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Ask The Behaviorist
Small mammmals: Dr. Kathy Quesenberry answering questions
Please be aware that the following suggestions are
general advice and are not intended to be a
substitute for taking your pet to a veterinarian.
Posted February 12, 1998 | previous set | next set


I have a dwarf rabbit. Her name is S'mores. She won't let my mom get her out of her cage. She lets me though. Why won't she let my mom get her out of her cage? Please answer me.

Angelique Hill
Long Beach,CA

Response from Dr. Quesenberry:

Rabbits can be like other pets in having distinct preferences in people they allow to handle them. They may thump their back legs, bite, or scratch if they don't like a person or the situation they are in. I would suggest that your mother use a big towel to handle S'mores; throw the towel over her, then pick her up from behind. Also, some females may get particularly aggressive when they are in breeding season, during the spring of the year.


Hello. We have a tame, semi-domesticated male coatimundi living with us. His story is long and sad, and the wildlife authorities gave him back to us after attempts had been made to rehabilitate him and, when that didn't work, send him to a zoo program (all full up).

We basically are trying to respect his "ways," and hadn't even thought of trying to modify his behavior. But it would be nice if we could humanely alter some of his habits (leg climbing, "limit" his sniffing behavior), and possibly leash train him.

Can an adult coati even respond to conditioning (without outsmarting us!), and if so what kind? Also, is there anything published on coati behavior? Thanks a lot!

Gregory Stavroudis
Monterrey, Mexico

Response from Dr. Quesenberry:

I think that an adult coatamundi would be very difficult to train, especially when attempting to change his normal behavior. You could try with food rewards for "appropriate" behavior, but punishment for "wrong" behavior would probably get you nowhere. I would keep searching for an organization that might take him use the Internet. Perhaps a wildlife rehabilitator in another part of your country or in the US would be interested. Otherwise, you could try to contact a rehabilitator in the US to see what type of home environment you could make for him to let him be a "normal" coati without causing too many problems for you.


I have a gerbil, I just got it two days ago. It always used to have water on the sides of the cage for it, he can't get used to drinking out of a water bottle. What should I do?

P.S. I have tried picking it up and holding the water bottle next to its mouth.

(name witheld by request)

Response from Dr. Quesenberry:

First, realize that gerbils are desert animals that drink very little water. Many times they can obtain all the water they need from fruits or vegetables in their diet. So, if you don't see your gerbil drinking water, don't worry. Leave the water bottle in - just make sure it is patent (the water comes out easily). Use a small volume bottle made for small rodents. When your gerbil wants water, he will find it. Do keep changing the water daily to prevent bacterial buildup.


Why won't my ferret get along with other ferrets? His skin is very dry and itchy. His fur is dull and course. Is there anything I can give him? Right now he is eating Sunscription Ferret Food.

Toronto, Ontario

Response from Dr. Quesenberry:

While most ferrets get along well with other animals, occasionally one does not like other animals and may have to be kept separate. If the ferret is intact, you could have it neutered. Otherwise, you will have to avoid situations with other animals.

Make sure the diet you are feeding him is high in protein and fat content. Ferret foods should have at least 30 - 40% protein and 18 - 30 % fat. If the diet you are feeding has concentrations lower than this, change to one that meets these requirements. Alternatively, you could use a premium quality kitten chow (Iams or Science diet). If your diet is OK, you probably should have your ferret checked by a veterinarian to make sure no medical problems are present that would affect his hair coat.


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