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Pets & Livestock


Pet  Stories

One new neighbor moved in and got some of every kind of animal. Instead of asking a neighbor or learning, they just did it. Most of their chickens were killed before they figured they had to totally enclose them. 

They bought a beautiful yearling horse that they NEVER fed. The poor thing got thinner and thinner. It took numerous calls to Animal Control before they finally came out to rescue the severely underweight and ill animal.


Another neighbor moved in and brought several horses from another location. She got them because they were pretty and cute, but knew nothing about them. 

To make matters worse, she had a stallion (very dangerous to handle for an inexperienced person), two yearlings that have never had a halter on,   (because she doesn't know enough to do it, nor will she hire a trainer), and have not been gelded. They're wild now and will be more wild and more dangerous as they mature.


My father's friend agreed to board two new horses with her own. While in the coral one day one of the horses intentionally crushed her against the corral fence breaking several ribs and puncturing a lung... and she was experienced with horses. Thankfully she fully recovered, but some aren't so lucky.


One summer we had several kittens thanks to a few feral cats that dropped by to have their litters. From very early on I taught them to go for little walks with me. They'd bounce around playing with each other, usually a few feet in front of me. 

One day they came upon about a 3.5' rattlesnake right in the middle of the path. He coiled, rattled, hissed, and put on a good show.

I thought for sure one or two would be bitten. 

All the kittens formed a big ring around him and just watched this demonstration. 

After a while, the kittens decided he was too big to eat, and he decided the kittens really didn't pose a serious threat, so they eventually wandered off and so did he.


Dogs serve some rather vital functions in the country. From hunting gophers and moles like our dog Jenny shown here, to chasing out predators and providing protection for you and your family. This 45 lb. Australian Shepard has chased mountain lions away on several occasions when I've been out walking,  killed skunks that were in my path (she's usually 30 - 50 yards in front of me) and chases deer and rabbits away from our trees and garden. Even at 15 years old and totally deaf, she'll be off on a chase in an instant if she thinks I'm in jeopardy.

I was amazed when talking with one woman, telling her how my dog sniffs out predators and chases them. "Oh," she exclaimed, "I'd never take my dog out then. What if he got hurt?" Well, if you let a small, "non-working" dog out by itself, it's likely to run into trouble eventually. 

But, if you take that same dog on a walk and it smells a predator, even if the dog won't be as bold as a working dog, its behavior will tell you that there's a problem you should heed. Their sense of smell, hearing, and their surroundings in general is much more keen than a humans. A small dog may refuse to go forward, start barking wildly or exhibit some other unusual behavior to warn you, but they probably will. You just have to learn what their warning is and pay attention.

If you don't have a dog, I'd suggest you get one, and get the right kind of dog for the country. The working dogs I refer to simply means breeds that are typically farm or cattle dogs. Australian Shepards, Boarder Collies, Queensland Heelers, and other cattle dogs are excellent, and there are a wide variety from which to chose. Note: all the dogs shown in the photos here are all "working dogs".

Dogs need to be protected from several medical problems. Heartworms can be fatal to a dog so getting annual blood tests and giving them monthly medication to prevent heartworms is vital. 

Ticks are also prevalent in the country. Some years are worse than others. The first year we were here, Jenny was given to us at 6 years old. As mentioned elsewhere, no one had lived on this property for years so all sorts of things were breeding in quantity because they were left undisturbed for so long. 

We had a party at our pond, and Jenny, who loves to swim was in the water, then into the fallen leaves to dry off all day long. By the end of the party she had literally thousands of ticks on her. No, I'm not exaggerating, thousands. That quantity could have killed her... especially if we hadn't detected them and treated her immediately. 

For serious tick problems, the best solution by far is the Preventic collar, available at almost any veterinary office.

There is medication you can get from your vet that can be applied monthly to prevent fleas and ticks. A couple of flea & tick baths a year is also a good idea.

Rabies are endemic in the Sierra Foothills. Your dogs and cats should get their rabies shots regularly.

Dogs need to be trained... even here in the country. Many people seem to think that it's OK to let them run, but after a long talk with a county game expert, called out to determine what killed a neighbor's sheep, a domestic dog was the conclusive answer, and it's he who said that domestic dogs are the main culprit even though everyone is quick to assume a mountain lion, bobcat, or coyote. 

You should note that in some counties in California (El Dorado being one of them) dogs can be shot if found "harassing or worrying" livestock. So DON'T let your dogs enter a pasture with horses, goats, sheep, cattle, or other type of livestock. It may seem "cute" or "fun" to you if your dogs are "running" the animals, but even doing that, an animal can break a leg, lose its young (if pregnant) or escape its pen or coral. Maybe you think the cost of one of those animals isn't too much to bear, but just wait until your dog is responsible for injury or death to an animal that is thoroughbred breeding stock. That could cost you thousands of dollars -- simply because you didn't train or contain your dog. 

The other issue with dogs is barking. You want them to bark if there's a predator in the area, but just like in the city, no one wants to hear your dogs barking day and night for nothing. Again, training and/or bark collars are essential.  

Rattlesnake Bite Treatment for Dogs

The vast majority of snakebite cases can be treated without the use of antivenin.  A dog that has received antivenin in the past, (and is probably not in mortal danger from a rattlesnake bite anyway) should not, in our opinion,  ever again receive antivenin.

Used with permission of: Jon Vilhauer, DVM


Cats are your organic mousers, snake killers and home entertainment center.  They're fun to watch, and all but two of our 12 live outside all year round. You may think 12 is a lot, and for the city it would be, but on 20 acres it's really not. They're out hunting the fields all day and much of the night. Occasionally we'll lose one to a predator, but most of the cats we've lost are to the neighbor's domestic dogs. 

We found that we had the best success with kittens when the mom was here to teach them. The kittens who have grown into the best self-preservationists are those that came from a feral mom that we caught after she gave birth and had fixed.

It seems to be fairly common for big snakes and cats to face off. I probably wouldn't have seen this gopher snake had I not spotted Shadow (the cat) sitting in the hot sun obviously fascinated by something. They all seem to know who's a serious threat and who's not, and pretty much work things out for themselves. 

Feral, or wild or domestic-gone-wild, cats are a problem. We've had a few wander in, but some of our neighbors have caught as many as 30, had them fixed, and returned them to their habitat. Of course all those found with kittens, the kittens were fixed as well.

It's important to keep the population of cats in check. Don't just abandon them, and ALWAYS get them fixed as soon as they're old enough. Animal control will generally lend out cat traps if you request one, and there county spaying clinics in many areas that will spay and neuter your domestic animals at a significantly reduced fee, and will sometimes waive fees all together for feral animals if you let them know. 

Some veterinarians will spay and neuter feral cats for free as well.  

Rattlesnake Bite Treatment for Cats

Cats are much more resistant to rattlesnake bite than dogs.  Cats need supportive care, but we do not administer antivenin.  We have not seen fatalities from snakebite in cats or noted permanent damage.

Used with permission of: Jon Vilhauer, DVM


Males don't mature until they're two to three years old, that's when they'll grow their long tail feathers. Once mating is over, and toward the end of the summer, a male's tail feathers will fall out and he'll grow a new set the following year.

These beautiful birds are not native to this area but have adapted very well. They'll eat a wide variety of things from snails to chicken scratch. They love dry cat food, Cherios, and pick bugs, seeds, and plant leaves for their natural diet if not spoiled by us humans.

They co-exist well with a variety of other pets, but can get very nasty if trying to protect themselves or they're just feeling intruded upon by the family dog. They have sharp talons and a very sharp claw up their leg that they use to defend themselves.

They roost in trees at night so are not too prone to being attacked by predators. The females will leave their mate and hide while she nests. They lay 8-12 eggs a year, but usually only a few hatch, and because the chicks cannot get into the trees to roost for a month or so, the surviving chicks only number one or two every year unless you keep them in a pen. 

Some people find their call very loud and annoying, so listen before you leap into having a peacock for a pet.


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2008 - Jody & Ric Hornor l contact