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Goddess Envy:  Goddess Envy has been a shared conceptual dream of Amethyst and Dragon’s for many years even before they met.   It took the two souls finding each other to make it a reality.  Both people have thrown much of themselves and their beliefs into it.  Our number one goal is to educate.  So many pagans still feel the persecution of their beilefs.  In a world where equal rights is on the forefront of many political and social topics religion should be included. We hope to bring nature back to the suburbs with a brick and mortar store in Aurora within a few years.    
Amethyst:  I came into the pagan path as a sophomore in high school.  I have since delved deeply into my own spiritual path and education.  I completed most of a year and a day program with Colorado’s Collage of Wicca and Old Lore.  I realized that I needed more solitary teachings and broke away before finishing.  I have lived a magical life for many years now as a solitary practitioner.  Growing up in Aurora, CO I -like many of my fellow practiononers - have had to travel into the heart of Denver to find the supplies and knowledge that I needed.  The thought of a store closer to home has been a dream for a long time.  I have felt a calling for Goddess Envy for a number of years and through the aid of my husband have finally been able to make it a reality.  
Dragon: 
Goddess Envy:  Goddess Envy has been a shared conceptual dream of Amethyst and Dragon’s for many years even before they met.   It took the two souls finding each other to make it a reality.  Both people have thrown much of themselves and their beliefs into it.  Our number one goal is to educate.  So many pagans still feel the persecution of their beilefs.  In a world where equal rights is on the forefront of many political and social topics religion should be included. We hope to bring nature back to the suburbs with a brick and mortar store in Aurora within a few years.    
Amethyst:  I came into the pagan path as a sophomore in high school.  I have since delved deeply into my own spiritual path and education.  I completed most of a year and a day program with Colorado’s Collage of Wicca and Old Lore.  I realized that I needed more solitary teachings and broke away before finishing.  I have lived a magical life for many years now as a solitary practitioner.  Growing up in Aurora, CO I -like many of my fellow practiononers - have had to travel into the heart of Denver to find the supplies and knowledge that I needed.  The thought of a store closer to home has been a dream for a long time.  I have felt a calling for Goddess Envy for a number of years and through the aid of my husband have finally been able to make it a reality.  
Dragon: 

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Familiars

Familiar Care

Many times- as we work magic- we find need to call upon our elemental and animal friends for assistance.  When our work is done we thank them and share cakes and ale with them.  It seems wise and fair that we do our best to make sure they are happy and healthy enough to continue to help us.  Here we focus on the care and maintenance of our earthly friends.  

*Dogs and Cats

*Birds

*Rabbits

* Ferrets

* Rats

*Reptiles

Dogs and Cats 

For the household dog or cat it is important to upkeep proper care. Some of you are new to pet ownership and some of you are old pros.  There are things on this page for both.  Let’s begin with the basics: feeding, housing, grooming and training.   

It is important to know what is an appropriate size and weight for your pet.  Working with your veterinarian is always your best bet.  Your dog or cat, puppy or kitten will have different requirements than your neighbor’s or friend’s dog or cat.  A general rule of thumb is to feed a measured amount several times per day.  Always remember to provide fresh and clean water at all times for your pets. Certain breeds are also predisposed to easy obesity.   Obesity in dogs and cats is much like people.  It can cause heart disease, diabetes, and can speed up and amplify the affects of arthritis.

Each animal of differing sizes requires different housing.  If you are going to have your dog outdoors for most of the day be sure to provide a safe environment for them.  This means checking your yard once or several times per day for trash, or harmful debris.  Kids love to throw things over fences for dogs that are barking at them.  Also make sure you provide a decent shelter from the elements for your dog.  They may need a large dog house or just a small lean-to to be comfortable.  Again- don’t forget water.  On hot summer days you may want to set a hose up in a bowl at a slow trickle for them to drink all day long. 

 When in your home your pet should have a safe place to sleep.  Cats are fairly self- sufficient but if they are mischievous at night and are good at getting into trouble – you may consider a small kennel with water and a litter box as a “bedroom” for them.  Dogs do well in a kennel made up with blankets and toys to feel like a small den.  When you get a new puppy it is very helpful to start potty training this way.  Puppies and dogs rarely go to the bathroom in a kennel as in the wild they rarely go in their den.  Teaching terms like “Kennel” or “Crate” will work wonders when bed time comes around. 

Each dog and cat will also have differing grooming needs.  Long haired dogs and cats all require frequent brushing and bathing.   Mats in the fur can pull and become painful.  Never try to cut a mat out with scissors or clippers.  It is best to take the animal to a professional groomer for assistance.  There are special combs you can purchase for helping to pull the smaller mats out before they become a problem. Dogs and cats have natural skin oils that keep their skin from drying out.  Some people prefer to bathe their animals on a weekly basis.  Even weekly, you may be washing away needed oils in their skins and may want to use a special conditioner or vitamin supplement to help keep their skin from becoming dry. 

Cats also require their own form of grooming even though they spend a substantial amount of time bathing themselves.  Long haired cats especially need regular brushing and bathing.  Brushing keeps hair from matting as well as removes loose or dead hair.  This helps to reduce hairballs.  Starting cats on a regular regiment as kittens can reduce the stress and anxiety of the cat – as well as reduce the blood loss of the owner at bath time.  Regular nail trimming can also reduce the damage to furniture, carpets, drapes and skin.  Any veterinarian or groomer can show you how to trim claws at home.  

When training a puppy there are some important things to consider.  One being that your puppy is a social animal.  As a puppy or a young dog it is wise to introduce him to people of all shapes, sizes and ages, especially those he may encounter later in life.  Children, handicapped people, tall people, and men with deep voices, are common problems among unsocialized pets.  Also keep in mind they should be familiar with other dogs and cats.  You may have strangers (to them) come to your home on a frequent basis to say hello and play or give goodies.  Introduce them to strangers at parks to get them used to meeting new people.  Social trips to the vet’s office can frequently reduce the stress when it comes to exam time. 

Contrary to popular belief, cats are trainable.  You need to keep in mind that they are not pack animals like dogs are.  They are quite independent.  You are not their “alpha cat” and your pleasure with them is not foremost on their agenda.  Many cats can be very well motivated with food or with play.  Be careful though- too many treats can make a lazy cat greedy and fat.  

Both dogs and cats face troubles with dental disease.  Just like your kids, you will need to set up a everyday or every –other day regimen of brushing.  Regular at-home tooth care can reduce the number of times your pet needs anesthesia for a full cleaning.  Cats often decide that teeth are over rated and their body starts to destroy the roots of their teeth.  This can be very painful and these teeth need extraction under anesthesia.  A regular tooth brushing will give you a chance to look in your pet’s mouth for red/angry gums, chipped or fractured teeth and masses growing on gums, lips and cheeks.  All of these are things that need to be seen by your vet. 

Trips to the veterinarian can be a very stressful event for your pet.  The best way you can reduce their stress is to work with them at home.  Touch their feet, ears and mouth.  Pinch each toe nail and even give them restraining hugs.  All the while you are doing these things, lots of praise in the highest pitch happy voice you can muster.  If they get stressed or scared stop the exercise for the time being. If you need treats at this time it is okay.  Again, social visits to the vet where nothing scary happens and there is tons of love and treats are always a good idea.  

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Birds

Taking on a bird is like night and day from a dog or cat.  Remember that over centuries we have domesticated and bred and rebred dogs to become the shape, size and temperament that we want.  Because of environmental law enforcement there are no longer birds taken out of the wild  and many species are now domestically bred. This being said we have not changed birds the way we have dogs and cats.  They still carry the same instincts and characteristics of their wild ancestors.  Consideration of this must be taken when brining a bird into your life. 

The number one thing to keep in mind when considering a bird is that they can live from 8-80 years depending on the species.  That’s right- you may need to consider who in your family will take your feathered friend when they out live you.  Many adult birds on the market and in rescues are there due to owner burn out- just getting tired of having and caring for a bird.  Sad as it may sound- it happens. 

Instinctively birds often hide any signs of illness (as a form of self preservation), often until the illness has become an emergency and requires immediate action to save the life of the bird.  Because of this it is important to limit any possibilities of illness.  It is vital that the bird owner be on constant watch for even slight changes in behavior, eating habits, and waste production and consistency.  These are all early and often subtle signs that something is wrong. 

Stress (for all animals- including humans) is a huge factor in creating illness.  Birds seem to be especially susceptible to the effects of stress.  Limiting stress for your bird can keep them physically and behaviorally healthy for many years.  Things that can cause stress in a bird include: New home/ owners, separation anxiety from cage mate or owner, temperature extremes, overcrowding, daylight/dark excess, inadequate caging, loud noises, Harassment from other animals or people, poor nutrition, molting, breeding and disease.

Just like keeping a puppy or kitten- it is important to consider a number of things before acquiring a bird.  Birds obviously need a place to live.  Cages size is directly related to the size of the bird.  You want minimally a cage big enough to let your bird spread their wings all the way in both directions.  Keep in mind if they have a high crest or a long tail- give them space for that.  Also be aware that some species need room to fly around in their cage even though they look smaller.  Cage type and material is important – birds love to chew and explore things with their beaks.  Avoid things like galvanize wire cages (like those for rabbits and such) as they have a lot of Zinc in them that is toxic to a bird.  Also check for chips or bubbles in paint or coatings.  Finally be aware of the size of your birds head and how far apart are the bars (will they get stuck?)?  Cage placement is also important.  High traffic areas can cause undue stress for you bird.  As will having all four sides open to a room- placing at least one side against a wall may help them feel more secure. 

Birds require daily and weekly care- just like all pets.  You will need to be prepared to change food and water every day and wash their dishes.  You will also need to change the tray paper every day.  It’s not like a cat or dog who gets to walk away from their waste.  Bird waist in the wild will drop to the ground and they never have to think of it again.  In a cage – they have to be in close proximity with it.  Leaving it can increase the chance for illness and stress for your pet.

Weekly care is going to require a good scrub of the cage to remove food and waste bits.  Check your cage at that time again for wear and tear and make sure it is still safe.  You will want to examine your bird for the need of nail, beak or feather trims.   Your vet and nurses can show you how to restrain your bird and do these trims yourself at home. 

Many bird species require a routine of out of cage play time or bonding with their owner.  They also require a safe place to sleep and need regulated (usually 12 hours and 12 hours) light and dark times.  Some people achieve this with a cage cover.  However, some birds get agitated being covered so moving their cage or having a separate one in a room where you can turn the lights down for them is a good idea.  Birds also have strict temperature requirements.  They can expend a huge amount of energy trying to stay warm or to get cool.  Birds are most suited for a 75-80 degree F environment.   They also require bath time.  Some like little bath tubs to play in, while others like to shower or to roll around on damp lettuce leaves.  Some birds just like a little sprits with fresh, clean, cool water to allow for preening and bathing.   You will always be cleaning up a few feathers but aside from that just like most dog breeds, birds will “molt” and lose a large portion of their feathers at one time.  This makes room for new feathers to come in and keep them healthy.  The new feathers are itchy and fragile at the same time.  Your irritable bird may be soothed at this time with a nice gentile scratch in the places they can’t reach.

Though birds don’t need regular vaccines, it is still important to schedule annual physical exams with an avian vet.  Blood tests and stool checks can often be early detections for any brewing troubles.  It is a good idea to form a good relationship with your avian vet so you can discuss anything you see different with your pet.  Also knowing how much care a bird can take- make sure to ask for boarding or bird-sitting recommendations so if you need to leave your home for a time , your bird will have  proper , stress free care.   

Birds are highly intelligent animals.  They will require lots of toys that you rotate to keep them mentally stimulated.  Talk to your vet or an avian pet store about what are the best and safest toys to provide for your pet. 

As with any pet, birds can often come with or develop bad behavior or habits.  There are some behaviors that are natural for your bird but ones that you can show them appropriate alternatives for.  Others, like biting, are not natural and may need work to curb.  Work with your vet or an avian trainer to help you with poor behavior.  Keep in mind that birds don’t think in cause and effect terms like people and dogs.  Squirts in the face, a strike on the beak, or being placed in a dark closet are all asking for further trouble with your new friend rather than fixing the problem. 

Because birds are so intelligent and are still so instinctively wild- they make great familiars.  They will encourage you to interact with nature and remember where we all came from.  Many bird species are social and will love you very much and spend much time bonding with you.  They can provide some great raw and loving energy to many rituals and workings. 

For more information on care and keeping of birds we recommend talking to your local avian vet or look for books and online resources (of course always be a little weary of what is available on the net).  The Complete Pet Bird Owner’s Handbook by Dr. Gary Gallerstein is a great reference, available at your library or online book retailer.  

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Rabbits

Rabbits come in a range of breeds, colors, and sizes.  They make wonderful and affectionate pets.  Rabbits typically live 5-10 years.  Some breeds can get up to 20 lbs while others stay fairly small, around 3 lbs.   Rabbits are most active at dawn and twilight, napping during the midday hours.  This makes them great pets for the 9-5 work day of most owners.  Rabbits, like all other pets have their own set of needs and individual quirks to consider when they live with you. 

Rabbits need lots of room to roam around.  The bigger the cage, the better, making sure they have at the very least a small space of solid flooring to rest on.  A two story cage with ramps and different floors will give them plenty of space to roam around.  Cages should include bedding of shredded paper, hardwood shavings, newsprint pellet or towels.  Aspen shavings are especially good material but avoid cedar, or pine shavings that may cause irritation.  Cages should also have a box or place for hiding.   Some owners will let their bunny loose in the house.  If you are going to do this, take special precautions to protect electrical wires, furniture and other items on the floor from chewing.  Also, they should not be left to roam without supervision in case they get into trouble.   

Rabbits can be trained to use a litter box.  They usually choose a few places (usually corners) to eliminate in.  It is more than just placing a litter pan in their favorite places though.  Training a rabbit to use the box can be a long and sometimes aggravating process that takes consistence and patience.    The pay off of easy clean up can make the process worth it though.  Talk to your vet on the best training techniques, and litter choices. 

Feeding is a little more complicated than just tossing some kibble in a bowl.  Rabbits have a heavy need for fiber.  Calcium balance for a rabbit is also important.  A nicely balanced diet will include free choice of a grass hay (usually timothy, but can also be brome, orchard or oat); a small amount (dependant on the size of your rabbit) of Timothy based commercial pellets; and about a cup of fresh leafy greens (like romaine, butter crunch, or red leaf lettuce, cilantro, parsley, carrot tops, collards, dandelion greens and kale).  Avoid gas producing veggies like broccoli and cauliflower.  Fruit should be offered as a treat basis.  Young/growing rabbits younger than 6 months will require higher calcium you can get from an alfalfa based pellet diet with extra calcium and protein.  

Of course water is vital to your rabbit.  A small spill proof crock will do but if your rabbit soils it you may want to switch to a bottle.  Make sure to change the water daily and clean bottles and tubes weekly and check for blockages in the tubing regularly. 

Grooming your rabbit daily is very important.  Not only does it promote bonding but it gives you an opportunity to look him/her over.  Daily brushing will reduce the amount of loose dead hair that your rabbit may ingest during their own grooming.  Rabbits are notorious for hairball blockages.  Rabbits cannot vomit and will become blocked if the hair does not pass.  Some vets will recommend a bit of feline hairball gel to reduce the risk of needing surgical removal of hair blockages.   During your grooming you can also check over their teeth.  Rabbit’s teeth grow constantly throughout their life and can grow 4-5 inches over a year.  If a rabbit has a natural malocclusion (where the teeth don’t meet in the right alignment) over grown teeth may cause pain to other areas of the mouth.  Molar spurs are bumps that grow on the molars and can become very painful if not removed.  Free choice hay will encourage chewing and help wear down spurs and teeth.  Finally during your grooming, check over toenails.  Rabbits have very powerful back legs and sharp nails.  It is easy to get scratched – sometimes deeply so- by your rabbit.  They should never be declawed except in extreme cases.  Your vet can show you safe ways to trim nails and to hold your pet to reduce scratches. 

Proper handling of rabbits is very important.  They have a very light weight skeleton compared to the rest of the body.  This can lead to easily broken bones.  A rabbit’s powerful back legs allow them to kick with a large amount of force.  If a rabbit is not being properly supported they may kick hard enough to break their back.  Broken backs usually result in euthanasia.  While holding a rabbit, always support their hind quarters.  If they struggle or wiggle too much they should be put down immediately.  They can be picked up again with the proper support in a few minutes after they calm down.  Any time you need to hold feet, front or back, make sure to keep one of your fingers between their legs to prevent accidental fracturing of the legs.  NEVER pick your rabbit up by its ears.  This is a common way Hollywood likes to show rabbits. The truth is that Bugs and Roger probably had a ton of damage done to the cartilage, nerves and blood vessels in their ears.  Talk to your vet and have them show you good ways to carry and restrain your pet.  Make sure your kids know the proper way to handle your rabbit as well. 

Spay and neuter?  Yes – always unless you plan on being a breeder.  Intact male rabbits are much more likely to become aggressive (especially if housed with other male rabbits).  Female rabbits have a high rate of uterine cancers that can be reduced with spaying while they are young. 

Rabbits have evolved to require a twice ingestion from of attaining the proper nutrients from their food.  What does that mean?  Well to be quite frank it means they eat stool.  Rabbits exhibit a behavior/ body process called “Night Feces”.  This is a different looking stool they produce and eat directly from the anus.  This usually happens at night or in the early morning.  Rabbits have a very large and well-developed cecum (like a functional version of our appendix) that makes up almost 40% of their intestinal tract.  This organ is the site of fermentation and digestion of food.  This is where the cecotropes (or night feces) are made.  They are soft mucus-covered stools that look very different from the dry, fibrous, pellets you are used to cleaning from your rabbits cage.   These cecotropes are a major source of protein and vitamins.  It can be a little shocking and often repulsive to catch your rabbit eating stool directly from their anus, the good news is that the typical timing of it means you may never have to witness it.  Just be aware that it happens and is perfectly natural, normal and healthy for your rabbit. 

A rabbit’s high calcium intake can cause its own problems.  The rabbit body doesn’t metabolize the calcium like other mammals.  The excess calcium in the blood stream is excreted in the urine, up to 60% of the ingested calcium.  Most other mammals only excrete 2%.  Normal rabbit urine can look cloudy.  The normally alkaline urine of herbivores may increase the precipitation of urinary calcium into crystals and stones.  A thick, toothpaste like sludge forms in the bladder.  This condition can be painful and cause significant discomfort to your rabbit.  Prevention is mainly dietary.  Reducing the amount of dietary calcium will directly lower blood calcium level and thus the amount of calcium excreted in the urine.   Stick to a grass hay and vegetable diet.  Stay away from alfalfa, collards, chicory greens, lambs quarter and mustard spinach as these are higher in calcium than other options.   As a final note on urine:  Rabbits eat food that as it metabolizes will color the urine.  Urine can often appear yellow, brown or red in color.  Please note that red can be a normal color but because blood in the bladder or urinary tract will also color the urine red – it should be seen by a vet.  

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Ferrets

Ferrets make wonderful pets.  Used originally as pest control they are now some of the most popular companions.  Ferrets are extremely active and curious.  They will be a joy and a challenge to own.  Ferrets can live an average of 5-8 years. 

Housing for your ferret should be fairly easy.  You will want to provide the largest cage that space will allow.  It is very important that it be secure.  Ferrets can be little rascals and great escape artists.  The moment you are not looking is the moment they find their way into trouble.  Ferrets love to climb so a multi level cage will provide room to move and explore.  They will need a place to hide when they are scared – shoe boxes and paper tubes work well but will need regular replacing when they get chewed.  Some cages come with tubes and things that will stimulate a ferret’s natural need to burrow. Like cats, ferrets can be trained to use a litter box.  Litter types to use can vary from standard clay cat litter to newsprint pellets.  Avoid clumping litter as it can stick to little noses and cause irritation.  Ferrets can suffer from heat stroke easily, and can be fatal if not caught in time.  Their environment should be kept below 90 degrees and always keep a fresh supply of water for them.

Because of a ferret’s inherent inquisitive nature, you will want to work regular play time into their routine.  A ferret proof room for them to get around in is a great way to stimulate them.  Place several tubes to crawl through along with ferret safe toys to play with.  When the term “ferret proof” is used – do not take this for granted.  Any small hole, be it in a wall or under the stove will be investigated.  Ferrets also love to dig and burrow - a box with soil for them to play in will go a long way to stimulate their nature.  Burrowing requires long and sharp nails.   Regular nail trims are a must to prevent over grown nails, and injury to pet and owner.   

Feeding your ferret is also pretty easy.  Keep in mind that they have very fast metabolisms and will want to eat a few times per day.  Many people say they can be maintained on cat or kitten food however, this is not a great way to go as their digestive tracts are fairly short and can’t handle the level of carbohydrates commonly found in this food.  Ferrets are “obligate carnivores” in nature and need a diet that consists mostly of meat and animal products.  There are some great ferret food pellets on the market.  The ingredients should be around 34% crude protein and 21% fat and the first ingredient of these diets should be an animal product.  Some owners will go with a whole prey diet that consists of mice, rats, or chicks (a bit like a snake) but this form of feeding can come with its own problems.  Work with your vet to find a good food /feeding method for your ferret. 

Regular care of your ferret is very important just like owning any pet.  Ferrets are susceptible to canine distemper and rabies and will need vaccines much like a new puppy or kitten.  They will receive a series of distemper vaccines at 8, 12 and 16 weeks and will get a rabies vaccine annually starting at 16 weeks.  After that regular vet visits will include a basic physical exam as well as a stool sample check for intestinal parasites and a dental exam.  Ferrets are considered senior pets at 3 years of age and will require more extensive screening.    Ferrets can also contract heartworms like your dog or cat.  Your vet can run regular blood tests and get you set up with a heartworm preventative tablet for once a month administration. 

Ferrets are members of the weasel family along with skunks and badgers.  They have small scent glands near the anus.  These scent glands are often removed prior to the ferret being adopted.  Even with the glands removed they can still carry a musky odor.  You can bathe a ferret every other week or even weekly to remove the remaining scent.  More than this and you risk continuously rinsing away natural skin oils that your ferret needs.  Make sure to work with your vet to select a good shampoo to keep their skin moisturized and healthy.   

Spaying and neutering ferrets is always recommended.  Intact male ferrets can be more aggressive if they are not neutered.  Intact female ferrets will stay in heat continuously unless bred.  The high levels of estrogen over time will cause bone marrow suppression that can be fatal.  

Some bigger concerns with ferrets are their affinity to cancers.  They commonly get pancreatic cancer that will cause an over production of insulin leading to hypoglycemia.  They also frequently get Adrenal gland tumors that can cause hair loss and other skin problems.  Finally, Ferrets are at higher risk of lymphosarcoma.   Over all – any mass, or lump or tumor you notice should immediately be seen by your vet. 

Ferret’s inquisitive nature and love of investigating makes them highly predisposed to intestinal blockages.  They love to chew on rubber (especially door stops and small children’s toys).  Rubber toys and balls should not be given to ferrets due to small pieces coming off and being swallowed.  Ping pong balls, hard plastic toys, and Nylabones can make good toys.  Cloth toys should be closely monitored for tears and missing stuffing.  Along with bits of toys, intestinal blockages can come in the form of hair balls.  Ferrets don’t typically vomit up hairballs like a cat will do, and it will collect in the intestines and eventually prevent passage of food or feces.  Blockages left long enough can be, and often are fatal.  Regular grooming and a little feline hairball gel can reduce the risk of hair ball development.   

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Rats: Currently Under Construction 

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Reptiles

Reptiles can be very effective familiars and often times close friends.    There are many species of snakes, turtles, and lizards available to choose from on the pet market.  Here, we cover three of the most popular choices for familiars: Snakes (pythons and other  constrictors), Green Iguanas and Bearded Dragons.  Like all pets, reptiles require their own kind of extensive care.  No, they don’t need regular walks or vaccines but they do have specific requirements to keep them healthy.   Be aware that owning a reptile will mean that you understand its natural habitat.  You will need to consider housing, heat, light, diet and water needs. 

 Always keep in mind that, much like birds, in a natural environment a sick reptile is the first one to be preyed upon.  So they will hide any illness they may be suffering for as long as possible.   If you notice they are ill- it is quite possibly a dire situation that may quickly become fatal.  As a reptile owner it is very important to be diligent and observant of any changes to behavior, physical appearance; even keep an eye on stool production, consistency and appearance.   Any signs of change should be brought to the attention of your reptile veterinarian.  Even if it is nothing, it is better to be safe than sorry.  As a final note of introduction to keeping reptiles:  while some only live 10 years or so , others will live 20-30 or more years if kept healthy and well monitored.  So again, like the birds, you may consider what will happen to your pet when it out lives you. 

Housing:  Reptiles in general require a place to feel safe and comfortable.  Most do very well in glass aquariums.  Keep in mind the full size of your pet.  Some will get quite large and a 10 gallon tank will not be enough to stretch and move around in.  Wood and wire is not sufficient to house your pet.  Wood is not easily cleaned and can hold moisture and wire can get broken and cause cuts, scratches or pierce your pet’s skin.  Also, this set up will not allow your pet to stay warm.  We will cover heat in more detail later.  Snakes in particular are great escape artists and will require a sturdy locking mechanism or a side /top sliding glass to keep them in.  When building a happy home for your reptile, the second thing to consider after size and safety is the substrate (or base/flooring material).  Bases like sand, gravel, cat litter, corn cob material and wood shavings can be ingested and cause serious or fatal impactions later (impaction = material blocking the movement of food, feces, etc. through the gut).  Also – Cedar wood is toxic and should never be used as a substrate for your reptile.  Newspaper, butcher paper or towels can be used.  Many reptile owners prefer Astroturf or indoor/outdoor carpeting for ease of cleaning.  Make sure you have two pieces so one is always clean and dry and ready to use. 

Next consider the heat needs of your friend.  Reptiles are “cold blooded”, meaning they cannot maintain their body temperature internally.  They rely on their environment to do it for them.  Thus, many reptilian species come from warm climates naturally.  They will need a home that provides a warm setting for them.  Their housing should provide a gradient with one end being around 70-75 degrees F, and the other much warmer at 90-95 degrees F.  You can see now how a wire cage will not keep this kind of heat in for your pet.  It is very important to use several thermometers to keep your pet healthy.  Poor temperature regulation can quickly lead to illness.   There should also be a way for your pet to bask and soak up more heat.  A branch or stone for them to sit on are great ways for them to feel comfortable.  Beware of using heat or sizzle rocks.  These produce a constant heat that overtime will burn your pet.  With these it is not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when” they injure your pet.  There are specially designed lights for reptile cages that provide a great external heat source.  Many vets will recommend a red lamp so you won’t have to worry about it bothering your pet at night, and not letting them sleep. 

Next you will have to find a way for your pet to get the necessary amount of UV or sun light.  With the exception of snakes and other nocturnal reptiles, a source of vitamin D is very important.  Vitamin D facilitates the absorption of Calcium from the gut.   UVB is the best way to absorb vitamin D. However it needs to be unfiltered by glass or plastic.  Many reptile owners have a separate cage (this one is okay to be wood and wire) they keep for their pet to sit in outside to soak up the best source of UVB – pure sunlight.   Putting a glass aquarium outside in the sun will essentially bake your pet and they can die from heat exhaustion (much like a child in a car).    Bearded Dragon’s also require a certain amount of UVA for their vision health.  Again pure sunlight will help with this.  In times of poor weather or in areas where it is not feasible to take your friend outside- there are certain bulbs that can provide the appropriate wavelength of light to your pet.  Some of these lights will reduce in the amount of UVB they put out over time so a meter will be necessary to maintain the proper levels.  Also, keep in mind the possibility of burns caused from an exposed light bulb, so you will still need to keep your pet safe from the exposed bulb. 

Next, you will need to consider their need for safety, security and a good old scratching post when it comes time to molt.  Small hiding boxes or even well placed foliage will provide a nice place for them to hide.  However certain rocks or logs will let them both hide as well as act as a place to scratch on.  Climbing branches and perches not only allow for great basking but also psychological stimulation for a reptile adapted to climbing. 

Finally, we come to the broad topic of feeding.  There are three basic types of diets:   Herbivores (plant eaters), Omnivores (a mixture of plant and meat/protein), and Carnivores (meat eaters).  It is important to understand what your pet needs in their diet.   Frequency of feeding can also vary greatly among species.  Of our three key species, here we cover all three types.  Iguanas are herbivores, Bearded Dragons are Omnivores, and Snakes are Carnivores. 

Feeding your Carnivore should consist of whole prey like mice, rats, rabbits, chicks, insects, feeder fish, earthworms and slugs.  You can also feed them tofu or hard boiled eggs.  Avoid or limit frozen fish and don’t feed them a meat only diet (hamburger and chicken breasts) as this can all lead to nutritional deficiencies.  Feeder mice, rats, and rabbits should be pre killed (either freshly or frozen and thawed) to avoid suffering of the prey animal and prevent bites or other injuries to the reptile.  Gut loading can be important to keeping your reptile healthy.  Gut loading is essentially feeding the prey animal a balanced and sometimes nutrient rich diet prior to offering it to your reptile.  There are different formulas for feeding insects – talk to your vet about the best way to keep your pet healthy.  If your pet doesn’t eat in 24 hours- remove the prey to avoid later injury, or spoiling of the food. 

Dark leafy greens make up the bulk of the herbivore diet. Mustard greens, collards, kale, romaine and leaf lettuce (avoid head lettuce such as iceberg), bok choy, radicchio, spinach, broccoli, green beans, peas, alfalfa sprouts, escarole, zucchini and yellow squash, parsley, lima beans, yams, corn, carrots, beet greens, dandelion flowers and greens, Swiss chard, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, and mixed vegetables are all appropriate. Fruits and berries can make up part of the diet but should be limited to approximately 10-15%. Such items include raspberries, melons, strawberries, blackberries, peaches, banana, mango, kiwi, apple, blueberries, and cherries. Iguanas can also enjoy certain flowers like carnation, rose and hibiscus, although Azaleas can be toxic and should be avoided. 

Feeding omnivores is basically a mixture of the two other feeding diets.  You will want to be aware of an appropriate ratio of vegetable to meat protein for your pet.  Speak with your veterinarian at your first visit to get a basic plan for your new Dragon. 

Omnivores and Herbivores will need vitamin supplementation to maintain a healthy body.  You will need both a calcium only supplement as well as a multivitamin supplement.  You will want to use the powdered form as opposed to the spray kind that is not as accurate per dose.  Also, alternate which supplement you use per feeding. 

Finally, when you bring your new pet home keep in mind that although they look outwardly healthy, they may be dealing with an illness already.  If you already have other reptiles stick to a 60 day quarantine to keep everyone safe.    In addition, be aware that many reptiles carry salmonella (a bacteria, commonly seen to cause vomiting and diarrhea and can be fatal in some cases).  Always practice good hygiene with a reptile.  Wash hands before and especially after handling them and don’t eat until you have washed up.  

Here are a few specifics on the various reptiles. 

Snakes:  Live 20-30 years, can grow to between 6-18 feet long and can be as large around as a large rabbit.  They are not nocturnal, but do not require the vitamin D or UVB light that other reptiles need.  However, some will argue that time in direct sunlight will brighten their skin colors.  Snakes do require 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark for a regular sleeping schedule.   They do not have a diaphragm –which means they can’t cough.  Respiratory infections frequently lead to pneumonia.  They are susceptible to “mouth rot” or infectious stomatitis that can often lead to anorexia and death.  They can also suffer from egg binding- meaning they are unable to lay the eggs they have produced.  This can become very dangerous and will need immediate attention by a vet. 

Iguanas: Live 10-15 years and can reach a length of 6 feet and weigh several pounds.  They do require Vitamin D from the sun and need about 14 hours of day light and 10 of darkness.   This schedule can be reversed in the winter time.  Iguanas are diurnal, meaning they are most active in the day time.  There is still information being published that states that Iguana’s do well on an all insect or insect and fruit cocktail diet.  Some information even states that just dog or cat food is enough- none of this is true.  As we noted above, Iguanas are herbivorous and need a mostly vegetable based diet.  Poor nutrition is the number one cause of illness in most reptiles.  They can handle insects and other forms of protein but it is not a necessity to their health the way leafy greens and vitamin supplementation is. 

Bearded Dragons:  “Beardies” are very active during the day and often times have boisterous personalities.  They can live 10 years or more if well cared for.   They are not a very big lizard, only reaching about 15-20 inches.  Although small, they are very active and need more space to roam, so larger cages/aquariums are still necessary for them.    Their sleep cycle is very important and they require 10-12 hours of darkness per night.   Offer vegetables consisting mainly of shredded leafy green vegetables, as well as smaller amounts of fruits and other vegetables like squash, green beans, carrots, strawberries and cantaloupe.   Animal protein often is supplied by feeding them insect prey. These can include crickets, mealworms, wax worms, cockroaches, and king worms.   Large bearded dragons can be fed pinky mice however, do not to feed prey which are too large for smaller dragons.  Medium to larger bearded dragons can accept food items which are about 2/3 the size of their heads.   For young dragons, even prey this size is too large. They should be fed pinhead crickets or freshly molted small mealworms.  Gut-load your prey items before offering them for food.  Prey should also be dusted with a calcium supplement prior to feeding them to your bearded dragon at least 3-5 times per week.  Beardies do not typically drink standing water although, a bowl for the occasional sip should still be provided.  A larger, shallow pool of water can be provided in the enclosure for soaking or you can soak your pet in a separate enclosure 2-3 times per week.   Regular soaking will help maintain hydration and aid in shedding. Bearded dragons will also enjoy an occasional shower and may be lightly misted with a spray bottle once or twice a day. Many bearded dragons will lap up the water droplets in the tank.  Make sure that their home does not stay wet to avoid mold build up.  

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