Pet Questions

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Q I’ve kept budgies for four years now, but recently I came home to find the male budgie dead in the aviary. I think the hen is missing him and I’d like to get another male budgie, but I’m worried they will fight and I only have one cage so couldn’t keep them separately at first. What would you advise?

A Budgies are social birds and can get lonely if kept on their own. They have an average life span of 5-10 years, so if your hen is quite old it may be kindest to provide her with plenty of human company but not get a new budgie. This is because she may not tolerate the change very well, and if she also sadly passed away, this would then leave another budgie without a companion. However, if she is likely to have plenty of years ahead, she would probably appreciate the companionship of a second bird – two females would be a good combination. Gradual introduction is important, so I would advise finding a way to split your cage, or borrowing another one temporarily, to keep them close but separated to start with. I would also recommend disinfecting your budgie’s cage equipment, in case something infectious was linked to your male budgie’s sad death.

Q I recently noticed that my Yorkshire Terrier has been passing blood in his faeces. Could this be serious – should I take him to the vet?

A Yes, any pet with blood in their faeces should be examined by a vet. Blood on the stools (which may be accompanied by mucus) can be a sign of colitis (inflammation of the colon), or other conditions including a tumour, damage to the rectum (e.g. from a sharp piece of bone that has been eaten) or a burst abscess.

Q My two gerbils always bite when they are being held and both my husband and I have to wear gloves when petting them. They are two years old now – can I tame them?

A Gerbils and other small pets usually bite because of fear, often because they weren’t handled from a young age. The best way to try to tame them is by using food treats. Always approach them quietly and calmly, making no sudden movements or noises. Then place some food that they like in front of you. Do this until they are confident to approach you to take the food. Next, place your open hand beside the food and let them take it with your hand nearby. When they are happy to do this, place the food in your open hand. By building up in small stages like this (and each stage may take days or weeks), and building a positive association between your hands and food, you should eventually be able to gently scoop them up in your cupped palms. Always hold them low over a soft surface in case they jump or fall.

* Stuart McMorrow is based at Edinburgh’s PDSA Petaid Hospital, 2b Hutchison Crossway, 0131-443 6178.