Location, location, location

Occasionally we get customers come into the shop for advice on a wide variety of animal care issues that can all be linked to the same consideration. Where, in your home, should an animal be housed. I am not talking about what type of cage (although obviously that is important) but whereabouts that enclosure is sited.

Problems caused by “incorrectly” locating an enclosure can range from algal growth in a fish tank to death in birds. Often unexplained deaths or illnesses can be attributed to where the enclosure (tank, cage, vivarium etc.) has been sited. I’ll run through a few of the issues with a selection of different animals and, where I can, illustrate with a real example. This will not be an exhaustive list, I would be here forever but is just to get you thinking about where you are going to house the enclosure before you buy an animal, or to think if there is any improvement to be made with your existing set up.

  • First of all, probably the most obvious to most people, is not to put enclosures directly in front of a window. This is true for dog cages, vivaria (especially glass), fish tanks, bird cages (although there is a caveat to that one), spider tanks etc. The main reason (and the reason why it is not allowable to have animals in a pet shop windows) is, when you are out and the windows are closed you cannot control the temperature. It can very quickly get very hot in a window. Extreme changes in temperatures are not tolerated well by many animals, most find it distressing at best and it can be fatal. We all know of the well publicised campaigns on not leaving dogs in cars. Why then would you leave any animal in a front window on a hot day with the windows shut?
  • The caveat about birds is that many benefit from UV light exposure. UV does not penetrate most glass so there is no benefit in putting a cage in front of a closed window but it can be argued that a brief spell in front of an open sunny window can have benefits. You have to take into account any wind (blowing the cage over and releasing the bird!), outside activities (i.e roadworks, cats, etc) but I would not discount doing this. Often an avian UV lamp is a more controllable option though. Obviously a well constructed aviary in the right location solves all your problems.
  • Fish tanks suffer from the additional problem that direct sunlight can lead to excessive algal growth. If your tank suffers from this think about the amount of light it receives, either from a window or from how long you have the lights on for. Algae are plants and need light to photosynthesise and grow. The more light they get (up to a point) the more they grow, simple as that.
Pet shop gloucester, pet shop advice, pet housing

Algal growth caused by too much light

  • One problem with bird cages often overlooked or not known about by the owners is the issue of toxic fumes. Most people would know to remove a bird from a room if they were decorating or doing something else in the room that may release fumes (using some of the more volatile glues for example). A surprising amount of bird owners however are not aware of the risk from non stick pans. The Teflon coating on the pans can give off fumes when heated to high temperatures that are very toxic to birds. Due to the anatomy and physiology of a birds breathing mechanism they are particularly susceptible to airborne pathogens and pollutants. Many unexplained deaths have occurred following a fry up! Don’t keep birds in kitchens or too close to open kitchen doors. Similarly high levels of fumes can kill fish and aquatic invertebrates, as the chemical dissolves into the water.

So, the enclosure is not in a window and not in a kitchen. There are considerations on where in the room to site it, some general, some specific to the species of animal.

  • Returning to fish tanks, it is not advisable to have a tank located near to a main entry door. The constant traffic past the tank can stress fish and the constant slamming of the door will be even worse. We have had customers complain that they cannot keep any of their fish alive, no matter where they get them from. They’ve had the water quality checked and it’s Ok. Temperature etc. is all OK but they still keep losing fish. Then, when you ask, you find out the tank is right next to the front door and they have a young family that is constantly in and out. Stress kills fish in a number of ways, directly or by lowering the immune system allowing disease to take hold.
  • We had a customer who bought a bearded dragon set up off of us. Our set ups come with good quality thermostats to prevent over temperature. They came in saying that this did not appear to be working, the temperature stayed consistently high. We had them bring the thermostat into the shop and tested it and it was working. What had happened was  the viv.had been sited in front of a radiator which had been inadvertently turned on. The viv was receiving all the heat and insulating it from getting to the room so they didn’t realize. Make sure that you don’t place the enclosure of any animal too close to extraneous heat sources.
  • As a counter to that, we had a customer come in the shop when we had not been open long. His kids had a hamster and he was looking for a replacement as it had died. When I asked, just in conversation, how old it was he said it was not quite a year. Before selling him a replacement, I wanted to make sure there was no reason for this premature death that might be repeated so I started chatting to him to get a feel for how he was caring for it. The outcome of this chat was that we discovered it had recently  been moved to a utility room during decorating and this room was not heated. At the time it was very cold. Fortunately he had not disposed of the body. We advised him to go home, move the cage into the living room and sit and wait. He came back the next day and to tell us the hamster was awake and feeding well. We lost a sale but saved a hamster from being buried alive. Hamsters respond to extremes of temperature (less than 5C or more than 35C) by entering a torpid state. I challenge anyone to tell they are still alive, their breathing is that shallow.
  • Spiders do not like bright lights. Most actively avoid this in the wild because if they are out in bright sunlight they are at risk of predation or after prolonged exposure, dehydration. Keeping a tarantula in a brightly lit room (depending on species) can really stress them out. There are a number of reasons for a tarantula suddenly starting to pace around it’s enclosure. If it’s a male it will do this when it wants to mate. It could be however, that the location is just too bright. If you have something like a cobalt blue (a tarantula that will readily burrow in captivity) it is unlikely that you will ever see it if its substrate is deep enough for it to burrow and it is kept in bright light.
  • Rats do not like drafts. Most animals don’t, so think about doors opening, especially to the outside. They can suffer from respiratory problems more than pretty much any other commonly kept small mammal. Most of these problems can be avoided by selecting the right substrate to keep them on (avoid pine based shavings or sawdust or phenolic disinfectants). Placing them in a cold, damp or drafty position will undo all this good work. Rats are from India they use their naked tails to keep cool so they are warm climate adapted. They don’t really do too well in our cold damp climate.
  • Another problem with rats is noise. I don’t mean the obvious barking dogs, screaming kids, nagging wife – you can see what it’s like in my house! I mean high frequency noise that we cannot hear. Worst offenders are television sets, although others include computers, games consoles and kettles. All of these can give off high frequency sound, even when on standby, that we cannot hear but the rat can. Imagine being forced to live next door to the noisiest student neighbours, banging out drum and base at high volume day and night and when you tried to complain, no one else could hear it and you were just left to suffer. We have had a couple of customers who have bought a pair of rats that have been really docile in the shop but after a couple of days at home have started fighting and become unhandleable. When we have checked on cage location we have found they had been sited next to a TV. Moving the cage to another location sorted the problem out within hours (I am assuming it took a couple of hours for the poor rats nerves to settle back down). Remember, just because you can’t hear it, it doesn’t mean your animal can’t – ever had your dog suddenly start barking at something that’s not there? Might be the explanation.
  • For animals kept outside the same things need to be considered with the additional issue of security. I have already blogged about the increasing number of urban foxes for example. Rabbit hutches are best in sheltered locations. My own for instance are on our patio, surrounded on three sides buy next door, my kitchen and conservatory. On the fourth side is a dwarf wall to the garden so the site is well protected from the worst winds and rain. What you don’t want to do is face your hutch directly ito the prevaling wind and then have to rescue a bedraggled looking rabbit or guinea pig the first time it rains. Just a little thought is all it needs. If you do keep animals outside and the temperature drops below freezing you are going to need to have somewhere to shift them to until it warms up. Some people prefer to have an indoor cage for these periods, or an insulated hutch cover and small animal heating stone or self heating pad, we just pick up the hutches and move them to our garage for a couple of weeks. Obviously you need to make sure you have these options open to you.

The basic message to anyone thinking of buying any pet should be do your homework first. Can your accomodate that animal in your home given all of its specific requirements? If not, either you are going to have to make some modifications or reconsider and maybe get something else that can be safely fitted in. Don’t get the animal first and then think about where it’s going to go, or worse not give any consideration to the animals needs at all and blame where you got it from for all the problems.

If you are unsure, come in and ask before you make a decision to buy. Anyone is welcome to come and ask us any thing (animal related please) at any time. I would rather you asked me advice and decided not to buy than you didn’t ask, I make a sale and then the animal suffered. That said, if you don’t ask, we are going to  tell you anyway. You’re not getting out of the shop with an animal without us giving you all the information you need. We would rather you ask though, as you are more likely to be receptive to the information than if we’re ramming it down your throat.

Oh and it should go without saying that if the place your are thinking of buying any animal from does not know the answers to the issues mentioned above or doesn’t show any interest in telling you, do not buy from them, they should not be selling animals. Also only buy from somewhere you can ask these sorts of questions. Often the question only comes to mind during a general chat about the animal, you can’t do that online!!

The Angell Pets team.


How to keep livefood alive

I often get asked how to keep livefood alive or how to improve the nutritional quality of livefood. This is a video on how we do it. There are other ways but this is cheap and easy and works really well. It also makes feeding easier and helps prevent crickets escaping during dusting and feeding.

Richard Angell

Reptile shop expansion

Reptile shop section expansion and refurbishment.

Just a quick post to let you know that we have just completed a small expansion in the reptile shop section.

We have moved the whole section (including the spiders) and added additional space for more livestock. This will enable us to better manage the stock we have (it’s so much easier to paln the feeding when all the animals are in one place) and to add additional stock. I will be looking at the stock over the next week and planning what to add. If anyone is looking for something we don’t currently stock, now is the time to ask.

pet shop gloucester, reptile shop

Part of the reptile section

We are still not finished. I still want to add additional space and move some stuff around but the bulk of the work is done. For the future we will want to replace some of the glass vivs with wooden so there will be some deals to be had for anyone wishing to purchase a reptile or spider complete with a vivarium set up. The vivs. will be suitable for most smaller lizards and snakes (geckos, hognose, childrens pythons etc.), or as starter sets for younger animals.

Now’s your chance to get a fantastic deal if you are looking to buy your first reptile from our reptile shop or if you need space for babies etc.

Richard Angell

Pet Shop Gloucester Training

Pet Shop Gloucester training programmes. I just thought I’d post the relevant current training programmes our staff are undertaking and some of the ones we have already completed. Also I thought I would mention the animals each of us has ourselves or has had exeperience with previously, so you can have confidence when asking for advice.

At our pet shop Gloucester we currently have Ryan who is undertaking a government sponsored pet care and retail apprenticeship with our training partner Haddon training. This is a two year course covering all aspects of pet shop Gloucester customer service, animal care and retail operation. The training is given in house and monitored and assessed by Haddon Training. Ryan has cold water fish, a budgie, a dog and a cat at home.

George has completed the three year pet shop Gloucester pet care and retail management apprenticeship and is currently studying for a degree in animal science at the University of the West of England at Hartpury. He has also completed the level one Royal Canin nutritional training package as is working his way through level 2 and has completed the animal first aid course.

George breeds ferrets and snakes and house shares with our rat, mice, hamster, rabbit, guinea pig, chicken, duck and other small animals supplier. He also keeps birds of prey (Great Grey Owl and Red Tailed Hawk and has experience of Harris Hawks, Sparrowhawk/Goshawks, Gabba Goshawks, Gyr/Saker Falcons, Boobook Owls, Bengal Eagle Owls, Barn Owls and Turkey Vultures) and tropical fish.

Billie is soon to start her final year at school and has to make a decision on whether to continue onto higher education or start the pet shop Gloucester pet care and retail management apprenticeship. Billie has had hamsters (which she seems able to help live practically forever!), mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, stick insects and fish.

Pet shop gloucester

Albert's baby

Henry and Albert have a few years still to go at school so have not started any formal work related courses although they will be doing their work placements here at our pet shop Gloucester. Henry has bred rats and kept rabbits and guinea pigs and tropical and cold water fish. Albert breeds Leopard Geckos and keeps rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, spiny mice and tropical and cold water fish.

Kim is an experienced retail manager having worked for many years with large chain stores and suppliers in both retail and customer service roles. She provides the cover at our pet shop Gloucester when the other staff are not available. Kim has had dogs all her life and has had cats, a chameleon and currently shares two dogs and a bearded dragon.

I manage the pet shop Gloucester and I have done a few relevant courses in my time, including an honours degree in biology, BTEC diploma in water treatment, City and Guilds in  Pet Shop management level 3, Royal Canin nutrition level one, occupational health and safety level 2, animal first aid, micro-chipping and I am currently working through the level 2 nutrition course.

I currently have a bull snake, tropical fish and frogs and a share in the dogs and bearded dragon. I have previously kept (over a very long period of time) rabbits, chickens, pheasants (Golden, Silver etc) budgies, ducks, dogs, cats, cold water fish, a variety of lizards (my first was a European green lizard) and snakes, spiders and other inverts, goats, sheep, ferrets, horses and ponies, hamsters and guinea pigs and a tortoise for as long as I’ve been alive. I also have a little experience with livestock such as cattle and pigs, turkeys and commercial chicken keeping and venomous snakes (cobras and rattle snakes) and some of the more venomous spiders (black widows), monkeys and other primates, coatimundis, larger turtles etc. etc.. Plus of course all the animals we have had in the pet shop Gloucester.

I believe it is really important for the staff in our pet shop Gloucester to be experienced in as many aspects of animal care as possible and for training to be ongoing and of the highest standard, independently monitored where possible. This is why we feels able to give you the advice you need. We do the courses and the time so you don’t have to. A large pet supermarket is advertising at the moment that 92% of their staff have animals of their own. I couldn’t believe this when I heard it, why isn’t it 100%, it is with us.

Staff at any pet shop Gloucester should only give advice if they have the experience or are qualified to the highest standard. That’s why coming into our shop and asking a question and asking the same question in a pet supermarket or  little town center shop will get you different answers. Some people know what they are talking about and some don’t. A customer recently went to their vet and asked about a problem with a fish. The vet told them to come to us as we knew more about fish than they did. I think that speaks volumes for our staff training policy. As new relevant courses become available our staff will be on them, so we remain the leader in our community.

As you can probably tell I am quite proud of our pet shop Gloucester staff and their knowledge.


Pet shop Gloucester advice – how to sex a rabbit

Pet shop Gloucester advice series – how to sex a rabbit video

We have put together another pet shop Gloucester advice video. This one is on how to sex a rabbit. It is aimed at those who have purchase a rabbit elsewhere or have bred rabbits (either on purpose or accidentally through buying incorrectly sexed rabbits) themselves.

Pet shop Gloucester

We often get asked this sort of question in our pet shop Gloucester and it is often easier to show you than to try to explain. So enjoy the video (and others on our pet shop gloucester youtube channel) and if you need more advice or want us to double check for you, pop in the shop.


Why shouldn’t I feed the foxes?

Following on from a Facebook discussion on our fanpage I thought I would do a quick blog on this subject. A friend works in a local supermarket and he was saying he has several regular customers who buy dog food to feed the foxes. This started a general discussion in the shop and on Facebook on the reasons why this might be a very bad idea.

We are a pet shop and we sell rabbits, guinea pigs and poultry and the food and accessories to go with them. We are a local shop and we all live (with the exception of Ryan who is a forester) within a few minutes walk of the shop. We know the area well.

When I used to walk home from the shop of an evening I would see several foxes on the way. I have noticed myself that these foxes are becoming more bold. They don’t even run away now when I am out walking the dogs. This loss of fear of people is being encouraged by feeding. A wild fox should see us as a threat and keep away. If they are fed they get to see us as a meal ticket and so are more likely to get closer to us and our homes.

Foxes are very agile creatures. I have had several customers say to me when purchasing rabbits “I don’t need to worry about foxes, my garden’s surrounded by a six foot fence”. A fox will clear a six foot fence in a sigle bound. I know, I’ve seen them do it.

So you have a ferocious, agile, intelligent predator, quite capable of getting in any garden, on the look out for food. You put food out for it, so it knows gardens are the best place to look for food.

The fox comes in a garden, there is no food out for it here, so it goes through the bins, making a mess and noise in the process. It can’t get to the bin so it attacks the rabbits, guinea pigs or poultry in your neighbours garden.

We had 3 guinea pigs and a rabbit in a chicken run. The fox cut through the mesh like a knife through butter and killed them all. It does happen. A customer recently spotted a fox in her garden attacking the rabbit hutch. It couldn’t get in as it was one of our hutches and the mesh is fox proof. However one of the rabbits died from shock. Foxes are well known for going through a whole coup of chickens and killing them all.

I don’t want to demonize the fox. It is doing what it needs to do to survive. It kills everything it finds because it doesn’t know when it will find another meal. Left to its own devices it would return night after night to eat its victims. Obviously in the mean time the distraught owner has disposed of the bodies, so the fox gets a reputation as a wasteful killer.

Foxes, unfortunately, are a vector for the spread of disease. Myxomatosis is a virulent rabbit disease. It is always fatal and is a very painful way for the rabbit to die. The disease is spread between rabbits by fleas. The fox will kill a rabbit, the flea will jump on the fox, the fox will then go in your neighbours garden and approach their rabbit. The flea will jump off onto their rabbit and bite it, giving it the disease. This may not be a common occurrence but it does happen. I was unfortunate enough to see the result of such an incidence.

pet shop gloucester

A customer brought in a rabbit to ask advice. The rabbit was sniffing, had the runs and its eyes had a nasty discharge. I took one look and could see it was Myxomatosis. I advised him to take the rabbit to a vet who put it down immediately. Its head was covered in lesions, it couldn’t see, I was surprised it made it to the vets.

Nearly all foxes in this area are infected with sarcoptic mange. This disease is caused by a microscopic mite that burrows through the skin layin its eggs, causing inflammation, irritation, hair loss and in extreme cases death. This disease is very contagious and can be contracted by dogs.

pet shop gloucester

If a fox is in your neighbour’s garden and it comes into close contact with their dog (this can be just being in the same area as the dog will be) it will pass on the disease. Any fox coming into my garden will come into very close contact with Venus, my dog, i.e. inside her, so she is at risk of contracting mange through any of my neighbours encouraging foxes into the area through feeding them.

There was also the infamous case of the fox attacking the baby in its cot. Whilst this is extremely rare – even the boldest of foxes still avoid humans where possible (less so when suffering from mange) – it has been shown that foxes are attracted by the sound of a baby crying. It is thought that this may be because the sound is similar to that made by the vixen during mating. Again I don’t want to demonize foxes. This is highly unlikely to happen but why take the risk by feeding them?

So my advice is do not feed foxes. It encourages them into gardens where they can make a mess, disturb people, kill domestic pets, spread disease and, due to their growing lack of fear, come into contact with young children. Foxes are wild animals and should remain that way.

Lastly, we sell wild bird food and hedgehog food. Isn’t this hypocritical? They are wild animals too. True but many wild birds are dwindling in number through the increase in monoculture and loss of habitat. The same is true of the hedgehog. They now need our support to survive in many areas. Also they are not large, dangerous predators and do not carry the same diseases, or at least are not as effective as vectors for the spread of disease. Foxes are not endangered. They are doing quite alright on their own and do not need any support or encouragement.

This blog is my opinion. Whilst it is based on fact, it is my interpretation of the facts so you may well disagree. It’s a free country, you are welcome to disagree if you wish but just spare a thought for your neighbours and their pets that may suffer through foxes being encouraged by feeding.

Richard Angell