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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 05-10-2013, 12:43 PM Thread Starter
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New pet prairie dogs! ADVICE NEEDED!!!

I know this is long, but I really need some help with my new babies, and I would really appreciate some advice from actual prairie dog owners because I cannot find good advice anywhere online. Also, I have underlined everything that is most important in case you're in a hurry and can't read all of my explanations.


Hey everyone! I need some advice about my new pet prairie dogs. First of all, I know that prairie dogs are unique, and wild creatures. I am being as patient with them as possible and doing everything I can to help them adjust (including getting on here for some advice from y'all experts!). However, there are some problems I've run into, and even thought I researched everything in advance, owning these babies is a totally different story. So here it goes:

I have a little boy (Rocco) and a little girl (Ruby). I got them both around three weeks ago, and they are absolutely precious. I know it is going to take them a while to bond because I have two, but can anyone give me any advice to help them bond with us faster? We sit with them in the bathroom (separately) for at least 30 min-1hr every day. I sit by their cage and feed them/pet them. I can say their partially bonded, but just not to the point where they feel completely comfortable with me.

They do not bite, and get pretty excited to see me. BUT! THEY HATE BEING PICKED UP!-well, Rocco hates being picked up, Ruby is very hot and cold about it. They are so sweet and they don't bite at all, but they squirm and squiggle, and Rocco scratches BAD. In fact (God I hate admitting this) I've even dropped them a few times because of it. I don't know what to do, because I have to pick them up when I'm moving them around. I've tried crawling with them, moving their cage around, just anything, but Rocco still manages to squirm out of my hands...it breaks my heart. I mean BREAKS it. The part that is the worst is that sometimes he'll start to let me pick him up and he'll be fine for a few minutes and then here comes the squirming.

Here are some of my main problems:

They climb on everything and fall! It makes me so scared/upset. Is that something I'm just going to have to deal with, or is there anything I can do? They look like they've hurt themselves before and it just makes me feel awful for them.


Caging: It seems like no matter what I read online, there is no such thing as a safe cage. Everyone seems to have a different opinion and I am so torn over what to do.

At first we were planning on making our own cage with a wood base and mesh wire (like chicken wire?) which I've seen suggested in a lot of online cages. Then that was shot down because our seller said they would scratch their nose against the wire and chew the wood. And then I read that their urine would seep into the wood and become toxic.

So finally I ended up with a marshal farms ferret mansion which my fiance basically cut in half to keep them from climbing too high. It is about 3 1/2 feet tall and has vertical bars (rather that then horizontal ones I heard they could damage their teeth with). Well, they still climb this and fall...so I have a pillow down that covers half of the cage. That seems to make sense, they like to sleep on it, and it catches their falls (for the most part). They still fall from the other side though, so I'm really concerned about that. I can't really put their food and litter box on a pillow, ya know? What do ya'll think about this cage set up? I feel like when they grow into it all of the way it will be a perfect size (I would say it was five by four width and length wise-it's pretty big. Probably bigger than my estimates).

My main concern is that they chew the cage bars. I cannot make them stop. I'm worried that they're going to hurt themselves but I have no idea what to do.

Now for chew toys! I read that chew toys are good to grind down their teeth, and bad because they can splinter off into their stomach and kill them...great for my paranoia...I have a friend that works at a zoo, and the zoo keeper said they NEED sticks to chew on. I bought them a willow hut and they really like it. I noticed that they fight with each other a lot if they don't have something to chew. They won't chew the natural rope dog toys I bought them =[ But, I know they need something to chew because I heard Ruby grinding her teeth in her sleep. What should I give them?

Can I trim their finger nails? They've been biting them and it looks like their getting too long. I of course read that I should, and that I shouldn't. What do y'all do?

Last problem- My seller gave them beneful, and now they only want to eat it and hay. They like when I pick out the yellow pieces of beneful (yes, of course I went through the whole bag and picked out the pieces they like) and the hard hay (yep-picked those out too). I figured those are both good for their teeth, but I'd really like them to start eating the oxbow timothy pellets. Suggestions? Is the beneful okay?

Thank y'all so much. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your help and advice.
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 05-16-2013, 12:20 AM
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Reply to "New pet prairie dogs! Advice Needed!!!"

Hello CarolMc,
First of all, I am very glad that you ended up getting two prairie dogs; I have read that they are such social little creatures that being an "only child" can be devastating to them. I, too, am a first-timer, having recently (almost three weeks ago) gotten three of them myself (one boy, one girl, and another--probably--girl).
It seems like my little ones don't mind being handled, but like yours, they squirm---a LOT. I have found that the best way to have them let me pick them up for a bit is to hold them against my body while petting their head continuously. While this doesn't always work, they often can't resist it and will be still for a little bit while they soak up the petting. This also helps with the scratching (their nails are sharp, aren't they?!). I also noticed that they squirm a lot more when you try to put them on their back (cradle them) than if you leave them face down (with their belly against your body). Also, this may be coincidence, but one of my prairies is about two weeks older than the other two, and she is easier to hold. I have heard that they mellow with age, so we'll see.
Speaking of sharp nails, I have not clipped their nails because I am so worried about cutting the quick of their nails. Iíll just deal with the sharp nails until I can think of a better way, or until they calm down more. If you wear a long-sleeved shirt, you donít notice the nails nearly as much.
Mine also climb on everything and when I have them out of their cage, I am constantly keeping them from climbing up the outside of it. Inside their cage, the maximum height that they can fall from is about 24 inches (a little less when you factor in the height of the prairie dog). It makes me super nervous, but so far they seem to be okay with falling from this height. I do have cardboard lining the bottom of their cage, which helps to absorb some of the impact. Maybe you can do the same in the areas where you cannot put a pillow.
With respect to chew toys, I was also concerned with splinters. My suggestion would be to make sure that your chew toys/sticks are made of hard wood, rather than soft woods that are more likely to splinter. I bought my prairie dogs two hardwood chew toys but to be honest, they show little interest in them. They would much rather chew up the cardboard that I use to line their cage. I do give them a lot of hay, though, so I am hoping that this will help wear their teeth down.
When I got my prairie dogs, they had been fed a diet of pellets (specifically the ones made by ExoticNutrition) and hay. I have been thinking about adding a little bit of high-quality dog food to their diet, but I hesitate to do so because I hear mixed things about the dog food. In fact, I am also a little bit wary of the pellets---the ingredient list on the bag is soooo long that it makes me wonder. Since Iíve had them, I feed them fewer pellets, more hay, and supplement their diet with organic vegetables (sweet potato and carrot). I have also been providing them with sunflower seeds for extra protein (rather than the dog food). They seem to be doing very well on what I am feeding them. I would suggest cutting back on the amount of dog food your prairie dogs are eating, just to be on the safe side. Have you tried feeding them anything else yet?

Hope this helps, and if I learn anything else useful from my own experiences, Iíll be sure to post.
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