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Ball Pythons

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“Snakes are just very instinctive to me. I’ve been playing with snakes since before I could walk. It doesn’t matter where or what it is, from the biggest to the most venomous.”– Steve Irwin

The snake is a complicated figure in our modern world, for many there is a deep seeded fear that is often encouraged by various factors, including but not excluding too: religion, culture and personal experience.

Psychologists and scientists are doing new research in the fields of phobias, and they found something remarkable. That many humans have evolved with an innate sense of fear. Studies have found that among children and adults they could detect images of snakes among non-threatening objects more quickly than they could point out the non-threatening images; like a flower.

People who haven’t even seen a snake in their lives are also capable of having this deep seeded fear. Many speculate that it’s a genetic trait past down through the generations as a survival mechanism–let’s face it not all snakes are cuddly like our Percilla! And not all snakes are non-venomous either.

The purpose of THIS blog post is for two reasons:

1) To educate people specifically about ball pythons, because we always hear complaints about ball pythons or snakes in general are dangerous.( not true )

2) For those perhaps looking to purchase a ball python, what you’ll need and what you should know.

It’s important to understand that reptiles, as a whole, don’t have the same mentality as a dog, or a cat or even a bird. As the quote starting this blog post suggests is that snakes (and reptiles as a whole) are instinctual creatures.

So what exactly is a ball python?

A ball python, is a type of python found in Africa. It is the smallest of the python species in Africa and by far are the most popular pet snakes around due to their docile natures.

Adults rarely grow longer than four feet, though there are cases where they grow to five to six feet, and on average can live up to twenty years or more, the oldest recorded age of a ball python in captivity was 48 years.

Ball pythons are the most popular snake species because of their mild temperament, easy care and also for their manageable size. Four or five feet might seem big, but wait until you actually see one up close, we often get asked: “Is that really four feet?”

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They get the name, “ball python”, for their tendency as a defence mechanism to curl themselves into a tight “ball”. This also enables them to fit into small nooks and crannies and preserve space by curling tightly unto itself.

Typically ball pythons reach sexual maturity at the age of 3-5 years.

Due to their popularity they come in a variety of different morphs and colour patterns. Typically the rarer the morph, the more expensive the snake is.

Though not terribly active, they will often seek out a water source during times of shedding, they enjoy to curl themselves in the dish of water and moist their scales. As such they should be given a decent size water dish for them to do so, you could also gently mist your snake once a day or so.

Adult ball pythons, at a minimum, should be given a terrarium of at least 30 gallons. They are escape artists, so make sure you purchase a terrarium where the lids are securely fitted, can are easily be snapped on, or locked shut.

For substrate (the thing that lines the bottom of your tank) it’s all a matter of debate, you can use a reptile carpet which is easy to maintain and clean, we highly recommend aspen shavings, as they are safe for the animal and they come in a variety of sizes and colours which will help personalize your terrarium and bring out the subtler colours of your snake.

Heating and lighting are important as well. It’s important to have a basking light, we recommend an infrared basking spot light, such as the ones made from Exo Terra, as not only do you provide sufficient heat, you also encourage a normally nocturnal animal out of it’s hide giving you the chance to see the animal when you normally wouldn’t. Many like to add heat pads, and you may wish to do so in larger terrarium set-ups, as long as the temperature is 80-85F (no lower than 75F) there should be no need for a heat pad. We recommend having a thermometer to help keep track of the temperature inside the enclosure.

Mentioned above, ball pythons enjoy small quarters, it’s important that they be given a proper hide and shading (such as appropriate artificial plants and leaves) to sleep, relax and get away from heated areas.

Feeding ball pythons should be done outside of their enclosure, as you risk the animal becoming cage aggressive. They are more opt to strike, and in some cases you won’t be feed the animal all the time.

A good rule of thumb is to have another container to feed the snake in, that way it can’t slip away unnoticed, and that the food should already be presented before the snake arrives.

Whether frozen or live, the choice in yours. If frozen it’s important to thaw them first, it’s not good for an animal to eat a block of ice. You also start to lose nutritional factors with frozen kill as opposed to live. If live feed, we suggest doing fresh kill, as live prey can (and often do) defend themselves, and if your snake makes a wrong calculation, that mice or rat won’t hesitate to take a chunk out of your little friend. This can lead to a traumatic experience for your pet, leaving it hesitant and unwilling to eat.

Before and after feeding your pet it’s important to wash your hands thoroughly as to eliminate the scent trails of a prey animal. This is one of many reasons as to why people are often bit by their snakes.

The other thing you should be aware, and not to panic over, is that many ball pythons enjoy to fast from time to time. Suddenly that snake that was eating two rats a week, will no longer eat. Sometimes it’s for a week or two, and sometimes it’s months. This is common in all snakes, not just ball pythons. This is natural and should be expected. Don’t panic.

During these fasts it’s important to offer water on a daily basis, and to once a week try to feed the snake. If doesn’t eat, it doesn’t it. No harm done. You can always store that rat in the freezer for next week. Ball pythons can fast up to 6 months to a year. So it’s important to have good heating, water and a hide and shaded areas for the snake during these times.

The important thing to look for is a drastic drop in weight, sneezing, vent problems and watery nasal. These are typical signs that your animal is sick and should see a veterinarian. Typically during these fasts the snake will be in consistent fine body condition. After six months of fasting and it continues to deny food, it’s always best to go see your vet and have it a check over to see if the body condition is still in working condition. Other than that, expect the fasts and don’t panic. Continually offer water daily and food once a week, and eventually your little guy (or gall) food strike will be over and will eat once again.

We’ve talked about how to take care of a ball python, let’s talk about why they make such good pets in the first place, and why many hobbyists recommend them as first time snake pets.

Did we mention that their docile? Though a private and secretive species, as pets ball pythons rarely ever bite. Though it’s important to understand that anything that has a mouth can bite. Compared to some of the similar types of snakes that reach to similar lengths, they are by far one of the most manageable and easy to care for snakes.

Due to their lack of biting and even tempered heads, they make good pets for children over the age of 7, like any animal (whether it be hamster, rat, dog or cat) it’s always important to monitor a child’s interactions with the animal, to properly educate and to properly instruct how to handle an animal problem.

Good tips are no quick movements, and no touching the face. Though many ball pythons enjoy their heads been scratch on and under, not all ball pythons are inviting.

Do to their docile natures many people have no fear or aversion to keeping their animals around their necks, and taking them for walks. They are also curious animals, and after the animals gets to know you, they are interesting animals as they often seek your time and affection.

Easy to maintain, care and handle, the ball python is one snake that doesn’t deserve the fear and stigma commonly attached. They are truly one snake that will captivate your heart.

Black Eyed Leucistic Ball Python

Black Eyed Leucistic Ball Python

Emperor Pin Ball Python

Emperor Pin Ball Python

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Rabbits

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rabbit

You’ll be my favorite creature
And here’s the reason why:
Your eyes are bright, your feet are swift
Your ears hear round the bend
But your very simple humbleness
Will steal the heart of men.
Together we shall thwart the pains
The gods do throw to earth
And turn aside their fiery darts
With merriment and mirth.
And when time comes that men forget
The lessons animals render
T’will be the humble rabbit
That mankind will remember.–S.J. Tucker, “Rabbit’s Song”

Rabbits have been increasingly popular pets, not only are they cute and fuzzy, they are also quite intelligent able to learn a number of tricks and even (to the delight of parents) learn how to be potty-trained.

Rabbits make great pets for a variety of home situations. Whether you have time on your hands or are a busy bee, Rabbits are more than capable of entertaining themselves while retaining their tameness and docile natures. However, it’s important that your Rabbit is able to interact with all members of the family on a frequent regular basis.

Though people often think that rabbits are content little animals put into small cages, it’s important to understand that these are active little guys and it’s important to have a relatively large cage for them to interact in, as well as sometime outside of their cage. It’s important to have a close supervision while a rabbit is roaming and playing outside of the cage else you might find it chewing your wires, your furniture and your walls!

Rabbits are also smarter than people realize, they are more than capable to learn tricks (such as sit or play dead) as well as certain behaviours that will benefit you as well–such as potty training.

Properly introduced rabbits can also make wonderful pet pals with other animals in the home, including dogs and cats.

Being a prey animal rabbits are often timid animals, quick to run at loud noises and sudden movements, it’s important to train your children (if you happen to have any) how to approach and handle rabbits appropriately and respectfully. Rabbits are loving and cuddly pets (though there are exceptions) and with their gentle natures and brain of theirs they will often come and play with members of the family voluntary. Some are even eager to play, standing on their hind legs.

Let’s talk about diet. It’s important get a good high value diet specifically geared for rabbits, you should be looking for a higher fibre content–for example Living World Extrusion. However, you should also be giving your rabbits hay (such as Timothy Hay), it is one of the most important factors in a rabbit’s diet. It’s full of fibre, which is instrumental to keeping that gut in good working condition.

Though not technically a “food” source, appropriate chew toys and treats (such as yogurt drops) are wonderful sources of entertainment, cutting down the teeth that continuously grow and provide a good balance of vitamins to a rabbit’s diet.

Of course there are various fruits and veggies that you can feed your rabbit as well to help balance and maintain a good diet. Stay away from potatoes, avocado, cabbage and onions (there are just some foods they can’t eat). Good foods you can give are dandelion (be careful of pesticides and insecticides), radishes, carrots, apples (no core or seeds), strawberries, raspberries, plums, celery and pears.

Playing with your rabbit can be one of the most rewarding experiences, not only are they quick to pick up concepts, they are quite engaging. Once you’ve gained their trust they are more than happy to interact. Capable of learning their names, like dogs many come when they are called, loved to be petted and played with, but thankfully like cats rabbits can also entertain themselves and take care of themselves. They are good pets for both the busy and not so busy household.

Rabbits, however, if playing outside should be carefully watched–not only are there predators on land and sky, but they are also quite susceptible to heat and are quicker to get heat stroke than we are. They should be given fresh, clean and cool water on hot days, and if you find the heat hard to deal with imagine how your rabbit is feeling.

There are countless species of rabbits, the most common are your lion heads, dwarves and regulars. There are also dutch, angora, rex, mini rex, silver marten and much, much more. Each equally making great pets.

These humble animals will be quick to win your hearts and affection, they are one pet that is quickly over looked, but perhaps shouldn’t be. They are simply wonderful pets to own, with their easy maintenance, ease of learning tricks and behaviors and their affectionate natures.

Who said bunnies were small?

Who said bunnies were small?

lion head

You Don’t Sell Dogs? Than You Aren’t a Pet Store!

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“Oh… You don’t sell dogs? What kind of pet store are you!?”

Believe it or not we get this question at least once a week, and people are always surprised when we say: actually no, we don’t sell dogs here. How by not selling dogs we aren’t a pet store, is beyond us. Many pet stores don’t even sell PETS anymore.

Their reactions are always the same, some or less vocal about it, but for some it’s hard to hide their disappointment (which sometimes turn to anger: “WHAT KIND OF PET STORE ARE YOU!?”). People often forget that things are fluid, things change, and in some cities it is required by law to only sell rescued dogs.

The main staple reason as to why we, The Urban Zoo, do not sell dogs is quite simple: KIJIJI.

A wonderful and free advertising website has given the ability to people to promote their animals for sale, and when it comes to dogs in particular, effectively ruins our market. Though we are more than capable by law to sell dogs in our store the truth is KIJIJI has simply granted anyone the ability to advertise and sell whatever they want.

There is also a stigma attached to pet stores, especially with dogs, that these animals come from inhuman living conditions, such as puppy mills. Which, quite frankly, is less frequent today than it was twenty years ago. Though puppy mills do still exist today, and it’s a tragedy, just because a pet store is selling a cat, or a dog or even a bird, doesn’t necessarily mean that these animals come from such places. Unfortunately, that is the popular stigma and misinformation people have when we did sell dogs or cats–that we were selling animals from mills or similar conditions.

Many of our animals come from local breeders and our community (such as our cats), but many of our animals as well are also bred and hand raised by us (specifically our birds). The odd animal we can’t get in through our community or ourselves, come from reputable breeders, companies and organizations.

Yet, people still hold this stigma. Making it difficult to sell dogs.

We’re also not as big as we were in the old store, we don’t have the room to effectively manage and care for dogs properly. Puppies require time, effort, training, veterinary check ups and space. Unfortunately, at this time, we don’t have a facility equipped to take care of dogs effectively and efficiently–though we have in the past taken dogs that have been dropped off on our door step and raise them back to health in our store, but that’s a whole other topic for a later date.

These people that drop off these dogs at our doorstep are the same people who are selling them on KIJIJI most of the time. We’re not saying all KIJIJI members who sell dogs are like this, far from it, many are local breeders and people who want to find their animals the right home… but what happens to those animals that AREN’T sold? Sometimes people do cruel things, like leaving them on our doorstep only for us to find these animals in a box the next morning.

So when people ask us: Why don’t you sell dogs?

We tell them it’s for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is KIJIJI, we can’t compete with prices like those–unfortunately people also don’t realize that those cheap dogs also don’t come with the many benefits that we provide for our own (like shots, flea treatment, deworming etc.). KIJIJI has effectively ruined our market for dogs, but unfortunately not everyone can understand that.

There are those underlying problems and threats as well, it hasn’t been the first time where we’ve got phone calls from the SPCA or similar groups asking about the puppies we’ve had sold–you know the ones that have been dropped on our doorstep? Luckily, for us we know the members of these groups, we can show our paperwork, run them through our routine when things like this happen. Phone calls like that, however, can really slow us down, give us a bad reputation and stop us from doing the good work we do.

So whether it be KIJIJI ruining or market, or misinformation and a lack of education on bystanders who come into the store when we do happen to have puppies, it’s simply a hassle worth avoiding altogether.

To best places to get a puppy or dog is the SPCA. Not only do have so many animals (not just dogs folks) running around our streets our shelters are struggling to maintain and keep these animals alive due to overcapacity–which leads to euthanization of these animals that are struggling to find a home.

People looking for dogs should seriously consider the SPCA and adoption programs they have at your disposal. Who knows, you just might find what you’re looking for.

Indian Ringneck Parakeets

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Green indian ring-necked parakeet

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Ten years ago you probably wouldn’t have seen these birds on the market nearly as much as you do today. They are by far one of the fastest growing medium sized parrots in popularity due to their high intelligences and their remarkable abilities to speak. Not only do they possess unique and wonderful abilities to entertain and captivate us, they also have a variety of mutational colours–from whites, blues, yellows to exotic colors like browns, reds and purples.

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In India and Pakistan it’s not that uncommon to see the remarkable birds performing–with their intelligence they are quick to pick up tricks and routines that other similar birds tend to struggle with. It isn’t uncommon to see the birds ridding suitably formed bicycles, running along rope upside down and even playing basketball.

Their intelligence paired with their vocal skills have made this particular species of parakeet by far the most popular of its species. They also happen to be sexual dimorphic (except in a few mutations such as albino), meaning you are quite able to tell the males and females apart. Generally speaking females have a vague ring around their necks that is sometimes hard to spot, but the males often have a beautiful black ring around their neck that turns into a moustache. Lutino males (yellow feathered mutation) often have a soft pink ring that goes around their neck into a moustache.

They make wonderful and loyal pets. This parakeet species is by far the most misunderstood, and one only needs to look at their history to understand why. It’s best to have a hand raised and reared bird as they tend not to be as flighty.

Though they are quite capable of entertaining themselves on a regular basis this doesn’t give an owner the excuse to ignore and neglect their bird. It’s understandable to be hurt and even put off by the behavior of a bird that seems like it wants nothing to do with you, but the truth is Indian Ringnecks are careful observers. It takes them awhile to gain trust, but once you have it it’s almost unshakable. Sometimes the process is fast, and in others can take a very long time (just ask Darla and John! Nikki has taken almost a year to fully get comfortable with people, and even now she’s still flighty, and John once had an Indian Ringneck and he can attest to the time and effort it takes to train them!).

These birds also require a bit of time, especially in the beginning, we recommend at least 1-3 hours a day with this particular bird species. Eventually that standoffish nature that put you off will gradually reshape itself into curiosity and enthusiasm with everything you do. You’ll find them actively seeking your attention, time and affection.

In general Indian Ringnecks, unlike other birds, have steady personalities. Far to many owners get rid of these beautiful birds when the Bluffing stager (or puberty) gets to much… not knowing that AFTER the bluffing phase that once aggressive bird settles down, becomes stable and steady. After the bluffing phase the Indian Ringneck often goes an aggressive bird to the bird people want.

One that is tame, one that is obedient and one with remarkable skills. If you are able to preserver, remain patient and consistent with this bird you will reap many rewards and all that time and affectionate given will be rewarded tenfold.

They tend to pick favourites and prefer quieter households, but they are quite adaptive able to fit any household situation. They are also quite quiet, they don’t shriek nearly as much as some other bird species, making them suitable for apartment dwellers as well. One thing that should also be noted is that they aren’t particularly cuddly, but they are more than happy to express their affections in other ways that are quite unique. Such as running up to, leaning forward, and saying “Muah! Kisses!” Indian Ringnecks make excellent pets for the right home. They have stable personalities and can cope with minimal attention during busy times (does not mean they are content alone and as mentioned above ), and are great companions.

Due to their curious natures they are also avid learners, they love nothing more than learning new concepts, ideas, tricks, sounds, words etc. It’s important to keep these birds stimulated with a variety of toys in and outside of their cage. Due to their long tail feathers (as all parakeets have) it’s also important to have an appropriate sized cage to be able to support it’s tail (height is more important that length at this point).

Due to their stable personalities they are wonderful to interact with, they aren’t nearly as quick to bite and aren’t easily frustrated. They bond incredibly strong bonds with the members of the household, even if they choose a favourite. Making each and every relationship unique and special in it’s own way. Though this kind of bond can cause problems to outsiders, as they tend to chase away, bite and lunge at what (or who) they perceive as being an intruder. For those people they don’t like, luckily they are more opt to stay away from that person altogether.

Overall, this particular parrot can be a challenge at times (pushing your patience to the limits at times) this doesn’t detour from the fact that they make wonderful and excellent companion birds. With their intelligence, clear vocal skills and their strong forging bonds they can easily become one of the most memorable and best pet one could ever have.

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