April 18

Notes: Easter lillies poisonous to cats; caution on bringing home Easter pets

I love everything about the Easter holiday, except for the lilies. They always get me sniffing and sneezing. But for cats, lilies can mean more than just an allergy.

Cats that ingest any part of a lily – Easter lily or other varieties – are at risk of kidney failure.

“Unfortunately, all parts of the lily are considered toxic to cats,” says Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, veterinary toxicologist at the Animal Poison Control Center. “Consuming even small amounts can be life-threatening.”

The APCC answered more than 125 calls last year that involved cats eating lilies, so this isn’t just a hypothetical problem. Immediate signs of poisoning include vomiting, lethargy and loss of appetite.

It can be hard to place a lily out of reach of a cat, as they can climb just about anywhere when curious or determined. Either enjoy your lilies in a room that cats are banned from or try a different flower to enjoy this Easter.

ADVICE ON RABBITS: Earlier this week, Dear Abby carried a letter from a rabbit rescuer reminding people not to purchase rabbits on a whim for the holiday.

Suzanne Trayhan of the House Rabbit Network wrote, “Parents often think rabbits are good ‘starter’ pets and don’t understand what they are getting into. As a result, too many of these poor creatures end up in animal shelters, and children learn that pets are disposable.”

If your child would like a rabbit as a pet, let me suggest a better way to make a rabbit a house pet than popping one in the Easter basket.

  • Let your child research rabbits and their care. I know one family, for example, who read “Rabbits for Dummies” by Audrey Pavia together. They all got a good overall view of what rabbit care would involve, and the parents quizzed the kids about what they read.
  • Let your child figure out the budget for a pet. Rabbits, when cared for correctly, can be just as expensive as a dog or cat – perhaps even more so. Besides recommended annual check-ups, rabbits need unlimited grass hay, rabbit pellets, fresh vegetables, a litterbox and litter, food dish, water bowl and/or bottle, toys and a cage, pen or other housing. Add these things up and rabbit ownership can cost around $250-300 per year. Let your child raise an agreed-upon sum toward that cost before bringing a rabbit home.
  • Visit friends with rabbits or rabbits at a shelter. The idea of a cute, fuzzy rabbit may be more interesting than the reality of an independent-minded creature that doesn’t particularly like to be held or cuddled.
  • Consider providing foster care for a rabbit or a pair of rabbits. There’s no better way to know if a rabbit will make a good addition to the household than having one hang around for a week or two. You may decide that caring for rabbits in need is even better than owning one.

If you need more information about rabbits and their care, please check www.rabbit.org for a good starting place.

HOT CHICKS: Baby chicks are another common Easter pet. Many die within a few weeks of coming into the home, through lack of proper food and care. Chicks are also extremely delicate, lack teeth or claws to protest rough handling and can suffer broken bones and internal injuries from overly zealous children.

Have you given thought to the required care of a chick? They don’t stay small forever – they need plenty of room in a safe, fenced enclosure with the right food and plenty of attention. Chickens can live to be 16 years old – can you attend to a pet for that long?

Chicks thrive in a warm environment, safe from other animals and free from drafts. This can be called a brooder, and should consist of an enclosure that can be heated. Start the chick at 90 degrees and lower the temperature by 5 degrees each week until you reach 70. Chicks also need litter, which should be clean and absorbant.

Crumbles, and later whole grains and grit, are good food for your chicken. Remember, they’re messy! Don’t forget the fresh, clean water that has to be present at all times.

Finally, chickens do carry salmonella, a bacteria that can cause abdominal cramps, nausea and diarrhea. Children who care for or handle chickens should wash carefully afterwards to avoid getting sick.

I hope your Easter is a good one, full of love and hope and empty of unwanted animals as gifts. If you do find yourself with an Easter pet in the house, please research its care or take the time to find it a better home. Never just dump your animal in the wild; it’s illegal.

See also: Buying pet medications online   Would you make a good rabbit owner?