rodentes, rodentes

Page Fifty-five

I’ve already discussed rabbits and guinea pigs, those larger members of the chewing-chewing sort of animal (though I was informed rather late in my life that rabbits are not, in fact, rodents. they are lagomorphs. but doesn’t that have to be a sub-species of the rodent clan? they have so much in common). Now I want to take up the littler guys: those mouse, rat, gerbil and hamster folk.

I’ve never had any rats or gerbils of my own, but cared for many when I worked in a pet shop. One mama rat gave me such a deep puncture bite that I had to get a tetanus shot, which hurt more than the bite. But it wasn’t her fault. Her cage was terribly over-crowded, and rodents will bite when they are that unhappy. I being only an employee could do nothing about the situation, though I did try many a gentle verbal suggestion.

Hamsters and mice, I’m pleased to say, have been among the animals I’ve shared life with. Even a chipmunk for a short time.  I insist I get this love of rodents at least partly from my maternal grandmother, who had a squirrel and I think a chipmunk as well when I was a kid. The fluffy-haired teddy bear hamsters are a particular favorite of mine.

Mice are just plain sweet. They frisk around with whatever toys you give them, they look at you with those shiny black eyes that appear so large in the tiny pointed faces, and all of this friskiness and mini-ness and big bright eyes steals the heart. My heart, anyway. They are so small and vulnerable and yet so vibrantly alive that I just want to protect them and keep them safe.

Hamsters are larger, of course, appear just a bit less vulnerable than a mouse, just about tail-less, and in many ways like tiny little bears. Since I am fascinated with cheek pouches, hamsters give me food for this fascination (as do chipmunks). Yes, it’s fun for me to watch a hamster stuff its pouches full of food from its dish, then walk a foot or two away to empty those cheeks into the shavings of its bed. It’s as if a hamster might wake up suddenly feeling peckish, and craves the ease of just rolling over to grab a bite, rather than making the strenuous walk to the dish.

I won’t relate all the horror stories I’ve heard over the years concerning the fates of mice, hamsters, gerbils that adults have given to their children as pets. No child is vigilant enough to really keep a small rodent safe. Even I, a very vigilant adult, had two calamities relating to hamsters and one involving a mouse. No matter how careful you are, these evils can happen, rodents being small and curious and able to fit through extremely small spaces. Therefore I abhor the practice of giving these creatures to children as pets, children who can never be vigilant enough. And most of these parents are not, as I was, willing to take on themselves the responsibility for the animal’s safety that the child is too young to fully grasp. If they are not willing to take a tiny animal seriously enough as a living, sentient being to safeguard said animal, then they shouldn’t give them to their little kids, for pity’s sake. The rodent family as a whole, along with lagomorph rabbits, are repeatedly used by adults as shut-up pets. Child wants a pet and nags for a pet and parents, unwilling to take on the commitment of a cat or dog, shove rodents at their kids to shut them up. In the minds of these parents, commitments do not need to be made to rodents. They are, after all, only domesticated vermin. I see red.

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all photos, graphics, poems and text copyright 2008-2011 by anne nakis, unless otherwise stated. all rights reserved

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Published in: on December 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. thanks, Deidra


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