August 31, 2020

How to Cope with the Loss of a Pet

How to Cope with the Loss of a Pet

rabbit in grass pet loss

Losing a pet is a unique type of grief, and those who care for small pets may find that the loss of a small companion mammal can be especially difficult to navigate on their own. In recognition of Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day, we wanted to offer some suggestions on how to cope with the loss of a small pet.

  1. Not everyone will “get it.” Know those in your circle who will. Some who have never been guardians to small animals don’t understand our attachment to these little guys. In some cases, this might mean they don’t fully understand the grief we experience when a small pet passes away. That’s not necessarily a personal failing of theirs—they may not have had a chance to experience how special small exotics are!—but while you’re grieving, keep in mind that they might not always be able to relate to what you’re going through. Often, those who have lost a small pet find the most comfort from talking with others who have cared for small pets. If you think talking with other pet parents may help you through the grieving process, try reaching out to local rescues and support groups for resources, or try finding a forum or group on the web that is dedicated to small animal care.
  2. Grief is messy—and that’s okay. The grieving process is sometimes described as five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While some grieving people do experience all five of these stages at some point, grief can be incorrectly framed as a linear process. Instead of visiting each stage of grief like a space on a gameboard, grief can be a messy process, and no one experiences it the same way. One day it might feel like you’re doing okay, but then the next it may feel like you’re back at square one. It’s important to give yourself some grace during this time. Your life has been altered in a major way, and if your little one was one of your closest companions, that may mean you will take their passing especially hard.
  3. Or, grief might not be messy—and that’s okay too. For some people, grief can look different. You might not cry at all, and you may be able to go to work the next day. You might not experience all five stages of grief. Remember to never compare your grief to others. Comparing yourself to others in this way can cause you to set unhealthy expectations for yourself, whether that’s asking the question “why am I not feeling better faster?” or “why am I not crying more?” There’s not something wrong with you for processing your loss differently from others.
  4. Remember to work toward the new normal. You may want to isolate yourself by taking time off from work, turning off your phone, or staying off social media. For some grieving pet parents, this is a vital step to experience and learn to accept their new reality. If you do use this mode of coping it’s important to check in on yourself, and to understand when the time you’re taking to be on your own might be unhealthy. If you do decide to process your grief privately, exposure to the “rest of the world” after a pet death can be another difficult part of the process. However, it’s necessary for those who are experiencing grief to reintegrate back into their social circles (even if that means just digitally reintegrating at first). Pet parents who have experienced loss may feel like exposure in small amounts is the best way to handle reintegration.
  5. Aftershocks are totally a thing. Think of “aftershocks” as those ­small jolts you have in your cognition as you’re adjusting to life without your pet. You might feel like things are going back to normal, and then it suddenly hits you that your pet is no longer with you. Know that as you adjust to life without your small companion, unexpected triggers will come up that remind you of them. You might see your pet’s favorite veggies at the supermarket, or you might hear someone calling their pet by the same name as your pet. You might even have flashes of grief that pass over you while passing by a particular landmark. These aftershocks could be you trying to understand how to relate to the world after loss. It’s not fun to experience, but it means you’re learning how to adjust—and whether or not you experience aftershocks, learning how to adjust is vital progress.
  6. When you’re ready, think of a way to honor your pet’s life. If you need an outlet, there are countless ways you can remember your pet and help process grief. Some pet parents display a small memorial in their home with their pet’s picture, clay paw print, and favorite toy (fairy lights can be a pretty addition to memorials as well!). Pet parents who enjoy crafts may decide to spend time making a scrapbook with photos of their pet, or cross stitch or embroider their pet’s likeness. Pet parents who are able to serve the public may find volunteering with a local humane society or rescue to be an especially rewarding way to remember their little one while also helping others and contributing to a larger cause.
  7. If daily life is becoming difficult and you don’t think you’re making any progress with your grief, it might be time to speak with a professional. Throughout the grief process, it’s important that you check in with your emotions and thought patterns. Do you feel like you’re healing? Are you able to keep up with daily tasks? Or have you been thinking obsessively? Have chores become too much to keep up with? In the past, working with mental health professionals may have carried stigma for some, but times are changing for the better. It’s normal to need help from others, and sometimes that help cannot come from a friend or family member—sometimes we need professionals to assess situations from a nonbiased, expert perspective. Become acquainted with what mental health options are accessible to you based on your insurance or what public options are available. Remember that some mental health practitioners have a sliding scale system where you pay what you can. Often all you need to do is to ask and be prepared to provide a pay stub to show your income.

While grieving can be lonely, remember you don’t always have to go it alone. We hope these suggestions may be helpful to you and your grieving process. 

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August 26, 2020

Children and Foster Pets: Five Important Life Lessons

Children and Foster Pets: Five Important Life Lessons

child holding a rabbit

Inviting a foster pet into your home is a fulfilling experience for all, but it can be an especially meaningful adventure for children. All life experiences offer important lessons and fostering a small pet such as a rabbit or guinea pig is no different. 

Life lessons to be learned from fostering a small pet:   

1. Kindness

Children are naturally drawn to animals.  Fostering a pet can lead to real lessons on empathy and giving of themselves for the benefit of another living thing. Learning to express kindness is a life lesson that benefits everyone involved and makes life more meaningful for children, small pets, and adults.     

2. Respect

Just like people, all animals have unique personalities with their own likes and dislikes. Through fostering, children can learn about respecting the boundaries of the animal and work to gain trust.  All pets have ways of communicating happiness, fear, and uneasiness. A fostering experience will help them learn to engage at the pet’s level. 

3. Responsibility

All parents want their children to learn and practice responsibility in their daily lives. There are many activities for children to be involved in when it comes to fostering small pets, and all of these important activities that help teach responsibility. For example, you can encourage your children to make a chart on daily feeding, cleaning, enrichment, and socialization. The opportunities for teaching responsibility as a part of the foster process are truly endless.    

4. Creativity

Children are endlessly creative, and this creativity can enrich the small animal fostering experience in a myriad of ways. For example, utilize a child’s creative mind for making up new enrichment ideas for the pet. Draw pictures or write stories of how the pet grew while in your care and their uniqueness. This helps remind the children this is a foster pet and will be moving to a forever home.  

5. Knowledge

Let’s face it - kids love the internet. And, while many parents seek to limit their children’s screen time, the internet can be a valuable (and meaningful) tool when it comes to involving your children in the small animal foster process.  Provide them a supervised opportunity to do some valuable research when it comes to your foster pet. 

Some examples of beneficial research can include:

  • Find the best ways to interact with the foster pet. 
  • Search for blogs on fun things to identify in animals; what do the sounds mean from the rabbit or what is popcorning. 
  • Encourage them to look for ways to enrich the habitat and engage with even the shyest animal. 
  • Reading is also a win/win for animals and children. When a child is reading, they are often calm and have a level voice this allows even the most skittish pet to get used to the presence of a person. 

Now that you know you want to foster a pet, what’s next? Preparation is key! To get started, be sure to check out our article on five steps for a successful small animal foster. 

  • Determine the best pet for your family dynamics. 
  • Research and develop a good relationship with a fostering agency.
  • Prepare your home.
  • Let the learning and growing begin. 

Learn More

Foster 101: How to Help Your Foster Find the Perfect Forever Home 

Should I Foster a Pet?

Final Fosters: Tips for a Successful Experience

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August 26, 2020

Pet of the Month August 2020

Pet of the Month August 2020

Congratulations to our Pets of the Month, Guinness (left) and Wilber (right)! Little Wilber crossed the Rainbow bridge in July 2020. His brother, Guinness, is 3 years old and loves Organic Barley Biscuits and Western Timothy Hay.

Would you like your pet to be considered for Pet of the Month? Follow Oxbow on Instagram or Facebook and follow the instructions on our Pet of the Week posts to submit your photos! We select our Pets of the Month from our Pets of the Week submissions.

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August 25, 2020

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV2) | New Updates and What We’re Doing | 8/25/20

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV2) | New Updates and What We’re Doing | 8/25/20

What is the latest information regarding the spread of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV2) and what is Oxbow doing to protect your rabbits' hay?  Tune in as Dr. Micah Kohles, Oxbow's Vice President of Technical Services and Research provides the latest information on these topics and more.  

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August 24, 2020

DIY Small Pet Banner

Looking for a fun DIY project to celebrate your rabbit, guinea pig, chinchilla, or other small pet? Check out Oxbow Animal Health's fun DIY Small Pet Banner!


  • 1 new or lightly used paper grocery bag
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Pencil
  • Untreated paper string (or other natural fiber, such as jute)
  • Your pet’s favorite Oxbow hay (Organic Meadow Hay is used in this video)
  • 2 Oxbow Enriched Life Natural Play Danglies
  • Invisible tape


  1. On a grocery bag, sketch the letters you want to include on your banner. They should be in block text that can be cut out.
  2. Cut out each letter.
  3. Hole punch the top of each letter. Ideally each letter should have two punches, but this won’t be possible depending on the letter! In this case, one punch is fine.
  4. Disassemble both Natural Play Danglies so the individual natural chews are off of the natural fiber. Leave the tassels on the fibers.
  5. Lay out the letters in order on a clean tabletop.
  6. String the last letter onto one of the Natural Play Danglies’ fibers. Wrapping a piece of tape on the open end can help keep the fiber from fraying.
  7. String on one of the natural chews.
  8. Continue stringing on letters and natural chews by alternating them. Depending on how many letters you have, you should have a natural chew in-between each letter.
  9. Tie the second natural fiber onto the first and cut any excess. This should result in a tassel on either end of your banner.
  10. Using untreated paper string (or another thin, natural fiber), make a loop and knot it at one end of the banner.
  11. Measure your string across the tops of the letters two times and add a little extra before cutting the string. This will give you enough to work with when creating hay bundles.
  12. About 1.5 inches from your loop and knot, tie one small hay bundle. Make sure this is knotted tight so the hay doesn’t fall out!
  13. Tie some more hay bundles along the length of the paper string. If you find the bundles are tied too far out, you can wrap the paper string around the base of your loop to adjust.
  14. When you like where the hay bundles are placed in relation to the letters on your banner, make a loop and tie the other end of the string to the banner, and cut off any excess string.
  15. If desired, you can add additional stability to your banner. Hole punch the bottom of your letters and use more untreated paper string to thread through the hole punches at the bottom. The first and last letter should both be knotted so the letters don’t become unthreaded. Make sure to allow this string to be lax enough that the banner can bow in the middle.
  16. Remove any tape that was added to keep fibers and threads from fraying.
  17. Hang up on a wall or on the side of your pet’s habitat.
  18. Enjoy supervised play time with your pet!
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August 17, 2020

Get to Know our Hay Experts – John Miller, President and Founder of Oxbow Animal Health

Get to Know our Hay Experts – John Miller, President and Founder of Oxbow Animal Health

For this installment of our “Get to Know our Hay Experts” series, we sat down with John Miller, Oxbow’s President and Founder.  John founded Oxbow in 1992 and has been growing premium hay for more than 50 years.   

How long have you been farming and when did you first start growing hay?   

I grew up on a farm, so I’ve really been baling hay all my life.  We would either put the hay in small square bales that we would transfer to a hay loft using a bale elevator, or we would stack the hay in the field in a loose haystack.  My job when stacking hay was to run the “hay buck” which would run around the hay field collecting the loose hay and delivering it to the stack.  From there, the loose hay would be raised high with a “stacker” and placed on the top of the stack.     

After some time away from the farm as an engineer, I returned home in 1973.   I first started raising hay commercially in 1980 when I formed the Oxbow Hay Company.  I took extreme pride in learning how to bale super premium hay, and greatly enjoyed marketing my crop to veterinarians, dairies, and horse owners all over the country. 

What made you interested in marketing your premium hay products for small pets?    

I have always enjoyed marketing, and as I pondered other markets for my premium product, I started to research the pet market.   And when I went to the pet stores in Omaha and Lincoln, it became clear to me that my hay was superior to the product that was on the shelves.   And thus, Oxbow Pet Products was born in 1992 in the front of our garage. 

What do you enjoy most about growing hay?    

I love the challenge of being the best.  I love the smell of fresh hay.  I love the satisfaction of working hard and producing the best hay possible.  And I really like the fact that growing hay typically requires fewer inputs such as fertilizer and chemicals.  Growing hay is very good for the soil and will naturally increase the number of earthworms and the tilth of the soil.   There is also less erosion from growing hay.   Hay is an all-around more natural crop and better way to care for the soil when compared to raising other agricultural products. 

Tell us about the Oxbow family of farms.  What do you look for in a hay growing partner?     

Oxbow hay growers must have high integrity and be committed to being the best.  This is a huge commitment in the super-premium hay business because you never know when the hay is going to be “just right” for baling.  The right time is almost always at night and can be anytime between sunset and sunrise.  So, you spend a lot of time waiting for Mother Nature to tell you the time is right for making premium hay.    

There is a strong bond between premium hay producers because we all know how hard it is to produce this type of hay.   The majority of hay producers do not have this commitment, but when you find another hay grower who shares your passion, you can’t help but form a bond.  

What makes Oxbow hay special?    

Oxbow hay is produced by growers who are committed to excellence.  The passion that our family of hay growers has for producing super-premium hay is very similar to those who want to be the very best in any other profession.  It may sound cliché, but it truly takes “the heart of a champion” to grow great hay.   

What advice do you have for pet owners when it comes to selecting high-quality hay for their pets?    

There are some key characteristics of premium hay to look for.  The hay should be soft and pliable, smell fresh, and contain a good balance of leaves, stems, and seed heads.  Something that’s sometimes overlooked by pet parents is that it’s also important to feed a variety of high-quality hays.  This helps your pets to learn how to be flexible throughout the hay growing season because you never know what type of hay is going to be available for your pet at any given point in time.  Mother Nature ultimately controls which variety of hay will be the best at any point in the year.   

What’s one thing about growing premium hay that most small pet owners might not know?    

For those without experience growing, baling, and storing hay, it’s difficult to imagine how many variables there are in producing super premium hay.  Every field is different.  Every day is different.  Every hour is different.  There is only a small window of time when the weather and hay conditions are just right.  Producing super premium hay is not the same as producing “widgets” or any other manufactured product.   Every step on the Oxbow hay journey requires many people who are committed and passionate about what they do.   And that is the Oxbow pledge to you and your pets. 

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