Marc Morrone answers questions about pet companions, pocket pets, and trimming tortoise nails.
My dog is now a year old, and I'd like to get another puppy as a companion for him. Is better to get him a little brother or a little sister?
As a general rule, male-female pairs get along with the fewest problems. However, if both dogs are spayed or neutered, and one is older and clearly dominant, then there should be no problem with two males or two females living together. Problems arise when temperaments are too similar, and there's no clear boss. Base your decision on your pet's temperament and not its sex.
I don't have time to care for a dog or cat, but each of my two children wants a pet. I was considering getting hamsters, but my research tells me that hamsters are happier as only pets. How can I have two pocket pets without having to deal with two cages?
Sometimes same-sex sibling pairs of hamsters get along, but it's hard to find these combinations, and it doesn't always work. Try two gerbils instead; they are as cute and responsive as hamsters, and naturally live in groups. If you don't want baby gerbils born in your home, two males or two females will coexist happily in the same cage.
I've had a pet red-foot tortoise for many years, and I recently noticed that his nails are quite long. Can I clip the nails myself, or should I take him to our vet?
In the wild, tortoises travel long distances over varied terrain, which keeps their nails short. But domesticated tortoises don't have to work as hard, so their nails usually become overgrown. You can trim the nails yourself, but keep in mind that tortoise nails are very hard, and it's difficult to see the veins in them. Always use a strong pair of nail clippers -- dog or cat trimmers work better than the guillotine variety. Because you can't see the veins, just cut a small bit of the nail off, and keep a coagulant powder handy to stop any bleeding. For regular maintenance, keep a piece of rough slate in the tortoise's enclosure to help prevent the nails from growing too fast.