Small Mammals


Rats make suprisingly good pets.

Rats make suprisingly good pets.

“Go ask your uncle Tony!” was all I heard from across the kitchen as the excited 6 year old came rushing towards me.
“Sam’s mum bought her a rabbit and I want one too.”  said Emily. “Can you get me a rabbit Uncle Tony?”
I thought for a minute, sure I had owned rabbits in the past, but these had been mostly frozen ones to feed to my pythons.  I’d never kept a rabbit as a pet and I wasn’t sure I was the best person to ask about how to keep them.  I find it strange that I seem to be asked every wildlife, pet and animal query my circle of friends can dream up.
“Leave it with me,” I said “I’ll see what I can do.”

To be honest, I didn’t know where to start.  I don’t know much about rabbits and the only pet ones I had seen lived outdoors and had a hutch and a garden to play in.  As Emily lived in a second floor apartment with no garden I wasn’t sure a rabbit would be her best choice.  But hey!  What do I know?  I’m a reptile breeder.  I decided that the best course of action would be to consult some people who DID know.  First stop: Simon at Simon’s Rodents

“I see!” said Simon when he heard of my quest.
“So what do you suggest?” I said in desperation.
“Where do I start?” he responded, and took a deep breath.
“Rabbits can be kept indoors believe it or not, but not every family is happy to do so.  There are plenty of other options, but it depends who’s doing the maintenance what they like.”

Over the next half an hour Simon regaled me with a list of animals, highlighting their pro’s and cons.  The usual suspects were there such as Guinea Pigs, Mice, Rats, Rabbits and Hamsters which were apparently easy to keep and low maintenance.
“This is usually the starting point for kids who want a pet but aren’t old enough for a dog or cat. Russian Hamsters used to be popular, but nowadays they are a bit in-bred and are a little more nippy than they were.  A better option is the newly domesticated Winter White Dwarf Hamster which make great pets.”

I made a note.

Being a bit of an exotics fan myself it wasn’t long until the interesting species joined in the conversation.  I’d seen Sugar Gliders on exotics price lists but never really known what they were.
“They’re an Australian Marsupial Squirrel” said Simon with authority.  “There’s a few people breeding them and they’re not difficult to keep, but perhaps a little too involved for kids.  They’re more of a specialist’s project really.”
“What else is there like that then?” I asked, getting a taste for the extravagant.
“Well Gambian Pouch rats are fun and great to observe, as are Black Ship Rats, but these don’t particularly like being handled, they’re more of a display animal if you get my drift.”

I couldn’t imagine Emily being happy with something she couldn’t play with and so I crossed these off my list too.  By now however I was becoming interested in getting something like this as a project for myself.
“Duprasiis are a fun little animal and could be right up your street” he said, reeling me in.
“Du – what?” I said, thoroughly out of my depth.
“Duprasiis!” he laughed.  “It’s sometimes called a Fat Tailed Gerbil. They don’t burrow like your common or garden Gerbil and they eat crickets.   You can tell from the name that hey store fat in their tails and they get most of their liquid requirements from live-foods such as crickets.  You use crickets for your lizards don’t you?”
“Y, yeah!” I replied, realizing that I’d almost committed to a purchase!
“But getting back to the kids pet” I body-swerved “What else is available?”

From then it became a bit of a blur with the conversation hopping from Pygmy mice, (which are apparently the size of a £1 coin) to Dwarf Mice, neither of which are good for cuddling and so were discounted.  Chinchillas and Chip-monks got a mention too and were similarly disqualified for being un-cuddle-worthy.
“These are more suited to adults who like interesting pets.” said Simon, clearly enjoying the conversation.

“We’re back to square one then.” I remarked
I was admittedly a little disappointed.  I was quite looking forward to introducing a Fruit Bat or a Skunk into Emily’s home, just to see the look on her mum’s face.  Unfortunately neither if these was realistically a good idea and so we were back to discussing Hamsters and Guinea Pigs.
“I’ve got an image to uphold though Simon!” I said disappointedly.  “I’m well known for sending her mum squealing into the kitchen when I turn up with some weird and wonderful animal.  It’s not a reputation I’m willing to sacrifice.  I need something that Emily can easily maintain and handle regularly but will upset her mum sufficiently to keep us both happy.”

“I think I have just the thing!” said Simon with a grin.

The next week I turned up at Emily’s house to deliver her new secret pet.  She knew it wasn’t a rabbit (you have to leave them to settle in for a couple of days before you can handle them apparently and Emily agreed that his was far too much to ask!) and so she was excited to see what kind of cool pet Uncle Tony would arrive back with.

“Before I bring your new pet in you have to make me a promise!” I said as I sat down at the table
Emily nodded excitedly.
“You have to promise me that you will look after this pet yourself and not expect your mum to do it for you”
Mum nodded approvingly
“You have to promise me that you will read everything you can find about them and call me if you have any problems at all.”
Emily and Mum nodded together.

As we walked out to the car to collect the equipment Mum turned to me and gave me a hug.  “Thanks Tony, I knew we could rely on you.”
I said nothing and stifled a smirk.
We spent some time setting up the cage and providing food and water and bedding etc.  The tension was mounting as everyone gathered around the small vented cardboard box that had been sitting on the table waiting for the moment of truth.
Slowly I pulled open the flap and let the creature climb slowly and tentatively onto my hand.
“What is it?” said Emily, squinting her eyes.
“It’s….it’s…IT’S A BLOOMIN RAT!!!!” squealed Mum as she ran into the kitchen, slamming the door behind her.
“Oh it’s lovely!” said Emily as the bronze and white rodent crawled into its cage.  “I love it!”
“We have to have words Mr. Jones!” came a shout from the kitchen.

My work here is done!

Published PBW News – 2007

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~ by Tony's Desk on April 11, 2009.

2 Responses to “Small Mammals”

  1. Thank you.It is the best info.

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