About the Author: Jenna is a graduate student at the University of Florida. Currently she is studying Wildlife Ecology and Conservation while working in south Florida to manage invasive animals. Jenna primarily works with the Argentine Black and White Tegu and other invasive lizards.
The Common Agama, Rainbow Lizard
The Common Agama is native to Africa and can comfortably occupy urban, suburban, rural and undeveloped habitats. In Africa they occur in desert, dune, savanna, forest, rainforest, and mountainous areas. This lizard is yet another non-native species that can be found in southern Florida. They occur in Dade, Charlotte, Broward, and Seminole counties; likely posing threat to native insect and small vertebrates. There are several subspecies of agamas, and Florid has a mixture of West African subspecies and East African subspecies. The West African subspecies have bright orange-red heads that fades to a blue-indigo body, and end with a lighter blue-white tail tipped with black. They can reach up to 12 inches in length and are a diurnal species which can be seen moving around during the daytime.
The diet of these lizards consists of mostly grasshoppers, ants, beetles (James and Porter 1979), flowers, grasses, and discarded human food (e.g., candy, bread, cake, carrot pieces (Romer 1953, Chapman and Chapman 1964, Harris 1964, Cloudsley-Thompson 1981). Adults have also been known to eat their own young. They display behaviors similar to that of Bearded Dragons – the adults will perform head nods, head bobs or push-ups, and basking. The head nods and head bobs are commonly used as challenge displays between males, or to entice females who are wearing their reproductive colors. Basking is common in the morning between 10 AM and noon, with the dominant males holding the best basking position, followed by the sub-males, and then females.
Female agamas will lay two clutches of eggs each breeding season, usually between the months of June through September. The sex of the eggs is determined by the temperature of the soil, with males being produced in warmer temperatures than females. In Florida the lizards are established and have been breeding for at least ten years in Charlotte and Dade county, and for less than ten years in Broward, Seminole, and Martin counties; there is also a population in Monroe county which has not yet been reported as breeding.
Links and papers:
Chapman, B. M,. and R. F. Chapman. 1964. Observations on the biology of the lizard Agama agama in Ghana. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 143:121-132.
Clodusley-Thompson, J. L. 1981. Bionomics of the rainbow lizard Agama agama (L.) in eastern Nigeria during the dry season. Journal of Arid Environments 4:235-245.
Harris, V. A. 1964. The life of the rainbow lizard. Hutchinson Tropical Monographs. 174pp.
James, F. C, and W. P. Porter. 1979. Behavior-microclimate relationships in the African rainbow lizard, Agama agama. Copeia 1979:585-593.
Romer, J. D. 1953. Reptiles and amphibians collected in the Port Harcourt area of Nigeria. Copeia 1953:121-123.
Here at Ferrets and Friends, we have been hard at work training our two newest ferret recruits how to get along with people. Pabu and Abu have just turned seven months old. At this age, young ferrets are gaining more impulse control so they become easier to train. It's important to remember that ferrets tend to play rough so it is part of their nature to be rough with their human friends. Ferrets can be gentle and affectionate pets, but it is our responsibility to teach them how to best communicate with us. We have put together some of our top tips to help with the communication process.
Reduce Opportunities to Learn Bad Behaviors
Like most young mammals, young ferrets have a tendency to explore the world with their mouth. New objects are sampled with their teeth. In their excitement, they will nip at stuffed animals, pillows, furniture, electrical chords, shoes, and even their human caretakers. Their mouth-first approach at life will lesson as they get older and many ferrets naturally grow out of their nippy phase. However, if they discover that a nip at an ankle will produce of fun game of tag with their human companion, then that's something they will not outgrow. To minimize bad behaviors, keep unsocialized ferrets away your face, neck, and elbows. Wear long pants and use whatever foot coverings are the least interesting to your ferret (some may chewing socks, while other find endless entertainment in shoes). Gradually expose your ferret to other interactions at times when your ferret has the best chance of success. For example, towards the end of play time when your ferret is most calm, you may snuggle your ferret near your face or allow your ferret to sniff your feet. These interactions should be brief and followed up with positive reinforcement when your ferret shows calm non-biting behavior.
Look for Good Behaviors and Reward Them
Communication is a two way street. As much as we would like to simply tell our ferrets "don't bite me!", we also have to pay attention to their interests and desires. Ferrets tend to be very quiet pets so it is easy to miss some of their cues for our attention. If your ferret is biting your feet in order to get your attention, chances are that you have already missed several other cues that they have tried which caused them to resort to biting. To avoid problem behavior, look for the behavior that you want to see and respond to that behavior. If your ferret walks over to you and looks up at you, acknowledge their presence and offer your attention. If your ferret appears to be in a playful mood, encourage your ferret to play with toys instead of nipping your hands. Reward good behaviors before they figure out that bad behaviors work better. If your ferret has already developed a biting habit, you can reduce this habit by gradually working backwards towards more acceptable behavior. For example, you can teach your ferret to move from biting to lighter nipping, to licking, and eventually to just sniffing. This is done by rewarding the more tolerable behavior and putting a ferret in a time out for the more severe behavior. As your ferret learns, you continue to move the bar closer to the type of interaction that you want to have with your ferret. This technique has worked well for us with more anxious ferrets. If you have a nippy ferret who gets punished every time they bite you, your ferret may interpret these punishments as you not wanting to interact with them. By rewarding your ferret for more tolerable (but not ideal) behaviors, this teaches your ferret what direction to move towards rather than confusion about your interactions.
Find What Works Best for Your Ferret
Every ferret is different. For some ferrets, scruffing their neck and a soft hiss easily communicates that a nip was unwanted. Others may get more excited and bite harder! Time outs can be effective deterrents for some ferrets, while others may take the opportunity for a nap. It is equally important to find what motivates your ferret. Some may be motivated by treats, while others enjoy a shoulder scratch, or a chance to play with their favorite toy. Each ferret has an individual personality and has different things that motivate them. It is also important to look at the context of a biting behavior. Ferrets that bite while being held may be trying to communicate that they would like to be put down. Some ferrets may bite when they hear high pitch sounds (such as squeaky toys) or smell certain chemicals. These distress bites should be recognized and appropriate changes should be made to their environment (getting rid of squeaky toys or not wearing strong smelling cologne when handling your ferret). Ferrets are quick learners so if you do not see improvement within a week or two of working with your ferret, try a different tactic. For best results, make sure at least one part of your training involves positive reinforcement.
Horses love to run and play in cold weather to keep warm!
Horses have been domesticated for over 6,000 yrs and bred for a large variety of purposes. Originally used for food and transportation, the horse is now used for many sports, games and competitions as well as still finding their place as a work animal in some cultures.
A mare's gestation period is around 11 months, after which a foal should stay with their mother for 5-6 months. Most male horses (colts) are gelded around 18 months of age, while females called fillies are generally left intact. The age at which a colt is gelded is often based on their temperament, as leaving a quiet and non-studish colt intact until they begin work under saddle can improve strength and muscle tone.
In the wild horses exhibit short bursts of activity followed by long periods of quiet grazing, socializing and gentle playfulness. Socializing is an important part of the herd dynamic, and can be fascinating to watch! Although often thought of as high spirited and with lots of presence, the horse is a prey animal who often communicates silently though body language. It is important to understand your horses language to keep yourself safe together, as well as to establish a healthy bond with your horse!
Whether as a companion or a sporting partner, a minimum of two acres of turnout area per horse is necessary. Any turnout area needs to have a shelter that the horses can access at will with three walls and a roof. A 12ft x 18 ft run in shed is adequate for 2-3 average sized horses if they get along quite well.
Horses need a mainly forage diet. Forage includes grass, hay, and beet pulp which may be added to high quality feed as a supplemental form of forage. Horses can be fed as much forage as they will eat, with care being given to limit the sugar intake from hays such as alfalfa. Supplemental cereal grains may be added up to 1/2 lb of grain per 100 lbs of horse.
As a social and herd animal, horses should be kept on the same property as other equines. Kept alone, a horse will develop depression and/or anxiety greatly dampening their quality of life and even their life span. They get along well with not just other horses but also ponies, donkeys and mules. Some highly anxious horses and those who can't be kept with other horses for special reasons (such as a stallion) even enjoy having a goat as a companion who can join them in the field, stall and away from home at competitions!
Animal Care Costs per Month
While keeping a companion horse at your own farm with ample grass will save a lot on board and extra hay, a horse in training or at a boarding facility will require a lot more to keep healthy and happy! A young or green (inexperienced) horse, or any horse who is being used for competition will need professional training either continually or as a tune up from time to time. Since riding is a sport in which your equine team mate can't verbally talk to you, it is recommended to always take lessons in riding and horsemanship no matter what your experience level. Even Olympic Dressage riders still take lessons from one another!
Horses require a high level of skill and knowledge to care for and shouldn't be taken on lightly. They can be very costly and have a longer life span than many other pets. Intelligent and social, horses form a strong bond with their herd mates including their human and thrive on routine and consistency. Many if not most behavioral problems leading to dangerous behavior can develop from the misunderstanding of equine language and the separation caused by buying, selling, and moving horses from farm to farm. A happy horse has the same owner for most or all of their life, with a stable long term herd at home. With appropriate time, research and work put in a horse can be a sport and adventure partner and companion like no other!
Iguanas have become one of the most common invasive reptile seen in southern Florida. You can find them in trees, crossing streets, eating the flowers in your garden... Two of the more well known species of iguanas in Florida are pictured below - the Black Spinytail Iguana (Photo by Jeff Whitlock, 2013) and the Green Iguana (Photo by Save the Prairie Society, August 3, 2017).
Black Spinytail Iguana (Ctenosaura similis)
This species is native to southern Mexico, and was first noticed in Florida in 1978. Currently it has established its self breeding populations in Dade, Lee, and Charlotte counties in Florida. Adult males of this species can reach four feet in length, and females remain smaller. These lizzards are primarily terrestrial species, and are extremely wary of humans. When they feel threatened these iguana will retreat to their burrows for safety, however they are able to climb quite well if they are unable to safely reach their burrow (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).
The habitats that this iguana is able to exploit are very broad. They can be found living on coastal uplands, in exotic plant communities, low density suburban developments, agricultural fields, and areas surrounding core urban areas and small towns. Over the years this species has spread across south Florida. First thought to be established in Lee county (1980), then Collier county (1998), and finally Broward county (2002); this species was introduced due to released or escaped animals intended for the pet trade.
The distribution of Black Spinytail Iguanas in Florida, 10 February 2018.
Green Iguana (Iguana iguana)
The Green Iguana is a large lizard that is also nonnative to Florida. This species, like the Black Spinytail Iguana, was introduced through the pet trade as well. The Green iguana lives terrestrially, and can be seen on the ground and in shrubs and trees all over suburban developments, urban areas, small towns, and agricultural areas. They are excellent swimmers, can tolerate fresh and salt waters, and can remain under water for up to four hours at a time. Male Green iguanas can grow over five feet in length and weigh just under 20 lbs, while females usually do not exceed 7 lbs at full maturity.
Originating in Central America to the tropics of South America and some eastern Carribbean islands, the Green iguana was first reported in Florida in the 1960s in Hialeah, Coral Gables, and Key Biscayne. Now the popualtions spread along the Atlantic coast in Broward, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach Counties; along with the Gulf Coast in Collier and Lee counties.
Distribution of the Green Iguana in Florida (EDDMAPS, 10 February 2018)
Status in Their Native Ranges
Although the Green Iguana has not been formally assessed in its native range, both it and the Black Spinytail Iguana are listed as being of least concern where they originate from. This means that they are exhibiting characteristics of a healthy population that is reproductively active and not exposed to any threats which may cause them to become threatened, endangered, or extinct.
Diet and Impacts
The diet of the iguanas includes a wide variety of vegetation. They are known to eat shoots, leaves, blossoms, and fruits of plants including nickerbean, hibiscuses, garden greens, jasmine, orchids, roses, Washington fan palms, squashes, and melons. They also occasionally feed on bird eggs, carrion, insects, and tree snails.
Due to their diet, iguanas pose a threat of damage to residential and commercial landscape vegetation and are considered a nuisance animal by property owners. They are most attracted to trees with fruit and flowers, with the exception of citrus. The dig burrows, which can erode and collapse sidewalks, foundations, sea walls, berms, and canal banks. They pose a threat to native and endangered species of tree snails, as well as have the potential to spread diseases and infectious bacterium Salmonella to other reptiles and to humans through water contact or surfaces contaminated with feces.
Iguanas can be legally removed year round with land owner permission. They are not protected by any laws except for the anti-cruelty laws. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) encourages the removal of Green iguanas on private land by landowners, and captured iguanas can be kept as personal pets or humanely euthanized. The iguanas cannot, however, be relocated and released at other locations.
In order to deter iguanas from your own property you can alter the habitat around our home ot humanely harass the animals until they leave. Some effective methods are: removing plants that act as attractants; filling in holes to discourage burrowing; putting wind chimes or other items in the yard to make intermittent noises; hanging CDs or other reflective material outside; and spraying the animals with water.
Iguanas in the Florida Keys
Dealing with Iguanas
Iguana Assistance for Homeowners
Domesticated rabbits come in a huge variety of colors and sizes, from netherland dwarf (at 2-5 lbs) to the Flemish Giant (at 30 lbs or more). It’s a common misconception that rabbits stay small as some breeds of rabbits can reach lengths of up to four feet long.
Rabbits should stay with their mother for the first eight weeks. By four months of age, it is recommended that they are taken to a knowledgeable veterinarian to be spayed or neutered in order to prevent reproduction related cancers.
Rabbits tend to be most active at dawn and dusk. Their favorite activities include digging, jumping, and napping (as many as 18 naps per day!). Most rabbits enjoy exploring their environment and require mental and social enrichment to prevent boredom. Cardboard boxes with plastic eggs that are filled with food or treats encourage your rabbit’s natural foraging behavior. Happy rabbits will often jump into the air and twist the back half of their bodies (this is known as a “Binky”) while one that is comfortable in their surroundings will flop onto their sides and show their bellies. Some may even roll over.
There are many ways to house your rabbit but it is recommended that their space is at least 4-6 times the size of their body when they are entirely stretched out. More space should be provided if they will be confined for most of the day. An example of one space guideline is “at least 8 square feet of enclosure space combined with at least at least 24 square feet of exercise space, for 1-2 rabbits, in which the rabbit or pair can run and play at least 5 hours per day.” You can build your rabbit a two-story “condo” with the floors connected by a ramp, commonly called an C&C cage. You can also buy a hutch or set up an xpen which allows you to fit the sides of your rabbit's house to almost any space you have available. One of the most important things about setting up an enclosure is to have a sold, non wired, floor. When a rabbit stands on a wired floor for too long it will cause deformities in their feet.
A rabbit’s diet should be made up of good quality pellets, fresh hay (timothy or other grass hays), water and, fresh vegetables. Anything beyond that is a “treat” and should be given in limited quantities. Good quality rabbit pellets should be relatively high in fiber (18% minimum fiber) and the main ingredient should be timothy hay. The majority of the house rabbit diet should be composed of grass hay (about 75-80%), fresh greens (15%), good pellets (10%), and treats/fresh fruit (less than 5%). A more in depth break down on rabbit diet can be found here (https://rabbit.org/what-to-feed-your-rabbit/)
Bunnies are very social creatures. It is often recommended that you have two rabbits in what is called a bonded pair. Having a pair can prevent depression which may cause them to neglect grooming and develop other health issues. You can often adopt a pair that are already bonded and some rabbit rescues offer bonding classes that help to bond your rabbit with a new bond mate.
Rabbits are susceptible to a variety of health problems if they do not receive proper care. A common health issue is overgrown teeth which may require grinding by a healthcare professional. As rodents, their teeth continuously grow and this growth is normally managed by their diet and chewing behavior. Rabbits can also develop sore hocks, causing areas of the feet to lose their hair and the skin to look red or inflamed. To prevent this, owners should ensure that they have plenty of soft surfaces such as carpets or fleece in order to lessen the amount of hard surfaces they stand on. Other common health issues are fleas/mites, gas (as they can not expel gas on their own it may become a serious and life threatening health issue), stasis (this very serious condition is life threatening if not treated within 12-24 hours), and upper respiratory infections.
Overall, rabbit can be social and affectionate pets for owners who are willing to put in the time and energy to meet their care needs. Owners should be prepared to do their research as there are many misconceptions about rabbit ownership in regard to their diet, health, and other needs.
Animal Care Costs (2018 Prices): Set Up
Animal Care Costs (2018 prices): Annual Maintenance
As I write this, I’ve got a little green Frog sitting on my shoulder. Not just any little Frog though- this is a Froggie Bird. A Froggie bird that, a year ago today, would never have dreamed of perching on the shoulder of a human. (We are, quite obviously, Bird-Eating-Monsters you know.) But here we are, exactly one year later, quite bonded, and on much better terms.
January is Adopt a Rescue Bird Month, and January 29th, 2017, I brought home my first rescue bird. After learning that this unidentified little green parrot was in need of a home, I went to a shelter in Baltimore County to meet it. The poor bird, who came in with the name “Topsy”, had come to the shelter with a friendly little green cheek conure, who quickly found a home. So alone, adrift from its previous life, this bird cowered in the corner of its cage. Two days before, its wings had been clipped rather roughly, removing any ability to fly with confidence. I could tell it was terrified. The shelter, as wonderful as those places are, was not familiar with birds. When I opened the cage door and stepped away, I saw visible relief from the bird, that hands were not coming to grab it. When I asked to hold it, they told me no- if the bird bit me, it would be “unadoptable”- we all know what that means. Bye-bye birdie. So, having never physically interacted with this somewhat bedraggled creature, I signed the papers to bring it home.
Oh boy. What I got was a screaming, terrified mess. Hands were a BIG no-no. But, I signed up to love and care for you kiddo, and that’s what I’m gonna do. Below is my first picture of Froggie. She looks a little rough.
Rescue birds, like any other rescued animal, require lots of extra patience. Froggie would scream, in her/his (we find out next month!) angry squeaky toy voice, for stretches of time that did not seem to ever end. When frightened, when hungry, when needing attention...screams. It takes some time to change screaming behavior. Patience. The first thing I knew I had to do, to accomplish anything with this bird, was to establish trust. I have no idea of this bird’s background. Whether it came from a loving home, its age, how it was treated...nothing. All I could do was reassure the bird that its future, with me, was going to be a good one.
The key, I’ve found, was lots of research. There are numerous websites with lots of information on acclimating a bird to a new home (this blog will be expanding on it at later dates), training or applied behavioral analysis (fancy training terms!), and information specific to your type of bird. Ideally, you want to do the research first. Find out what treats your bird might like, safety hazards (such as Teflon and cleaning products), proper cage size, appropriate toys, dietary and sleep needs, and general behavior. I found Facebook groups very helpful for information and feedback.
So I sat, and I talked to Froggie. I sat far enough away so as to not cause distress, and moved closer as her comfort level grew. I offered treats often, speaking to her gently, to build in her mind an association between me and good things happening to her. I cannot stress enough the importance of choice for birds- letting them decide to move closer, and letting them determine the pace. Her cage was and always will be, her safe place. I did not violate that by sticking my hand in it to get her out. She comes out on her terms. I asked nothing of Froggie, not a single “step up”, until she gained some confidence in her safety and our relationship. Eventually, she would accept a treat from me. Hurray for progress! However, she still lunged for any hand that came near...that was gonna take awhile. And take a while it did. But we made baby steps, compromises. She eventually grew comfortable enough to step up onto my arm, hand hidden inside a long sleeve. No skin, thank you very much! From there, she graduated to shoulder.
After some time, I was able to get Froggie to step up onto my bare hand, as long as she was not on her cage when I asked. She’s still very territorial of it, as some birds are. I respect that boundary, and invite her to a perch or another cage before asking her to step up. Building that trust was imperative, because we had to have it to push her past her comfort zone. Once she trusted me, I was able to slowly start to desensitize her to hands being in her space. It’s important to do this at their pace, where the bird is maybe a little beyond comfort, but not stressed out. Once she realized that lunging at my fingers wasn’t going to make me pull away, she stopped doing it as much (she still tries to boss me when she thinks she can get away with it).
Nowadays, Froggie is my velcro bird. If her cage door is open, she wants to be on my shoulder. (That’s the best place to help eat mom’s breakfast from!) She’s still not a big fan of hands, but as you can see, I can now give scritches!
So, as an overview, please realize that all birds are individuals. The process of acclimating a new bird to your home could take days, weeks, months, years even. Research. Establish trust. Have patience…lots of patience. Let your bird determine the pace. Do some more research. Associate yourself with positive experiences for the bird. Talk to other bird owners, your vet, and your support network. Give the bird time to adjust and adapt. Birds are incredibly resilient, strong, intelligent creatures. By giving a rescue bird a home, and the time, attention, respect, and love it needs, you are giving them a second chance at life. And boy, do they deserve it. The tiny steps of progress you make will feel huge, when they show that tiny bit of trust. There’s no other feeling like it in the world.
It is thought that Milk Snakes received their name because farmers often found them in barns. While they were not after the cow's milk, they might have been searching for mice and other small prey items.
Milk snakes are an excellent example of Batesian mimicry as their striking color pattern resembles that of the venomous coral snake. Batesian mimicry was named for Henry Walter Bates who completed his work on butterflies in Brazil. While these buttterflies were harmless, they tricked predators by mimicking color patterns of more dangerous species.
The Pueblan Milk Snake is a smaller species of snake that can be found in certain regions of Mexico. They are crepuscular, meaning that they are most active at dawn and dusk. They prefer small hiding spaces and have a reputation for being easily scared (compared to the more common corn snake in the pet trade). These snakes do not tend to bite. Their preferred defense is musking, which involves releasing a smelly liquid from their cloaca.
Pueblan Milks Snakes are a good snake for beginners as they do not have complicated humidity requirements, nor do they require much space. Adult snakes will be about the same girth as an adult corn snake, but may be significantly shorter in length. Like most snakes, they are escape artists so an enclosure with a locking mechanism is recommended.
In the wild, most Pueblan Milk Snakes have red, white, and black bands of color. In the pet trade, other color mutations have been selected through breeding. A common coloration includes apricot or orange coloring on what would normally be the white bands.
It is important to provide appropriate sized meals for your milk snake on a regular basis. A general rule of thumb is using prey that is 1.5 times the girth of the snake at its thickest point. Here at Ferrets and Friends, we feed our adult snake, Natasha, one adult mouse every two weeks.
Milks snakes can live for more than twenty years. They are a long term commitment that many people do not consider when they purchase them. Finding a new home for an unwanted pet can be challenging, but it is important not to release them into the wild for their own safety and the health of the ecosystem. Instead, find a reptile rescue in your area or ask friends and family if they know of any one who might be interested in finding a new home for your pet.
Animal Care Cost Example (2018 Prices): Set Up
Animal Care Cost Example (2018 Prices): Annual Cost
The spectacled caiman got its name from the bony ridge between its eyes which give it the appearance of wearing a pair of glasses. These caiman can grow up to approximately nine feet in length, with females being of smaller size than males. They have a stout snout, and a triangular ridge of skin atop each eye which give the appearance of a type of 'eye brow'. Mature individuals are olive-green with faint black spots and banding on their tails, this coloration is usually more distinct in younger individuals. Its coloration overall is quite variable, with some individuals having different coloration, sizes, and skull shape - these features have led to distinction between three subspecies of spectacled caiman.
Range and Biology:
This species is widely distributed compared to other crocodilians. The spectacled caiman and its subspecies can be found in Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia, Bolivia, and Ecuador - it has also been introduced as a nonnative species in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Florida, USA. Theses animals thrive in all lowland wetland and riverine habitats, preferring bodies of still water like lakes, ponds, and marshes. They are also tolerant to moderate salinity.
The caiman is highly adapted for water life. It is a superb swimmer and aquatic predator. The adult caiman feed on fish, amphibians, reptiles, and water foul - particularly large individuals have also been know to take on mammals including deer and pigs! In dry conditions when food sources are scare this species is also known to cannibalize smaller individuals.
The spectacled caiman was first sighted in Florida in 1960, and span across two counties in the state. It poses threat to a variety of native vertebrates and competes for food and space with the native American alligators. They are presumed to have been released or escaped from the pet trade, and can be found in Broward and Dade counties throughout marshes, lakes, ponds, and canals. These crocodilian are susceptible to colder weather, which has confined them from moving further north. There have been efforts to remove the caiman populations, and in 2001 a nest of 41 eggs was found and collected, and 39 of those eggs hatched in captivity. Since 1970 there have been no reports of breeding, however the populations are still present.
Ferrets and parrots have many traits in common. They are both highly intelligent, social animals and are great pets for people who are not able to have cats and dogs (whether by allergies or living situations). It is understandable that many people who would be interested in owning a ferret might also have an interest in parrots or vice versa.
A preliminary search on the internet may tell you that letting both of these species in your household could be ill-advised. Ferrets are well documented to have injured or killed pet parrots to the horror of their owners. Ferrets are members of the weasel family and, like their wild relatives, they are incredibly skilled predators. With only 2,500 years of domestication, their predatory drive and instincts have not been dulled to the same degree as dogs and cats. Although they make sweet and loving pets to their human companions, there are many considerations and precautions necessary for those who would like to own ferrets and other "prey" type animal companions.
Our Feathered Friends
Many people may focus on the issues surrounding the mammalian part of this multi-species household equation, but it is also important to consider the parrot's health and behavior. Smaller parrots may recognize ferrets as potential predators which could cause them to become stressed at the sight of them. Other parrots may interpret ferrets as a curiosity or a nuisance. Parrots will become stressed if they feel trapped and unable to escape the view of potential predators. Parrots also tend to defend their territory, food, and favorite people which may cause them to try to attack the ferret instead of retreating from it (which would arguably be the safer option for the bird). Parrots with clipped wings not only lack the ability to fly away from a threat, but will be more likely to act aggressively towards an animal that causes them fear. Parrots that act in a fearful manner (screaming, fluttering the wings, flying, or trying to bite) will appear more interesting a ferret and are more likely to trigger the ferret's predatory reflexes. This does not mean that a calm parrot is safe around ferrets.
Parrots have fragile bodies when compared to ferrets. Even if it appears that your ferret and parrot want to play together, this should not be allowed under any circumstances. Even strong parrot beaks can be punctured by ferret teeth. There is also concern about gram negative bacteria (which ferrets, cats, and people carry) that can be harmful for parrots. Many owners show caution about sharing drinks with their parrot as some of this bacteria can be found in saliva. Parrots should not be allowed to sample ferret food as ferret food will be very high in protein and this can cause health problems for your parrot. While birds do not tend to have strong olfactory systems, parrots are one group that are found to have some sense of smell. While this plays a role in helping them locate food, it is unknown to what it extent they might use it to avoid predators. It is possible that ferrets' infamous odor may bother your feathered friend, but using certain types of air fresheners could be hazardous to your parrot's health. For ferret owners considering adding a parrot to their home, they should consider what methods they use for odor control as these may need to changed with the addition of a feathered friend.
Our Ferret Friends
While the risk of injury or death may be lower for your ferret, there are other ways that parrot ownership may impact your ferret's life. As obligate carnivores, most of what your parrot eats will be incompatible with your ferret's diet. Parrots have a tendency to share their food by flinging it everywhere. Especially harmful are fruits that are high in sugar. Food that falls to the floor and is consumed by ferrets may cause diarrhea. If it is routinely consumed, it may contribute to the develop of other illnesses.
Parrots also tend to be quite vocal and most of their vocalizations are within a ferret's hearing range (even some sounds that we can't hear!). Some of these vocalizations can be distressing to your ferret in the same way that they become distressed upon hearing a squeaky toy. There is debate whether this is due to a trigger of their predatory drive or if the sound mimics the cries of baby kits or injured ferrets. Neither of these interpretations are good in a home with parrots. For our ferrets, we keep a white noise machine running in their room so that they are not distressed by our flocks' communication throughout the day.
Finally, ferrets have an exceptional sense of smell. Some individuals may have a high predatory drive and could become frustrated if they frequently smell the presence of a prey animal and are unable to access it. However, most ferrets can become accustomed to the smell and largely ignore the presence of parrots in the home.
Ramona (ferret) was able to climb to the top of Missy's cage when a cat scratching post was left within ferret-jumping distance from the lower portion of the cage. Thankfully she made it with all her toes intact! Ramona was only discovered when Missy continued to show agitation about her unwelcome visitor.
If you decide to share your home with both of these animals, we recommend that you plan for at least three barriers between them when they are not supervised. For example, the ferrets might be kept in a cage in a room with the door closed, while the parrot resides in its cage in another part of your living space. A parrot's cage is not ferret-proof. These cages were designed to contain your bird, not to keep ferrets out. Many bird cages do not have locking mechanisms for the small doors that allow access to food and water bowls. Trays that slide out at the bottom of the cage often have very little to keep a determined ferret from wiggling their way in. Bar spacing that is larger then three quarters of inch is more than enough space for a some ferrets to squeeze through. Anywhere a ferret's skull can fit, they can fit. Even some doors designed for people have enough room for a ferret to slide under!
If your parrot's cage has bar spacing of one inch or greater, we would advise having at least four barriers since the parrot's cage cannot be considered an effective barrier. Add extra locks to cage doors and trays. We find that using a pellet type cage lining at the bottom of our parrot cages makes the trays too heavy for the ferrets to push. Alligator clips work well to secure the smaller doors for our smaller parrots. Cages for larger parrots tend to have locking mechanisms on all the doors as larger species of parrots are often smart enough and strong enough to figure out how to open their own doors. If these precautions seem extreme, keep in mind that the only thing keeping your ferret from hurting your feathered friend is time and access.
Once you have done everything to make sure there are sufficient barriers in place, it is time to figure out a schedule for your pets. If your parrot's cage is in any area that your ferret can access during their play time, you may want to temporarily find another play area for your ferrets while your parrot adjusts to its new home. If your parrot is the established family member, you may want to slowly expose your ferret to its presence as it will likely be excited and overstimulated by the new environment. You will want to figure out a schedule in which there is adequate supervision whenever the number of barriers are reduced. If your household has other adults or children, it is extra important to communicate about when each animal will have its social time.
After some time, you might gradually reduce number of barriers during supervised out-of-cage time. If your ferret has access to your parrot's cage and seems to ignore your parrot, please do not assume that your ferret is not interested in your bird. Your ferret may have been desensitized to the smell and sounds of the parrot, but it does not mean that your ferret is not interested in your bird. Ferrets are extremely near sighted and so it's unlikely that they can see and recognize your parrot while it's in its cage. Being able to see the parrot is guaranteed to renew interest in your bird and can trigger their predatory response. Ferrets can move very quickly and it only takes a second for your ferret to potentially injure your bird.
Introductions between these species should only be attempted by professionals or those who are highly experienced with both animals. Please do not attempt this "just to see what will happen" as it has very high risk for both your ferret and your bird. Videos in which ferrets and parrots are seen calmly interacting or co-existing are likely created after a long process of behavior modification and training. Even with this training, the predatory instinct of a ferret can never be completely extinguished.
If you would like to see cute interactions between these species, please enjoy the work of professionals and prioritize the safety of the animals in your own home!
South American Horned Frog generally refers to one of two species of frog, the Ornate Horned Frog and Cranwell’s Horned Frog. Ornate Horned Frog tends to be the slightly larger species. Females are generally larger than males. Once they are full grown, males have nuptial pads on the inside of their hands and males will tend to be more vocal. In their native environment, the local people refer to them as “ezcuerzos” which means “toad” in Spanish. These burrowing amphibians are actually frogs, not toads, as they have teeth that are connected to their jaw. True toads do not have teeth. It is not uncommon for these frogs to break skin if they bite a person.
When the ground is dry and/or food is scarce, South American Horned frogs will develop a tough outer skin, like a cocoon to keep themselves from drying out. Once they are rehydrated, they will shed and eat this protective layer. This process is known as estivation.
South American Horned Frogs are popular as pets due to their simple care requirements. A 10 gallon tank is large enough to keep one individual. Multiple frogs should not be housed together as they may cause injury to each other. Some frogs may appreciate a shallow water dish, but they do not require one as they absorb moisture through their skin from the substrate. They do require areas to hide such as a log or a fake plant. Live plants that are not toxic can also be used in the enclosure with the understanding that the frog may occasionally dig up the plant as they love to burrow in the substrate.
Frogs do not require additional heating or UVB lighting as long as the enclosure is in an area that is room temperature. UVB lighting should not be used with albino frogs as this may cause blindness. Most frogs have a voracious appetite so feeding should be scaled back if they begin appearing too plump. Smaller frogs will require smaller prey items.
At Ferrets and Friends, LLC our South American Horned Frogs are fed two to three times per week. Our larger frog eats about five large sized crickets each week while our younger frog eats about three medium sized crickets. These crickets are dusted with a calcium with D3 supplement.
Animal Care Cost Example (2017 prices): Set up
Animal Care Cost Example (2017 prices): Annual Cost
About the blog
Ferrets and Friends, LLC has four writers bringing you information on a variety of topics from pets to wildlife, education to conservation, and from new developments in our business to information about our industry. Learn something new each week!