A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper

A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper
Ever wonder what its like to share your world with a bunch of crazy critters? Tune in to find out!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

May Month in Review

I can't believe that yet another month has whizzed by - how does this continue to happen??

Looking back on May - it was a bit of a tough month for us with Harlow's diagnosis and new level of care she needs.  Coming to grips with the fact that we may not have her for much longer makes me so very sad.  I am trying to guard against missing out on the other critter's days as well - Harlow takes a good bit of time and energy but I don't want to miss out on what's happening with the rest of the gang. Being quite the planner I have tried to put together a schedule so I can spend time with everyone and get all the things done I need to get done during the day.  Hopefully that will help.

So - if we look at cup half full - the rest of the zoo is doing so well.  Ferrets all seem happy and healthy. I have been watching them very carefully to make sure they do not show any hint of being ill.  Kitties are well, Emma and Winston are doing great.  I am so thankful for that!

We move into June with Harlow having more good days than bad - we will watch her closely to ensure her quality of life is good.  Winston and Emma will continue with outside time and walks respectively, kitties will continue lounging and basking and having their cushy life.  And...those little weasels will continue to make me smile and laugh.

It's 10 pm - I need to head in to the other room to try to get a few cc's of food into Miss Harlow.  Here's to a happy and healthy June for my sweet furry kids....

Saturday, May 30, 2015

FAQs - Pig Questions

The second in the FAQ series - piggy questions:

Q:  Is it fun having a pig?
A:  Yes!!  But - I will say - it's not all fun.  Pigs are stubborn, bored pigs are naughty.  Having a pig is a lot of work - but yes its fun and I do love Winston to pieces.

Q:  Are pigs mean?
A:  In general I would say no.  Winston is not mean - but he can be snitty when he doesn't get his way. Since pigs live in hierarchical societies he spends a lot of time trying to be the top pig.

Q:  Do pigs get along with other pets?
A:  Yes - he gets along well with the cats.  He and Ollie can often be found playing together.  Winston gets along great with Emma but you have to be very careful with dogs and pigs together.  Dogs are natural predators and pigs are natural prey.  Emma being a herding dog makes her a good candidate for being with Winston.  It's recommended that you never leave your pig and dog together unattended. Winston is fascinated with the ferrets and when he was little they used to play but now that he is big I don't let them interact at all.

Q:  Can they be house trained?
A:  Yes!  For the early part of his life Winston used the cat box (only pine litter - never clay) but now that he is a big boy he goes outside with Emma to go potty.

Q:  Are pigs smart?
A:  Amazingly smart - far smarter than the dog.  This is both good and bad - he can learn new things quickly but also think up lots of trouble.

Q:  Are pigs dirty?
A:  No - not at all.  He is one of the cleanest critters we have.

Q:  Are pigs destructive?
A:  They can be.  Winston is a chair tipper and he has eaten holes in the carpet.  This tends to happen when he doesn't get the attention that he needs and he gets bored.

Some interesting things about pigs:

They can't sweat and they get over heated easily.  They can get a sunburn and need sun screen or mud to roll in to protect their skin.  Pigs need routine maintenance - eyes cleaned out, ears cleaned out and hooves filed to prevent the need to trim them.

All in all - having a pig is a blast.  Our family wouldn't be complete without our Winston!

Friday, May 29, 2015

FAQs - Ferret Questions

I get lots of private messages with questions about the critters.  I thought I would do a series of posts in case other inquiring minds might want to know.

First - questions about the ferrets:

Q:  How many ferrets do you have?
A:  Currently we have 8 - 3 boys and 5 girls.

Q:  How long do ferrets live?
A:  Average is about 7 years.  They are considered seniors at 5.

Q:  Do ferrets bite?
A:  Yes - but not like you might think.  Ferrets nip by nature - its how they play with each other.  The bite when playing but not to be mean or malicious.  They are quite smart and can be trained not to bite.

Q:  Which is better - boy or girl ferrets?
A:  This is a tough one.  Boys are more rambunctious when they are younger but more affectionate when they get older.  Girls are generally more gentle and mellow.  There are fantastic aspects to both genders - in my opinion you can't go wrong with a ferret period.

Q:  Who is your favorite?
A:  Geez - I love them all to pieces and I love them all equally.  I really don't have a favorite.

Q:  What do you call a bunch of ferrets?
A:  A Business.

Q:  How can you tell when one of them is sick?
A:  This might be TMI - but - the way to tell is poop.  Their outputs are the best way to gauge how they are doing.  I have become quite the poo expert sadly.

Q:  How did they get their names?
A:  They get their names quite randomly - we have them for a few hours/days and try to pick something that matches their personality.  We often go through several tries before we land on their name. Sometimes we don't agree and have to compromise.  For instance - I really wanted to name Theo Thatcher but hubs said no way so we settled on Theo.  Turns out - I love his name now.

Q:  Do you keep them in a cage?
A:  No - they have free run of most of the upstairs.  Harlow is still separated from the rest of the bunch because we are still not 100% certain she is not contagious.  They are kept upstairs though - away from the pokey hooves of the piggy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Roll Call

So - let's do a quick status on the state of the zoo:

Emma - she is doing great - happy to have done her evening walk and had her dinner.  She is snoozing on the bedroom floor...

Winston - he is a tired piggie - lots of outside time today so he is curled up in his bed after eating up his nighty cookies.

Phoebe - she is laying on my pillow - purring like a lawnmower!

Aggie - she is downstairs sacked out on the back of the sofa - she has had a good day!

Oliver - little Mister is full of mischief as usual - he has been a bit of a turkey today but tonight he is tired so he is actually behaving.

Zoey - she is feeling spunky - I woke up to her sleeping in the bathroom sink this morning.  She is feeling good I think!

The wild children - AKA the ferrets are doing well.  Tonight its Bash, Tabitha, Kai, Theo and Violet racing through the upstairs....crazy little ones.  Fiona and Maddie were up earlier this afternoon....

And then there is Miss Harlow.  She had a great day yesterday and more of the same today.  Food intake is great, weight is back up and all in all she is really doing well.  Not sure why but I will take it!!!

All in all the zoo is well, happy and doing fine....

Monday, May 25, 2015

Harlow's Adventures

Yesterday we went to the hubs parents for dinner.  They live about forty five minutes away and if you budget in visiting and eating there was no way that I could leave Harlow for that long so we took her with us.  She stayed in her playpen on the screened in porch and I think she really enjoyed the change of scenery and the fresh air.  I fed her a couple of times while we were there and gave her the medication she needed right on time.  It made the evening much more enjoyable not having to worry about being gone for too long.

Since she enjoyed it so much last night I decided to give her some time outside this evening as well. She is currently out on the deck in her pen curled up in her blanket watching the birds and the trees.  She seems quite content.  Winston is out there with her pushing his treat ball around and around.  I just gave her a feeding which went really well - I was able to get in 24 ccs with no fussing, teeth grinding.....I love it when that happens....

Over all - she is holding her own... I am still working through the anger of this situation and the helpless feeling of not being able to do a thing for her but keep her comfortable.  I do adore her - and all of my furry babies....  deep breaths.  :)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Trial and Error

When you have a sick critter you have to think out of the box.  Much like people each little furry has their own preferences.  For instance - when I was hand feeding Clooney (our first ferret who we lost last July) he loved to be held like a baby and he would eat out of the syringe almost like a baby bottle.

Harlow doesn't want to be held at all - she just wants to eat out of the syringe.  Even that is changing over the last few feedings and she is not loving the syringe.  She is grinding her teeth even with the anti nausea medication.  This morning after her 8:30 feeding I was feeling pretty bleak about her future.  If I can't get her to eat then things don't look good for her.  So - we went on our walk and when we got home it was time for another meal for her.  I have noticed that she is quite meticulous about food it lands on her or on me so I had the idea of squirting some of the food in the palm of my hand.  She immediately went after cleaning it up and before she knew it she had consumed the quantity she needed for that meal!  Hooray!!  She was happy about it because she controlled the intake of how fast and how much and there was zero teeth grinding!  Yippee.  So I am feeling much better about things.  If we can keep her eating and her weight up she should be okay for the foreseeable future.  After her meal she jumped off the couch and was running around like a crazy ferret - playing in her tunnels and dragging a dog toy around.

We will keep trying new things til we can't think them up any more....  love that little fuzz butt.....

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday Follies

Today was a great day - but quite busy.  Lots of time spent out and about which meant lots of alone time for the critters.  Emma went walking with us - it was a long one today - about 9 miles.  Then we were home for a bit - Winston played outside, Emma took a nap, ferrets were played with, kitties were looked after....

Then out the door again to hit the gym, home, outside time for Winston, more interaction with the ferrets and kitties.  Then dinner for everyone a bit early as we headed out the door for dinner with friends.  Then home again for a bit - then an evening walk to our local wine bar for an after dinner drink and then home.

Throughout the day Harlow was fed and loved on.  I am trying smaller more frequent meals with her which I think she prefers.  Her weight is holding and she seems to be feeling okay.  I have one more feeding tonight at 11:30 and likely one around 3 am.

All in all its been a really fun but very hectic day.  Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit calmer

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Stories of the Day

It's 7 pm and the majority of my critter duties are over.  Still left on the list - kitty ears, nighty cookies for the pig, dinner for Emma and an 8pm and 11 pm feeding for Harlow.  Today was a pretty good day - here is the recap:

Harlow - 6 am feeding went okay - she was hungry so she overlooked the nausea and ate pretty well.  * am feeding was rough and we got the Prednisone  in - I think overall that makes her feel better but it didn't help with the upset tummy.  Noon feeding - impossible - I got about half done and decided to wait til we had the anti nausea meds.  Ventured to the vet in a torrential downpour - that was exciting.  Meds picked up and headed home.  They worked almost instantaneously.  She at the rest of her noon feeding no problem.  3 pm was easy and 6 pm was as well.  She is a meticulous little ferret and she has to stop to get any drops of food that fall on her or on me during her feedings.  Then she spends like 20 minutes after she is done preening.  I am glad she feels well enough to care.

Kitties - no stories to share really - just a regular day of lounging, bathing, sleeping, eating....it is the life of a Grant cat.  I often hear that if my friends were to be reincarnated they would want to come back as one of our pets - they are just a tiny bit spoiled.

Emma was pretty good today - no walk this morning for her because it was raining.  She was a bit nervous throughout the day but this afternoon it has cleared up and she just came in from going potty, had some cookies and is snoozing away.

Mr Piglet is good - he has been such a well behaved pig the last week or so - that is until this morning - when he made two new holes in the carpet...strategic placement of floor rugs is getting more and more tough.  He was quite good throughout the day and right now he is playing on the deck - happy as a clam (are clams really happy?  who decided that they were?) with his treat ball.

The rest of the ferrets are doing just great.  The boys - Theo, Kai and Bash are all so handsome - I am so lucky....they are fine, full of piss and vinegar and in to everything.  The beautiful girls - Madison, Violet, Tabitha and Fiona are all fantastic as well.  I have seen everyone multiple times today and I will be heading upstairs to hit the showers after Harlow's 8 pm feeding so I  can make sure I don't spread any germs....  Happy they all seem to be doing so well....

The best part of today - I have a couple of things to wrap up for work and then I am off until next Wednesday - so glad - I need some downtime.....  Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

An Awesome Tuesday!!

Today was really a great critter day!  Here's the updates....

So - our days have a bit of a new normal with Harlow's feeding schedule and with precautions we take to ensure that we do not share germs just in case she is contagious or on the off chance that the other ferrets have something that she could pick up now that she is on an immunosuppressant.

  • Early morning starts around 5:30 or 6:00 with a feeding for little Miss.  She gets her warm gravy with the addition of a high calorie supplement/vitamin paste.  Then when I leave her I strip of clothes and put them downstairs so the other ferrets can't access and get into the shower.  Once I am squeaky clean I spend the early morning playing with the ferrets and Phoebe and Oliver who tend to hang out in our bedroom.  At 7:00 Winston gets fed and then he and Emma go outside to go potty.

  • Around 8:00 Harlow gets another feeding and her medication.  Kitties get ear medication, boxes get scooped, water stations get checked, cleaned filled, etc, and same with food stations.  Usually if its not raining I put Winston out on the deck with his ball - its cooler in the mornings and the sun is on the other side of the house.  He plays out there for hours.

  • At 10:00 another feeding for Harlow along with some play time if she is up for it.  I have been working in her room to spend more time with her and be there if she needs anything.  I think she likes the one on one time and today she spent a good bit of time curled up on the couch with me while I worked.  We do another feeding around noon.  

  • In the afternoon when Harlow seems to have her best sleep I change her feedings from 2 hours to 3. She gets a 3 pm, 5 pm, 8 pm and 11 pm feeding.  I hadn't been getting up in the night to feed her but given the weight challenges we are having I think I will for the next few days at least.  Around 3 I also take Winston and Emma out for a potty break.
  • Harlow gets her meds in her 8 pm feeding and then I do the whole shower and disinfect process so I can play with the other ferrets.  It's interesting - I see the other ferrets during the day but haven't been picking them up and loving on them - its too hard to disinfect every time I go in and out.  
Harlow had such a great day today - she was feeling frisky and eating well - we gained back some of what she lost yesterday and are back to where we were.  Still working on getting more weight on her.... Emma had a mid day walk with me - no evening walk as the humans went to the gym instead.  Winston has gotten over his naughty phase and has been the perfect piglet for the last few days.  Loving that. Kitties are all well.  All in all - it was a lovely critter day!  Hoping tomorrow is more of the same!

Here are some random snaps from the last couple of days:




Winston and Emma - looking over the upstairs banister

Winston with his dirty from playing outside face






Fiona doing her meerkat impression


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Sunday, May 17, 2015

You Know Its A Good Critter Weekend When....

1.  The dog is sacked out by 8 pm because she has been on 2 back to back 8 mile walks.
2.  The pig smells like a giant coconut because he has been outside so much he needs multiple applications of sunscreen.
3.  The seven ferrets in the general population all seem to be quite happy and show no signs of illness - even though Theo did have one icky output on Friday night that made me panic.
4.  The little baby ferret Harlow - while still sequestered from her siblings - seems to be holding her own.  She hasn't gained much weight - but she hasn't lost any either.  She is eating quite well, showing no side effects from her new medication and was caught in the act of playing and investigating several times this weekend.
5.  The kitties all seem to be doing just great - no hairballs, no thyroid related symptoms - just happy, LAZY kitties.

All in all this weekend was good.  While there is constant worry about Harlow and how she is doing and feeling - she seems to be a fairly happy and content little critter.  So far so good.

It's already time to head back to work tomorrow.  This week is full of busy days..... weekends are just too short!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Random Snaps

Here are several random pictures from the last few days:




Winston playing with his ball on the deck

Sleepy Winston

Mr. Ollie Kitty

The beautiful Miss Fiona

Bash and Fiona
 The next four were taken today - my sweet Harlow - she is doing well!!



Thursday, May 14, 2015

Harlow's Trip to the Vet

Well friends - little Miss went in for a checkup this morning and unfortunately the news was disappointing.  Her white cell count was actually worse than before she started the antibiotics.  The vet is leaning towards diagnosing her with Ferret FIP (systemic coronavirus) which is a fatal auto immune disease.  We will finish out her 10 day course of antibiotics, we have stopped her meloxicam (anti inflammatory/pain med) and we have added Prednisone which is an immunosuppressant which will hopefully keep the disease at bay.

In the simplest terms - Harlow had a virus when she was a baby - unclear if she ever showed symptoms of the virus or if it has been dormant in her body - and that virus sometimes mutates in some ferrets causing this auto immune condition.  Its not likely to occur in Kai or Tabitha (her litter mates) and it cannot be passed around to the other ferrets.  That said - there is no official confirmation of the disease and there is one other possibility - its not a better diagnosis just a different one that could have potential contagious ramifications - so for that reason I am keeping her sequestered for a bit longer.

Her prognosis - it could be a very quick progression - 1 - 3 months or we could get more time.  In very rare cases there is a bit of longevity - 3 - 5 years - but those are incredibly rare exceptions.  So - now we move into our new reality of making each of her days as special and comfortable as possible.  We treat any symptoms that come up and we enjoy every minute we have with her.  Right now she is quite stable - gaining weight, good energy levels, happy and overall I think feeling pretty good.  I will continue to hand feed her in an effort to get some additional weight on her.  She will get her Prednisone mornings and evenings for the foreseeable future.  We will make a determination next week as to whether we put her back into the general population - I would really like to but I don't want to risk the others getting sick if there is even the remotest possibility.  Lastly - next week the vet will try to get his hands on an experimental drug that's out there - we will throw everything at it and see what makes her feel better.

This is a heart breaking diagnosis - she is only 10 months old - seems very unfair.  We will of course keep everyone updated as to how things progress.  For now - go kiss your furry kids - we never have them for long enough....

Here are a few snaps from the vets office:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Stories of the Day

Things around here have been quite busy.  When you add hand feeding and medicating a baby ferret to the mix of other critter chores it makes a difference for sure.  Here are the stories from today:

Let's start with Harlow - she has had a good day.  She is still about 650 grams - up from 595 a week ago. She got up this morning and had her breakfast and her medication.  Then she was off and running, playing and investigating in the man cave.  Then some napping.  I feed her every 2 - 3 hours and she never turns down food.  Happy that her appetite is doing so well.  Last night and today she was actually kind of frisky - wanting down when you held her, wanting out of her sleeping pen - the previous days she was fine with whatever so I know she is feeling better.  All in all I am pleased with her progress.  We go to the vet in the morning to check in and talk about next steps.

Winston had a good day today.  He had his breakfast at his regular time.  He played on the deck and snoozed outside for a bit.  He came back in and then decided he wanted to go back out with his treat ball.  He played out there for a couple of hours.  He spent the afternoon playing with toys, rooting in his rooting box and annoying the dog.  His dinner was served around 5 and now he is napping in his bed.  He has been a pretty good little piglet today.

Emma has also been good today.  She is waiting for her dad to get home but sadly she won't be going for her long walk tonight because we are heading to the gym.  I will take her out tomorrow sometime for a make up session.

Kitties are doing well - right now Oliver is standing guard waiting for a bug to crawl out from under the living room chair.  Phoebe, Zoey and Aggie are all snoozing - they have it rough I tell you. They all got their flea meds put on today - its low drama - they don't even seem to care.....

The rest of the ferret are doing very well!!  There have been no signs of illness with the rest of the gang - thank goodness and knock on wood.  This morning I changed the bed and had an assist from Theo, Bash, Tabby, Kai and Fiona.  It's challenging to make the bed with five ferrets helping - just in case you were wondering.  While the five were out an about I decided to apply their flea meds.  I am a couple of days behind schedule but everyone is current now.  Later in the morning both Madison and Violet came out of their sleeping spots for some breakfast and some attention.  I put their meds on as well...all the ferrets hate getting this done but its way better than having fleas.

Not a very exciting critter day but it was a good one.  Hoping Harlow's appointment goes well in the morning.  I will post with the details....

Saturday, May 09, 2015

A Busy Week - the Recap - Part 2

Where did we leave off?  Yesterday I posted a partial recap of the week here.  In that post we covered Winston, the kitties and a few of the ferret - Bash, Theo, Kai and  Violet.  In this post we will cover Emma, Tabitha, Fiona, Madison and an update on how Harlow is doing since she came home from the vet.  Then if I have enough energy we may add some additional pictures in there - I have taken a bunch over the last couple of days so we will see how it goes.

Emma - she is doing quite well.  Her health seems fantastic.  I think she loves all the walking she has been doing.  She is BFFs with the pig so long as he doesn't try to steal her cookies.  She is also friends with the ferrets - she is a kind a patient pup letting them crawl all over her.

In the mornings when I get up to go and feed Winston his pig food Miss Emma jumps in my spot on the bed.  When I come back she always gives me this look - what - do you want me to move?  I am so comfy.  Silly dog!  She is a cutie though - don't you think?

Tabitha is doing fantastic - she is still quite independent and not a huge fan of being loved on.  Little Miss Tabs is getting a tiny bit pudgy - all that gravy - we might start limiting her intake.... in this picture she is eating Emma's dog food.  Hmmm - anyone see a pattern??  I do not thing that by any stretch she is over weight - and she was so tiny before that a bit of weight gain isn't all bad.

Fiona is doing well - she is quite the social butterfly and can be found playing with any one of her siblings!  

Madison is doing great as well.  She is BFFs with the unlikely pairing of Bash - so funny to see the largest and smallest ferrets play together.

And last but most definitely not least - Harlow:

Since she came home from the vet on Wednesday evening she has had an amazing appetite.  I am hand feeding her - sometimes with a syringe (3 x a day so I can measure how much goes in and other times just offering her a cup.  She is eating like a champ and has already gained about 40 grams.  Her energy level is returning a bit.  We let her out of her pen today to stretch her legs and she was pretty energetic - I would say that regardless of her diagnosis right now her quality of life is 8 - 9 which makes me happy.  She seemed happy today and I could tell she was feeling better.

Again I find that I have more pictures and more stories but quite frankly I am just too pooped to post them.  I will keep posting if you keep reading.  Let's shoot for another update tomorrow.  For now I am going to hit the sack....