South Bay’s Favorite Pet Sitter: 2018

Thank you to everyone who voted for The Vegan Petsitter in The Daily Breeze Reader Choice Awards this year.  We were honored to receive the title of Favorite Pet Sitter for the third time!

Stay tuned to veganpetsitter.com and our social media channels (Facebook/Instagram/Twitter) if you’d like to vote again next Spring, or look for your ballot in your newspaper if you are a Daily Breeze subscriber.  Your continued support of The Vegan Petsitter is truly appreciated!

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Wetlands guinea pig rescue with Orange County Cavy Haven

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I think I might be the only biology major in Southern California who had never been to Bolsa Chica Wetlands.  Every semester at school somebody brings it up, and every time I feel like my scientist cred goes down just a little bit – I’m not sure why, it’s just never happened!  Last Monday, I finally had the opportunity to venture out there for a very unexpected reason.

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My friend Michiko posted on Facebook about a colony of about a dozen guinea pigs that had been dumped at Bolsa Chica, and asked if anyone could come help her attempt to catch them.

Yeah, you read that right.  Catching.  Guinea pigs.

I haven’t had as much time as I would like for rescue lately, so when someone is in need and I happen to be available, I jump on it.  Next thing I know, I’m in Huntington Beach with a few other friends I’d never met before, crawling through bushes, trying to catch guinea pigs.

I’ve caught stray dogs, cats, and rabbits before, but it’s always been on much easier terrain and sometimes still took several days and multiple attempts.  I definitely thought there was a chance we could spend hours out there and go home empty handed, and so did Michiko.  But one by one, we slowly started catching pigs, and over a span of about 4 hours the 8 of us had caught all 9, including a baby who was about 2-3 days old.

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The pigs had found shelter in some dense shrubbery, where they were able to scoot through little openings in the brush without being seen.  One method we found that worked was to block one or more of the openings with a towel (shown above) or our arms, luring them toward us with veggies, and staying still as statues until one person was able to swiftly grab them with their hands.

Toward the end of the 4 hours, there were only 2 pigs left – and as much as we didn’t want to leave them overnight, we started thinking we might have to give up and try again tomorrow.  An idea came to me that I’ve used before in cat rescue and trap-neuter-return: sometimes, it’s possible to use one cat or kitten you’ve already caught to lure a resistant one into a trap.  This is especially useful for reuniting mom and babies.  A mother cat who isn’t interested in tuna might be more likely to respond to her meowing kitten.

We weren’t sure if either of the remaining pigs were our little one’s mom, but Guinea pigs are herd animals, and typically live in groups of hundreds.  As we started catching pigs, we saw the ones remaining becoming less confident.  Even if we weren’t trying to catch a parent, I thought their tendency to seek safety in numbers could help us out.

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We took our tiny baby piglet, loaded him up securely in a small carrier, and took him with us back under the bush.  Sure enough, he started wheeking right away.  I’m not sure if my strategy actually worked, or it was just that enough time had passed since the last catch and the remaining pigs were getting more confident, but soon enough we had the last two!  (It may have also been that we were getting desperate to catch them, and more willing to dive into what felt like tumbleweeds.)

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Grateful for the amazing rescuers at Orange County Cavy Haven who facilitated this mission, and for the other volunteers who showed up at a moments notice to help some piggies.  These little ones are being fostered through OCCH, so please visit occavyhaven.org if you would like to donate toward their care, foster, or adopt.

To learn more about why #AdoptDontShop is important for small animals, check out my blog post:  Is it time to commit to pet-free pet stores?

Lastly, a reminder that abandoning any kind of animal is not only unkind to the animal, it disrupts local wildlife, and is considered a misdemeanor in some cases.  Don’t do it!

DIY sweet potato chews

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Bruce loves sweet potato chews, and they are one of my favorite treats to buy for him.  Unfortunately, sometimes the cost keeps me from buying them as often as I (and he) would like.  Then it occurred to me – they had to be fairly cheap and easy to make myself, right?  I mean it’s one sweet potato, Michael.  What could it cost?  10 dollars?

To make a batch of these for your pup, all you have to do is thinly slice a sweet potato about 1/4″-1/3″ thick, spread them out in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake at 250° for about 3 hours.  If you have a few too many slices it’s okay to overlap a bit; they will shrink during cooking and you can re-adjust them to fit.  Be sure to flip them over about halfway through cooking, and keep a close eye on them during the last 30 minutes so they don’t burn.  Your pup can enjoy these as soon as they are cool – feel free to taste-test them yourself, too!  They’ll be on the crispier side the day of baking, but the chewiness kicks in after refrigeration.  You can store these guys in the refrigerator for about 1 week.

Bon appetit!

Keep your pet (and yourself!) cool this summer with cooling mats

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It was a hot week in Los Angeles, with temperatures in many areas reaching the triple digits.  For myself and many of my clients, our top priority during a heat wave is making sure our pets stay cool!

Since we’re usually blessed with beautiful weather here in the South Bay, many of us don’t have (or need) central air conditioning.  Instead, we rely on fans, closed curtains, and portable air conditioners to keep our pets comfortable while we’re away at work.  If you feel like your current heat wave regimen might not be cutting it, maybe your pet would enjoy a cooling mat?

I first tried these out two summers ago when my former roommate bought some for the animals to share.  They took to them right away, especially the cats, and would seek them out to nap on.  I’ve since moved, and last week was a reminder that I should order some cooling mats of our own.  I went with two from the Green Pet Shop brand, since that was what we had used previously and everybody liked.  I also ordered one of the Little Dove donut mats, because, I mean, obvi.

The donut mat came first, and the day it arrived was particularly hot.  I felt bad that I didn’t have enough to go around yet (more were on the way), but I put it out and figured whoever claimed it would get to use it.  But it was different from the mat they were used to, and I don’t think they caught on right away that it was meant to cool them down.  That night they left the mat alone, sought out their regular cool spots, and went to sleep.

I, on the other hand, kept waking up that night, uncomfortably hot.  The donut mat was still unclaimed.  Feeling a little guilty, I got up and grabbed it for myself – and I can tell you from experience, it works great for humans too!

The kids have since realized that this magic donut will help keep them cool, and have started using it.  It’s too early to say for sure, but I think they may have been more attracted to the Green Pet Shop mat, possibly because the exterior is a bit softer.  Both are great choices and will help your pet have a great summer!

Little Dove Summer Chill Mat

The Green Pet Shop Self Cooling Pet Pad


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How to pest-proof your pet food

From baby animals to butterflies, I really love how nature shows itself during the warmer months.  Unless by nature we mean ants, and they’re showing themselves to your pet food!  This is an all-too-common problem that can seem difficult to escape, but luckily I’ve learned some easy fixes.  Since many people are understandably a little panicked when combating an insect attack, I decided to put together this guide to make things easier.

The Vittles Vault

This is the only container I really trust to keep food fresh, and keep pests out.  The airtight seal even contains odors, so bugs won’t even be tempted.  It’s made to last, and comes in a several shapes and sizes to accommodate your storage needs (and shelf space).  I use a different canister for Bruce, but many of my clients use this product – if pests ever became an issue at home, I’d switch to the Vittles Vault ASAP.

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The Antser

This is another product that I haven’t personally used at home, but I’ve seen it in action with clients and it truly works!  This is great for pets who don’t eat their food as soon as you put it down, but prefer to graze throughout the day.  With their bowl securely on this raised tray, the ants won’t get to it before they do.antser

The BugSnub

I’m hesitant to recommend a product I haven’t actually worked with, but based on its design and great reviews, I think the BugSnub is a good alternative to the Antser.  (Side note: this list was fun to make just for the product names alone!)  The bowl and stand come apart for easy cleaning, and it includes enough USDA food grade BugSnub Insect Blocking Gel for over one year of protection.bugsnub

The Anti-Ant

This is another product I have not personally used, but is conceptually similar to my DIY method (shown below).  The outer ring gets filled with water to form a protective moat, with your pet’s food safely inside.  Upon first glance, I thought the moat was a little too small, and a few reviewers thought the same.  However, most reviewers seemed happy with this product and although it may not be 100%, I think it would be worth a try.

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The DIY

If I walk into a client’s house and discover that ants have found their way to the pet food, without any of the special products above, this is usually what I do.  Just place your pet’s bowl inside of a plate with a slightly raised lip, and fill the larger plate with water.  If you don’t have a plate that works with your regular dog or cat bowl, a side plate inside of a dinner plate usually works well.  This can be a bit tedious to do on a daily basis, but if ants are only an occasional problem it could be all you need.  If you do decide to order any of the products above, this temporary method might help you out until a more permanent solution arrives.

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Diatomaceous Earth

I moved to a new house in January, and while I was still getting settled, some slightly terrifying 6-legged critters I’d never seen before (and definitely did not want in the house) revealed themselves on my patio.  After more entomological research than I’d really care to do, and researching pet-safe, environmentally friendly insect control, diatomaceous earth was the only thing I really felt comfortable using.  I ordered this bag on Amazon, but by the time it arrived, the buggos were gone and I haven’t had to use it.  I am still glad to have it on hand, because it’s very inexpensive and can also be used as a secondary defense against fleas.  As someone who works with animals, I do not mess around when it comes to fleas, and will definitely be putting this down if we see any this summer.

Okay, but what the heck is it?  Diatomaceous earth is silica dust from the fossilized remains of plankton.  It works by making tiny lacerations in the body of an insect, causing them to dehydrate and die.  Sounds brutal, I know.  Ants will usually disperse on their own once their food source is removed (which also makes cleanup easier for you), but you might draw a perimeter with DE to help keep them out.

Some notes about diatomaceous earth:

  • Because DE works on any insect with an exoskeleton, it can harm non-target insects as well, including those who may be beneficial or just minding their own bees-ness.  I recommend using it with discretion, and try to limit to indoor use only.  #savethebees
  • Make sure you are buying food grade only, like the product I’ve linked above.  DE used in swimming pools is not safe for this purpose.
  • Although food grade DE is safe and non-toxic even when ingested, it can be a skin and respiratory irritant.  It’s a good idea to limit exposure, and avoid breathing it in.

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Did you learn anything new?  Please let me know if you decide to try any of these recommendations; I’d like to know how they work out for you!

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