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Pets: Turtles may have a fantasy life

Q: I am curious about Henry, one of my red-eared slider turtles. I have had him for 17 years and lately he has been isolating one of his river rocks and caressing it with his nails. I believe this is a mating ritual. I have two sliders, both male, and they have been kept separately most of this time. The other slider doesn’t do this. Is this bad? Is it boredom?

A: You are correct that this is a part of turtle lovemaking. A male slider turtle has much longer front claws than the female so that he can gently stroke the face of the female and woo her into accepting him as a mate. Turtles do not have many hopes and aspirations in life, and getting a mate seems to be one of Henry’s. That is why he has developed this fantasy about that one particular rock as his dream of what a desirable female turtle is. I would just allow him this little fantasy and look the other way when he is doing this.


Q: We bought a male canary in December and he has been singing wonderfully since then. However, in the last month we noticed that his singing is done only once or twice a day at most. We also see many feathers at the bottom of the cage, and he seems to like to pick up the feathers and chew on them. We were wondering if he was lacking something in his diet?

A: Canaries will molt or change their feathers in the spring and summer months and this takes a great deal of their energy and body reserves. (They have to lose every one of their feathers and regrow them in a 12-week period. As a result, they really do not have the energy or will to sing during this time.)

Out in the natural world, when a bird loses a feather, it just blows away. But in a cage, it just falls on the floor. They attract the bird’s attention and it will pick them up to investigate. Sometimes, when a bird runs out of molted feathers to play with, it will then start to pull out its own feathers. This applies to all birds, not just canaries. So do your best to clean his cage every day, and hang a bunch of fibrous greens such as kale or chicory in his cage for him to pluck at and entertain himself. In another two months or so, he will have regrown all his feathers and then will start to sing again.


Q: I remember on one of your YouTube videos you were talking about a household powder that you could run into a dog’s fur to use as a dry bath when your dog is smelly and you do not have time to bathe it. The ones I have bought in the pet stores seem to have a lot of heavy fragrance in them that makes me and my dog sneeze.

A: Cornstarch works very well. You just rub a handful through your dog’s fur and then comb it out. I have found that this works well with bunnies, too. A bunny is not an animal that deals well with getting a traditional bath, but using the cornstarch as I have described will tidy a messy bunny right up. There is nothing much more inert and natural than cornstarch, and it certainly has no artificial fragrance or anything else in it that may make you or your pet uncomfortable.