During a recent visit to Lollypop Farm, I adopted a 2-month-old hamster, who I named Dorothea. She lives in a large aquarium with carefresh bedding made from all-natural cellulose fiber and natural wood from sustainable sources. Dorothea has a hamster house, tunnel, exercise wheel, water bottle and hamster food mixture with no artificial preservatives, colors or flavors — supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables.
What Dorothea doesn’t have is a companion hamster. If her habitat can be likened to a hamster version of the Garden of Eden, Dorothea is an Eve without an Adam. For obvious reasons, there will be no hamster Adam in her life. And when housed with other hamsters of the same gender, hamsters often become aggressive.
But Dorothea has a hamster friend who is always with her. I placed a mirror facing her exercise wheel. During the several hours a day Dorothea runs in her wheel (I wish I had that kind of energy), she always sees her friend running with her. I doubt she can figure out she is her own best friend. I also doubt Dorothea realizes the scenic nature pictures taped to her glass habitat are just pictures of — and not actual — hills, lakes and forests.
Avoid softwood bedding, particularly cedar and pine, for small animals. These beddings cause respiratory, liver and skin diseases in animals. Corncob bedding is non-toxic; however, animals sometimes choke on the pieces. Besides carefresh, safer beddings include aspen, pressed paper pellets, alfalfa, grain byproducts, straw or recycled newspaper printed with soy ink. Regular print can be harmful.
Avoid pet foods with artificial colors or chemical preservatives, because they are suspected carcinogens and may trigger allergies.
Imagine having the first joints of all your fingers and toes removed, and that will give you some idea of the pain and trauma cats experience when they are declawed.
There are humane alternatives to declawing cats. When the cat is relaxed, gently press on the toes until the claws extend. Use a pair of animal nail trimmers and carefully cut only the tip of the nail. The nail “hook” is what tears up upholstery, so when it is removed, damage is greatly reduced. Or ask your veterinarian to trim your cat’s nails. Provide cats with scratching posts. You can also purchase soft vinyl nail caps to put on the cat’s trimmed nails. These allow cats to scratch naturally without harming anything or anybody else.
If cats roam outdoors, they can be hit by cars, poisoned by lawn chemicals or other toxic substances, attacked by parasites or by predators. Dogs, too, belong inside our homes except when exercised outdoors under our supervision. Don’t tether or pen them outdoors for lengthy time periods.
A Canandaigua city ordinance, in addition to requiring dogs tethered outdoors to always have access to food, water and shelter, further stipulates a dog may be tethered or otherwise confined outdoors for no longer than eight hours in any 24-hour period. Similar ordinances should be enacted and enforced in every community.
If dogs are kept outdoors, state law requires adequate dog sheltering. The law specifically requires that the shelter have a waterproof roof; be structurally sound with insulation appropriate to local climatic conditions and sufficient to protect the dog from inclement weather; be constructed to allow each dog adequate freedom of movement to make normal postural adjustments, including the ability to stand up, turn around and lie down with limbs outstretched; and allow for effective removal of feces, other waste materials, dirt and trash.
Sadly, however, this law has been laxly enforced throughout our state. But even with more effective and humane law enforcement, the life of a dog isolated outdoors is an unhappy life. Dogs deserve a place in our hearts and inside our home.
Don’t let companion animals breed. Ask your local humane society about low-cost spay/neuter programs.
Please adopt, don’t shop for, animals. When you buy a dog at a pet store or an internet puppy site, you may be supporting cruel puppy mills. Three dog breeding facilities in the Finger Lakes, two in Dundee, one in Stanley, are included in the May 2019 “Horrible Hundred” report (accessible online) by the Humane Society of the United States on some of America’s worst puppy mills.
Books have been written about proper companion animal care. This essay certainly covers only a few areas of concern. Just keep in mind the need to apply Jesus’ message “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” to our relationships with other sentient beings. And when we provide animals with a safe, comfortable and loving home, we enrich our own lives, too.
Joel Freedman, of Canandaigua, is a frequent Messenger Post contributor.