Caging of Animals
See also: Bedding
In our natural desire to have animals to share our lives, we keep animals in all sorts of different ways. Because of the challenges presented by keeping some of them loose in our houses, we put them in cages.
We must be very careful, when so doing, to ensure that the environment in which we keep them is climatically suitable, has enough space, contains suitable sleeping quarters and bedding materials and is interesting enough. N.B. Strong sunlight and draughts can be inclement for the occupant, with no opportunity for selection of environment. For these reasons, window areas and areas near heaters can be very unsuitable. Do not put cages where natural predators (dogs or cats) can threaten and frighten the helpless occupants.
In the case of birds, it is essential that they should have enough room to fly. Just being able to hop from perch to perch and to flap their wings is really insufficient for decent welfare. In most cases, birds can be allowed controlled freedom in the house, at times at least. Some can even be allowed outside or in an external aviary for a wing stretch, depending on their homing tendency.
It is imperative that the cage should be cleaned regularly and kept hygienic. Old and decomposing food is a health hazard, as is accumulated soiling. Drinkers and feeders should be scrupulously clean. It is best to clean with eco-friendly reagents and to rinse well. Sunlight is a very good disinfectant, so an empty cage that has been cleaned can be left in the sun to dry.
Cages should not be constructed of aluminium or galvanised material. Both are potentially toxic. Likewise, drinkers and feeders should not be made of these materials or of plastic. A bird’s perches should be wooden and preferably of varying diameter, within a suitable size range, to allow different grip for foot exercise. Natural twigs or branches are probably best but they should not be too rough, thus risking damage to a bird’s feet.
Bedding should be of suitable material and properly maintained.
Rabbits – Their normal feces is usually formed into discrete small balls or pellets (sometimes called ‘bumbles') and comes, broadly-speaking, in two types. There is a dry, friable and greenish form, which they will usually eat for a second time, in order to gain valuable vitamins. There is a dark, more shiny form, which is dung from the second eating. When cleaning out a rabbit hutch, it is important not to prevent the ingestion of the first type of dung.
Because these animals are totally unable to forage for themselves, it stands to reason that the offered diet must be suitable to the species and be fresh or properly stored.
While there is never intention to provide less than adequate facilities, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of just accepting the norm. Remember that it is our choice to cage animals, not theirs. We are beholden to them and must provide a pleasant environment for their (lifelong) confinement. If it is possible to manage without keeping animals in cages at all, or without keeping animals that can only be kept in cages, that is the best option.