September, 2019

September 16, 2019

Greens for Good

Oxbow Grows Fresh Greens for Local Rescue Rabbits and Guinea Pigs

All pets are special, and rescue animals and their advocates have always had an extra special place in our hearts. We believe that every animal deserves a safe and loving home. From our beginning, we’ve looked for ways to support the rescue communities that give so much to help pets in search of their perfect forever home.

After last year’s long winter, spring was on our minds early. As we began dreaming of green leaves and spring gardens, the idea came to us! What if we planted a fresh greens garden at Oxbow – just for rescue pets in need?! As a company committed to premium nutrition for small pets, the idea was perfect!

Planning the Perfect Garden for Pets

Struck with inspiration, it was time to begin planning our garden. We consulted Pinterest for ideas, choosing a horseshoe-shaped raised bed garden that would allow guests to “step inside” the garden while harvesting fresh, nutritious greens.

Our next step was to scout out our company grounds for the perfect location. We chose a section of green space near our employee picnic area where the Oxbow team could enjoy the garden while relaxing on their lunch break.

Team Building – Raised Bed Edition

When our maintenance team heard about our idea for the rescue garden, they jumped at the chance to lend their essential carpentry skills to the project. This skilled team dedicated an entire afternoon to transforming our plans into a beautiful raised bed structure – complete with serene pathway!

 

Oxbow's maintenance team begins building the raised garden bed.

Oxbow's maintenance team begins building the raised garden bed.​

Oxbow's garden bed under construction!

Selecting and Starting the Seeds

Rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small animals love fresh greens, and these delicious plants provide essential vitamins and minerals and help with hydration. 

For our garden, we selected a variety of beautiful heirloom lettuces from the wonderful people at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. The species-appropriate varieties we chose included: Bronze Beauty, Tom Thumb, Garnet Rose, Crisp Mint, Buttercrunch, Marvel of the Four Seasons, Big Boston, and Flashy Butter Gem. 
 

The variety of greens grown in Oxbow's garden.

Once the seeds arrived, a garden-loving member of the marketing team got to work starting the seeds indoors to give the plants a head start. The lettuce seeds were planted in flats and placed under growing lights where they began their journey. 

From the Earth, Something Grows

Within a few days, the seedlings began to emerge! Over the next several weeks, the lettuce plants grew quickly and were transplanted into larger pots in preparation for their big moment in the sun. 

Planting the Garden

At long last, the day had come to transform the raised bed into a proper garden. With trays full of lettuce seedlings in hand, the marketing team was eager to get their hands dirty and spent an afternoon transplanting the greens into the garden. By the end of the day, the once bare garden was now home to several hundred new plants.

Transplanting begins

One of many transplants

Watching Our Garden Grow 

Over the coming weeks, we excitedly watched our garden take root and grow. When growing fresh greens for animals, it’s important to focus on natural methods. With this in mind, we chose to grow our greens completely naturally, with no pesticides or fertilizers. 

Meanwhile, we got to work planning the perfect way to share our upcoming harvest with animals in need. Several Oxbow team members have adopted animals from Town and Country Humane Society in Papillion, so we felt like this wonderful organization was the perfect fit. After talking to the small animal manager, Misty, we set a date for a very special field trip.

Sampling the Garden with the Oxbow Animal Family

Eagerly awaiting the big day, we invited some Oxbow family pets to sample the garden. First up were rescue pigs, Beaver and Smore, and their mom, Dawn – Oxbow’s Sales Support Specialist. 
 
As you can see, the garden was a big hit with Beaver and Smore! 


Smore (left) and Beaver explore the garden.

Beaver and his pet parent admire greens from the garden.

“Which one should we pick, Smore?”

Next, we invited adorable bunny, Joy, and her loving family, including Oxbow’s Vice President of Business Operations, Jeremy. 
 
Joy had a wonderful time safely exploring the garden while munching on some fresh greens.

Joy explores the garden.

Joy wants the cameraman to get best side.

 

 

Fresh Greens Field Trip – The Big Day Finally Arrives! 

Finally, it was time for the big day! Members of Oxbow’s Marketing and Customer Care teams hosted some very special guests from Town and Country Humane Society. Small animal manager, Misty, and one of Town and Country’s foster families brought along three adorable and adoptable friends for a fun field trip: Edna, Perky, and Pepper! Joining in the fun were Duffin and Hank, two guinea pigs one of Oxbow’s Customer Care Specialists recently adopted from Town and Country. 
 
The guests had a wonderful time exploring the garden under the watchful supervision of their caretakers!

Pepper explores the garden.

Pepper seems to like Bronze Beauty Lettuce the most!

Edna explores the garden.

An Additional Donation to Say “Thanks”

After enjoying fresh greens from the garden, we invited the guinea pigs inside Oxbow for an adoption photo shoot and to present a product donation on behalf of Oxbow. The products included food, bedding, treats, enrichment items, recovery food, and hay. In total, the donations filled up two cars! 

Misty poses with part of Oxbow’s donation. We drove 2 cars full of product to the humane society’s storage!

​Misty, small animal manager at Town and County Humane Society, poses with Perky and Oxbow’s donation.

Misty poses with part of Oxbow’s donation. We drove 2 cars full of product to the humane society’s storage!

Planning the Next Harvest 

Our favorite part of Oxbow’s greens garden is that we will be able to continue producing fresh greens for more rescue friends in need! We are already looking forward to growing and sharing our next crop of fresh greens with more local pets. 

To see more of Oxbow’s garden and to learn more about how Oxbow supports rescues, follow Oxbow on Facebook and Instagram

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

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September 16, 2019

How to Support Your Pet’s Instinctual Hiding Behaviors Video

How to Support Your Pet’s Instinctual Hiding Behaviors Video

Hiding is an instinctual behavior of small pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. Even in captivity, all small pets need a place to rest and relax from environmental stressors. Watch as Dr. Micah Kohles of Oxbow Animal Health provides some quick tips on how to support this instinctual behavior.

Learn More About How to Support Your Pet's Instincts

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September 13, 2019

What Should I Feed My Pet Rat?

What Should I Feed My Pet Rat?

How to Support a Rat’s Omnivorous Diet 

by Dr. Cayla Iske

Rats are unique, nocturnal, social critters that make excellent pets. In the wild, rats are both prey and predator, naturally consuming am omnivorous diet including a huge diversity of foods such as vegetation, seeds, grains, and occasionally invertebrates and animal proteins. For your furry little friend, it is important to offer a similar level of dietary diversity to meet nutritional requirements and provide enrichment. Like hamsters and gerbils, the largest part of a rat’s diet should be a well-balanced, uniform, fortified pellet/rodent block free of artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. This serves as the foundation of the diet to ensure nutrient and caloric needs are met. A uniform pellet or block also prevents selective eating of high fat and high-calorie items, which rats will naturally gravitate towards. Controlling caloric intake and coupling to stimulating activity is essential to their overall health and wellbeing as rats are prone to obesity which has many negative secondary effects.  

Fortified Food  – The Foundation of Your Rat’s Diet  

When evaluating a fortified food, it is important to evaluate the guaranteed analysis for macro and micronutrient amounts. Start with the macros such as protein, fat, and fiber, but don’t forget that you really need to evaluate and understand all of the ingredients to get the full story of the diet. Ingredients in the food are required to be listed by order of their inclusion. It may be tempting to just look at the first 2-3 ingredients and assume they make up 95% of the diet, but that can be a mistake! All ingredients, independent of inclusion amount, will have an impact on the overall nutritional profile of the diet and understanding this is key to understanding what you are feeding your furry friend. We recommend looking at all ingredients on the label and focusing on minimally the first 8-10 ingredients and what nutrients they are contributing, keeping in mind they are declining in inclusion as you read. 

Protein And Fat are Essential, But Don’t Overlook Fiber! 

As omnivores, it is commonly understood that protein and fat are critical in a rat’s diet. However, fiber is an often overlooked, yet crucial dietary component. The two major types of fiber to initially consider are soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber comes from many different sources (e.g. oats, barley, flaxseed, some fruits and vegetables, and many others). Functionally, as it passes through the body, soluble fiber attracts water to form a “gel” that helps you stay fuller longer. Soluble dietary fiber, in appropriate amounts and types, has been shown to be beneficial to many species of rodents and contribute to improved colon health, stool quality, and may help reduce cholesterol.  

Insoluble fiber comes from sources such as wheat bran, cereal hulls, and grass hays and does not absorb water. Instead, insoluble fiber passes through the digestive tract relatively unchanged, promoting gut motility and supporting overall gut health. Research has also shown that rodents benefit from insoluble dietary fiber via improved insulin sensitivity (mitigation of diabetes), control of weight gain, and reduction of fat mass (mitigation of obesity). While soluble and insoluble fiber are both beneficial to rats; in reality, rats need both kinds of fiber and research has suggested a combination of the two types leads to more beneficial effects than soluble fiber alone. 

To summarize, a high-quality, fortified pellet or rodent block will ensure the protein, fat, fiber, vitamin, and mineral requirements of your little furry are being met. With a good baseline diet, supplemental foods can contribute additional micronutrients to your little one’s overall diet, along with the added benefit of providing nutritional, mental and physical enrichment.  

Supplemental Foods For Your Rat 

Rats are naturally opportunistic omnivores and are willing and able to ingest a larger diversity of foods than many species. This is one reason they are one of the most widely distributed species across our planet. Given rats tendency to preferentially consume high fat, high-calorie dietary items, these foods should be limited. Therefore, greens and veggies should be a predominant proportion of the supplementary foods along with a variety of grains, proteins, fats, and fruits. Some great options for each of these categories and feeding recommendations are listed here: 

Veggies & Greens (1-2 tsp daily)

  • Diversity of Lettuces 
  • Kale 
  • Squash 
  • Green pepper 
  • Cucumber 
  • Zucchini 

Grains (0.5-1 tsp daily)

  • Cooked brown rice 
  • Whole-grain cereal (unsweetened puffed rice or wheat) 
  • Cooked whole-wheat pasta 
  • Oats 
  • Barley 
  • Whole-grain crackers 

Proteins (2-3 times/week 0.5-1 tsp)

  • Hard-boiled eggs 
  • Mealworms 
  • Cooked beans 
  • Cooked chicken 
  • Crickets 
  • Cottage cheese 

Fruits (2-3 times/week < 1 tsp)

  • Apple (no seeds) 
  • Melons 
  • Banana 
  • Blueberries 
  • Strawberries 
  • Kiwi

Fats (2-3 times/week 0.5 tsp)

  • Pumpkin seeds (unsalted) 
  • Sunflower seeds (no shell, unsalted) 
  • Pistachios (no shell, unsalted) 
  • Pecans (unsalted) 
  • Brazil nuts (unsalted) 
  • Avocado (no skin) 

Offering your fur baby a diversified diet is essential, but may require some patience and finesse. Rats are generally neophobic, meaning they will avoid new foods or even foods they have previously consumed if they are placed on or in a novel object. Thus, it is very important to slowly and gradually introduce new foods. To avoid overwhelming your rat, it is best to offer new foods in small amounts (no larger the size of a pea) in common feeding places or mixed with food items they are fed normally. Once your rodent friend has become used to a new food, you can try hiding or scattering the food throughout their enclosure for an added level of enrichment. As always, it is always best to consult your veterinarian to determine the specific feeding regimen appropriate for your individual animal.  

Enrichment is Essential for Rats 

Enrichment is vital to supporting any animal’s wellbeing, no matter what they eat. By exploring new supplemental food options, you are enriching your animal via their diet and keeping mealtime interesting to avoid picky eaters. As we’ve discussed, neophobia can sometimes make it difficult to offer new foods to rats, but a slow introduction is key. Beyond nutritional enrichment, rats also need mental and physical enrichment. Given rats are incredibly social creatures, many experts and rescues highly recommend housing at least 2 rats together. Keeping a small mischief (group of rats) will ensure your little friends will have the interaction needed to keep them mentally fit, as well as provide them an outlet for physical enrichment through play. Toys also offer great enrichment and can come in the form of store-bought toys such as natural chews, or homemade toys such as toilet paper/paper towel rolls or cardboard boxes. An enrichment option many pet parents don’t often think of is loose hay. Providing hay to rats can encourage foraging and nesting, and offering grain hays, such as oat, can provide nutritional enrichment via the small grains or seed heads. 

The first step to caring for your pet is knowing what they need and how they thrive. Ensuring you are aware of the nutritional, physical, and psychological needs of your little furry can set them up for a long, high-quality life.

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