Welcome back to the "Animal House." I’m Sam Litzinger with Dr. Gary Weitzman of the San Diego Humane Society. You can call us at 1-877-610-3647 if you have an animal related question. You could send your question via email to email@example.com. Again, that telephone number is 877-610-3647. You could email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. And don't forget to visit our "Animal House" Facebook page to see animal news, videos, our Animal of the Day, all kind of cool things on that page. How are you, Gary?
I'm very good, Sam.
Ready to get to work?
All right. Let's see if you can help somebody. Here's Elizabeth calling. Elizabeth, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Oh, thank you very much. I do enjoy your program. It has a feeling of like a country doctor. A sweet program...
...getting out this sage advice to all these wonderful, lucky people who have pets.
Well, thank you. We hope it's gonna be sage advice. (laugh) What do you have?
Well, I listen to you a lot. Even though at the moment I'm between pets, I keep all the information in my head. No. And it's charming. And I love to hear all the love around. And actually I think I'm gonna bring up a subject that may dispel a lot of the sweetness around here.
Here's a tough one for the country doctor then.
I'm terribly sorry to be a downer.
All right. Go ahead, Elizabeth. He's ready for you.
I don't know what to do about -- the present count is about nine wild cats …
Oh, I thought you were gonna say that. Okay.
Oh, did you? Oh, you -- oh, gosh. I hate to say it, 'cause I love pussycats. (laugh)
He's used to this, Elizabeth. It's not a problem. He can take anything.
I know (word?).
The dark side of animal welfare.
He's ready for anything.
But I've never heard anything like this on your program. But, no, I heard someone talk about a coyote, I think.
So we've got feral cats here and you're concerned about what to do with them particularly?
Yes. Well, I've been told what to do with them, but I don't agree with it. (laugh)
Oh, what have you been told?
Well, I called my next door neighbor who had just -- she was in grief. She had just lost her great big yellow cat. And I had helped her nurse it through its illness. And I knew, although she was a quiet, rather shy person, that she maybe would tell me what happened. She did give me the name of a woman that she had been in contact with, but didn't give me her name. So I called this woman and I was trying to find out how did they get here. I have an enclosed garden. And I have a side entrance, though.
Someone -- cats would get in -- but I never saw this in all my time here. So I tried -- I said -- she said, oh, there was a cat had kittens in your garden. I said, really? I didn't know that. And then …
You have a whole cattery going on there.
I said, well, would you please tell me how many cats there are? And I said, what is your name? She wouldn't tell me, and she hung up on me, which I was amazed at.
Ah, what was the advice that you were given?
She just acted as if I should be happy. Oh, she said, you have community cats. So you'll enjoy having these cats in your neighborhood.
Well, what you're describing is what happens in a lot of the cities that, you know …
…that's one of the biggest problems, feral cats. And you're describing exactly what we're dealing with in urban environments now. And, you know, frankly, what you -- if it's a huge problem for you, you should get with your neighborhood commission and talk about it in your block. And really get in an agreement with your neighbors that either, you know, don't feed them if they're not already in the area. If they are, it's actually good to have, you know, kind-hearted people actually feeding these colonies because we want them to be okay.
The only humane solution is to trap those animals and get them spayed and neutered and then re-released, but sadly, there's not a whole lot else you can do really, except for don't feed them if you don’t want them to come by. It's a neighborhood commission issue. And you know we always recommend call the Humane Society or in your area, call the Washington Animal Rescue League, too. And there are a lot of very good-hearted people there that do a lot of programs called Trap, Neuter, Release and actually can get those animals spayed and neutered. But that's about the only thing that you can do, unfortunately.
But good for you for even being concerned about this. Elizabeth, you're gonna have to call in some outside help it sounds like on this one. Thank you very much.
Yeah, good luck.
Our telephone number is 877-610-3647. Our email address is email@example.com. And let's take a telephone call from Terry. Terry, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary, the country doctor?
Yes. Thank you for having me. Dr. Gary, one of the creatures with which I share my life is a blue-tongued skink.
That kinda stopped him. (laugh)
Yeah. We haven't had -- I don't think I've ever heard that sentence before.
Now, (laugh) you may never hear it again.
I hope not.
So Terry, for those who don't know, please, what is a blue-tongued skink?
A blue-tongued skink is an Australian reptile. Mine's about 14 or 15 inches long. They make very good pets because they're slow. They won't dart away on you like some smaller lizards will. They are very attractive if you like lizards. And they are some of the more intelligent of reptiles. I feel certain this one knows me, as well as …
Ah, that's fantastic. Well, what's going on with your skink? Well, he has to get some help.
And that's another question that you'll never ask again, probably.
I haven't heard that formulated quite that way.
Yeah, what is going on with your skink, Terry?
Well, since he is comparatively intelligent, one doubts about the quality of life. You know, for all animals that are caged, inevitably there are questions of quality of life and enrichment. And one wonders how much enrichment is he getting as opposed to how much he needs.
On the other hand, you know, he's a lizard.
(laugh) Now, Gary, do you wanna phone a friend on this one?
Could we please?
Yes, we could.
Oh, that would be great.
Let's bring in Dr. Scott Stahl of Stahl Exotic Animal Veterinary Services in Fairfax, Va. Scott, glad to talk to you again here in "The Animal House."
Hey, Sam and Dr. Gary. Thanks for letting me help out again today. I really appreciate it.
No. We appreciate it very much. Let me tell you.
How do you make life more interesting for a blue-tongued skink?
Yeah, that's a great question. So Terry, I agree with you. I think these Australian and actually Indonesian -- they actually come from Australia and Indonesia. These large giant lizards are probably, I think, one of the more intelligent of the lizard species that we work with. And I have kept blue-tongued skinks for years. I don't currently have any now, but the ones that we see, our clients say the same sort of things that you're telling us, is that they're very intelligent and they seem to track and follow you when you, you know, have them out. And certainly like to come and respond to treats and food items and things.
But let's see if we can get to the question. So I think the main things to remember about these guys is that they're, you know, omnivorous in their intake of food and fuel. And I assume that you've got this kid eating well.
Yes. He has a number of favorites, including pinky mice.
And I guess his all-time favorite is baby food organic squash.
Oh, I see, it's gotta be organic only, right? He wants the best. So again, as an omnivore, we're obviously looking at, you know, meat protein and, you know, vegetable-based proteins, as well. And so it sounds like the diet you're providing sounds good. I usually encourage people to try to make sure they're adding in fruits that tend to have a high vitamin A content, such as papaya and the different types of melons, cantaloupe and honeydew. And then your berries, blueberries, you know, blackberries, raspberries, those all tend to have a high vitamin A content.
And so we may wanna see if we might be able to stimulate him and get him to kinda be more investigative in his enclosure by placing little, you know, a couple of these berries here and there or pieces of fresh-cut melon in certain places in the cage or some of the other foods that you're saying he likes, like even his baby food. Maybe make him look for it or hunt for it a little more. They are sort of a big lizard with tiny little legs. And they're not, you know, super active. And so we do find a lot of them tend to become obese in captivity. So we may need to get him on like a little treadmill or a stepper there to try to keep the calories burning. And seriously may …
You wouldn't know where I can get a lizard treadmill would you?
Those are hard to come by. So we have to figure out ways to keep him moving around. I usually recommend -- for mine, I used to have like a particulate substrate in the cage. They like to burrow and dig. And we usually recommend there's a number of paper pulp products that are out there like Care Fresh Bedding is one of them. We don't like to use the walnut shell or the corncob bedding 'cause those tend to have issues with fungal growth and fungus. But these paper ones are good. I would also suggest that maybe we soak him in a warm water bath maybe once or twice a week to help, you know, just encourage him to drink and hydrate.
Uh-huh. Twice a week.
Do you have a light system for him? And maybe having him on a light cycle…
… of maybe, you know -- go ahead.
He gets full spectrum light on timers.
Yeah, very good. And you want, you know, something in a full spectrum bulb to make sure he's getting ultraviolet light in the B range, of course. And then I don't know if there's like a room in the house where we could sort of lizard-proof, if you will, where we can let him kind of walk around and get a little exercise in there, too. That might be another way.
Well, I do that occasionally. The guests are thrilled.
I'm sure. (laugh)
Say, there's a blue-tongued skink on the floor. I wonder what's going on in Terry's house. Now, Gary, do you want me to ask Dr. Stahl the question that I know you would probably ask anyway because this is one skink we're talking about, or do you wanna ask the question?
Right, right. Well, I think you can go right ahead. You know exactly what it is, Sam.
All right. My question is one skink, why not two skinks, Dr. Stahl? Would that enrich -- what's the skink's name, by the way?
Oh, Kitchen. (laugh)
Does that make sense?
That took me about two seconds on that one. That's very, very clever, Terry. I like that. So we've got Kitchen here, Dr. Stahl. What about if we got Bathroom skink?
Well, I'll tell you, that's a very good question. I love that name, too. That is very original. I've never heard a blue-tongued skink named Kitchen.
And now, like you said, so Bathroom, what would happen there is one of the problems with having lizards together -- the first question would be, you know, is Terry interested in making more skinks? And if Terry was, then trying to get, you know, the opposite-sex skink and getting them together for breeding is something that some people enjoy doing. It's challenging though. It's very difficult to sex this particular species of lizard. And sometimes we have to use some techniques that are like endoscopy and things like that to actually figure out whether we have boys and girls.
So it's difficult to figure that out sometimes. So oftentimes when we get another skink, if we have two males, there's a lot of fighting that goes on. And they can bite and damage each other's skin and toes and tails and things like that. The other thing that happens is socially they don’t typically hang out together for extended periods of time. They tend to come together, potentially for breeding, and then they move away from each other. Or males, of course, have individual territory. So when you try to confine them to a smaller enclosure like that, we tend to have a lot of issues with fighting and damage.
In fact, commonly, that's what we see a lot of them for, is people are trying to force a social situation and the animals are coming in with injuries to each other. Sometimes though we can put in what we call like a stuffed-animal sort of a faux skink, if you will, you know. The animal will typically have an amorous relationship with a stuffed animal or a rock or something in the cage that it will potentially mount and actually socially interact with. So sometimes we can get by with using something like that, that will allow them to, you know, have that amorous feeling without the risks of having the other animal.
But honestly, it really relates to how Terry feels about having other lizards in his life.
You might ask, Terry, what Kitchen thinks about this, but don’t be surprised if he says I'd rather be alone, thank you. And your job now, Terry, is apparently to turn this into, as Dr. Gary likes to say, not cat Disneyland, but skink Disneyland, if you're up for that.
I'm on the case and particularly upping the intake of vitamin A.
All right, very good. Thank you, Terry.
Thank you so much.
And thank you very much Dr. Stahl. That was fascinating. That was one of the odder conversations I think we've had in recent weeks on "The Animal House," but one of the more fascinating as well.
It was a first.
Gotta love a kitchen sink. Everybody needs one of those in their house, right?
(laugh) Thank you very much.
All right. Bye. Did you learn a good deal about skinks there, Gary?
Much more than I ever even knew I needed to learn. That was great though.
Kitchen skink. That is just genius. I am telling you.
It was genius.
Thanks, Dr. Gary.
I'm Karen Munson and this is "The Animal House Dateline."
So any time anybody is looking for a dog or a cat or a pet of any sort I tell them to adopt.
That's the actor Josh Duhamel who has added his voice to the battle cry of Shelter Pet Adoption awareness. The heartthrob action star who rescued a dachshund named Meatloaf, recently teamed up with a national charity to help spread the word about the benefits of adopting a furry friend from a local shelter. His efforts include deeply personal and candid pieces for the "Huffington Post" and "People" magazine.
Pierre, an African penguin, was suffering from a bout of baldness. Pierre began shedding his insulating waterproof feathers, leaving him unwilling to plunge into the penguin tank. So biologists at the California Academy of Sciences commissioned a custom-crafted wet suit. In the six weeks he's been using the suit, Pierre has gained weight, grown back his feathers and is acting like his feisty alpha-male self again.
And happy birthday to Sharkey the goldfish who just turned 24 years old. His owner won the goldfish Sharkey when he was four years old. Sharkey has survived being flushed down the toilet. Goldfish Sharkey's secret to longevity, only having lived in two bowls his whole life and eating fish flakes. The world's oldest goldfish, by the way, is entered in "The Guinness Book of World Records" was Tish, who died in 1998 at age 43.
More information about these stories is at wamuanimalhouse.org.
Coming up, an award-winning documentarian gives us a preview of his new film in "The Animal House."
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