Dear Vicki, I’m think­ing of get­ting a ham­ster for my daugh­ter. What types of food should I avoid and are there any which are poi­sonous or can cause deadly dis­eases? Foods to keep well out of reach in­clude the stalks on toma­toes, rhubarb, grapes, fatty meat, choco­late, beans and po­ta­toes. Like dogs, ham­sters can be poi­soned by onion, gar­lic, al­mond nuts and cit­rus fruit. Pro­vid­ing a bal­anced diet is im­por­tant so con­sider feed­ing a ready-made ham­ster food, avail­able from pet stores in ad­di­tion to daily fresh foods such as green veg­eta­bles, cleaned root veg­eta­bles and non-cit­rus fruits. Avoid ex­cess sun­flower seeds as these can lead to obe­sity. Dear Vicki, I’m a pri­mary school teacher and would like to get a fish tank and some fish for my class to look af­ter. I would rec­om­mend cold wa­ter fish (e.g. gold­fish), as trop­i­cal or marine fish have more spe­cialised care re­quire­ments. Gold­fish are so­cial, so two or three would be best to start. The tank should be large, but should al­low 12 square inches of wa­ter sur­face area for ev­ery one inch of fish. The shape of gold­fish bowls makes it dif­fi­cult for enough oxy­gen to en­ter the wa­ter so choose a tank with a larger open­ing. Po­si­tion the tank away from heat sources and di­rect sun­light, and away from stairs or speak­ers as fish are sen­si­tive to vi­bra­tions. A fil­ter will help to keep the wa­ter clean and you will need to change ap­prox­i­mately 40% of the wa­ter ev­ery week. Tap wa­ter con­tains harm­ful chlo­rine, so you will need to add spe­cial drops to help treat it. You should set the tank up and leave it for two weeks be­fore adding any fish, to let the wa­ter ‘ma­ture’. WWW.PDSA.ORG.UK

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