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Pets need a spring clean too

A good spring-clean is as important for pets as it is for their owners

As spring sunlight begins to penetrate the recesses of our homes, reaching spots that remained unilluminated through winter, so the urge to have a good spring-clean comes to the fore.

You will see this reflected in the natural world as well. Birds will start to re-line nests, badgers and foxes will clear out dens and sets where the young have spent the winter. For hygiene, health and a fresh start, a good spring-clean is as important for our pets as it is for ourselves. 

For small animals kept in hutches or cages, use a good clear-out to take a close look at the condition of the living quarters. Having placed the pet in an escape-proof run or day cage, make sure every scrap of bedding and food material is removed. 

Check that cages aren't showing signs of rust and the hutch floor had not begun to rot. Vulnerable areas are those underneath water bowls or in toilet areas. It is OK to use a light disinfectant to scrub out the area as long as it is pet-friendly (your vet and local pet shop will advise you). It is advisable to air the hutch for a couple of hours before putting your pet back in its home.

This may also be a good time to check that the cage or hutch is of a suitable size. What was a suitable habitat for a young animal may quickly become too small when it matures. Most small animals need a separate sleeping den and living area, as well as a good big run. 

As a rule of thumb, imagine your pet stretched out and relaxing from tip to toe. There should be three times this length available in the living area and this should be increased again for every additional pet where space is shared.

Dog and cat beds should be cleaned regularly too. Fleas, ticks and lice can all get into bedding, reinfecting your pet each time it visits. Keeping up a careful grooming routine is not only good for socialisation, it also allows you to check for skin conditions that might be the result of an infestation.

As the weather gets warmer, so those animals with thick coats will start to shed. A good brush-through will help your pet avoid getting a problem with hair or furballs. These can sometimes be a particular problem with long-haired cats, as hairballs can get too big to pass through the digestive system and then cause discomfort or blockages. 

Hopefully, once the cleaning is over, the spring sunshine will still be spreading its warmth so you can take off for a rewarding walk. You may not be the only person with that idea...

Good dog walking etiquette is especially important as more people are out and about. Just as people have physical boundaries that they don't like to have invaded, so dogs also like to have their own space. A recent campaign by a children's chairty has asked parents to educate their family to ask permission before approaching a dog. It has also asked dog owners to stop their pets running up to children.

"It's alright, he's friendly," does not help a nervous child. Good training is always the answer to ensuring diplomatic relationships all round. 

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