Fred is Sick, and Vets are Misinformed About What to Feed Cats


Fluffy Freddy boy

Some of you may remember Fred, the stray cat who showed up here a few months ago in rough shape. Well yesterday Fred was doing the litterbox shuffle, going from one box to the other, only able to urinate a dribble each time. He still seemed frisky and cheerful so I decided to give it a day. He was back at it today so I scheduled an appointment with my vet.

I brought him in and after a urinalysis, he was diagnosed with a raging bladder infection and pee chock full of struvite crystals. Poor Fred. He was given a shot of strong antibiotics and I was told that he needed to go on a special diet. Uh oh, here we go.

Ironically, as I had been waiting for the results of the test, I had been noticing that all the posters and infographics in the vet office had been sponsored by pet food companies. If you’ve been reading my blog, you may know that I try to feed my cats raw food predominantly. Of course lately I’ve been lazy and have been passing out low-carb kibbles and canned. My bad.

When the vet said I needed to change his diet I knew what was coming. She said he needed to go on a special, very expensive canned diet that could only be purchased from a vet. I asked her if there was a natural alternative to this food and she said very sternly, “NO”. So obviously then I asked if whatever was in the special diet was not natural? To that she had no response.

Of course, once back at home, about one minute of online research later, I discovered that these special foods basically just have lowered ash and magnesium content, something which has actually been proven to have no effect on urinary crystals. The only thing proven to help with struvite crystals in the urine is increased water consumption. What a shocker. Why is there ash in cat food to begin with? And of course the best way to keep his urine acidified so it can properly dissolve the crystals is simply to feed a high-moisture content, zero-carb, raw diet. What a coincidence.

I remember when I started feeding homemade raw, I felt a bit guilty. Was I being a bad cat owner? The vets seemed to think so. After having my three cats on raw for about a year, one hot summer my cat Parsley started drinking water. Normally she never drank water as she got plenty of moisture from the raw food. I was worried. I brought her in to the vet for full blood work. Of course he asked about her diet. I told him I made her a homemade raw diet and he looked at me like I was a poor deluded idiot. “What spices do you add to this diet?” he asked. Spices? I don’t add any spices. I make a species-appropriate prey-model diet based on what a cat would eat in the wild. Did he think I was serving them raw chicken with Italian dressing? He was unimpressed. When he came back out with blood test results in hand he said, “This is one of the healthiest cats I have ever seen.” The next thing out of his mouth was “I still think you should switch her over to a commercially prepared diet.” Huh?

And so this is how it has been with nearly every vet I have ever visited. A homemade raw diet is evil, you’re killing your cats, you are a bad owner, you should be ashamed. And yet I’m just not buying it. A feral cat would be eating a raw diet, and I myself don’t eat a “perfectly balanced” meal each day and somehow, I survive.

I’ve heard anecdotally that vets get a few hours of training total regarding nutritional health of pets and that this “training” is highly influenced by pet food corporations. I myself have found that most vets are sorely misinformed when it comes to what kinds of foods are best for cats and dogs. They espouse high-carb kibbles and canned foods that probably ensure their patients will be returning for expensive treatments again and again. I’m sure most don’t do this knowingly, but that’s no excuse.

Anyway. Around $200 later, I have a paper bag of very expensive tiny cans of cat food which list their first ingredient as water. I think I’ll just stop being so lazy and get everyone back on the raw food feeding regime. All I want are healthy cats, and I don’t mind a little extra work and expense to achieve that. I’m tired of being shamed, looked down upon and made to feel horrible for providing my pets with a fresh, raw diet that I know is good for them.


Jeffie enjoying a rack of raw rabbit ribs


Californian Kits are Here

DSC_0002On schedule, Samphire kindled seven kits this morning, one unfortunately was stillborn. I’ll have to monitor the nestbox closely from now on to make sure my new bedding experiment is doing the trick. I may add a piece of cardboard flooring if I find the kits burrowing down too much. It’s not that cold out right now but the kits need to stay extra warm for the first couple of weeks in order to develop well.

Homing Pigeons Going Nest Crazy


The pigeons are now trying to nest in any spot they can. This hen decided a nice location would be right on top of a piece of metal on the quail cage. I also have a pair taking up a third of my chicken nest boxes. The hen on top of the quail is actually one of the first homers I got, and is one of my favorites because of her little white eye stripe.


Making some adjustments

When I feed and water the quail, she just sits there and looks at me. At least I’ll be able to observe her squabs easily. I had been hoping that the white pigeons would pair up together, but of course every white hen seems to have chosen a blue cock. The first squabs to be born here have a blue mother, but also seem to have a white dad as they are feathering out mostly white with a few grey spots. Oh well.


I have a much greater understanding now of why our ancestors raised pigeons for food, and also why they are so plentiful in the wild. They breed like nuts. When the current squabs are around 20-30 days old, the pair will start a new nest and brood another set of eggs. They do all the work for you, and you harvest the squabs at 30 days.

I don’t much like the idea of butchering pigeons, as I really have a deep connection with these birds, but it now appears that I have no choice. I simply won’t have room for everyone if they continue to breed like this. To be honest, I’m very interested in trying squab.

I think I may cull some of my blue cocks, as there are too many cocks anyways, and eventually pare down my blue bar/check flock to a couple of pairs. Then I’ll separate them from my white homers and have a flock of whites for my dove release business, as well as some blue homers if I want to do some racing. The whites get picked off too easily by predators for that and I do like the wild-type plumage of the blues.

It’s weird that wild-type pigeons are viewed by so many as disgusting, filthy trash birds; while white pigeons are considered almost (literally) godly, and used at sacred ceremonies such as weddings, funerals, etc. White pigeons are just regular pigeons wearing white feathers. Why do we like white things so much? An interesting consideration.

Help! My Meat Rabbits Won’t Breed


One of my Standard Rex pairs getting ready to breed as the jealous Californian buck looks on

Are you having problems getting your rabbits to do what they’re supposedly so famous for? They’re just sitting there in your barn, lying around in the lap of luxury, eating bag after bag of expensive food and your freezer is empty? So frustrating! Here are a few tips and tricks that have proven useful to me over the past four years running my rabbitry in getting more bang from my bucks. Get it?

First, we all know to bring the doe to the buck’s cage and not the other way around. This is because if you bring the buck to the doe, often he’ll be too interested in sniffing out the new territory than sex. If bringing her to him doesn’t work, you can also try putting them both in a neutral area. I’ve noticed if I put my pair in a tractor/cage together outside on the grass, often they’ll get in the mood. You can also try putting them in a larger than usual enclosure and this added freedom and fresh air may inspire them. Of course, there is also the rare recalcitrant doe who must have the buck brought to her in order to get the deed done. Some people also swear by taking an unwilling doe for a car ride. It’s unknown whether this works by jumpstarting the survival instinct or simply the vibration.

Some does also require that the buck puts some effort into breeding and will refuse him if he doesn’t give her a good chase. If you have a lazy buck who just wants to mount and not chase, try your doe with another more energetic buck and see if she acquiesces so you know what’s up. You’ll also have usually better luck breeding a young doe, say between 6 months to a year old, as opposed to an older doe who has never been bred and may become permanently uninterested.

Light plays an important role in rabbit receptivity. Nature has built that into them so that there are less babies born in the harsher winter months when there is less food and more predation. If your rabbits get no artificial light, they might be reluctant to breed in the darker months. Adding a single lightbulb on for a few hours a day either before or after the sun rises or sets, will often make a big difference. You may also want to try breeding around dawn or dusk, when rabbits are naturally more active.

Temperature too can make rabbits unwilling to breed if it’s either too hot or too cold. Rabbits can even become temporarily sterile if temperatures are too high for extended periods.

Not her time of the month maybe? Nope, rabbits are induced ovulators that drop their eggs whenever successful mating occurs. This also means that you will have better luck conceiving if you always breed your pair twice. I usually wait for the buck to fall off once or twice, then separate them, then put them together again in a few hours. If you’re not sure what it means for the buck to ‘fall off’, don’t worry, you’ll know it when you see it. Some bucks even scream when they do. I’ve heard different accounts of how much time is best to wait between breedings, from 1 hour to 8 hours. I generally wait between one to four hours or so. It’s also important to make sure the male’s equipment is in good shape. An injured or sore-looking penis or testicles may inhibit fertility or willingness.

Doe rabbits are more inclined to lift during certain periods and you can tell how receptive they are by checking the color of the vulva. A darker pink/purplish color is best for breeding, while very light pinkish-white is generally a no-go. I personally never bother doing this. If my does refuse to breed, I just keep putting them back in every day until they do. You will often also have better luck breeding a doe if she still has kits with her. A quick way to test receptability is to stroke your doe along her back and see if she lifts her hind end and tail for you. A doe who does this will almost surely lift for the buck.

Food. One trick I’ve learned is to wait to feed your rabbits until after a breeding has occurred. If she refuses, she refuses, and of course still gets fed, but if she accepts then they sort of start viewing the food as a reward. I also think they have more energy when they’re hungry and will sometimes just sit there like lazy bums if they’ve already eaten. Another important aspect to consider is that if your bucks are fat, they’ll be too lazy to breed. You want to keep them slim and trim. This goes double for does, who will sometimes have trouble conceiving if they’re too fat.

Something I use a lot here on my little farm is apple cider vinegar. One use is to put about a teaspoon in the doe’s water (32 oz) for a few days if she’s refusing to lift. I don’t know if it’s actually the vinegar helping or just coincidence, but I’ve seemingly had success with it in the past. You can also try giving your doe more fresh food. A very safe treat that I like to offer is blackberry bramble.

Cleanliness. I’ve noticed that if the barn is a bit stinky or I’ve been neglecting my chores, the rabbits get a bit depressed. I know I wouldn’t feel too frisky if I was living in dirty conditions, so I can’t blame them. Try giving your hutches or barn a good thorough cleaning and you may find your rabbits more willing.

Good luck!


DIY Rabbit Nesting Boxes – Trial and Error


Esther with a moustache of the new bedding we’re trying. I think she approves

When I started researching meat rabbits, way before I ever had any, I wondered what I would use for nesting boxes. The traditional sheet metal boxes that I see used most often are hard to find where I live and very expensive when located. There’s one on a shelf at the local feed store that I think is around $40 and looks from the thick coat of dust on it like it’s been sitting unsold for many years. I wonder why…

I’ve also seen many wooden nesting boxes used. To me, that seems like a lot of work for a heavy nesting box that will absorb urine and is difficult to disinfect. I know the importance of disinfecting nesting boxes after each use as I had to deal with a couple of cases of mastitis last year. My rabbit recovered both times but it’s not something I’d like to repeat.

A nice solution would be if there was something cheap and plastic I could buy at a hardware store that would fit the bill, sort of like a squat planter box maybe. Something like that may exist, but I haven’t found it yet. I have wondered if a plastic dishpan might work, but I have yet to try this out.

So my solution was to follow guidelines in the Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits and build wire mesh nestboxes. I had already built all my rabbit cages, so I already had the mesh and tools. Despite the popularity of the book, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else ever use a box like this, for whatever reason. I know once I posted a Youtube video which showed the box in use, a local rabbit breeder I know commented to me that she noticed I was using wire boxes and to not be surprised if I lost most of my kits. That scared me a bit. I asked her why, and she said the kits would either get too cold or the mother would flip the lightweight nest over. Well, I wasn’t going to let either of those things happen.

At first I would cut out a fresh cardboard liner for each new litter, then fill the box with woodchips and straw. The cardboard had to be in one single piece or the does would pull out each side and toss them. Well, turns out you actually go through a lot of cardboard that way and measuring out and cutting the liners is tedious. I hated it. I also need my used cardboard to make packaging for my other business and there’s no way I’m going to go and buy new cardboard. Do you know how expensive it is?

I experimented once without the liner and all the woodchips fell out through the mesh in just a few days. Thankfully the kits survived but I needed to add new bedding each day and they were obviously struggling to stay warm in the depleted nest.

Now I think I’ve found a better solution. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but this time I shoved a whole bunch of shredded newspapers into the bottom of the nests and topped them off with the straw. The problem with straw is that my rabbits like to eat it. Generally though enough is left in the nest for it to work. They won’t be eating the paper I bet. So far, it looks like the shreds make a nice soft and yet solid base to the nest, and it doesn’t seem to want to fall out the holes. The rabbits seem happy with it and it’s absorbent, practically free and should insulate well. I keep the does from moving or flipping over their nests by attaching the back to the cage wall with a dog leash clip.

These wire mesh nests are nice and light when removing them to inspect kits, they can be very easily sanitized in a container with some bleach and water, they were cheap and easy to make, and they’ll last a very long time. I worried a bit about the sharp front corners at first, but I smoothed everything off well with a grinder when I made them and the rabbits seem to have no problems. I’ve seen enough wild rabbits deep in bramble bushes to know that they know how to avoid being impaled on sharp objects.


Very pregnant Creme d’Argent doe and nest box

My nestboxes are made of 1/2 inch by 1 inch rabbit cage flooring wire, and measure 18 inches long by 10 inches wide by 8 inches tall with a 5 inch tall front lip. They are held together with hog rings or c-clips.



Back to the Rabbits


Hybrid meat bunnies

I haven’t posted about rabbits for awhile, especially considering the name of this site. There have been a lot of changes in the past few months.

The biggest and best change is that I finally replaced the roof on my barn. For two years whenever it rained the poor bunnies had to live with the occasional drip which slowly turned into a constant drizzle as the tarp I put up weathered away. I even lost a whole litter once when they were drowned by accident. That was a horrible experience. Now I’ve installed a nice new metal roof that I’m proud to say I built myself and learned a lot in the process. I still have work to do on it yet like fascia boards but at least things are now watertight. You wouldn’t believe the constant anxiety it was causing me knowing the rabbits were living without a proper roof! Summers were fine but spring and fall are very wet here. Soon I will be replacing the old falling-off, flip-up garage door with some nice dutch barn doors. To these I would also like to add a dog/cat door so my team can maintain a constant mouse vigil.

I also went through a paring down process with the rabbits themselves. My first purebred rabbits here were Silver Martens, as that was all I could get at the time. While they were nice rabbits, they just didn’t grow fast enough or large enough for me to be viable as meat rabbits. So I got rid of them.

Now I’m down to four does and two bucks. I have Esther, my reliable Creme d’Argent doe, Samphire, my Californian doe, Tuna, my Black Otter Standard Rex doe and Bluefin, her daughter, a Blue Otter Standard Rex. My bucks are Scorch, the Californian and Timmy the Black Otter Rex. It’s a nice variety and a good number for me right now I think.

As of this moment all of my does are (fingers-crossed) bred. I’m expecting a litter of Cal/Creme meat hybrids, a litter of pure Cals, and hopefully two litters of Standard Rex. Three of those litters are due this Wednesday. Nest boxes go in tomorrow.

I resisted getting Californian rabbits at first. Not sure why, I guess they looked kind of boring to me as predominantly white rabbits. Now I’ve changed my mind, and I really like my Cal pair. They were skittish at first, but have calmed down a lot as adults and seem to enjoy petting. They are never, ever aggressive. I also love Esther, my Creme doe. She’s been with me from the beginning and was a gift from a local rabbit breeder. She’s a big, beautiful, sweet girl who is a fantastic mother, does excellent on forage and has never shown a hint of aggression, ever.

Then there are the Rexes. While Timmy, who is an ex-pet rabbit would never think of being mean (he is also the only rabbit who I can free range in the yard and trust to return to his cage), the girls have had their moments. Both Rex does have stomped, growled, boxed and lunged at me, although I’ve never been bitten. I’m kind of split on the issue because I really like both of them as breeders (not that they’ve proven to be reliable mothers yet at this point), but I also don’t see the point of having aggressive rabbits here at all. It’s possible they act out primarily when hormonal, so I’ll have to be mindful of that. They’ll have a chance to prove themselves as moms in the next few weeks and that will help my decision, I’m sure. At least I hope it does.

They’ve been very good lately, but that may be because spring brings lots of fresh treats. If they continue to be aggressive with me once they have kits, I think I’ll have no choice but to cull once the kits are weaned. I do not want to be bitten by a rabbit.

Check back soon for baby bunnies!

First Easter Egg


Sometimes things seem to work out almost too perfectly here. No sooner had White Chicken and Black Chicken been loaded into a dog kennel in the back of a van and driven off to their new home, that I noticed that Other White Chicken, my favorite, had laid her very first egg.

Her little blue-green egg is the same color as the one she was hatched from and is the first colored egg to be laid here, in other than shades of brown. I’m not sure what she is exactly, she looks a lot like an Ameraucana but the farmer I got the hatching eggs from said they were a mixed flock. Two layers gone and one layer gained!