Posts tagged stress
Compassion Fatigue

Happy August everyone!

For the month of July two (2) chinchillas were surrendered and three (3) chinchillas were adopted. For some strange reason we are getting a massive influx of senior chinchillas that everyone keeps passing over for the younger ones. These old guys need a soft place to land and a short(er) term commitment. If you have it in your heart and home to offer some seniors a final resting place, please contact Whimsy after looking over the adoptions information.

But today I want to share with you something very personal: Compassion fatigue. It’s a thing.

Up until recently, I thought I had become a middle aged, forever single, slightly overweight, bunny hugging curmudgeon. Get off my lawn!

It wasn’t until I learned that my ever-increasing grumpiness is a direct correlation to the repeat issues I encounter with my job. Compassion fatigue (AKA Secondary Trauma) is a type of numb bitterness that comes with chronic stress. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I just sometimes don’t love the things I have to confront. For example, we operate as a rescue. Rescues do not condone breeding, particularly by those who just want to make cute babies using their family pets. Yet…we still get folks who unashamedly contact us looking for cheap breeding stock. SMH.

Compassion fatigue runs rampant in the helping professions, including the animal care community. This is the reason why many rescues fizzle out so quickly. We are the last resort. The dumping ground. The place to deposit all the unwanted/child outgrown/oops litters/moving and didn’t consider pet rules/don’t have time and feel guilty/or owner deceased pets. On rare occasion, we meet with owners who have made every possible effort to keep their beloved pet, but circumstances beyond their control simply become real. I can feel the depression washing over again. Can you?

It’s not uncommon to feel like we rescue workers are fighting a losing battle. Sometimes I feel alone in this mission. It’s like having PTSD when I hear from owners who tell me that their new chinchilla is suddenly not eating their vegetables. Or when a person's chin is lethargic after "playing in their plastic run-a-round ball". Or when someone emails asking for instructions on how to pairbond their m/f chinchillas. Or hearing from paniced owners who discover kits in the cage. Or when we see Facebook posts from those who think it’s funny to troll. Even still, the thing that keeps us going is you...well, most of you.

What is like an emotional high are the words of support and hearing from repeat (and new) customers.  When I see familiar names come across my inbox, it’s like a virtual hug. Work helps keep my hands busy, which helps keep my emotions in check and my mind from wandering. And I love seeing those who adore their pets spoil them in the way they deserve. Filling your orders gives me a sense of satisfaction that there are good hearted owners who want nothing but the best for their chinchilla. And it’s my pleasure to offer my best. So, thank you all for your support. Thank you for the beautifully written emails and encouragement for our rescue efforts. Thank you for loving our Whimsy original products. And thank you for spreading the word about our store and the chinnies who need permanent homes. Our fellow chinnie friends help ease the effects of compassion fatigue and make this mission totally worth the effort.

Stress Induced Fur Chewing

Yup, we see a lot of cases that involve this and we love to see the transformation from a ragged, sad little animal to a full, fluffy, thriving one.

Chinchillas will chew their own fur and the fur and whiskers of a cagemate when confronted by a stressful living environment. Some of the factors being; a cage that is too small or otherwise overcrowded, the wrong "kind" of cage, inadequate chew toys, no place to hide or an exposed cage (insecurity), lack of exercise, and general boredom. 

One of the responsibilities of a good owner is to see to the needs of their pet. Providing environmental enrichment is an often overlooked need. It is for this reason that our adoption contact specifies the provision of a "Whimsy approved" cage. We have seen, and continue to see situations where well-meaning owners simply do not know what a chinchilla truly needs. We have seen chins housed in hamster cages, glass aquariums, dog kennels, guinea pig cages with no ledges, small cages with only one or two ledges, free-ranged (!) and even chins housed in solid wood boxes and rabbit hutches.

Pet stores offer chinchilla "starter cages." A starter cage is NOT supposed to be permanent housing. Starter cages are intended to hold a single, baby chinchilla. They are too constricting for a full grown adult yet we have seen as many as 5 chinchillas in a tiny cage such as that.

With chinchillas, the bigger the cage, the better. The more interesting the cage, the better. The more stimulating the cage, the better. A chinchilla housed in a wonderland will rarely, if ever, chew their fur. If your chinnie has plenty of toys and ledges, they are less likely to take out their frustration on themselves or a cagemate.

Some of our chinnie friends take cage decorating seriously! We love to see the creative designs folks come up with regarding their accessorizing (especially if those accessories come from our store ;) ). We do our best to offer safe, fun and completely thought out ledges, bridges and hiding places. Just remember, wooden accessories are safe for chewing and will eventually need replacing.

You can limit the ledge chewing and fur chewing by providing copious amounts of chew toys. A good rule of thumb for chews is to offer at least three toys at any given time: one hard (such as pumice based toys), one soft (shreddable type toys), and one mixed. Expect to rotate or replace chew toys or some of the components weekly. If your pet chinchilla isn't actively engaged in working their teeth, they can and do take it out on themselves or even the bars of their cage! Fur chewers tend to be nervous pickers. They thrive on the soft, shreddy-type toys. Even so, chinchillas' teeth grow in spurts. A chin who shuns pumice one week might destroy it in a heartbeat the next. (And yes, destroying their toys is a GOOD thing!)

A secure chinchilla is a happy chinchilla. A place to hide such as a hanging tube, hidey house or even a plain cardboard box helps. The cage placement in a room will also contribute to a feeling of security. Chins do best in a living room corner away from a doorway where they can survey the comings and goings of their human friends. This type of daily inclusion helps ease boredom and contributes to a well-socialized pet. Some chins actually enjoy watching TV! They are social creatures. Please remember to let them be a part of the family. Your life and theirs will be enriched by daily contact.

Here are Amanda and Thunder watching Animal Planet together.

We understand that no good pet owner intends to do harm to their pet. But often bad situations arise from owners who simply do not have good, solid advice to make informed decisions. We hope that we can offer that advice without demeaning or berating those who honestly don't know any better. If you know of a chin owner who can benefit from our webpage, please share. For the sake and benefit of the chinchillas first; we faithfully serve.

A Case of Extreme Fur Chew

We had a very interesting case come to the Menagerie this past weekend. Another owner, concerned with her chin's fur chewing, contacted us. Stephanie and her vet tried everything they could think of to make this little guy happy. The vet determined his fur chewing was caused by stress, so he perscribed Prozac! Obviously, it didn't work. :P Anyway, he's joined our little sanctuary and seems to be very interested in the activity here. He's shown a good, healthy, non-aggressive curiosity toward the chins in adjoining enclosures. We're hoping to introduce him to Bucky once the quarantine period is over. As an aside, we've been referring to him as "Buffalo Bill". Can you guess why?