Hi everyone!

My name is Alex and I run The Pipsqueakery. My partner, Jason (u/CrossP), might also jump in here but he has a lot of animal care to do today while I have a bunch of computer work.

The Pipsqueakery is a 501c3 rescue based in Bloomington, IN that takes in rodents and rabbits with a focus on those with special medical needs. We care for mice, hamsters, rats, squirrels (captive bred and permitted only), guinea pigs, degus, chinchillas, rabbits, gerbils, capybaras, patagonian cavies, prairie dogs, groundhogs, ducks (because why not ducks, one hedgehog and probably a few others that I'm forgetting because I'm constantly sleep deprived.

Some factoids to get you started:

We recently took over rescues in Arkansas, New Jersey, and New Hampshire so that's been interesting.

We're in the process of building a facility.

We believe that animal rescue and human rights intersect such that we have to consider both in all that we do.

I work a full time job in addition to running the rescue. Jason is a stay-at-home hamster dad.

We spend a ton of money on vet bills, and I have to help more than one rabbit pee multiple times a day.

Here's proof on whichever platform you prefer (you actually have to read what was written since the links seem to just want to preview the picture):

On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/CHLPTM_spb7/?igshid=kzxd8znp5xrc

On Facebook go to facebook.com/ThePipsqueakery and this should be the top post on the page including a link back to here.

Edit: I'm still here answering questions but do actually need to feed myself at some point so might slow down for a bit.

Edit 2: I'm going to sleep for a bit but I'll be back tomorrow to answer more questions if any are left!

Edit 3: I'm awake-ish so I'm back to keep answering the questions coming in!

Edit 4: I'm here all day folks. I'm not feeling great so I'll be lying in bed answering questions and tending to the sick animals that don't require me to stand up.

Comments: 584 • Responses: 96  • Date: 

madame_ray_330 karma

Hi Alex

I'm a Patreon supporter and follow you on multiple platforms. Recently I've been so pleased to see Steve coming out of his shell, getting all the pets!

What is the highlight of your day at The Pipsqueakery? And how is the new site coming along?

xelay1258 karma

The highlight of every day at The Pipsqueakery is usually going to sleep snuggling whatever animal happens to be in bed that night (usually it's Delilah). Obviously some days there are more exciting things than that, but I like sleep and I don't get enough.

As for the facility... well the state department of health cashed my check for the septic permit on the 30th, so maybe a tiny bit closer?

MistyGypsy79 karma

I've always wondered after seeing your posts on Facebook: how do you sleep with the rabbits, guinea pigs, etc? I'd be so worried about accidentally rolling over them in my sleep or them pooping and peeing everywhere lol

xelay1169 karma

Ok well, here's the thing. We don't actually get much sleep. The rabbits in our bedroom that can jump (that's really only like 3 of them since this is the room for buns with mobility issues) have free access to our bed. Sleeping with them is no different than sleeping with a cat. That's the same for the groundhog, Delilah. When it comes to other animals sleeping in bed it's usually because they're sick and I'm hoping to save them while also not dying of sleep deprivation. In those cases I'm up every hour or two anyway, and sleeping very lightly. Also usually just a lot of towels to keep things clean, though the bunnies defy that and we just change sheets/comforters a lot.

Blackberries11101 karma

I had to lock my rabbit out of my room at night bc she liked to jump on my head and use the bed as a launching pad

xelay162 karma

Yep, that happens here a lot too.

randyranderson1318 karma

are the rabbits litter box trained?

xelay150 karma

Some of them. A lot of them in this room aren't able to get in and out of a litter box due to mobility issues so they have a giant coroplast tray that takes up most of our bedroom with foam on the bottom and paper bedding on top.

tabicat444132 karma

I love capybaras. Can you talk about how the laws in your different states impact your ability to care for them? Also, do people surrender them or were these guys captured for being invasive in American ecosystems?

xelay1157 karma

So, we are in Indiana, and Indiana has notoriously lax laws for keeping exotics. We don't have any state restrictions on owning capybaras but we do have to notify our county animal management board about their existence in this county. While permitting is not a problem for us due to Indiana's laws it is an issue that people who want to own capybaras do need to research thoroughly because if they're illegal to own then there's going to be a lot of problems getting them adequate care.

Ours are surrenders, for the most part they aren't particularly invasive in the US and they certainly wouldn't survive up north in the wild.

tabicat44435 karma

That's great to know about Indiana! I assumed you had capybaras in the rescues you mentioned taking over in the post but it makes sense that you guys are based in one location.

I know of only two states that allow them simply as pets (Pennsylvania and Texas I believe) so it's super interesting to me that other states fall somewhere between "nope" and "okay with permit/fee."

And yeah from my understanding they're invasive in certain parts of FL and ironically CA (but every time I've seen this in an article, I wonder where in CA would a capybara be happy??).

You guys rock, wishing you all the best!

xelay138 karma

Nope, the capybaras are here with us and any future capybaras will also be here. Our other locations are not equipped for the number of animals we have nor many of the types of animals we have here.

EdwardHyena74 karma

Can you explain why rats are great pets?

xelay1240 karma

They're smart, they're clean, they're fairly resilient, little kids will have a much harder time dropping them than say a guinea pig or a hamster because rats cling, and they're as domesticated as a dog in a much smaller package. Basically the ideal pet.

jereman7515 karma

All of this and they are also quiet. That’s a big plus for a lot of would be pet owners.

xelay115 karma

Yes that's definitely true. And guinea pigs are very not quiet.

xelay19 karma

I did not look at your username when I answered this. Hi Ed!

SkepticSMT62 karma

Hey Alex, this is more of a general question rather than rodent/rabbits, but last year we found a wild Partridge and took it to 3 different vets (1 that specialized in birds and 2 regular) and no one would help. I wanna know why they rejected to help and do you ever get animals you reject helping?

xelay1132 karma

They rejected it because it was wildlife. Unless you're a wildlife rehabber they couldn't have treated it then given it back to you and typically your average vet doesn't see wildlife because it's not in their base of knowledge and frankly there's no one to pay the bill for wildlife most of the time.

We also cannot take in wildlife that requires a rehabilitation permit because we are not permitted rehabbers. We can take in captive bred wild rodents and get a permit for them, and we can take in animals that don't require a permit (mice, rats, voles, chipmunks, and groundhogs). However, despite that, we are well connected with rehabbers so if someone calls me with a litter of baby opossums I'll usually tell them to bring it over and I'll transfer to a rehabber within 24 hours. If it's really sick I'll take it to our vet who does do wildlife and they'll see it then transfer to a rehabber.

Also, we really mostly stick to rodents and rabbits, but if someone contacts me with something else I can usually find a place for it.

usernametaken9999158 karma

Do you feel there is a bigger need for little critter rescue? It seems like a lot more attention is focused on dog/cat rescue then the little guys.

xelay182 karma

Yes, for every animal I take in I probably turn 20 away because we simply don't have the space or resources.

always_creative25 karma

It's definitely a complementary role. I recently completed an SPCA building, and we allocated very little space to non cats/dogs because the care and space needs was too specific for how the shelter operates. They needed a facility that could surge to take animal hoarding cases, which meant all available space had to flexible to house cats or dogs, and that meant very little of it could go to small animals. Almost all of their labor is volunteer as well, so minimizing the number of different care plans was important.

It was unfortunate. That particular SPCA contracts with a local farm to care for exotics on a case by case basis.

xelay148 karma

It can honestly be a bit frustrating to run a rodent and rabbit rescue for these reasons. We don't have anywhere near the governmental, private business, or public support that cat and dog shelters do (and they don't have enough support either). For example, Petco and Petsmart have a decent number of grants and almost all of them are only available for cat and dog rescues, despite the fact that the number one source of animals that are surrendered to us are purchased from Petco and Petsmart. It's a frustrating reality.

ChillyGator9 karma

Do you adopt out?

xelay144 karma

Yes, but it's not our primary mission. We primarily do sanctuary care and transfer healthy adoptable animals to other rescues and locations for adoptions and they send us their sick sanctuary animals in return. You can't be everything to everyone and adoptions are not something I actually enjoy or am good at so I mostly support other rescues doing what they do best.

TheSailsModel54 karma

So happy to see you on here! What are your long-term plans for the Pipsqueakery?

xelay176 karma

The hope is to grow it into an organization that can stand on its own two feet by paying salaries and hiring staff. The expansion into other states was somewhat unplanned so I haven't quite figured out how that all works in. For now I'm treating the other locations as foster homes with some independence and focusing on growing our headquarters here by building a facility and working incredibly hard at fundraising so we can reach our goals.

robbiedenali52 karma

Any need for an 8 year old virtual intern?? My daughter is obsessed.

xelay155 karma

Alas, not at the moment. I have a really hard time balancing the time and energy it take to coordinate volunteers vs the time volunteers save by doing tasks. However, there are always things she can do to help independently and we have had a lot of people do a lot of cool things to help from all over the world!

catmom8151944 karma

How does one help a rabbit pee?

Also where can people go to donate?

xelay183 karma

You express its bladder by pushing on its lower abdomen with a slightly cupped hand. Some are easier to manually pee than others though and there's various positioning and techniques that are used depending on the animal.

People can find ways to help at thepipsqueakery.org/help. I think that's ok to post here since there's options for non-monetary help too and I'm directly answering a question. Everyone do your independent research before donating to any charity though to make sure they're legit, doing what they say they'll do with the money, and that you're actually donating to who you think you're donating to.

universitybookworm42 karma

Hi Alex! I just wanted to say I've been such a huge fan of all the work that you and Jason do for years now. You both work so incredibly hard, and although I know rescue work is incredibly rewarding, it's also incredibly draining as well. Every time I see an adorable animal being rescued, it warms my heart a thousand times over. You've been instrumental in helping me make sure that my own hamsters receive the best care possible. Truly, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the incredible work you do.

I suppose I should ask a question instead of just fangirling. What has been your craziest hamster/rat escape?

xelay170 karma

Probably the hamster escape where Mia (a chinese hamster) was gone for like 3 weeks and avoided all of our live traps. Eventually we found her in the bedding closet where she had opened a huge bag of bedding, burrowed in and stashed a bunch of food. We finally found her because she was using the guinea pig cage to drink water. We adopted her out shortly after she was found and she lived a great life up in Michigan.

riveramblnc34 karma

How did you get started? Was there one special critter in need who spoke to you and set you on this path?

xelay1177 karma

That would be a combination of things. Our first syrian hamster, Pipsqueak, passed away after 4 months of having her after being quite sick. In retrospect she probably had an infection called pyometra but we didn't know and didn't have a vet who knew at that point. She passed away during my first week of law school.

Then, during law school one of the primary extracurriculars I participated in was helping victims of domestic violence get protective order. As you can imagine that's pretty tough work emotionally and you often see repeat clients because the cycle of abuse makes it very likely that their abuser will convince the victim that the abuser has changed and to drop the protective order only to have the cycle repeat. While I never ever fault the victims for these things because there are much greater forces at play it is a reality that is very emotionally draining. So, we started with hamster rescue because with a hamster you can save them, put them in a nice big cage, give them good food and good health care, and keep them safe for the rest of their lives. You can't do that to humans (for obvious reasons) so it gave me an outlet that I wasn't getting elsewhere.

StrayMoggie30 karma

We rescued a baby squirrel that was on our deck. It's eyes were still shut. We assume it was brought by it's mother or a predator and the process got interrupted somehow. We did dog formula and eventually transitioned to greens and nuts. The question is, how do we transition to the outside? Is it some form of gradual thing it do we just take them to a tree and let them go?

xelay177 karma

It really needs to go to a rehabber to have a successful release. They can't typically be released at this time of year, but it needs to be with others of its species so it can learn necessary survival skills. If it doesn't gain those skills before release it won't survive in the wild, and that's just not something we can teach them. If you look up your state Department of Natural Resources website you can usually find a list of rehabbers.

Lady_Qwerty26 karma

Hi! Big fan of capybaras here. What is their daily routine?? Do they recognize you as a dog would recognize his owner?? Do they interact with you?? Thank you endlessly for your hard work taking care of animals

xelay145 karma

They mostly sleep, eat, poop, swim, nap, talk to the other animals, and cause trouble, then repeat every single day. They're smart and they definitely recognize us like a dog would recognize his owner, but they're really really not like a dog so I hesitate to even say that. They do interact with us to some extent. Steve has really come out of his shell over the last 9 months and he enjoys attention. Irwin isn't there yet and wants us to leave him alone.

strawberryspirals26 karma

Hi Alex,

I follow you on IG and love your organization! Thank you so much for all you do to help support our smaller furry friends!

I am a long time fan of guinea pigs specifically (been adopting pairs for 17 years now) and would love to be able to help more beyond just donations. I am moving to NY end of year and would love to get involved with your NJ rescue and help support/volunteer/foster - would you be able to advise me on how to do this?

xelay126 karma

Send an email to [email protected] and let us know you want to get involved. We're taking it easy on new fosters as we get established there so we might not have something for you right away, but get your information to us at that email so we can stay in touch and figure out ways for you to help!

Violets_Books22 karma

Thank you for your dedication and care! As an animal lover it’s exciting to see others turn this passion into a career. I have a special place in my heart for senior rabbits. How do you think we can encourage people to become informed pet owners who are knowledgeable and committed, whether or not an animal is special needs?

How do you emotionally and mentally deal with the fact that some animals should not be kept alive at all costs due to suffering and other challenges?

xelay146 karma

First, I just want to say that at this time this isn't what I would call a career. It's completely unpaid labor that dominates every single part of my life. I hope someday The Pipsqueakery will be in a position to hire be because doing this and a day job isn't sustainable but for now I have to work to keep a roof over all of our heads. I only address that because it's a super common misconception.

As for encouraging others, I always find the best way to educate people is to lead by example. We don't do a ton of adoptions (we work with other rescues for the adoptable animals and take their sanctuary animals), but what we show on social media has an impact.

As for emotionally and mentally dealing with the heartbreak. Well, two things:

  1. I'm on antidepressants, two of them actually. You can't really be involved in rescue without it impacting your mental health.

  2. You get better at it with time and experience. You learn when to call it quits and give them the gift of a good death and you might cry over it but you learn to move on to caring for the other animals in need because you did everything you could.

horsthorsthorst22 karma

what is a 501c3?

xelay156 karma

A 501c3 is a designation by the IRS that indicates that we have registered and all of our money should be going to our stated mission and allows donors to deduct their donations to us from their income taxes.

I say should because obviously there are shady 501c3 nonprofits out there so everyone should always do their own research before supporting any cause.

Bill-Door-6421 karma

I love rodents and have some myself, and I come up against people all the time who think they’re dirty/dangerous and bad pets/animals. What would you say is the most helpful/constructive thing that can be done to help battle the stigma people hold against rodents in general and also rodents as pets?

xelay134 karma

Post a lot of cute photos and videos, and a lot of educational information because for the most part they're pretty great. We obviously have some animals here that I don't think are good pets though.

Anyway, some people just aren't going to change their minds about rodents and we have to just let it go because there's too much other stuff going on.

_Allygator_1315 karma

What has been your best experience so far? Animal wise or with other shelters? 💕 fellow Indiana resident here. 💕

xelay121 karma

That's a really good question that I'm not sure I have a good answer to because almost every experience is a mix of good and bad when it comes to rescue. However, I will say that working with other rescues, particularly EARPS Inc., IHRS, and A Critters Chance, has been a wonderful experience overall. I also think that the relationships I have made with supporters has been wonderful even though that can also be very stressful.

MisterBobsonDugnutt15 karma

This is probably asking a lot but how would you describe the stereotypical personalities of the different species you deal with?

xelay131 karma

Chinchillas: Mischievous

Guinea pigs: cheerful

Rabbits: destructors

Groundhogs: Lazy

Prairie dogs: hardworking

Hamsters: introverts

Rats: loyal

There are more of course, are you looking for something more in-depth or specific?

silver_tongued_devil25 karma

I am now imagining a prairie dog working hard at the office all day only to find his useless roommate of a groundhog playing playstation on the couch.

...and now I'm imagining rodent shaun of the dead. I'm okay with this.

xelay111 karma

That's pretty accurate.

TheTiredGamer14 karma

How many mice do you see at the Pipsqueakery? I’m a big mouse fan and would like to know more about the mouse population there

xelay126 karma

We have 43 mice here right now. They all live in 3 big colonies that will eventually be 2 big colony once the males from our last big intake get neutered. They're somewhat adoptable but since mice do so well in large groups we tend to not worry about adopting them out since it's not a lot of work to have a few extra mice.

aavameri14 karma

Thank you so much for your work ❤

I'd like to know how guineapig Cormac who was found dumped in the road and was having seizures is doing? He looked so poorly.

Also, if this doesn't bring back bad memories, did Mini die of old age? I was wondering is 7 old age for her breed.

xelay132 karma

Cormac is doing ok, but he looks objectively really bad right now and sometimes I don't have it in me to post and explain that. He has gained a ton of weight and we have managed to get the thick crust off his skin and it's looking pretty good. Alas, with that thick crust came most of the hair on his face so it would be a lot to explain if I post a picture and for whatever reason no one reads the captions.

Mini did not die of old age but what exactly killed her is hard to say. Even though she was overall relatively healthy Mini had a lot of issues with repeated stasis and some sort of mass in her nasal cavity that made her snotty. I suspect stasis was the ultimate issue though even though we were treating for that with fluids and handfeeding.

potatotay15 karma

My dog sniffed out a pair of guinea pigs a few years back, they were stuffed in a bush with a critter igloo in the middle of a snow storm...! We took them in and they were so great! I loved them :) just my little story. How can people think that's ok?

xelay16 karma

I don't know, but it's sadly very very common

Nail_Biterr11 karma

ah hemm..

okay, here it goes.

........... why?

Like, i get it. they're living animals, and it's sad to see anything happen to them. But, what was the tipping point that made you go 'okay, i'm setting up a rodent/rabbit rescue!'

xelay129 karma

I really wish I knew the answer to that. Masochism? Impulsive ADD decision that I can't back out of now? My proclivity towards turning every hobby into work? It's frankly unclear. In fact, I've never even really considered myself an animal person and my partner and I said we wouldn't have pets together because it was too big of a time commitment and responsibility.

I also swore off going to law school though and then did that too, so probably I just make bad decisions.

Though the actual tipping point story is a little sweeter than that. Let me go copy and paste it:

"Our first syrian hamster, Pipsqueak, passed away after 4 months of having her after being quite sick. In retrospect she probably had an infection called pyometra but we didn't know and didn't have a vet who knew at that point. She passed away during my first week of law school.

Then, during law school one of the primary extracurriculars I participated in was helping victims of domestic violence get protective order. As you can imagine that's pretty tough work emotionally and you often see repeat clients because the cycle of abuse makes it very likely that their abuser will convince the victim that the abuser has changed and to drop the protective order only to have the cycle repeat. While I never ever fault the victims for these things because there are much greater forces at play it is a reality that is very emotionally draining. So, we started with hamster rescue because with a hamster you can save them, put them in a nice big cage, give them good food and good health care, and keep them safe for the rest of their lives. You can't do that to humans (for obvious reasons) so it gave me an outlet that I wasn't getting elsewhere."

RainStarNC3 karma

I’m not going to lie, “masochism” is a great response to someone asking why you decided to work with animals...

xelay13 karma

It's pretty accurate too.

beardiggy11 karma

Wife and I run a similar rescue (shes a shelter vet) but haven't gotten formal status. How did you go about getting the 503c status and any tips or places that helped?

xelay124 karma

I'm a lawyer so I did it myself, and if you have the money probably just hire a lawyer to do it for you so you don't miss any steps. Otherwise start by incorporating in your state, writing a mission statement, getting a board of director together, and writing bylaws. Once you have your state incorporation done, get an EIN (it's all online just google get an EIN), and then fill out IRS form 1023 or 1023ez if you're a small rescue.

Just be aware that registering as a 501c3 comes with very few perks and a lot of responsibility so take your time to decide if it's something that really fits with your goals.

DocOcarina10 karma

Hi Alex!

I just want to say that your facebook posts are glorious, and it's been a delight working alongside you (I'm with A Critter's Chance). But I guess that I have to ask a question.

Uh....what's your favorite Final Fantasy game?

xelay16 karma

Final Fantasy VII, but I've never actually played it. That was not my thing. I'm a serious pokemon nerd.

svtdragon2 karma

Favorite starter pokemon?

Also hi, we're acquaintances in real life! I'm super happy this found my front page.

xelay112 karma

Pikachu obviously.

StrawberryK10 karma

Ooo perfect AmA to run into.

So my brother has 2 chinchillas and a huge cage we've been having an argument recently.

He's had the 1 chinchilla for a yr give or take. And just got a 2nd one that's alot younger and they fight. Him and his fiancee solution was to separate the top 2 floors from the bottom 2 with something blocking the ramp opening.

I told him you should've done like I did with my rats. And that's 2 cages move em closer together a little bit at a time. (I never did the mixing bedding thing) then let em meet etc. Until you know they won't eat each other then same cage.

He is sold on the fact that yeah but they aren't rats...so solve the argument do you treat the introduction the same or is my brother just an idiot?

xelay122 karma

You treat the introduction the same, but I find chinchilla bonding to be much more difficult and less reliable. If they're both males consider getting them neutered.

StrawberryK4 karma

Yeah that's definitely an option, the other option is I take his other big habitat and the younger chinchilla stick it next to my rats habitat and let them be friends.

Would rats and chinchillas get along? In the sense of hey it's a new friend or would it be a thunderdome situation?

xelay113 karma

I mean they wouldn't instantly kill each other in all likelihood unless they just happen to be a very aggressive rat or chinchilla. They'd probably mostly ignore each other. But they have such vastly different dietary needs, caging needs, and play styles that someone would inevitably get hurt if they lived together and it would be a really bad idea.

Ragnaroq31410 karma

Do you have room for 17 million coronavirus infected minks? If so, Denmark would like a word...

xelay17 karma

No predators allowed at The Pipsqueakery unfortunately.

carlily10 karma

Hi Alex! I run Atlantic Critters Rescue in NJ, we are affiliated with HALP and have been excited to support them in merging with The Pipsqueakery. What has been the hardest thing about merging with other rescues? I feel like I have my hands full managing one very small rescue!

xelay18 karma

I'm really stressed out about keeping track of all the intakes and adoptions, and making sure there's enough money to give the best care to all the animals in all the locations. If I don't think about it too hard it's honestly going pretty smoothly, but if I think about it then OMG the panic. It's a lot to handle honestly and I think it will be ok. I'm sure in someways it's hard for the rescues we are taking over too because most of the decision making power ends up with me and the board which is a big change.

nanaimo9 karma

What are your thoughts on people owning single rabbits when there is a growing consensus that they are social animals that need a companion?

xelay120 karma

In general I think social animals should have companionship from their own species. However, I do think rabbits can successfully be kept as single pets with a dedicated owner who is able to fill their needs, and some rabbits are frankly not very into other rabbits.

Keeping a guinea pig or a rat without their own species is flat out cruel though.

notimeforniceties9 karma

I am Alex and I run The Pipsqueakery, a 501c3 rodent and rabbit rescue that focuses on special needs small animals

How much is your budget for a new house?

xelay18 karma

Alas, way way less than that. I mean the Pipsqueakery's facility build is going to cost about $250k to $300k and frankly The Pipsqueakery has more money than us. I would like those budgets a lot though.

moleware9 karma

Are electric mouse traps ethical?

I'm not letting these things live in my house, but I want to be as compassionate and expedient in their murder as possible.

xelay136 karma

Not really, but they're better than glue traps or poison. The most effective thing you can do though is first go around the perimeter of your house and seal up every hole with steel wool and caulk (or other sealer of your choice). Then get a couple of life traps and bait them with peanut butter, and evict that mouse. If you don't seal up the entry points first though it doesn't matter how many mice you kill or catch, more will just keep coming in.

lil_grey_alien9 karma

My 4 year old daughter really wants a guinea pig for xmas - my question is: is it true you should always buy a pair so they are more social?

xelay114 karma

Yes, you should always have at least two, but also unless you're up for constant close supervision possibly consider rats instead of guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are pretty delicate and easily droppable. Rats are much harder to drop since they just kinda hang on. Of course, depending on how you handle it that could all be a non-issue, but I've always thought rats were a much superior pet for a young child.

potatotay8 karma

So lucky to have people like you! My question is - do you rescue other small animals that may not be "rodents" like ferrets, for example? Or is that too risky? Me and my husband want to start a ferret rescue at some point!

xelay110 karma

We do not handle ferrets at our primary location in Bloomington as we have a no predators policy. However, our location in NJ does take ferrets, and if someone asked to surrender a ferret I would arrange to have it surrendered at one of our local sister rescues.

Stoic_Stranger8 karma

Do the smaller critters ever ride the capybaras or is that just a reddit thing?

xelay19 karma

Mostly a reddit thing. I mean I could probably put a rat on Steve, but the rat wouldn't really be interested in riding him around.

Now in the wild there are some birds that have a symbiotic relationship with capybaras and groom the pests off of them, but that's not really a thing inside our house.

xelay17 karma

Small animal places definitely could we use tons of fleece blankets. In fact im using two right now. One to hold the squirrel I'm feeding and one as a placemat to protect the bed from rabbits.

rustymanhood7 karma

My daughter has 2 pet rats. We’re pretty sure they picked up mites. Best suggestions to help safely get rid of the mites? Thank you.

xelay111 karma

Go to a vet for revolution. Technically you can get ivermectin OTC but it's a bit less safe overall and if dosed inappropriately is very unsafe.

clockbound7 karma

How many of the animals are kissable? 95%? 100%? Because they all look extremely cute.

xelay112 karma

Kissable without getting bit? Maybe 70%. Kissable if you have no regard for your face staying intact? 100%

Sushi-JaySepheroth7 karma

Is it fun?

xelay124 karma

Wellllll that depends on how you define fun.

Parts of it are fun, but a lot of it is paperwork, poop, cleaning, sleep deprivation, death, bills, and people getting angry at you. I don't want to paint animal rescuing in a negative light, but there's a lot of not fun parts of it.

Lord_GuineaPig6 karma

Hey Alex! I just want to say thank you!! Rodents especially Guinea Pigs mean the world to me and whenever I hear there is a rescue out there doing good towards these animals. It brings a huge smile to my face.

Reading your post you mention Patagonian Cavies? Would that just be wild Guinea Pigs?

Also can you link a support page? Is there an address where we can send supplies?

Last Do Capybaras really as attached to their owners as I've read? Separation anxiety so bad they'll breaking down doors? I read one article about one jumped through a window. I eventually would like a pair of the Guinea Bigs but the idea of them getting so attached they'll hurt themselves is frightening.

Thank you again!!

xelay18 karma

Patagonian cavies are also called maras. They about 12 to 18 pounds with long legs and pointy ears.

thepipsqueakery.org/help has lots of ways to help us from donating funds to sending supplies from our Amazon wishlist.

As for capybaras, I strongly discourage people owning them in almost every case, and I've had a lot of people tell me that following me has cured them of any desire to own one. They're very much wild animals that can be tame, but they are still clearly wild animals. They do get very attached to their owner especially if you keep a single one but honestly I really think they should be kept in at least pairs if at all possible. They're really messy, incredibly strong, and even when they don't mean to hurt someone they can do a lot of accidental damage. If they do want to hurt you, well let's just say I got lucky and have a bruise on my leg so deep that it has been there since February 2020 because Steve got scared at the vet. They need tons of space and the ability to swim in a temperature controlled environment. They don't handle cold well and they're very very expensive to feed. I know there are some people out there who can handle owning one, but I really think the vast majority of people don't know what they're in for with a capybara. Even I don't think I truly knew what I was in for and I have pretty extensive animal experience at this point.

Dogon116 karma

As an ex-rabbit owner and ex-rescue/sanctuary volunteer/foster, what do you feed your rabbits? I'm always curious about what other people feed their buns.

xelay110 karma

Oxbow pellets and orchard grass hay. We free feed pellets because all of our rabbits are special needs, many with dental issues, and we use orchard grass because I am deathly allergic to timothy hay.

Dogon113 karma

Gotcha, totally. Don't want to risk it with the allergy, that sounds awful. I can't imagine how much harder that would make things! Are there any special things you need to keep in mind when feeding them orchard grass as their main hay versus timothy? We switched from Oxbow to Mazuri rabbit chow a few years ago for various reasons - one of the photos of the rabbits on the 25lb bag is actually my mom's picture of a rabbit we used to work with at the rescue!

xelay16 karma

Nope, nutritionally it's exactly the same

thetruckerdave6 karma

I make little fleece blankets to donate to shelters for cats and dogs. Could small animal places like you use little fleece blanket things or would they eat them and hurt themselves?

xelay13 karma

Small animal places definitely could we use tons of fleece blankets. In fact im using two right now. One to hold the squirrel I'm feeding and one as a placemat to protect the bed from rabbits.

BirdyBeMe6 karma

ALEX!!!! My sister (she was the idiot) and I drove over 1700 miles to bring you some hamsters! Is Amos still kicking? He was SO CUTE! You are absolutely an amazing human!! Keep up the good work!! ❤️❤️

xelay16 karma

He is not unfortunately! Thank you so mucb for helping with transport!

Fermina_Daza6 karma

Hi Alex! I follow you on Instagram and love seeing all the love and care you give every animal you take in! I was wondering what first got you started rescuing and rehabilitating small animals: was it accidental, or something you’ve always wanted to do? Thank you! 😀

xelay115 karma

Here's the story:

Our first syrian hamster, Pipsqueak, passed away after 4 months of having her after being quite sick. We adopted her from a shelter that didn't know her sex or type of hamster much less that she had medical issues. In retrospect she probably had an infection called pyometra but we didn't know and didn't have a vet who knew at that point. She passed away during my first week of law school, and at that point I knew that animals like her, rodents, didn't have a place to go where they would be able to receive adequate care if they were sick because we could barely provide it despite our very valiant attempts and many many vet visits. Then, during law school one of the primary extracurriculars I participated in was helping victims of domestic violence get protective order. As you can imagine that's pretty tough work emotionally and you often see repeat clients because the cycle of abuse makes it very likely that their abuser will convince the victim that the abuser has changed and to drop the protective order only to have the cycle repeat. While I never ever fault the victims for these things because there are much greater forces at play it is a reality that is very emotionally draining. So, we started with hamster rescue because with a hamster you can save them, put them in a nice big cage, give them good food and good health care, and keep them safe for the rest of their lives. You can't do that to humans (for obvious reasons) so it gave me an outlet that I wasn't getting elsewhere.

As for whether this was something I always wanted to do? Short answer: Nope. Longer answer: I never even really considered myself an animal person. I liked them but I never wanted to be a vet or begged for a puppy and my partner and I even agreed we didn't want pets because it was too much work and responsibility.

finbettafish5 karma

Wow this AMA is fantastic!!!

I'm a year and a half into running a small fish rescue out of my home. I've read through your comments and 100% relate to shoving all my money and time into rescue efforts.

I've had several people surrender fish to me and offer donations, but I feel uncomfortable taking donations when I'm not officially a non-profit.

My big question: at what point did you decide to go for the non-profit status? What did you do before that as far as donations, etc.?

I'd love to become a non-profit, and my brother is a lawyer who would be willing to help me, but I'm struggling to decide when my rescue is "significant" enough to warrant being an official non-profit.

xelay17 karma

It's really not about being significant enough, it's about what your particular goals are. There are a lot of responsibilities that come with being a 501c3 and depending on your goals there might not be a lot of reward. I will say though that you shouldn't feel bad about accepting donations as a non-501c3, as long as you're always honest with people you should feel free to fundraise and accept donations to help with your cause.

VetMichael5 karma

Wow! Thanks for all you do and for being there to rescue those that need help the most.

You state that animal rescue and human rights intersect in your organization's efforts: are most of your critters straight-up rescues (i.e. abandoned, neglected) or are most temporarily rescued (while owner is homeless, financially destitute, etc.) And the critters eventually return home?

xelay111 karma

The vast majority of out animals are straight up rescues/surrenders. We do occasionally temporarily care for animals for people in those sorts of situations but we can't provide vet care for an animal that isn't surrendered. However, understanding that these things are related very much impacts how we handle those surrenders.

Often people look at people who surrender their animals with disdain for not being able to keep their animal and it's seen as shirking responsibility. Of course, there are some cases where people just suck but the vast majority of individuals who surrender animals are surrendering them because they want the best for their beloved pet. They're surrendering because they want their animal to get the care they can't afford and frankly they're doing a responsible, brave, and compassionate thing. I like to think that we treat our surrenderers with respect and kindness, and we have some great ongoing relationships with people who have surrendered.

It also informs our posting on social media, our merch (we try very hard to represent human rights issues in a diverse way with input from people from the groups that are represented), and just out general belief system that the rescue is built on. Animal welfare and human rights are intricately intertwined and if humans are forced to fight for their basic needs then it's very clear (at least to me) that they can't focus on giving their pets the best lives because they just need to keep surviving.

BinkiesForLife_055 karma

Hi Alex,

I have a Dutch rabbit with pasteurella, and he requires a nebuliser every day. Sometimes, despite his medications, he still ends up uncomfortable and with a snotty nose. With all your experience caring for small animals, do you know of anything I could do to make him more comfortable? :)

xelay17 karma

Has he done a course of penicillin-g?

DetectiveWaffle5 karma

Can rabbits be kept as house pets? We have a small flat and have wanted one for a while but not sure if they get on well with being indoor pets

xelay113 karma

They should basically always be kept as house pets the same way you would keep a cat! They're really not good as outdoor pets.

NemesisKismet4 karma

A friend of mine also does little critter rescue also based in Indiana, I believe. A handful of weeks ago, she got an assload of rats and mice from a guy who just dumped them on a lawn. Now she's overloaded with baby mice and rats. I don't really have a question. Just wanted to share? Let's put a question mark in there to confuse the bot?

xelay18 karma

she can reach out to us if she needs help

Kanotari4 karma

What should people know about rabbits before adopting one? Why do they make great pets?

With love and respect, a fellow rabbit rescuer :)

xelay18 karma

That if you don't invest in good care for your rabbit from the start (spaying/neutering, good food, plenty of hay), you'll end up paying much more in vet bills trying to fix it later on. As for why they make great pets, well they're soft a floofy with personality for days.

turntablism4 karma

What’s your favorite critter?

xelay19 karma

Specific animal or species?

Species is definitely guinea pigs. Specific animal is probably Delilah.

adam_the_caffeinated4 karma

This is probably a weird question. I’m a conservation biology student and a licensed wildlife rehabber from Illinois. If I’m ever near Bloomington, can I come feed a capybara? Hah.

xelay13 karma

Possibly. Kinda depends on the status of this whole pandemic thing

bigchuckdeezy3 karma

I have kinda a gross one, but isn’t it true that when capybaras poop in water they swim through it after?

xelay17 karma

Yes, they also drink out of the water they poop in if they feel like it. Animals are gross.

toffeeskye3 karma

Hi Alex! I follow you on Facebook and Instagram and have done for a long time. I hope you guys are okay.

My question is, how many animals do you estimate have come through your doors?

I've always loved seeing the work you do and the care you give. I've loved hamsters all my life and I adore you and Jason for treating them with the care they deserve.

Thank you for caring for so many small friends, and big ones too.

xelay16 karma

Probably about 3000 over the years. Every year the numbers just get bigger and bigger though.

cleverever3 karma

Medical advice question: how many pocket pets have you had to recover after limb amputations?

I've been part of 3, one on a rat, one on a Guinea pig, one on a rabbit, and they all failed to thrive, continued to get infected, and were euthanized no later than 3 months after the initial surgery. Granted I was not part of the actual recovery care and I'm not even in animal medicine anymore but it's the only surgery that's had what I would call a 0% success rate and it still kinda haunts me. Lump removals, cystoscopies, OHEs and neuters, no problem. But amputations were just nightmares with aftercare.

But anyway my question is specifically how do you care for those animals during actual recovery.

xelay15 karma

A bunch. We have dealt with a bunch of amputations. If the amputation site is already infected, particularly if the bone is already infected the amputations tend to fail and we end up having to euthanize. After a lot of those experiences I'm really grappling with the most ethical and kindest care for ones in that situation going forward.

If they just have a break or a dislocation that requires amputation they tend to do perfectly fine and adapt quickly. Usually in those cases a week in a hospital cage, pain meds, and some antibiotics are all they need before they're up and moving.

AlmaDelDiablo3 karma

Hi Alex, we have had two Degu for the past 5 years (sisters). Unfortunately one of them passed away yesterday. What is your suggestion for ensuring the happiness of the remaining one?

We have been ensuring we are playing with her as often as possible and getting lots of attention.

We are just unsure if we should get another one to keep her company or not?

xelay15 karma

oof, that's a hard question. If her health is really good and you intend to keep owning degus in the future I would probably get another one. If her health isn't great I would probably just spoil her rotten for the time she has left.

science_and_defiance3 karma

Hey Alex!!! I absolutely adore you and Jason and the Pipsqueakery, and I was wondering if any of your long term plans include ever bringing on some more volunteers and/or staff? Helping you guys out would be my dream :)

xelay17 karma

Yes, definitely. Since we operate out of our home currently volunteers are very limited, and since no one gets paid at all we obviously don't have any staff. I would love for The Pipsqueakery to be in a position to pay staff though because frankly running The Pipsqueakery and working full time isn't sustainable for me.

actual_SAVAGE3 karma

Is it possible to teach the Capybara to preform Capoeira?


xelay17 karma

I'm going to have to say nope, but if it ever happens I want to see the video.

Verathegun3 karma

I was wondering if you had anything that you would tell someone who was considering a similar project?

xelay122 karma

Don't do it.

If you're going to ignore me and do it anyway then first start fostering for another rescue and learn how that rescue works.

Then if you still insist on going out on your own take all your money and throw it out the window because you're going to be paying the expenses out of pocket for years while you get established.

Also, I would tell them that most of running a rescue isn't animal care, and most of the animal care isn't fun. It can still be very rewarding but it's an incredibly difficult path and I do not recommend it.

Verathegun4 karma

I get you. I just worry because reptiles are so under served.

xelay17 karma

Well I can hook anyone up with resources to surrender a reptile. The rescues I work with almost always have room for any reptile except iguanas. Iguanas are much harder to find a rescue for than other reptiles. Overall there's quite a bit more rescue space available in my area at least for reptiles than most rodents and rabbits at this point.

TinyPnutBrain3 karma

Hello, thanks for doing this. I have a question, a few years ago I found a very small squirrel struggling on a sidewalk. I tried to nudge it into a patch of leaves but it kept trying to snuggle into my hand. It’s eyes were not open and it was very shaky. I put it under some leaves and left it there. I don’t know what happened to it but I assume either it’s mother returned or it was eaten. What should I have done with that little guy? It was too late in the day to contact any rescue agencies and there aren’t any near me anyways.

xelay16 karma

Your approach wasn't necessarily wrong. Basically there are two possible approaches. 1. take it home, keep it warm, don't feed it, and get it to a rehabber within 24 hours or 2. Leave it and hope mom comes back. A lot of times mom will come back but obviously there's always the risk that she won't. Some people will do a hybrid of those options and put baby in something to keep it slightly more warm and watch for mom from inside a house and then take it to a rehabber if mom doesn't come back after a certain number of hours. There's really not a perfect answer.

idkmybffck3 karma

Hi there! I have a sweet 7year old Dutch rabbit who recently got into an accident and lost the use of her hind legs. I’m glad to discover here who you are and really love what you’re doing!Especially after my rabbit’s accident, I found it difficult to know, how little small pets are taken as serious companions. The lack of vet surgery clinics for small pets, the jokes and even the disregard of the love i have for my rabbit— I know this might be an obvious question to you but I’d just like to know your opinion, why do you think that is? And how are you expanding people’s views of small animals? Thank you!

xelay14 karma

I think it's because they're seen as cheap pets that are easily replaceable and it seems like every single person has a story about the horrific way their childhood small pet died/was killed/was set free in the woods. I mean there have even been a decent number of comments that get quickly automodded here about how this is a worthless thing to be doing.

I hope that by sharing them online people fall in love with them and their big personalities, and see their value as individual tiny beings. Some people are just going to be assholes no matter what though and you just kinda have to let that go.


Hi Alex/Jason, I was wondering if you had any experiences with Patagonian Maras (Cavys)? I work at an animal rescue in Georgia and we have one who’s about as dumb as a box of rocks. If you have any experience with them, how do they compare to their larger cousins the Capybara?

xelay16 karma

We have two here and they're not the brightest but they do so much better if they have others of their own species. They're much jumpier and faster than capybaras but also significantly less destructive.

xelay14 karma

But also, they can be kinda dumb....

BaconMan30073 karma

What do you guys think about coming to rhode island sometime?I would love to visit and volunteer

xelay111 karma

Well, we never actually get to go anywhere. There are too many animals in our house. But if you mean expanding to RI? I'm not sure. We are only even considering taking over already well established rescues and we won't consider expanding again until at least next September because this is still very much a learning process.

Succubic_Unicorn3 karma

Aside from cleaning religiously, what's a good way to keep mice and rats in a way that's healthy for them but also keeps the room smelling nice? I love the little ones but their pee is pungeant.

xelay18 karma

Getting the males neutered makes a huge difference. Other than that, a bigger cage and endless cleaning. They're kinda smelly animals honestly.

overbend2 karma

I have a guinea pig named Pipsqueak! She goes by Pip. Do you work with a lot of guinea pigs or collaborate with other cavy rescues?

xelay16 karma

Sooo many guinea pigs. We have nearly 200 at the rescue right now if you just count Bloomington. Closer to 300 if you count all the locations.

DrZicter2 karma

What's the best treats for rats? So far our adopted rats love cheerios and carrots, but is there anything better?

xelay13 karma

It really just depends on what the rats like! If they like cheerios and carrots that's great. Other fresh veggies and fruits are also good options and plain puffed grains are also great!

SimplyDaveMN2 karma

Is Eggbert named after the OXVentures Eggbert? If so, can you find him a pal named Dob?

xelay13 karma

He is not. I mean we could still get him a pal named Dob, but he just drew the Eggbert name when I looked at him.

lagomorphed2 karma

Hi Alex! I just really want to say thank you SO MUCH for all that you guys do at the Pipsqueakery!!! I'm a longtime rabbit butler and have only recently dipped into guinea pigs - my girl is from one of your rescues in NJ who came out of a major hoarding situation. Sadly her sister/friend also from that group passed last week, but I've since learned she's not the first NOR most recent from the group to have gone unexpectedly, which is terrifically sad. I'll be the first to admit that rabbits are my area of 'expertise' so to speak, but I'm being pressured by other pig parents to adopt another companion for her right away... even going so far as to say it's not morally or ethical to have a single. To be fair, I'm still grieving Bubbles and given the mortality rate that seems to be happening in this group, I kinda want to get a feel for if my girl is going to live another month before trying to bring in another friend. What's your perspective on this? Is it okay to keep her single for a little bit or is it completely unethical to keep her alone? Her pen is in one of my rabbits' rooms so she's able to see and "chat" with him and I'm in that room several hours a day.

xelay14 karma

Longterm, it's completely unethical to keep a guinea pig alone. In the short term, even like a couple of months, it's fine. No rabbit or human will replace the companionship of another guinea pig, but as long as she's getting attention and still eating and drinking then you can take some time to make-up your mind.

nahnette2 karma

How do you fund this? Is it sustainable? A friend of mine would love to start something like this in our area, but as far as I can tell it just seems like a big money sink

xelay19 karma

Fundraising! I spend a minimum of 20 to 40 hours a week fundraising year round, and during the end of the year (like now) I easily spend 40 to 60 hours a week fundraising. It's a full time job to fundraise and there's lots of skills and knowledge that you actually need to gain to do it well. It takes time and effort to build a base of supporters and nurture those relationships and it's a freaking ton of work.

Alas, the vast majority of rescues don't have someone with the skills to fundraise efficiently and many many rescuers pay for their rescue out of pocket. Even if you do have the skills you'll still be paying out of your own pocket for years while you start up. We definitely did.

therealjamocha2 karma

What are your top 5 animals that are submitted to your facility? And what is your most unusual?

xelay114 karma

Top 5 by individual animals or by species.

Most unusual is probably the capybaras. Though one time we had some rescue carpenter bees that I handfed. Those were cool.

Sarduci2 karma

What was your process like to stand up a 501c3? I’ve had a few ideas in the past but there is an overwhelming amount of information out there on how to get started that makes it hard to get started.

xelay13 karma

I'm a lawyer so for me it was actually quite easy, and I would advise just hiring a lawyer to do it for you if you have the means. Otherwise you'll want to start by writing a mission statement, writing bylaws, finding a board of directors and incorporating in your state. After that you get an EIN from the IRS and then file form 1023 or 1023ez depending on your situation.

kathi1821 karma

I love capybaras. I was wondering- can they be kept as domestic pets? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone having one in a home or on residential properties.

xelay15 karma

They can, but frankly they're sucky pets. They're wild animals who can be very tame and nice, but they're still wild. They can do serious serious damage if they bite, they can easily chew a hole in your wall, and they poop in a bowl of water. Also they need access to water to submerge themselves do you have to be able to provide that.

drunkendataenterer1 karma

Are these animals better than pigs?

xelay12 karma

In my opinion yes, but some people really love pigs.

mrcoffee831 karma

Does a capybara constantly shit and eat like a guinea pig or do they do other stuff too?

xelay12 karma

They also sleep and swim, but otherwise pretty much yeah. Capybaras do tend to litter train to a wet litter box pretty easily but it's definitely not guaranteed.

fantasyguy19991 karma

I've heard that (Syrian?) hamsters usually make poor pets because in the wild they would have extensive burrows which can't be recreated in captivity. What are your thoughts on this? If it's accurate, how would you suggest trying to replicate it?

Also, do you think it's better to have a cage that's colourful plastic (basically the commercial small rodent cages) or do you think people should be trying to make their cages as close as possible to their natural environment?

xelay15 karma

I disagree that they are poor pets and overall think they're actually one of the better pets we deal with. It is true that we can't replicate their habitat in the wild, but we can keep them happy with a big enough cage and nice deep bedding for burrowing.

As for cages, if I had an option I would melt down every single commercial pet cage with all of those awful little tubes. I don't think we have to go for natural in caging them though. We aren't going to replicate their natural habitat so we should be striving for a habitat that meets their natural needs. That means a cage that is a bare minimum of 450 square inches (larger is almost invariably better) and has at least 5 inch deep bedding for burrowing.

Overall though I mostly think hamsters are the ideal pet!