Tofu Cat Litter Review

Even as a non meat eater I am not the greatest fan of tofu.  Or beans.  It is assumed that vegetarians like beans and therefore tofu (bean curd).  It wouldn’t surprise me if tofu performs better as a cat litter than a food and so I gave it a go, and here’s my findings 😉

It all started with an advert in my Facebook feed.  At £8.00 for a 6 litre bag from Amazon, it was more expensive than my current litter but delivery was included.  One click with my eager finger, and the item arrived the next day.

The litter is manufactured in China by Green Pet Care and is sold on Amazon via Cider House Pet supplies.  I received good communication from both parties when I emailed them – more on that later.

It’s green!!

The bag of litter was not as heavy as a clay litter and generously filled my litter box with their recommended 6cm depth.  When changing a litter, its recommended to gradually introduce it, but for the purpose of this trial I have decided to just jump in and see how my three cats react.  I have another tray downstairs  with their original litter.  (Another note – it is recommended that in a multi-cat household, you have one tray per cat but my third tray was made redundant as they never used it).

The litter is pelleted, not as big as some wooden pellets I have seen, but more like the chicken feed pellets I feed my hens.  What struck me straight away was that the product was green in colour.  “But tofu is white!” my brain argued.  Cue my email to the Chinese manufacturer politely asking the composition of the litter.  I was very impressed by a quick response from the company.  The green colour was from  a food grade dye as I had the green tea version of the litter.  There were also natural, lavender and peach varieties!  Also attached to the email were three documents detailing test results for toxicity, manufacturing process and specifications. This was brilliant information – I now know more about this litter than the one that I have been using for over 10 years!

As with a lot of cat litters, this one claims to be dust free.  I think there is always an element of ‘dust’ or fine particles but I don’t feel this one is any dustier than the average litter.  I was looking forward to seeing it being used and it wasn’t long before the first wee clump appeared.

The clumping was surprisingly good!  It was easy to scoop out and stayed together well.  I was actually looking forward to finding something to scoop out in the litter box!  Sounds sad, I know, but indoor cat owners can get quite excited over good cat litters!

 

This litter is also compostable and flushable which makes it easily disposable and eco friendly.  As the clumps are quite firm and sometimes quite big, you might need to break it up before flushing so it goes down more easily.  If there’s several clumps, I would also flush them individually, preferably on a full flush (I nearly clogged up the toilet by being too ambitious).  My existing litter is actually better when it comes to disposing down the toilet – this one can sometimes leave a residue.

Tofu litter is a winner for me due to the lack of tracking.  The odd green pellet will go astray, but nothing like past litters I have used including my current Cat’s Best Okoplus.  I found it tracked slightly more the older the litter got, but it was still good that I didn’t have to use my dustpan and brush as much.  There was also very little odour,  and the litter seemed to be lasting longer than usual.  Normally, I would need to empty the box after 4 days but a week later it was still going strong!

One week and looking good!

To be completely honest though, I think it has lasted because my cats prefer their usual litter as the other litter box got slightly dirtier.  Maybe in time they would get used to using this one all the time but at least it was encouraging to see all three had used it.

Ok, time to give it up!

After 2 weeks, I got rid of the litter.  It had stayed odourless and looked reasonable to the end – just that it was no longer covering the bottom of the tray and some of the pellets were turning into powder.  I guess it was a successful trial though I suspect in reality the bag would last me somewhere between 1 and 2 weeks with my 3 cats.  I would seriously consider using this product permanently but I am hesitating at the price, which is twice as much as I am paying now.  In fact the price has now gone up to £8.80 on Amazon at time of writing.  Cider House Pet Supplies kindly emailed me back promptly to say they were looking into importing bigger bags of this product, so maybe I will make the switch if the price is right.  Not having to sweep up cat litter all the time was the clincher for me, along with the odour control properties, and I am hoping the peach and lavender litter become availalble in the UK soon, as I will more than likely try those!

Frozzys – Frozen Yoghurt For Dogs

“Frozen yoghurt for dogs??  What next?”  I hear this quite often when working next to the Frozzy freezer at a well known pet retailer.  Yet Frozzys are incredibly popular and in summer, they fly out of the store.  I reckoned it was worth doing a blog on this, but first I will need to borrow a dog as at present, I am dogless.

Dougie…and a Frozzy

Introducing Dougie, a Tibetan Terrier owned by my friend Laurie.  Dougie has a sensitive stomach and has to be careful what he is fed.

Frozzys are simply pots of frozen yoghurt that are lactose free.   This means they are not likely to upset tummies so they are suitable for puppies too.  Because they are frozen, dogs have to lick them, which means theoretically they should last longer than the average dog biscuit.

Available in 4 flavours – original, cranberry, strawberry and blueberry – they can be bought individually or in a four pack of a single flavour.  Dougie’s favourites are original and blueberry…

He knows what’s coming!

In an age where there’s so many dog treats available but canine obesity is on the increase, its good to know that Frozzys are not quite the equivalent to a human ice cream.  Its low calorie and rich in fibre and as well as being tummy friendly, Frozzys contain vitamin A, K1 and a number of B vitamins too.

He’s got it – yum!

Frozen treats like these are ideal for teething pups and hot summer days.  Alternatively they can also be defrosted and poured over biscuits for fussy eaters.  Laurie has this to say about the product;-

“Dougie has SO many allergies it’s great to find a treat he can actually eat and that lasts longer than 2 minutes.  He’s a crazy dog, full of energy and they keep him completely entertained and are a great reward for good behaviour.  They’re fab for a cooling treat in summer but he loves them any time of the year.”

Frozzys are made in the UK and are available from selected leading pet retailers at around £1.69 each or £5.99 at time of writing.  More details available from www.frozzys.com

Thanks for your input Laurie and Dougie! 🙂 xx

 

 

Cat Pouch Hoodie Review

I originally saw this item advertised on Facebook, and like any discerning mad cat lady, I had to have it!  For years, when one of my cats demand to be carried around (namely Bart), I adapted by doing everything one handed, although he will also happily perch on my shoulders (me, less happy).  I often joked to my husband about having some sort of cat papoose but now….a hoodie with a cat carrying pouch!  This has better not be a joke I thought.

The Facebook video was American.  As with any great idea, I figured there would be another version available to buy from the UK, where hopefully I wouldn’t have to wait ages for delivery nor pay overseas postage.  After a quick trawl on Ebay, I found various sellers around the world  and different names for this item, including cat pouch hoodie, mewgaroo and nyangaroo.  Beware some odd looking versions of this garment!  And beware listings where the item is from overseas – you might be in for a long wait (although there is more chance of you getting the colour and size you want). I opted for a supplier who shipped from Leeds so my hoodie arrived within a week but black was the only option available – pink and grey had sold out.

The hoodie itself was made in China where sizes are notoriously small.  On a good listing there should be a fitting chart available, but generally speaking I would advise going up a size.  I am a UK size 10 and I found Medium a good fit.

Being the sort of person who gets cold easily I was pleased to see this hoodie feels soft and comfy.  However, soft and comfy fabrics always attract cat hair so within minutes, my new black top was christened by Siamese cats!  No problem, I thought – I bought this item as a stay at home outfit, not a fashion statement!  It does have some cute features that appeal to humans rather than felines though.  The hood itself has cat ears and there are thumb holes at the end of the sleeves with a pawprint.  Probably more suitable for a child than a grown woman like me, but as I believe in nurturing my inner child I will wear this hoodie and enjoy it!

The all important feature is the cat carrying pouch at the front – the reason why I bought this garment.  It has a press stud button to stop the pouch gaping when not in use, and also a zip out fleece lining for easy cleaning.  Less popular with me are the dangly pom poms hanging from the hood.  They are the right length to be conveniently tucked out of the way in the actual pouch, or they will drive you mad when you are cleaning litter trays, feeding cats, etc.

So…the proof of the pudding?  I got my own 3 cats to try out the cat pouch.

Phoebe wasn’t keen, but then Phoebe isn’t one for being carried around.

Ringo wasn’t a happy chappie either!  But Bart on the other hand…

I did feel like I was pregnant with a cat though.  I also trialled the hoodie with a friend’s dog.  Penny the Toy Poodle seems to like the fleecy pocket too!  Thanks for the picture Madi 🙂

The pouch was also handy for collecting eggs from the hens and for Gloria the hamster…

…although she didn’t want to stay in it for long!  I am quite pleased with my purchase having spent just under £20 with free postage.  The pouch is really useful for carrying small (and obliging) pets but it is also a fun and comfortable top.  The only downside is it will need lint rolling regularly to remove pet hair, and check the sizing before you buy.  I have also spotted a short sleeved version for the summer months so might just treat myself again, British weather permitting!

Mabel, My Crowing Hen

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Mabel, before she went weird.

In any social group, there is always going to be some sort of harmony and unrest.  You only have to look at home and work, and of course some places are more dysfunctional than others!  Flocks of chickens have their own ups and downs partly due to fluctuating hormones, but why has my lovely hen, Mabel suddenly started crowing?

This is actually not the first time this has happened in my flock.  A few years ago, I had a lavender Aracauna called Pollyanna who started crowing (or tried to) at 5am one summer morning.  Polly wasn’t shrill in the slightest and sounded like an owl!  It was quite comical when she took a breath to begin, as her wings would lift slightly, like it was a big effort!

Polly 🙂

But when Mabel started crowing…at first I thought a neighbour had got a new cockerel, but it sounded suspiciously close by.  As mentioned in my earlier blog, my own roosters sleep in the garage in a darkened box till 9am so as not to disturb anyone, so it couldn’t be them.  Plus, this crow sounded different from theirs.  Have I gained an extra bird?

Running down to the garden in my pyjamas, I saw my hens looking back innocently at me.  In my rudely awakened mind, I figured one of them had to be the culprit as the crow wasn’t a true cockerdoodledoo.  I did a mental elimination of each hen but at the back of my mind, I had a hunch it was Mabel.  Out of all the hens, she was the most butch!

I wondered if it was psychological.  Mabel started crowing about two days after I lost Siegfried, who sadly died suddenly in his sleep.  For some reason, Siegfried had singled Mabel out and used to chase her off.  I often wondered how he achieved his dominance as Mabel was both bigger and heavier than him.  When all three young boys were introduced to the flock, Mabel had given both Oscar and Tarquin a good pasting and so Siegfried never challenged her.  As you can guess, back then Mabel was the alpha female.  Fast forward another year, Siegfried had blossomed into a handsome rooster who chased the girls with a springy elevated step, and even had the nerve to challenge me!  I wondered now he has left for chicken heaven, if Mabel is asserting her authority again by crowing like a rooster?  Or at least trying to.  This is what she sounds like;-

 

Its a shame I didn’t get a recording of Polly ‘crowing’ as she was quite deep sounding in comparison, but her story was not dissimilar either.  Polly used to be alpha female, but after a mysterious illness she lost that title, and became mercilessly bullied by Rhonda, a hefty Bluebelle, who was the previous underdog.  Polly recovered and continued to lay eggs, but never regained her position.  She took to crowing instead which she did in the summer mornings around 5am.  During summer I normally leave the coop door open 24/7 but I started shutting it overnight to stop her disturbing everyone, and she pretty much stopped after that.

Mabel however, has been known to occasionally crow during the day too.  She now sleeps in the garage at night in her own private box to avoid waking everyone, as she is considerably louder in comparison, and shutting the coop door hasn’t deterred her.   More of a concern, she hasn’t produced many eggs in the last year and I have seen her perform a mating dance to some of the other hens!  Could Mabel be turning into Marcel?

This is the science bit.  It seems that Mabel’s behaviour is down to some internal physiological changes rather than external influences.  In hens, only the left ovary is functional.  The right ‘ovary’, which technically is not an ovary, is dormant, although this is not the case with some other birds and species.  If the left ovary is damaged, eg  infection or tumour growth (tumours are common in older hens and Mabel is now 4) it will stop producing oestrogen, the female hormone.  Subsequently, the rise in male hormone, testosterone, will cause growth of comb, wattles, male plumage and the crowing, plus other male behaviour!  Well, Mabel aways had a big comb and wattles but here’s a picture of her sunbathing as a pullet.

And here she is at time of writing, age 4.  She still has the plumage of a hen though.  Some hens going through spontaneous sex reversal develop spurs and male feathers.

Note Mabel’s bigger comb and wattles!

Furthermore,  it is possible for the once dormant right side to develop into an ‘ovotestis’ which is a kind of male organ capable of producing sperm!  Not sure whether Mabel has this – I have seen her doing her courtship dance but she hasn’t mounted any of the others yet.  Below is a short video of her mating dance!

Crowing hens crop up from time to time, but a hen becoming a rooster is a rare occurrence.  It has been known to happen but it would be unlikely that Mabel would turn into a full on producing rooster.  More likely I would end up with a noisy half and half bird with no eggs!  If you want to know more about the spontaneous sex reversal in hens, check out this fascinating link which I have found invaluable while researching this unbelievable subject! http://www.urbanchickenpodcast.com/ucp-episode-018/

Chickens eh?  There seems to be more drama in a chicken run than in a soap opera!

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Hatching Ducklings -My First Time!

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Earlier in 2016 (yes, I am late again writing this post!) I decided to take the plunge and hatch some duck eggs.  The previous year I had hatched some chicks so now I was bitten by the bug!

My husband Steve wasn’t so keen.  He was visualising a gradual invasion of birds…and their poo.

“We’d be incredibly lucky if they all hatch,” I said, carefully putting the pale blue eggs into the incubator.  “Look what happened last year.”  Out of 7 eggs the previous spring, just one was fertile (Molly) so I was given some more, of which two hatched (Siegfried and Bunty) and one died before hatching.  Nature just isn’t that straightforward.

This time I have 7 Indian Runner duck eggs to gamble with.  Runner ducks are my favourite breed and if I get 2 out of them, I’ll be happy.  In fact, just 2 would be perfect.  The incubator is a Brinsea Mini Advanced hired again from Ken at Pear Tree Poultry, Preston, who also supplied the eggs.  This time it will take 28 days before we see any babies, but second time around I feel more sensible.  This time I will only open the incubator to top up water and candle once after the first week and again before lockdown!

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For those not familiar with hatching eggs, candling is shining a torch onto the egg to see if it is fertile.  There are candling torches available made specifically for this purpose.  Last year I did it a lot as it was my first time and also, I couldn’t believe how unlucky I was with my unfertile eggs.  But that wasn’t going to happen this year, fingers crossed!  Days went by with the incubator reliably doing its job keeping a steady temperature and humidity level, and ever now and again turning the eggs.  When I went in to candle each egg, there were 5 fertile ones!

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The fertile egg is on the right – you can see the developing blood vessels.

Well, that was an improvement on last year, although part of me was wondering if I could cope with 5 ducks.  And it would be just my luck if they were all drakes!  Steve gave me a look as if I had told him I was expecting quintuplets.  “We will manage!” I said positively.  Having had a strong background in sales I was very good at being convincing, but come what may we have to take responsibility for whatever we hatch.  Hatching chicks and ducklings is a wonderful experience but sadly there seems to be a lot of people wanting to do this but not wanting to take responsibility for the hatchlings.  I remember an older chicken expert telling me, “If you are prepared to hatch them, you should be prepared to kill them,”  meaning that any unwanted cockerels are your responsibility to dispose of.  This usually means euthanasia unless you are raising them for the table.  For me, as I see my birds as pets and my meat eating days are long gone, I prefer to say if you are prepared to hatch them, you should be prepared to keep them.  Last year I ended up with 3 cockerels who lived happily within the flock until Siegfried and Oscar passed away.  They were harder to manage than the hens but it all added to my chicken keeping experience.  Although I’ve no regrets keeping boys, the work involved means I have to think carefully about when I can hatch eggs again.

Drakes are different from roosters in that they are generally quieter than ducks, but there is also the issue of how many will I end up with.  The ideal scenario would be 1 drake to around 5 ducks to avoid competition and overmating.  However, my 3 boys lived happily with 6 hens without much issue.  I think I was lucky in that respect as the Silkies were not particularly sex driven and seemed to spend most of the time hanging out with each other!

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Onion, the hand reared baby rabbit checking on the eggs

So, the days went by where I would just check the incubator to see that all is working and top up the water well.  My spare room where the eggs were residing was starting to resemble a child’s eye view of Easter, with five blue eggs at one end (I disposed of the 2 infertile ones) and Sage and Onion, two baby hand reared rabbits playing in their indoor cage.  Lockdown is the last three days of incubation, where the water is topped up for the last time and the turning function of the incubator ceases.  The lid of the incubator should stay on with no disturbance to maintain humidity levels and hopefully we should see some action!

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Preparation for lockdown, watched by Sage and Onion!

The next day I noticed a tiny fragment of shell had broken off one of the eggs.  This is a process known as ‘pipping.’ It wasn’t long before another egg followed suit – hopefully we should see ducklings within 24 hours!

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Note the fragments of shell to the right of the well.

 

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You can just make out a duck’s bill poking out the bottom!

Just my luck that nothing is that straightforward with me! 24 hours came and there was little progress from the initial pip.  Furthermore, there was no sign of pipping from the other three eggs.  Much as hatching should be left to nature, sometimes you have to intervene.  With the two pipped eggs I helped break away some of the shell.  I could tell why the ducklings were finding it difficult to break out as the shell felt hard and brittle.  Despite the well being topped up, the humidity wasn’t as ideal as it could be.  I found out later that this can be improved by spraying the inside of the incubator and the eggs – I’ll remember that next time!  Meanwhile, I needed to get the ducklings out of their shell without causing injury.  This meant peeling away the shell slowly, and if blood appears STOP and leave alone.  This happened a few times with both ducklings which meant the incubator wasn’t a pretty sight.  This is why I line the inside of the incubator with kitchen roll, as it makes clearing up a little easier.  Eventually, over several hours they were out, with one of them still with a small piece of shell stuck to the back of the neck.

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Wow, that was a loooong traumatic hatch.  No wonder they look exhausted!

By now, I knew the other three eggs were not going to happen.  Generally, once one egg pips, all viable eggs in that hatch will pip within hours.  The not so nice bit is breaking them open, and it looked like they had stopped developing a good while ago.  Nature can be very unpredictable at times.

Resting and drying off in the incubator…

Still, I had 2 beautiful ducklings which I had now transferred to the brooder.  This is just a heated box that they can live in until they are bigger.  The brooder featured here came with the hire package from Pear Tree Poultry along with the feeder and drinker and non slip mat, although I recommend getting a couple of spare mats as baby birds poo a lot.  The heating is via a red infra red lamp hence the lighting.

Newborn ducklings are incredibly unsteady on their feet compared to chicks.  There was a lot of drunk impressions and falling over…

Like chicks, ducklings do not need food and water for the first 24 hours as they have absorbed the nutrients they need to get by initially.  As they took so long to hatch, my two didn’t take long helping themselves to chick crumb and water once they had rested and fluffed up.  The chick crumb should be unmedicated – different to the feed I gave my chicks.  Ducklings are notoriously greedy and can overmedicate on the coccidiostat in medicated chick crumb which can be fatal.  I fed my two Dodson and Horrell chick crumb.  The protein levels in chick crumb are a little high for ducklings so they can be moved onto growers pellets around 3 to 4 weeks of age.

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Keeping warm in the brooder

Ducklings can become very tame if they ‘imprint’ on a human, but mine imprinted on each other and were not keen on me at all, despite having handled them at birth.  From a practical point of view, this is better for them as strong attachments to humans can present problems but I was a little disappointed that they were so skittish.  The first duckling to fully hatch out was a little bigger and bolder – the second one followed him around everywhere, and for a couple of days still had a fragment of shell stuck to the back of his neck.  I managed to remove it after dampening the area down although it left his neck fluff a little spikey!  We decided to handle them regularly, and when their walking had stabilised, we let them wander supervised indoors.  We didn’t have them out for too long though as they pooped loads!

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The brooder had to be cleaned several times a day as the amount of poo produced was unbelievable.  I was glad I only got two ducklings in the end!  Baby birds are incredibly clumsy and they walk over their food or trip over it so clearing up spillages and replenishing water and crumbs was the main job.  Ducklings are messy by the way they eat and drink so I found using kitchen roll over their non slip mats very helpful.  Kitchen roll is not as slippy as newspaper which is often the cause of ‘spraddle leg’ (excessively wide leg stance) when chicks and ducklings can’t get a foothold.

Despite my best efforts the floor of the brooder was always wet from them flinging water around and needed changing at least 3 times a day, as did the water.  Whilst ducklings still have their fluffy down, they are at risk of getting chilled if wet so the presence of the heat lamp is important.  This is also the reason why its not advisable to let young ducklings swim, tempting as it is to put them in the bath! If they were raised by their own mother, that would be a different matter as they would receive some waterproofing from the mother’s natural oil.  Hatching from an incubator is convenient for many reasons but the lack of a mother has its disadvantages, especially if you only get one single bird hatching from a clutch (see my earlier post on my chicks last year).

They seemed to grow a quicker rate than the chicks did, so much that Steve was convinced we had goslings! As a bonus I felt that they were not as prone to getting poo stuck to their feet and did not get ‘pasty butt’ which is when poo accummulates around the vent. These two lived in the brooder for a week and then I needed to return the equipment back to Pear Tree Poultry.  As they were growing considerably fast, I decided to use a large dog crate as a brooder with a hanging infra red lamp above it.  Depending on the room temperature, the lamp was kept low enough to keep the ducklings comfortably warm.  Like chicks, they will cheep loudly and huddle together if too cold and move away from the heat source if too warm.  Over the next few weeks as they develop feathers and are able to regulate their body temperature, the lamp is gradually raised in height until it is removed.

Ducks, being waterfowl, need water with their food and managing their water was tricky.  The chick waterer was OK at first but soon they wanted to dip their beaks into something deeper.  This is how they keep their eyes and nostrils clean.  We went through a couple of makeshift containers…

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An old butter tub with hole cut out of the lid is great for young ducklings but they soon need something bigger.

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We upgraded to the plastic milk bottle design but as they were getting bigger still, it wasn’t long before they were able to go out and use a bigger outdoor drinker.

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Almost 3 weeks old and white feathers are appearing among the yellow fluff.

At 4 weeks I introduced growers pellets and grit to the ducklings.  They were growing at an alarming rate so I was keen to get them outside to a larger enclosure.  The weather was fine so I was able to introduce them to their Eglu and run during the day and brought them indoors back to the dog crate in the evening.

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Enjoying the sunshine!

The chickens showed some mild interest around them but otherwise left them alone.  Being outside, the ducklings could drill into the earth and nibble grass and generally learn to be a duck!  They enjoyed making muddy holes by their waterer and as their bills were getting bigger, I exchanged their chick feeder for the bigger Omlet grub container.  Ducks shovel their food unlike chickens who peck.  This makes ducks quite messy and wasteful, so chickens are great at clearing up after them.  When I bring the ducklings in at night, the chickens make a beeline for their run for any dropped food!

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Talking to the late great Siegfried

Within their run, the ducklings can exercise more efficiently while being sheltered from the rain.  Once the fluffy yellow down is replaced by feathers (white, in my case), they become more resilient to wet conditions.  This is around 5-6 weeks old.  Fortunately, during a spell of fine weather, they were able to stay out overnight.  It is around this time when you can make an accurate guess at the sex.  Females are more vocal and quack, quite loudly sometimes!  Drakes, unlike roosters, are quieter making a rasping sound so generally there is more chance of keeping a drake without upsetting neighbours.  As it turned out, both my ducklings turned out to be girls so I named them Pandora and Jemima 😀

Growers pellets are still a little high in protein for ducks.  Duck/waterfowl feed is not always easy to come by, so a compromise can be made by supplementing young ducks’ diets with wheat (normally available at a corn merchant/horse feed supplier).  Ideally, this should be fed soaked in water – this also encourages the ducks to clean their eyes and nostrils.  By 16 weeks the ducklings can go onto layers pellets, again with wheat provided.  Whereas chickens pretty much need to stay on pellets and limited treats, ducks diets can be supplemented with greens.  They will also need poultry grit in a separate container. Pandora and Jemima are not the most adventurous eaters – at time of writing they still ignore peas and sweetcorn, but they are having a good go at round lettuce and cress.  Their favourite is watermelon and there is nearly always one taking up space in my shopping basket!

Now the girls were a similar size to the chickens, I allowed them to free range round the garden (at first keeping the chickens in the run).  Runner ducks are flightless so there was no problem of them disappearing over the fence, but other breeds can have a wing clipped in the same way as chickens, to prevent them them taking off.  Runner ducks, being land ducks don’t need a pond to swim in either.  However all ducks need a water source to dunk their heads in and this can be provided with buckets or a kids’ plastic paddling pool.  These can be changed and refilled easily making them more hygienic than a pond.  Introducing the chickens turned out to be a very calm event.  Pandora and Jemima were quietly dominant over most of the flock apart from Oscar (now departed), Bunty and Molly.   Oddly enough, the latter two were the youngest and smallest hens in the flock.  Tarquin, the rooster wasn’t keen on them, and kept a distance from them,  although I sometimes see them following him trying to wind him up!

The new run

By the end of summer, I had a new walk-in run put up for Pandora and Jemima.  It is possible to keep ducks and chickens together but separate sleeping accommodation and feeding arrangements would have to be provided.  As the ducks were still on growers pellets and dirtied their water constantly, I preferred to keep them separate.  Like our chicken run, the base consisted of flags with shavings as litter and the Classic Eglu was their house (roosting bars taken out as they have no need for them).  Their house is bedded with straw but throughout the summer they showed no interest in using it, preferring to stay out all night.  This is the downfall of ducks – they don’t put themselves to bed like chickens but that was not a huge concern to me as they are safe in their run.  When the dark winter nights arrived, I herded them into the house every evening (yes, they waited outside for me to do this!) and shut them in till morning.  This is more for my peace of mind to keep them sheltered from cold but ducks are very hardy so I have found that most owners shut them in at night for their own safety rather than warmth.  They are more sociable now they are older, quacking loudly when they see me and Pandora will often have a nibble at me but Jemima is slightly more aloof.  They seem to interact more than chickens, who choose to be your friends only if there is food around!

Paying me a visit!

I have found that ducks are a delightful addition to the garden, a little noisier than I expected but very comical to watch!  Although they don’t scratch up the land like chickens, they do drill holes, particularly where there is water, so muddy areas can develop.  I provide them with a long planter of soil in their run, so they can do this if they need to be kept in.  The huge advantage is that before these two came along, I was plagued by slugs in the garden.  Huge ones, that would end up in the chickens’ feeders and poo in them.  So much that I took to bringing the feeders in at night.  For some reason my chickens don’t eat slugs (they’re supposed to!) but Pandora and Jemima relish these.  I witheld any big ones till they were large enough to manage them and I am pretty much slug free now.  My next advantage with the ducks will hopefully be soon when eggs come along!

Thanks again to Pear Tree Poultry for their fantastic incubator hire service.  Sadly due to space, I don’t think I will be hatching anything this year but feel free to share your experiences by sending in your comments! 🙂

 

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Tried And Tested Greyhound Coats – By George!

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George in his birthday suit!

Just as people are different shapes and sizes, dogs vary even more so.  Dog clothing is a fast growing trend and whether you dress your pet for fashion or for functionality, whenever you pick up clothing at your local pet store there is a nagging doubt if it will fit.  Sadly, that is the curse of off the peg clothing for dogs.  There is no national standard for dog sizes and company standards vary between each other.  The best option is to try it on!

Greyhounds, Whippets, Lurchers and other sighthounds are at a particular disadvantage with their distinguished body shapes.  Yet these breeds wore coats even before dog clothing became popular!  These dogs are built for short bursts of incredible speed so they have long necks, deep chests and tiny waists.  Most fashionable dogwear would be a poor fit on a sighthound breed.

My head was turned when I spotted George, a beautiful tall Greyhound sporting some eyecatching fashions which looked incredibly warm, comfy – and well fitted.  How his fortunes have changed since his days of an ex-racing rescue dog!  His owner, Anita was only too happy to recommend his designers.

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Deluxe Snoggla by AK Creations

When I had a peep at the AK Creations website, I was blown away by the quality of the coats on offer.  I wanted a dog so I could get a coat!  The one George is modelling above is the Deluxe Snoggla, a quilted showerproof coat lined with polar fleece.  For someone who appreciates good outdoor clothing on a winters’ day a fleece and quilt combo definitely gets my thumbs up!  Anita agrees -“The lilac A & K creations coat is great for cold days when it’s not raining too heavily. The soft material that wraps round under his chest helps to keep his little bald undercarriage warm and dry and the neck of the coat also provides good coverage.”

The neck of this coat unfolds to form a hood, which is shaped so as not to interfere with the dog’s vision.  The coat itself fastens easily with the built in fleece panel, which passes between the front legs and is secured with velcro and snap fastenings.  The Deluxe Snoggla is around £65 to £85 depending on size of dog, plus postage.  Along with other super designs, AK Creations also make pyjamas for chilly nights, cool coats for hot days and colour co-ordinating bags for stylish owners!  Three measurements is normally required when ordering a coat as these are all handmade.  Not surprisingly, they are inundated with orders so be prepared to wait a while for your garment to be made. http://www.akcreations.co.uk/

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Anita and George

In the above picture, George is overshadowing his owner with his funky raincoat from Milgi Coats in Cardiff.  If you want to stand out from the crowd, Milgi Coats do a fantastic range of patterned designs.  Here, George is wearing a raincoat in Purple Haze.  Made from lightweight, ripstop fabric it is both tear resistant and waterproof.  The cotton flannel lining ensures the coat is warm and breathable.  The cut of the garment is very generous too, giving good protection around the neck, chest and back legs.  The coat is also machine washable and great value at £35.  Anita’s verdict on this? “The Milgi coat is the one I use in milder, wet weather – it’s quite light but waterproof. I like the polo neck style collar – it doesn’t flap about in the way some do, exposing his long neck to the rain.” Milgi also do beds, bandanas and…Christmas coats!  There is an easy sizing guide available, but be quick as last date to order before Christmas 2016 is 11th December!!! http://www.milgicoats.co.uk/

As George was a rescue dog, Anita is involved with Lancky Dogs, an organisation for rescuing greyhounds and lurchers in the north of England.  They often take part in the monthly dog walk which raises funds for unwanted dogs, and is also a great social event for greyhound/lurcher owners.  Take a look at Lancky Dogs wonderful work at http://www.lanckydogs.org.uk/

George has also picked up some bits for his wardrobe from Lancky Dogs…

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The anonymous blizzard coat

“The blue and grey blizzard coat is really excellent quality and has the polo neck I like,” says Anita.  “It was given to the Lancky Dog group to raise money to rescue more greyhounds but unfortunately we don’t know who made it!”  Note the belt fastening around George’s waist – its a common feature in some greyhound coats to wrap all the way round for a better fit.

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George’s polo neck jumper

This is actually home made!  Anita comments, “The yellow and black knitted coat was made by a member of the group and I’m sure other people could do the same. It’s great for adding under the blizzard coat, which isn’t as warm as the A & K coat, to keep him comfortable on very cold, wet days. It’s also useful for cold nights when the heating isn’t on downstairs.”  Greyhounds, being very thin coated will feel the cold more than most dogs, so be aware of cold nights and mornings in the house.

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All this modelling is hard work!

Many thanks to George and Anita for helping me out on this blog as I have a severe lack of dog!  Always nice to hear some feedback on products from other owners.  Let me know if there’s a subject you want me to cover or a product you swear by and I’ll certainly consider it!

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Me, at my day job with George

 

 

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Lily’s Kitchen Cat Food – New For November 2016

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The tasting panel

Aaah, lucky me!  The lovely people at Lily’s Kitchen have been sending out samples of their new cat food and I have some foil trays in my possession.  My resident tasting panel – Bart, Phoebe and Ringo – are going to sample 4 out of 9 different flavours.  But first, a little background on cat food retail.

There is a hierarchy in the world of cat food.  Amongst the huge array of beautifully marketed trays and pouches, there is an underlying snobbery as cat food manufacturers vy for our well earned pound.  And they all sound so good!!  Time to get wise, as they are not all created equal.

At the bottom of the pile are ‘grocery brands.’  Most of us, including myself have used these as they are often advertised on TV and are readily available at supermarkets and economical.   However,  compared to premium brands, the nutritional content is inferior.  Before we all go on a guilt trip because we have been buying supermarket cat food all along, if your pet loves it and is doing fine, then great!  But its good to know what other food is available for our feline friends, especially if they have changing dietary requirements or are just plain fussy!

At the other end of the scale, we have ‘premium brands’ like Hills and Royal Canin.  These are available from pet retailers are are notably more expensive, but read and compare the ingredients and the nutritional composition and you will see why.  The meat content is higher, therefore more protein, and there is less, or no cereals and fillers.  Some premium brands will also have the addition of ingredients you might find in health food stores, eg antioxidants and herbs, and you are more likely (but not always!) to find organic and ethically sourced meat from a premium brand.

It is easy to get dragged into the which cat food is the best debate.  Personally speaking, I feed a variety of different brands to my cats, because as soon as I find something they like, they change their minds!  I’m sure there are many cat owners out there who have experienced this, judging by the pondering faces in the cat food aisles.

There is also the question of cost to consider too.  I have bought expensive pouches of premium cat food only to find my three going for the gravy and leaving the meat!  At the end of the day, a cat food is only going to be any good if your cat will eat it!

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Are these all for me?

So when Lily’s Kitchen were sending out samples of their new cat food, I was interested in my cats’ reaction.  Lily’s Kitchen is superior to grocery type cat food, but is available at Tesco and Waitrose.  That makes it an ideal step up for owners wanting to feed a better quality cat food without having to shop for it separately.

Lily’s Kitchen was originally developed for dogs.  The founder of the company, Henrietta, had developed recipes for her dog Lily, who was prone to itchy skin.  The food was a success so it was only natural that Lily’s Kitchen should bring out a cat food with the same values – using good quality meat and free from grain, which is often the cause of stomach upsets and allergies.

Well, that’s the background.  Here’s the taste test, starting with the Hunters Hotpot.

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Just to give you all a heads up, the texture of these foods are like a pate, which may not suit all cats.  This one is a coarse pate with some jelly.  Bart and Ringo had a good go at this one but Phoebe was less impressed.  In the end just under half the amount put out was left, so I think we can give that a 6/10.

Phoebe is more of a fish connoisseur, so I had higher hopes for Catch of the Day.

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The texture was a bit smoother but  there is still some jelly present for  the jelly lovers.  All the cats finished their bowls so we are scoring that 9/10.  Why not a 10?  Well, although they ate all the food, they were lacking the gusto I have seen with some other types.  Perhaps it was the texture. Bart and Phoebe in particular are fond of gravy which is lacking in this brand.

Next up was Whisker Lickin Chicken.  This was a very smooth pate food…

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…which wasn’t that popular with my tasting panel I’m afraid!  They all left about a third each.  Or maybe they weren’t hungry.  Cats are odd creatures sometimes so its not always an accurate test.  I’ll opt for a 6/10.

Last one to try for now.  Lovely Lamb Casserole.  Unlike a casserole, there is a distinct lack of gravy.

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The texture is more like a fine mince with a little jelly.  I was disappointed at the appearance (as it didn’t resemble any casserole I’ve seen) but the cats were happy with this one and polished off their portions quickly.  I have marked this 10/10 because of their enthusiasm.

Just for reference, Lily’s Kitchen also do other flavours, plus organic recipes and mature and kitten trays.  There is also dry food and cat treats.  Regarding the food Bart, Phoebe and Ringo had sampled, I would buy certain flavours again and I would try others too, as this is a great brand with a higher meat content than some other well known brands.  Definitely one to try if your cat is fond of pate type cat food.  The foil trays retail at around 80-90p and the organic trays are around 95-99p.  Keep your eyes out for the organic festive turkey dinner variety for Christmas!

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Plastic Rabbit Housing – Ferplast Grand Lodge Plus Review

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I’m a huge fan of plastic pet housing due to ease of cleaning and low maintenance.  Ok, so plastic is not chew proof, but most rabbits find wood more palatable, and plastic has the advantage of being easy to wipe clean and disinfect.  So I was quite intrigued when my sister unveiled her new purchase for lucky rabbits Sage and Onion.  The Ferplast Grand Lodge Plus 120 at £213 from Amazon (at time of writing),  is a two storey plastic rabbit hutch which offers plenty of space for your pets without taking up room in the garden.  In Sage and Onion’s case, their Grand Lodge is indoors most of the time as they are predominantly house rabbits.  Space is even more of a premium when your bunnies live indoors and a plastic house blended into my sister’s semi-detached living room better than a wooden hutch.

Although the hutch is plastic, there are some wooden parts, namely the sleeping area and the ladders – one from the nest area and one leading down to the ground floor.  This hutch is available in bigger sizes too (140 and 160 models) and comes in grey, green or brown detail.  There are also basic versions (without the bottom tray, so can be placed on grass), and optional extras, like a roof insulation kit or PVC covers to protect against wind and rain.

 

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The hutch comes in flat pack so be prepared to do some building!  It is 115cm x 73cm x 117cm for the 120 model, so its a two person job to move it (23.3kg in weight).  There are  some nice features to this hutch, including sloping roof for water drainage which opens up for easy access.  Other openings into the hutch are a handy side door, the door for the nest area and the run opening at the bottom.  The package also includes a water bottle, bowl and hay rack.

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Roof opens for easy access

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Both top and bottom trays slide out for easy cleaning, and unlike wood these can be washed clean and quickly dried.  I particularly like this feature as it works like my own chicken coops, but bear in mind if you use this hutch indoors and your rabbit sprays, you will need  suitable litter trays or some additional protection at the sides.

Any downsides?  Well, my sister would prefer an extra door for the run at the bottom.  My issue is that although plastic is more hygienic, wood is warmer as it insulates and there doesn’t seem to be an insulating cover available for this item.  So if you are buying this item for use outdoors, you will need to keep your rabbits warm by additional means,  so be extra generous with bedding.  There is a roof insulating kit available to buy and clear PVC covers that fit over the wire to protect against driving wind and rain.  You can also move the hutch into an outbuilding during bad weather (not a garage with a car present because of fumes).  For my own plastic chicken coops, I insulate them by covering with an old carpet which I bungee cord in place to stop the wind lifting them off, taking care not to cover the ventilation holes.  This can also work with this hutch although admittedly it doesn’t look great!

This is a great alternative to a wooden hutch with a choice of variations to suit your requirements.  Just make sure you have someone good at DIY nearby if you’re anything like me! 😉

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The Family Pet Show 2016, Event City, Manchester

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Staff at Manchester Dogs’ Home stand!

I am quite lucky that my current employer allows us to work one day a year for charity.  I took this opportunity to help out Manchester Dogs’ Home at their stand at this year’s Family Pet Show.  I have written a blog on last year’s pet show, but this year its even better with some brilliant talks and demos plus the addition of giant tortoises and alpacas!

As it happens, this is the first year Manchester Dogs’ Home are manning their own stand, as opposed to sharing.  And it was busy!! £1 entry for fun dog shows (Cutest Pup, Dog The Judge Would Most Like To Take Home and Best Trick) and understandably, the entries filled up fast.  There were also some reasonably priced dog treats and accessories on sale at our stand, and all for charity.  Building work is still continuing at the Harpurhey home since the tragic fire in September 2014, so every donation still counts.

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Left, me and Dogs’ Home Manager, Steve.  Right, Catherine, regular volunteer plus friend!

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Shortly after opening, the visitors find us!

Had a fun shift with staff and volunteers meeting all the visitors, and quite a few had dogs from the home.  It was encouraging to see how generous the public are with donations too.  If you are looking to offer a forever home to one of the doggy residents, or wish to donate or volunteer have a look at their website www.dogshome.net

After helping out, I had a chance to look round the show.  This year, I was on my own so I was like a giddy child let loose in a pet paradise.  I sadly missed the Leopold Miniature Pony demonstration (again! Next year, I promise!) but I managed to catch an interesting talk about Lupine Dogs from Julie of Miyax Dogs.  Julie specialises in ethical breeding and training of wolf dogs.  Julie’s dogs have appeared in film and television (Game of Thrones, Penny Dreadful) and she brought along her lovely youngster, Eve.  Her website is www.miyax.co.ukwp_20161001_15_14_46_pro

Apologies for the blurry photo, but she was very active!

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On the subject of poor photography, I also managed to catch these photos of James Bowen and Bob the Street Cat, just arrived for their book signing.  VERY busy stand!  If you are not familiar with this amazing true story have a look here https://www.facebook.com/StreetCatBob/  There will also be a film out later this year!

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This lovely lot are from Hebbs Alpacas and are checking out their bed and breakfast facilities as they are here for the full two days.  www.hebbsalpacas.co.uk 

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 Not just one, but several giant tortoises, as well as other exotic critters from Crocodile Joe and Safari Phil.  Sadly Lavender the skunk was asleep when I called by Safari Phil’s stand but you can see her picture at http://safariphil.co.uk/#/meet-the-critters/4590594874

I actually missed Crocodile Joe’s live demo (although I heard him on his didgeridoo!) but plenty of videos to view on http://www.crocodilejoes.com/index.php?page=videos

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Stopped by to have a chat at the Parrot Rescue stand.  These gorgeous cockatoos seemed to be taking everything in their stride.

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Same with this cat show entrant, who is just taking it easy between classes.  The pet show welcomes cats as well as dogs to the show, but its not always convenient to go places with your cat.   Below, this chappie shows us how its done!

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Barking Heads/Meowing Heads had an eyecatching stand…

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While Sealife Manchester had some engaging staff…

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My view by the Dogs’ Home stand

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Plenty of things to get involved in!

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And I ended up getting one of these!

Again, time flies when you’re having fun and my only regret is not being available for the second day of the show.  Many thanks to organiser, Carrie Mosley for helping arrange my volunteer work with Manchester Dogs’ Home and thanks to Steve Mapley and his crew for having me!

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Nootie Waterless Foaming Shampoo Review – Easier Way To Bath A Cat

Did she say 'bath?!'
Did she say ‘bath?!’

I am lucky that my two Siamese cats, Bart and Phoebe are so good natured that I can give them a bath without any injury to myself!  So I have done this once or twice a year on a hot day and they would go and dry off in the conservatory, unimpressed.  This is my turning point.  They really would rather not have a bath, and to be honest, I wondered if there was an easier way of cleaning a cat without saturating myself and the bathroom.  Even though they are tolerant to being bathed, they can still shake off a huge amount of water!  Ringo, my havana Oriental, I have yet to discover his reactions but none of my cats really get dirty as they live indoors.  However, these days pet owners, including myself are quite partial to clean, fragrant smelling fur!

The pet grooming business is now complimented by a huge range of shampoo products with delicious sounding names.  Gone are the days of standard shampoo and insecticidal…nowadays there are shampoos for white dogs, dark dogs, puppies and sensitive skin, to name a few.  For my furry trio, I opted for a foam shampoo that doesn’t need rinsing off.

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I decided on the Nootie  shampoo as it was paraben free with no harsh chemicals.  In fact, compared to some other shampoos, there were very few chemicals listed on the label.  This was important to me as my cats groom themselves dry, so I didn’t want them to ingest anything potentially harmful.  Alarmingly, tea tree is sometimes listed in shampoos for use on cats, despite some evidence of it being toxic to our feline friends.  This product can also be used on dogs and puppies.

Most animals dislike being sprayed and the hissing sound of an aerosol.  Modern pet products avoid aerosols which is a plus for the environment.  This shampoo is in a pump spray; with a few presses it dispenses a foamy pile which can be spread over your pet and massaged in.  Note that at this point, your cat may still object to this as there is an unfamiliar smell (soft lily passion – mmmmm!) and also because the product is still wet.  Its not to be confused with the dry shampoo human ladies like to use!

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Phoebe was my first guinea pig for this product as she happened to stand in some poo that day.  Phoebe stands relatively still but protests vocally when she has a conventional wet bath.  To the point where I wonder whether she would eventually give me a swipe one day .  This time, there was no filling of the bath, putting towels down on the bathroom floor and catching of said cat.  I did the deed within minutes on the couch as she was sitting next to me, and there was no cursing from Phoebe.  Sure, she tried to escape, but once the shampooing bit was over, I just needed to towel her off and she doesn’t mind a good towel rub.  Result – she went fluffy as she would with a normal bath, and she smelt lovely!

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Note Ringo watching from a distance in the second picture! 😀

I know I would never have problems with Bart.  Again, he would rather not have a bath but he tolerates everything I do with patience.  Even giving tablets is easy with Bart!  He seemed to give his metaphorical thumbs up to this experience….

Bart loves a good massage.  He wasn’t crazy about the taste of this shampoo but he was purring on my lap as I worked the product into his coat.  As a result, you can see the loose hairs over my pants!

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Quick rub with the towel and floof!!  Two down, one to go.

Ringo, being a newcomer to the household, has never had a bath with us.  He would be justified in arguing against one as he keeps himself beautifully clean and his sleek chocolate brown coat shines like a Minstrel.  Its a shame to ruffle it up really, but here goes…

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As it turned out he wasn’t too bad, despite the unimpressed look in the final picture!  In fact, all three cats were pretty well behaved and calm as large amounts of water wasn’t involved, and I did them all in half an hour without much exertion on my part.  The result?  Well, after towelling them off and leaving them to dry themselves, some patches dried a bit tufty.  These were places where I applied more foam, so was more wet, but a quick once over with a brush will put that right.  I don’t think this product will be enough if your cat has got a particularly contaminated coat, but for a quick freshen up it gets my vote.  The fragrance (no toxic lilies listed in this product!!) is pleasant and much nicer than pet wipe fragrance.  Its not the cheapest foam shampoo on the market – around £10 for a 207ml bottle at time of writing – but I chose it on the ingredients listing, which makes it stand out from other brands for me.  Having done my three fur babies, there is still around two thirds of the bottle left, but that depends how much you want to wet the coat.  I wouldn’t say I was a particularly heavy user.

Bathing a cat is not essential but should you need to, at least there are some choices out there that are less stressful for both cat and owner.  Feel free to let me know your experiences on the subject 🙂

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