top donate button

Preparing your pets for winter


Time is rushing by, and before we know it, winter will be here.

Now is the time to plan ahead to make sure your pets will be comfortable, well fed and happy during the long cold winter months. Read on for our top tips. Dogs All animals need extra shelter and extra feed in winter, especially older animals. Good covers or coats are advisable when exercising older dogs, especially if they are shorthaired or thin-skinned. Ideally, dogs should be able to come inside where it is warm and sheltered in the winter. If dogs are outside, they should always have access to a warm and weatherproof kennel. Use extra bedding in the kennel and change it frequently enough to make sure it is always dry and fresh. Block draughts and fix leaks, put the kennel in a sunny, dry, sheltered area facing away from the prevailing wind, and place it so that there is an interesting outlook. Check that your dog will always have ready access to a bowlful of clean fresh water that will not freeze.


Cats are pretty good at finding sheltered places to sleep, so make sure they can always access a comfortable indoor area. Check cat flaps to make sure they are working properly. Cat beds, such as igloos that give the cat a safe and warm space to snuggle into, are great in the winter time. Cats that are not on special feeding regimes, such as a weightloss diet or specific health-related eating plan, should have food available at all times, especially in winter because they like to ‘snack’ at regular intervals during the day. Cats on special feeding regimes should be kept on their specific diet with advice from their veterinarian. It is important that they also have access to fresh clean water and that this does not freeze. If your cat isn’t already desexed, make an appointment with your vet to have this done well before the next main breeding season in spring.

Older pets

Many older animals suffer from arthritis and other conditions which may cause them to struggle in the winter. Check with your veterinarian to see what can be done to help them cope better with the winter weather.

Caged birds

Make sure your bird cage has a sunny draught-free corner of a room with an interesting outlook. Birds living in aviary should ideally be moved inside. It is important that a temperature appropriate to the species of bird is always maintained in the area where the birds are housed. The birds must not be exposed to wet, draughty or damp conditions, as this can cause them to get sick and also be very uncomfortable and miserable. Access to adequate quantities of good-quality species-appropriate food should be available to birds at all times, and it is important that they also have access to fresh clean water and that this does not freeze.


Plan now to make sure your livestock are comfortable and well fed in the winter. During the colder months, it is vital that livestock have access to good-quality shelter that is warm, protected from the wind, and adequately sized so that all the animals can fit into the shelter if needed. It is important that the animals can always access the shelter (i.e. that access will not be compromised by boggy ground or water) and that adequate bedding, food and water are available to them in the shelter. In cold weather, livestock use much more energy to maintain body warmth, so they need extra food. Ensuring a good supply of high-roughage food such as hay is important for all grazing animals (see opposite). This is important not just for nutritional needs, but because internal heat is generated by the process of digesting food, particularly food with a high roughage content. Make sure that the animals always have access to clean fresh water that is not frozen.

Covers for horses

A waterproof and insulated cover or horse rug helps prevent heat loss and keeps your horse or pony dry and warm. A cover is particularly important for horses and ponies that are groomed frequently (this removes hair and grease that can help insulate them) and horses that are thin-skinned (like thoroughbreds and their crosses) or clipped. Covers are advisable for all older horses. Make sure that the cover fits comfortably, and check frequently for damage that may make the cover unsafe and for chafing of the horse’s coat and skin under the cover, especially over the withers, chest and between the hind legs. Covers should be waterproof, otherwise the skin beneath becomes damp, and this is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria that cause nasty skin infections.

How much hay?

As a rough guide for all grazing animals, if good-quality meadow hay is their only source of feed, each animal needs about 2% of its body weight in an equivalent weight of hay every day. One small hay bale weighs about 20–25 kg.

As an approximate guide:

  • Horses need 8–12 kg of hay daily, plus hard feed if pregnant, working or growing
  • Ponies need 4–8 kg of hay daily
  • Sheep and goats each need about 1.5 kg of hay daily. Spread out the feed, allowing enough space at feeders so that all animals can access the food without other animals bullying them. Using a hay box or a rack helps prevent wastage. Don’t feed old or mouldy hay to livestock.

Help animals like Rory heal and find love

Sick, injured and homeless animals are crying out for your help.

rory2Hurting, lost and alone, this sweet ginger cat appeared in someone's laundry one morning. Rory was tangled up in his own collar, and it had caused a serious, painful wound under his front leg.

Deeply concerned, the person who found him brought him to the SPCA so our vets could give Rory the medical treatment he needed. That's where Dr Shalsee met him:

"Even though Rory's collar wound was painful, he was still smoochy and very sweet. I have no doubt that this beautiful boy had a family. But what's surprising is they never tried to find him."

Rory was uncertain, injured and lonely. His owners never came for him. Like Dr Shalsee, we're sure you are shocked that someone could lose their pet and never go looking for them. But, it's something we see almost every day at the SPCA.

That's why we're reaching out for your help today. Will you please donate today so that other sick and injured animals can heal and find love in a forever home?

Our vets believe that Rory's injury happened after he tried to pull his collar off, and it got stuck under his leg. Over time, it caused a deep, chafing wound that would have been extremely painful every time Rory walked or moved. 

At the SPCA Rory underwent surgery to clip, clean and stitch up the wound, and a long course of medication to prevent infection. Dr Shalsee says he was lucky to be found when he was: "Everytime Rory walked, the collar wound would have cut deeper under his leg. Wounds like this can quickly become infected, and that can be very serious – even life-threatening."

"Rory's wound needed to be closely monitored. Our team checked it daily and applied Manuka honey to help it heal."

Rory is so lucky he was brought to safety at the SPCA where our team could treat his injury and patiently help him make a full recovery. But, none of this would have been possible without the support of animal lovers like you.

After receiving intensive treatment in the SPCA hospital, Rory spent four months recovering with one of our dedicated foster parents. We weren't surprised that after so many months of caring for Rory, she decided to make it official and adopt him as her own.

As you can imagine, it costs a lot of money to treat every animal that comes through the doors of the SPCA. Some only need a simple vet check-up. Others need complex surgeries and months of recovery. Some, like Rory, have families who never come forward to bring them home. Others have never experienced life with a family before. For so many animals, the situation is life and death. They simple wouldn't make it without the generosity of dedicated SPCA supporters like you.

And every day, there's another animal crying out for your help.

Please donate today to help animals like Rory heal and recover in a safe place. Your support gives animals the life they truly deserve. Today Rory is happy, healed and healthy. Knowing he is safe and loved, and that he'll never be forgotten again - that's what drives us. And we know that's what drives you too. 

The SPCA is completely dependant on the kindness of animal lovers like you. That's why we have to ask your help again today, so that more animals like Rory can heal and find love in a forever home.

When Rory desperately needed veterinary treatment, you were there for him. But there are so many other animals who need you too. Will you make a donation today to help sick and injured animals? 

Your donation could help pay for life-saving surgery - like the one our team performed on Rory - or basic veterinary treatment such as vaccinations and desexing. It could give a warm bed to animals who are abandoned, shelter to an animal in the cold, or go towards toys for animals while they are in recovery and waiting for a new family.

There are thousands of animals relying on the SPCA to heal them and help them find love in a forever home.

But we can't do it without your help. 


Ask a behaviourist - Dr Jess Beer answers your pet behaviour questions


Jess beer smallDr Jess Beer, BVSc, Qualified Veterinary Behaviourist

My cat Oscar is very sensitive and gets very upset when one of the other cats in the house goes to the vet without him. He will hiss and spit at them when they return home, and sometimes it takes several days for him to settle down. How can I stop this from happening?

It’s likely that Oscar is getting upset because his feline siblings are returning from the vet smelling differently. This situation needs to be managed carefully as in extreme cases cats can fall out and their relationship can be damaged forever. One option is to take Oscar with you every time another
cat goes to the vet. This will prevent him getting upset about the different smell. It’ll also help Oscar if he’s particularly nervous about going to the vet. If you’d rather not take two cats to the vet, there are a couple of things you can do to make the reintroduction more positive. Firstly, take a flannel and rub it on Oscar, and then on the cat returning from the vet. That way the cat will smell like Oscar, not the vet. Feliway spray in the carry cage might also help to alleviate some of the stress. Spray the Feliway on a towel in the carry cage 10 minutes before the cat goes in, and again when you reintroduce the returning cat. I also suggest that you leave the returning cat in a separate room to de-stress for an hour before reintroducing them to any other cats. Another thing to consider is that the presence of the cat carry cage in the house could be upsetting Oscar. Try leaving the carry cage out in a common area for a few extra days to desensitise him to the cage being around. If you’re still having problems, talk to your veterinarian about Oscar’s behaviour. Good luck!

My dog Cody kicks up his feet after toileting when we’re out on a walk and it drives me crazy! He’s always flicking dirt everywhere and I desperately would like him to stop – how can I do this?

You may be interested in the reason why Cody is kicking his feet after toileting. One theory is that he’s trying to cover and bury it. Another is he’s marking and trying to spread the smell. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is an example of a normal, instinctive dog behaviour that we can’t change. Like picking up dog poop or walks when it’s cold and raining, we just have to accept it as one of the joys of being a dog owner!

I read that it is safest to keep cats inside at night, and I’d like to keep my kitten Moby in. But every time I try he gets really upset and keeps us up all night scratching and yowling at the door. Do you have any tips for me?

You’re right – I encourage you to keep your cat indoors at night for their safety. There’s less chance of Moby fighting or roaming far distances, and keeps him safe from the road. The good news is that you’re starting this routine with Moby while he’s young. It can be much harder to change the habits of a senior cat who is used to going outside whenever he likes. The first thing to do is ensure you have an appropriate cat door that you can lock at night – one that allows you to adjust the locks so Moby can come in, but not go out again, is best. The next step is to increase his activity pattern and give him a small meal at night to reward Moby for being inside. I suggest keeping him active during the day, so he sleeps at night. You could do this by playing with him and giving him enrichment activities in the morning and then again as soon as you get home from work. Most importantly, don’t respond to Moby’s scratching or yowling. If you reward this behaviour by letting him outside, it will be even harder to keep him inside. You could keep Moby on another side of the house with puzzle feeders to keep him occupied. Or try a timed feeder that opens and releases food when Moby is usually active during the night (or very early morning).

My pet budgie Pip vomits on his mirror in his cage. Why does he do this?

Firstly, it’s wise to take Pip to the vet to rule out any health issues that might be related to the vomiting. But if this is simply a behaviour issue, it’s likely to be ‘mate feeding behaviour’. Pip sees his reflection in the mirror and thinks it is a friend. He regurgitates to feed them. Some birds will show this same behaviour to their owners. Understanding normal bird behaviour is the key to knowing when to recognise signs of ill health or depression, so if you plan to get a bird, it’s best to spend some time studying up on that particular species. Not many people realise just how social birds are, and that it’s unfair that we keep them alone. My advice is that you get an appropriate friend for Pip – he will be so much happier. Too many cages sold in the pet industry are too small to allow enough exercise and playing, so be sure to get the largest you can – the bigger the better. Happy birds need a varied and healthy diet, not just bird seed. They also need a range of toys, puzzles and novel foods rotated every few days, and exposure to enrichment like radio, TV or even fresh air. Providing fresh tree branches or bird-safe trees is great entertainment for them. If you can allow free flying around the house, this will also provide appropriate exercise and entertainment for Pip. 

Protect your pet rabbit from new strain of rabbit calicivirus


The presence of a new strain of the rabbit calicivirus (Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 or RHDV2) in New Zealand has been confirmed by MPI. There has, at this stage, been just one confirmed case in a single wild rabbit found on a Marlborough farm. However, the virus can spread rapidly and it is not known how widely the virus has already spread; it may already be widespread within New Zealand.

The Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus affects rabbits and the European hare. There is no danger to human health or other species of animals but companion rabbits are at risk.

There is currently no vaccine in New Zealand that provides protection against RHDV2 but MPI has stated that they are working to import a vaccine that can be used to protect companion rabbits. Rabbit owners should keep in touch with their veterinarian to find out when the vaccine is available and, when possible, have their rabbits vaccinated.

  • RHDV2 is a different virus strain to RHDV1-K5. RHDV1-K5 is the RHDV virus strain that was intentionally released in March and April. It is not known how RHDV2 infected the rabbit population here in New Zealand. Although RHDV2 is widespread in Europe and Australia, MPI has said that “the strain was not brought in from Australia because it is sufficiently different from the RHDV2 strain prevalent there. They have also said that they “can also rule out that the new strain came in with the RHDV1-K5 strain which was released nationwide in a planned rollout through March and April because of extensive testing at the time."
  • This means that there are now 3 different strains of RHDV present in NZ that we know of: the original RHDV1 v351, RHDV1-K5, and RHDV2.

    The vaccine currently available in NZ (Cylap) is effective against RHDV1 v351 and research with small numbers of rabbits indicates that this vaccine will also provide protection against RHDV1-K5. Maintaining up to date vaccinations with Cylap, along with measures to reduce the potential exposure of rabbits to the virus, are currently the recommended steps to try and keep pet rabbits safe from RHDV1 v351 and RHDV1-K5. So our recommendation is still that all rabbits should be vaccinated with Cylap and kept up to date with this vaccination.

    There is a vaccination for RHDV2 available in Europe but we do not have it here in New Zealand yet. MPI has said that they are working to import the latest vaccine for the RHDV2 strain from France. They expect the first 1,000 doses to be in the country next week and are working with importers to secure a long-term supply. So our recommendation is that rabbit owners keep in close contact with their veterinarian and get their rabbits vaccinated with the RHDV2 vaccination as soon as it is available.

    For now, the advice for rabbit owners to help protect their rabbits against Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus is to:

    • Contact your veterinarian for up-to-date advice about the best way to protect your rabbit from the virus.
    • Prevent indirect and direct contact between domestic and wild rabbits.
    • Avoid cutting grass and feeding it to rabbits if there is the risk of contamination from wild rabbits. Also be careful of fresh vegetables as some may be grown in areas contaminated with RHDV.
    • If you are in contact with rabbits other than your own, wash your hands with warm soapy water between handling rabbits.
    • Good insect control is also important and will help reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. Insect control could include insect-proofing your rabbit’s enclosure or keeping your rabbit indoors.
    • Often the best way to prevent contact between domestic and wild rabbits, and avoid exposure of domestic rabbits to insects carrying RHDV, is to keep domestic rabbits indoors.
    • Clean anything that rabbits come into contact with by using an agent such as 10% bleach, 10% sodium hydroxide, or Virkon (which is available from your local veterinarian).


    How to care for mice



    Did you know that mice have been part of human environments for around 10,000 years? Even though they may be feared by some and are often overlooked as pets, these wonderful creatures can make for lovely companions and prove that it’s not just cats and dogs that can make great domesticated additions to the family.

    Mice originate from the grain producing areas of North East Asia, but nowadays are common worldwide. With our lifestyles becoming increasingly active and more people moving to urban areas, mice are becoming a popular choice for pets as smaller companions with less space needed to house them. Read on to discover what mice need to live happy and healthy lives!

    Forever Friends

    Mice are extremely smart and sociable animals and it is important that they are in the company of those of their own kind, otherwise they are at risk of being lonely and becoming depressed. It’s ideal if they are housed together from a young age and either all males or all females are kept together (siblings tend to get on best and all female groups tend to get on better than all male groups); this will help to avoid fighting and imbalance in social groups. Mice can even communicate via facial expressions!

    Mice are incredibly clean, tidy and organised, and usually keep their home in a relatively good condition. Mice grow on average about 6-8cm long and their life span is about 2-3 years.

    A perfect house for a little mouse

    Although small beings, the more space you can provide for your mice, the happier they will be. You may be interested to know that mice are nocturnal animals, which means that they are most active during the night.

    When deciding on an area to set up your enclosure, be sure to take into consideration a few factors. Will the enclosure be away from any strong heat sources such as the sun or ovens? Mice cannot sweat when they become too warm (just like a dog!) and are particularly susceptible to heat stroke. They also shouldn’t be kept anywhere too cold or breezy.

    A quiet, undisturbed area away from the main activity of the home will suit them best. Bear in mind that bright light isn’t pleasant for them as they do best in darker conditions.

    Once you’ve found the perfect spot in your home, the setting up of their enclosure should be relatively uncomplicated.

    The biggest factor to remember when building or purchasing their home is to make sure that all surfaces within are solid and flat. While it might seem like a good idea to have wire floors so that your mice’s waste falls through, serious damage can occur to a mouse's feet if they have to stand on wire all of the time. Having their feet constantly pressed against wire can cause a painful condition called ‘bumblefoot’ where your mouse's feet swell and become inflamed and infected.

    Some people chose to have roomy glass enclosures, others plastic with metal wire lids. Whichever you decide, just ensure that it is also easy to clean and is secure – mice are fantastic escape artists, it is imperative that any doors can’t be pushed open and bars chewed to make room for a quick getaway. Remember that mice are very smart, so if you can easily push through part of the enclosure, it might not take an intelligent and energetic mouse very long to figure a way out!

    Interior design

    Sturdy plastic enclosures serve as great choices as they can be cleaned well without worrying about cracking or rusting. Once you have your house ready, start by lining the interior of the cage with materials such as sawdust, peat or wood chippings – any of these will make for a comfortable ‘carpet’ for your rodent friends.

    You will need to provide them with ‘nesting’ materials they can use as their bedding, such as shredded paper or unperfumed tissues, and materials they can hide in, such as igloos or cardboard boxes. Just like us, they like to have a comfy and cosy spot to catch 40 winks!

    It is also important to maintain a balance between keeping the mouse enclosure clean while avoiding excessive disturbance and stress from over cleaning – once a week should be enough to keep it tidy without disturbing their routine too much.

    Mice are amazing gymnasts and are excellent at jumping, running and climbing. Add levels and exciting things to climb and explore to their enclosure, so they can scurry around and have fun to their hearts’ content. This may include ramps, platforms, boxes to climbs, and rope ladders. You can pick these up at pet stores or get creative and make your own.

    Now it’s time for fun!

    Providing your mice with something to do and see is extremely important, just as it is for any other animal.

    Mice are smart and curious; they love to investigate, forage and climb their enclosures. There are many ways, most very inexpensive, in which you can dress up their accommodation so it is a mouse paradise and enables them to stay entertained and stimulated.

    Some of the types of toys that are great for mice are:

    • Climbing toys such a ladders, ropes, branches or tubes.
    • Chew toys made from safe ingredients such as Nyla bones, non-treated wood and cardboard tubes.
    • Soft paper or tissues, mice love to shred!
    • Toys they can push or carry such as plastic balls with bells in, just make sure they aren’t small enough for the mouse to swallow.
    • Toys that encourage natural foraging for food such as cardboard tubes or origami tubes.

    A mice-tastic meal

    Food glorious food. Mice are omnivores, and will pretty much eat anything they can get their mitts on – even if it is bad for them.

    There are varying options of food types to make up their diet. You may commonly see pellets and lab blocks on the market. These provide your mouse with a complete balanced diet but can get pretty boring for them – just like if we were to have the same meal every day. Mice need food available all of the time. If you chose to feed them lab blocks or pellets (these should have a protein content of at least 16% & fat content of 4-5%) these should be only a portion of their diet, it is vital that they always have healthy fresh fruits and vegetables to forage for, such as apples, pears, banana, melons, stone fruits, citrus fruits, broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, endive, carrots, Bok Choy/other Asian greens, celery, parsley, berries, tomato, fresh corn, beans, peas .

    Hiding these in places away from where their usual food is makes for a fun game of hide and seek and will keep your rodent friends entertained for much longer.

    Each mouse is different, so as long as they are getting all the nutrients they need and still able to have fun foraging for food, they will stay happy and healthy. Don’t forget they need access to plenty of water too, a dripper-type bottle attached to the side of their cage with regularly replaced fresh water works well; these are less likely to become soiled than water bowls and can be filled up without having to open the mouse house and disturb the mice.

    Mice make wonderful additions to the family, and all have their own unique personalities. They will make you wonder why you have never considered them as a companion before.

    Fun Facts

    • A mouse’s tail can grow to be almost as long as it's body. 
    • Mice love to keep their home organised. They have specific areas for storing food, going to the toilet and for shelter
    • Mice use their whiskers to sense changes in temperature and to help feel the surface they are walking along
    • A mouse eats 15 - 20 times a day. Therefore, they usually build their homes close to food sources, tending to only travel up to 8 metres from their burrows to find food