It is important to me that pet owners know WHY I do things the way I do; why I use this, why I don't use that, why this is dangerous but that is safe. To answer these questions usually requires a substantial answer so I figured, why not post these answers here for all to see!

Have a question? Use the form at the bottom of the page and ask away :)


Calendula verse Marigold

Posted on December 22, 2016 at 6:28 PM

Calendula, Calendula officinalis, sometimes referred to as "Pot Marigold" or "English Marigold", is a tasty treat for smal herbivorous animals. It's also known to soothe the digestive tract, aid in detoxing the liver and gallbladder, and treating skin conditions and enhancing healing of minor wounds.

So anything else also called Marigold should be safe too right? Wrong!

Probably the most common Marigold found in gardens, is the French Marigold (Tagetes patula), French Marigold is toxic to small animals. Another type of Marigold that is toxic, though less common, is Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris), which is also toxic.

Toxic does not mean poisonous, toxic will not nessesarily kill your pet straight away, toxins are usually accumulitive, this means your pet could eat them daily with no apparent side effects (though common side effects from consumption of Marigold's include hair loss, skin rashes, and mouth/stomach ulcers) and then one day, out of the blue, their liver and/or kidneys will shut down and they'll die.

Calendula, C. officianalis, is a very healthy treat for small animals, just make sure what you are getting is genuine Calendula officianalis, if the person you are buying pet treats off can't confirm the specific species of plant, avoid it, your pets life is not worth it.

Here at Little Chintas we only stock Certified Organic Calendula officinalis.

Food Storage Recommendations

Posted on May 26, 2015 at 8:34 AM

Pellet Foods:
Pellet foods should be kept in a cool dry place. Cool (under 18°C) and a relative humidity of between 25% and 50%. With these requirements met your food should last a good 3 months from date of purchase.

Please note: New Zealand has a mean-realative humidity of more than 60%, and most homes are over 20 degrees even in winter, so please check your storage methods and adjust as necessary.

Refrigeration seems like a great idea- but moisture driven into the food by the removal and replacement in the refrigerator can lead to food breakdown and molding. If refrigeration is used correctly (only take out of the refrigerator what is need for that days meals) you can expect the same shelf life as the above storage method (cool dry place).

Freezing is a great way to extend the shelf life of your pellet foods. Not only does it slow food break down, it also helps slow the natural disintegration of vitamins and nutrients. There is a catch- the food must not be constantly exposed to the freeze-thaw cycle. Our recommendation is to take a week or two worth of food out of the freezer at a time. This can be stored in the refrigerator or in a cool dry place. Using this method, pellets should last 6 months from date of purchase.

It is not recommended that any pellet diets be used after 6 months. Although not dangerous, the nutritional value after 6 months deteriorates very rapidly.

We recommend pellets are purchased fresh monthly for peak nutritional value.

The dangers of "Natural" pet toys - Lichen

Posted on August 15, 2014 at 4:25 PM

Who doesn't love natural stuff! Knowing you're supporting a good cause, using a product that isn't going to contribute to landfill waste, something that can be composted or otherwise recycled… but just because something is "natural" doesn't make it *safe*! After all, arsenic is natural, so is cyanide... both are toxic too.

I recently went into a pet store here in Auckland and was horrified to see "natural" pet toys that had in no way been prepared to a level that could be considered safe. They had not been cleaned and were covered in lichen, moss, and in cracks and crevices and bark layers there was mould! And that was just the visible 'dirt', as the wood obviously hadn't been cleaned or prepared one can only speculate at the bacteria and parasites that are also on the wood, not to mention toxic sap (most of the wood appeared to be pine) and seeds in unopened cones.

For this article I will focus on the presence of lichen on wood;

What is lichen? Lichen is a symbiotic organism, it is part fungus and part algae or bacteria, it is commonly found growing on trees and rocks, where the bacteria photosynthesises nutrients to feed the fungus and allow it to grow.

Recent studies on lichen have found that one in eight species of lichen studied so far (there are over 20,000 species of lichen, so far 803 have been studied) contain Microcystins, these are toxic peptides produced by Cyanobacteria, a common co-factor in lichens. Cyanobacteria also exist separately from fungus in waterways where they are generally called blue-green algae (even though they aren't actually an algae).

The World Health Organisation has set guidelines for allowable Microcystin content of water, the allowable level is 0.001mg per litre of water, research into the lichens have shown some species contain as much as 0.2mg per GRAM of lichen... there are approximately 1000grams in 1 litre.

How do microcystins affect the body? Microcystins are hepatotoxic, this means they settle mostly in the liver (they can also settle in other tissues) and impair the function of the liver, this will eventually lead to the liver shutting down which is an almost certain death sentence unless the liver can restart its function, and a long, slow, painful death at that. Because it slowly kills the animal by poisoning the liver it takes a long time for signs to show, this is not something where you will give your pet the contaminated toy and the next day they'll be dead, no no, you will give your pets these for months and months, possibly years, and slowly over time they will lose condition, lose weight, suffer digestive issues, serious pain, and eventually, slowly, die from an overflow of bile that will attack their internal organs. Sounds like a lovely way to go right?... I think not!

Keep in mind, that lichens are almost impossible for lay-people to distinguish one species from the next, in fact, the research project that discovered the existence of toxic microcystins studied two species of lichen from an area in China that looked identical, one was toxic, one was not, so trusting a seller to say, "Oh this isn't a toxic variety," carries no weight, unless the statement maker has a degree in lichenology

If you are content to feed your pet lichens, by all means go ahead, but I feel it is incredibly bad practice for these persons (and this pet store is not the only one selling these types of products) to be selling products that could potentially lead to the death of a pet without any kind of warning to consumers.

Why I don't recommend feijoa wood

Posted on July 17, 2014 at 3:55 PM

Over the last few years I've had regular enquires from various people asking for my opinion on what woods are safe for them to prepare for their pet, one of the most common of the 'unusual' bunch is feijoa, I've only recently figured out why this is and as it is probably going to be an ongoing query I will post my thoughts here for everyone to see; as I’m sure a lot of people have the same question but don't ask.


Feijoa, classification A. sellowiana, is a sub-tropical evergreen of the Myrtaceae Genus, it is related to Myrtle and Eucalyptus among many others. It is a woody tree high in essential oils. Feijoa is native to Central America and is grown as a garden plant in New Zealand, Australia, and in a few places in Eastern Europe.

The most glaring issue from my perspective is the relatives; Myrtle is on the toxic list for pretty much every animal, Eucalyptus is generally considered okay for Australian birds though I've never seen them do much more than strip the bark off, Eucalyptus is NOT safe for small animals that will gnaw the wood (more to come on that in a later article).

Second issue; the wood is high in essential oils. Essential oils are what give a plant/wood its scent. Most are generally considered toxic if ingested and some essential oils can cause all manner of health problems to life forms sensitive to them; in the case of some people they only need to smell an essential oil to have a reaction to it.

And rounding off with the fact that Feijoa is not a native to countries/areas any small pet originates from I personally recommend keeping Feijoa firmly in the NOT SAFE category.

Why we don't use cotton rope!

Posted on March 17, 2014 at 6:35 PM

I’m often asked why I don’t use cotton rope on any of my animal toys, people will often comment ‘but it’s cheaper’ and ‘everyone else uses it’ but the basic fact is cotton rope is not safe! Being a 'business' that prides itself on providing only safe feed, toys, and habitat items it made no sense to me to use such a dangerous product.

‘Why is cotton rope so dangerous’ you may be asking… There are many answers to this question but they all relate to how fine, soft, and flexible the fibres are. Cotton rope separates out into dozens of long, fine cotton threads, these threads can get wrapped around claws, toes, legs, feet, wings, tails, bodies, and necks which can result in cuts, broken bones, loss of limb, or even loss of life.

In addition to external injuries cotton rope can cause serious, even fatal internal injury also, in birds cotton rope is one of the most common sudden killers; on necropsy of a much loved pet that has died suddenly it is not unusual for vets to find large wads of cotton fibres blocking up the crop. In small mammals, like your average bouncy bunny, it is not unheard of for pets to choke on the fibres which can lead to death by asphyxiation as the airway cannot open while the oesophagus is blocked and small mammals cannot vomit to clear their oesophagus.

Another common side effect of cotton fibre ingestion is bowel blockages or bowel prolapse. Cotton fibres can ball up and create a stopping point in the bowel which stops digestion and leads to stasis and bloat. Fibres can wind their way through the gut and pull the intestine out of its normal shape, or can fold the bowel into itself, this is a prolapse. Blockages and prolapses are usually fatal as they are difficult to identify, vets will often try other methods of getting your pets bowel moving before performing surgery to search for a blockage or prolapse which can mean it is too late by the time the problem is found, and fixed, to save your pet.

I understand my stance on not using cotton rope may put people off buying from me in favour of cheaper toys that are made from cotton rope but that is an individual’s choice, however, I could not in good concience sleep at night if I sold products that were in anyway harmful or, in the case of cotton rope, known to be fatal.