and put a strain on the kidneys for an adult. However, young rabbits (under a year old) need additional energy and nutrients and should get alfalfa mixed in with their hay.

Offer your rabbit fresh hay every day, multiple times a day. Rabbit.org also recommends varying the type of grass hay or mixing grass hays together. A diversity of hay provides rabbits to small changes in smell and texture, resulting in good, consistent eaters. Different rabbits can like different kinds of hay, be sure to take notice of your own rabbit’s preferences. Bagged hay is readily available at pet stores; however, you will go through a lot of hay in just a day or two. A more affordable option is to go to your local farm feed store and purchase a bale of horse hay (not straw) and store it upright in a large trash can. This will last a long time and save you money in the long run. Hay will last up to a year without losing any significant amount of nutrition as long as it is kept dry and out of the sun. Wet hay will mold which is bad news for your bunny and sunlight decreases the nutritional value.

Pellet Food (5%-10%)
There are many brands and types of feed for rabbits, but the best brand for your rabbit is Oxbow, formulated with the proper vitamins and minerals for your new friend. High quality pellets are a minimum of 18% fiber and less than 2% fat. Look for food that is comprised of plain green pellets and avoid any added colorful pieces. These foods are intended to attract the human buyer, but unfortunately the added pieces are not in the best interest of your rabbit’s health. Food that includes nuts, seeds, or other “treats” and colorful pieces or that use the term “gourmet” are usually very rich and high in fat which can cause serious health issues for your rabbit and should be avoided. Variety in your rabbits diet should be provided by fresh vegetables and not extra ingredients in pellet food.

Besides high quality pellets, make sure not to overfeed your rabbit. Rabbits can easily become overweight if not fed the proper amount, which also leads to many health problems. For an adult rabbit, it is best to feed ¼ to ½ cup of feed per day. Rabbits under a year should be offered more since they are growing, but be sure they are eating a young rabbit formula rich in nutrients. You also do not want to buy a large amount of pellet food at once. Unlike hay, pellets will become spoiled after about 6 weeks.

Fresh Vegetables and Fruit (10%-15%)
Along with pellets and hay, your rabbit needs fresh vegetables and fruit daily. Fresh foods are an important part of your rabbit’s diet and they provide additional nutrients as well as different textures and tastes, which are enriching for your friend as well. Fresh foods are also more hydrating, which is good for kidney and bladder function. If you collect wild foods such as dandelion greens, make sure they are from a pesticide-free area and never give your rabbit grass cut by a lawnmower because chopped grass will ferment. Also try to purchase organic produce if possible, but regardless of the source, Rabbit.org advises that all fresh foods should be washed or scrubbed (as is the case with hard vegetables) before being given to your rabbit.

Suggested daily amount of fresh food is 2 cups per 4-6 Ibs of your rabbit’s body weight. Introduce one new food every three days and keep a watch on the stools. Even root vegetables and fruits with high levels of sugars and starch could become a problem if fed in excess, and should only be fed as a very small part of the diet. Foods that are notorious for causing GI problems for rabbits are grains of any kind, legumes (beans, peas, etc), nuts and seeds, popcorn, garlic, potatoes, rhubarb, chocolate and other “human treats.” Also avoid foods in the onion family such as leeks, chives and onions because eating these foods could cause blood abnormalities. Watch your rabbit for weight loss, soft stool, or any other signs of trouble and consult your veterinarian immediately if there are problems. It’s also a good idea to find a vet familiar with rabbits and have regular checkups, which can also help prevent obesity.

Leafy Greens
Feed your rabbit at least 3 types of leafy greens a day, and mix it up by rotating between different greens your rabbit will enjoy. Rabbits have a higher risk of calcium problems, so give your rabbit smaller amounts of high calcium greens. Reference the list below to help distinguish between low calcium and high calcium greens. Never feed your rabbit iceberg lettuce.

Low Calcium Greens (pick 2 out of 3)

High Calcium Greens (pick 1 out of 3)

Non-Leafy Vegetables (A recommended daily amount to feed your rabbit is about 1 tablespoon per 2 lbs of body weight).

Fruits
Fruits can also be fed in small amounts and make great training treats! Feeding treats by hand is also a great way to develop a close bond with your bunny. Rabbit.org recommends feeding about 1 teaspoon of fruit per 2 lbs of body weight per day. Remember to feed your rabbit a lesser amount of dried fruits which are about 3 times as concentrated as fresh fruit. Usually it is more nutritious to leave the skin on the fruit. However, remove the skin if you are concerned about chemicals.

For more information on treats and enrichment, check out our article: How to Keep Your Bunny Fun(ny).

Wildlife 411: Coyotes

While coyotes may not be brand new to Hampton Roads, sightings have become more frequent in the past few years. Meghan Conti, a supervisor with Virginia Beach Animal Control, told the Virginian Pilot, “We get calls about sightings from all over.” In 2017, animal control in Hampton had 50 calls for suspected coyotes, compared to 17 calls the year before. People have also reported coyotes around Buckroe Beach, Newport News, Williamsburg, York County, Fort Story, the Virginia Beach boardwalk, and First Landing State Park. Erik Molleen, resource specialist at First Landing State Park, told the Virginian Pilot that coyote sightings have increased in the last seven or eight years, but he’s never heard of coyotes being aggressive to people.

What exactly are coyotes?
Coyotes are in the same family as wolves, dogs, foxes, and jackals. They are about as big as medium sized dogs, with narrow snouts, bushy tails, and thick fur. Thought of as a carnivore, coyotes are actually omnivores and highly opportunistic feeders. While the majority of their diet consists of small mammals, coyotes have also been known to eat fish, frogs, insects, fruit, berries, nuts, and even garbage. Coyotes can also feed on deer (usually fawns), and they sometimes feed on livestock. Coyotes are very smart creatures, hence the moniker “wily,”  and they have a heightened sense of hearing, smell and sight.

Should you be concerned about coyotes?
There are no reported altercations between a coyote and a human, likely because coyotes typically avoid human interaction. According to Mike Fies, a wildlife biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Only a small percentage of coyotes are dangerous, and when aggression does occur, it’s usually triggered by the presence of a dog the coyote views as competition in its territory.” “The biggest problem they cause in my experience has just been, well, call it hysteria,” Todd Engelmeyer, biologist with the VDGIF said to the Daily Press. “Occasionally, a coyote causes more real problems — attacking a domestic pet or raiding vegetable gardens, but even that is a very rare event,” he said.

A concern voiced by local residents is a fear that a coyote seen in daylight is an indication of rabies. The VDGIF points out that this is likely not the case. Nocturnal animals like foxes, raccoons, opossums, and coyotes can be active during the day, especially during breeding and mating seasons. March through July is pup-rearing season for coyotes, which can account for daytime activity. Pup-rearing season could also contribute to an appearance of coyote hostility, especially if coyotes are protecting their young from an apparent threat. However, coyotes can carry rabies, as well as distemper, parvo virus, and mange, so keep an eye on your pets whenever they are outside and make sure all vaccines are up to date.

Coexisting with Coyotes
Coyotes are local wildlife and they are here to stay, and the best thing we can do is learn to live with them. The VGDIF cautions that, “the best way to prevent them from becoming a problem is to not give them a reason to come.” Don’t leave food outside, keep your trash secure, do not leave pet(s) unattended, and make sure to keep your cat(s) inside. More tips can be found here: Tips from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. For additional information,  Gloucester County offers tips to protect livestock, which can be found here: Tips to protect Livestock.

Experts also caution that learning to live with coyotes does not mean befriending or feeding them. Coyotes are still wild animals, regardless of where they take up residence. If you happen to see a coyote, please call the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. If the coyote appears sick or injured, contact your local animal control.

10 Reasons to Spay or Neuter your Pet

1. Your female pet will live a longer, healthier life.
Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast cancer, which is fatal in about 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats. Spaying your pet before her first heat offers the best protection from these diseases.

2. Neutering provides major health benefits for your male.
Besides preventing unwanted litters, neutering your male companion prevents testicular cancer, if done before six months of age.

3. Your spayed female won’t go into heat.
While cycles can vary, female felines usually go into heat four to five days every three weeks during breeding season. In an effort to advertise for mates, they’ll yowl and urinate more frequently—sometimes all over the house!

4. Your male dog won’t want to roam away from home.
An intact male will do just about anything to find a mate! That includes digging his way under the fence and making like Houdini to escape from the house. And once he’s free to roam, he risks injury in traffic and fights with other males.

5. Your neutered male will be much better behaved.
Neutered cats and dogs focus their attention on their human families. On the other hand, unneutered dogs and cats may mark their territory by spraying strong-smelling urine all over the house. Many aggression problems can be avoided by early neutering.

6. Spaying or neutering will NOT make your pet fat.
Don’t use that old excuse! Lack of exercise and overfeeding will cause your pet to pack on the extra pounds—not neutering. Your pet will remain fit and trim as long as you continue to provide exercise and monitor food intake.

7. It is highly cost-effective.
The cost of your pet’s spay/neuter surgery is a lot less than the cost of having and caring for a litter. It also beats the cost of treatment when your un-neutered tom escapes and gets into fights with the neighborhood stray!

8. Spaying and neutering your pet is good for the community.
Stray animals pose a real problem in many parts of the country. They can prey on wildlife, cause car accidents, damage the local fauna and frighten children. Spaying and neutering packs a powerful punch in reducing the number of animals on the streets.

9. Your pet doesn’t need to have a litter for your children to learn about the miracle of birth.
Letting your pet produce offspring you have no intention of keeping is not a good lesson for your children—especially when so many unwanted animals end up in shelters. There are tons of books and videos available to teach your children about birth in a more responsible way.

10. Spaying and neutering helps fight pet overpopulation.
Every year, millions of cats and dogs of all ages and breeds are euthanized or suffer as strays. These high numbers are the result of unplanned litters that could have been prevented by spaying or neutering.

DIY Pet Toys

In honor of National Craft for Your Local Shelters Day, here are some Do it Yourself Pet Toys that you can make at home and donate to your local shelter. These DIY toys use recycled materials, so you’ll be helping out homeless animals AND the environment, doubling up on your good karma while getting crafty at home.

Crinkle Sock Toy for Dogs
Downloadable PDF with pictures and instructions available here.

You’ll Need:

  • Small plastic water bottle (no top) – make sure the plastic bottle is clean and void of any sharp points.
  • Orphan sock
  • Treats (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Place treats inside water bottle.
  2. Place water bottle inside sock, with the top of the bottle facing outward.
  3. Tie a tight knot at the top of the sock (cap end of the bottle). If needed, use scissors and make strips to tie a tighter knot.

Your dog will love the crinkle! Plus, it’s easy to replace with a new bottle or sock when needed. (You can also swap in fresh treats if you included treats in the bottle.)

No Sew Fleece Toy for Cats
Downloadable PDF with pictures and instructions available here.

You’ll Need:

  • Inexpensive cotton string (18 inches or so)
  • A scrap of fleece (approximately 2 inches wide and at least a foot long)
  • Scissors
  • Catnip (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Cut your fleece scrap so it’s about 2 inches wide. It can be as long as you’d like but it needs to be at least a foot long. The cut doesn’t need to be perfect.
  2. Fold the scrap in half lengthwise.
  3. All the way down the length of the folded fleece, make little cuts about two-thirds of the way across and about half an inch apart. Be sure not to cut all the way to the fold.
  4. Unfold the fleece and tightly roll it up.  If using dried catnip, sprinkle the catnip down the center before rolling it up.
  5. Tie the end of the string around the middle of the roll.  We recommend using a double knot.
  6. Pull down on the layers of cut edges on each side to make a ball-shape.
  7. Play with your cat!

Foraging Game for Bunnies
Downloadable PDF with pictures and instructions available here.

You’ll Need:

  • Several toilet paper rolls
  • An empty tissue box
  • Scissors

Instructions:

  1. Cut off the top of the tissue box so the height of the box is a little shorter than a toilet paper roll standing on end.  Be sure to remove any leftover plastic from inside the box.
  2. After removing any excess paper from the toilet paper rolls, stuff the toilet paper rolls  into the box lengthwise. Use enough so all of the rolls fit snugly in the box and won’t immediately fall out.
  3. Set the box on it’s side and make a fun foraging game by filling the cylinders with hay or rabbit-safe treats!

You can also make a digging box for your rabbit by filling a cardboard box halfway with soil (if outside) or shredded paper.