FAQs (Reviewed with Dr. Frederic Chua)

Q: My rabbit is sustained on carrots. I see no problem as my family used to do it for our rabbit when I was growing up.

A: Occasional small amounts from the leafy tops of carrots are ok but not to be used as a daily substitute for timothy hay. As rabbits that have been domesticated for generations are used to dry feed now, switching them to a predominantly wet diet can cause digestion issues. Root vegetables like carrots are also not ideal for rabbits. Carrots and fruits also have high sugar content. Keep to 80%-90% timothy hay diet daily with 10%-20% specially formulated pellets like Mazuri Rabbit Diet or Show Rabbit Feed. Avoid corn.

Q: I provide my chinchilla with Orchard hay as he prefers it. Is it ok to provide only Orchard hay and his pellets daily? We give dried cranberries occasionally.

A: Most chinchillas prefer Orchard hay but it isn’t necessarily the best for them to rely solely on that for fibre. Our preferred hay is first cut Timothy hay for two reasons: higher fibre content and the stems that are necessary to help reduce malocclusion in the rear molars. Dried cranberries are safe to be given on occasion, bearing in mind that fruits have high sugar content so they shouldn’t be given daily. Treats like organic dandelion with no preservatives or sugar and other additives, can be used as a substitute.

Q: If I provide my guinea pigs with vegetables daily, will that be enough for their Vitamin C intake?

A: As guinea pigs do not naturally synthesize vitamin C well, providing them with 90mg of vitamin C supplements daily helps with their health. The amount of vitamin C will vary with different types of vegetables and while leafy greens like spinach or kale can be given occasionally, the total amount of vitamin C given that way may not be adequate. Hence vitamin C supplementation will be necessary. Avoid foods like grains, nuts, corn and beans. Remember to provide a fresh supply of timothy hay daily.

Q: If I provide apple sticks or mineral stones for my chinchillas daily, can I provide them with softer hay?

A: Apple sticks and other teeth wearing chews reach mainly the front incisors, same for rabbits and guinea pigs. Only the stems of first cut hay such as Timothy hay can reach the rear molars for wearing to reduce the chances of malocclusion.

Q: My chinchillas are not given fan because the previous owners I adopted from told us they’re used to the temperature. Will frequent dust baths help?

A: Singapore’s tropical climate sees not only high temperatures but high humidity levels. Chinchillas thrive in much lower humidity levels between 40% - 60%. It is very uncomfortable for them without the minimum of a 24/7 full capacity fan blowing at their cage (grills, not enclosed type). While 24/7 air conditioning is ideal, if you're really unable to (e.g. aircon is under repair works, etc.), provide 24/7 standing fan (not ceiling, USD or clip-on types as those are insufficient) placed near the cage. Chinchillas' fur is the densest among all land mammals. That being said, we strongly recommend 24/7 aircon, or at least a fixed daily timing of switching between 12-hr aircon and 12-hr standing fan. It is not ideal to provide only fan as chinchillas do not regulate their body temperatures through their skin (unlike humans). Regulate the switching of aircon and standing fan on a fixed timing so they don't potentially go into temperature shock. Switch on the aircon during and after a rain due to increased humidity. Note: fans do not reduce the humidity levels, only aircon can maintain 40%-60% humidity which is better for their lungs and overall health in the long run Having a de-humidifier and a standing fan alone is insufficient in reducing the overall humidity for your chinchilla's comfort.

Q: I want to use a wooden cage for my chinchillas but I’m not sure if it’s suitable for use in Singapore weather because I’ve heard mixed feedback.

A: There are various factors to consider. If you’re providing 24/7 air-conditioning, it is ok to house them in one that is made from wood that is of a safe species for chinchillas, ensuring there are sufficient grills for ventilation (not fully enclosed on all sides). Some wood species are unsuitable due to the type of phenol emitted. Keep in mind that laminated surfaces should be kept to a minimum, or completely absent from the interior of the cage. Wood is porous so disinfecting them during an outbreak of fungal infection is difficult compared to non-porous surfaces. These are the factors to consider before deciding on an aesthetically pleasing cage compared to the long term maintenance for your chinchillas’ habitat. Our preference is an open grill cage on all sides that allows for proper ventilation.

Q: Can my rabbit be bathed in water?

A: Avoid where possible unless specifically instructed by a veterinarian. Rabbit body temperatures drop when they’re wet, and blow-drying their fur may not be sufficient sometimes because of missed spots within their coats, that are left damp. In extreme cases, rabbits can die from such conditions.

Q: How often do I have to groom my rabbit and trim the nails?

A: Ideally every 4-6 weeks, ideally not longer than that. When their nails are not kept trimmed, it can cause uneven weight distribution among their paws and may affect their joints in the long run. It is good to provide your rabbit with eyes, ears and gland cleaning regularly too. Regular grooming also allows for groomers to perform basic body checks like signs of urine burn, sore hogs, discharge, etc. and alert you should your rabbit require a veterinarian’s attention.

Q: Can my hamsters be fed lettuce?

A: In general we advise against feeding iceberg lettuce as it may cause liver problems for your hamsters in the long run. Generally we advise against feeding hamsters fresh fruits and vegetables as those are not suitable as a substitution for hamster-formulated food, and may result in wet tail.

Q: If I don’t use household cleaning agents on my pet’s cage, can I use warm water to wash it weekly?

A: It is good to avoid harsh chemical agents like Dettol as residue can harm them when ingested, and fumes can be harsh on their lungs especially for small animals. Using only warm water, however, only serves to remove surface debris and doesn’t kill bacteria. Use a pet-safe disinfectant like F10SC as it provides thorough cleaning and doesn’t harm your pets based on a vet-approved dilution ratio (e.g. 1:250). It is also more convenient as you can use the spray as often as you like on your pet’s cage surfaces including feeding bowls, toilets, etc. and wipe or rinse after less than 30-seconds of misting. This practice enables a higher hygiene standard for pets’ habitats and is more convenient for pet owners to facilitate.

Q: Can I use straw or wood shavings for my pet’s litter box and bedding? How about tofu litter?

A: We generally advise against using such material because they are not ideal for your small pet’s lungs in the long run. Prolonged exposure to phenol and high dust content from straw and wood shavings is not ideal for them. Food-based litter like tofu can contain spores that can also lead to respiratory issues. Instead, choose recycled paper litter like Green Kat or Nature’s Eco, where the paper pellets are highly absorbent of urine and do not harm them when they chew on them like chinchillas do.

Q: Can we sustain our hamsters on sunflower seeds and mealworms?

A: Both should be given in moderation due to the high fat and protein content. Balance our their diet with hamster-specific diets. Our preferred choice is Mazuri Rat & Mouse Diet that is specially formulated.

Q: Can my chinchilla habitat be furnished with cloth hammocks? Is it safe for use?

A: There are several factors to consider. Even if you are providing 24/7 air-conditioning for them, cloth can retain heat and moisture. A swinging hammock may not be ideal also because a sudden scare can jolt your chinchilla into a fall compared to resting on a solid surface. Bear in mind that cloth is also harder to maintain and clean. Often what we see online may appear attractive aesthetically but we need to consider the monetary remuneration behind each popular video, compared to what is ideal for your pet’s health and safety.

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