As I got home yesterday evening, the tiny little baby rat was found! YAAAY for the McKenzies.
Our last experience with a wayward hamster resulted in a few holes in the wall, some carpet damage and the grief of a daughter who just KNEW this creature would come home to her. I have to say, of all the vermin species, rats make ideal pets. That sounds crazy, but they have manners, they use a litter box and they have little tiny personalities. Our Gizmo is now over three pounds and he LOVES to be held. He will not, however, run off or get into stuff if he gets out of his cage. He simply hangs out on top, standing up with his little tiny hands out when we walk by seeking some treat for his greatness. Then, he goes back into his cage and hides the treat in his ever growing pile of food/trash which gets dumped out about once a month. The dumping results in his sneezing, and wiping his eyes in disbelief and his throwing shavings all over the place while he frantically looks for the lost treasure. Then, he starts building the stash all over again. He munches on his treasure at night after we go to bed. That's so much quieter than those horrid wheels hamsters run in all night long.
Our vermin adventure began when Leiren was 9 years old. She wanted a hamster and ONLY wanted a hamster (note: a child who ONLY wants something learns early in life that if you say you ONLY want something, you can get things normally not offered, then you just add to the list later on). Her father relented and we took her to the local pet store. There in a cage in the front of the store were the hamsters. One particular fat gray hamster was more affectionate than the rest and Leiren set her heart on this little creature. It willingly got in her hand and the box they offered for transport and the store owner guaranteed me we had a male. I have since learned that one can quite easily tell the difference as the males of the species disgustingly display their massive ...er...."assets".
Leiren named our little creature Dexter and Dexter took up residence in the new cage in her room. Dexter would get out and play with her, climb on her and sleep in her lap while she watched television. We had Dexter about six days when Leiren came bounding from her room..."Guys, guys,....it's a MIRACLE...Dexter has babies!"
"What" her Dad responded...."someone is going to get sued!"
"Oh No Daddy - it's wonderful - come see"
He went into her room with her to discover eleven naked creatures that my daughter referred to as babies. They were writhing in the corner covered by the visibly proud Dexter. Leiren was thrilled beyond description. As the babies grew - and fast they did grow, they became the neighborhood attraction. Children came from all over seeking to play with them. They were fluffy yellow, gray and black - the teddy bear variety and they were quite adorable. It soon became evident however, that eleven half grown and one fully grown hamster in the same container designed for one was just too many. Many the evening we would open up the stop compartment to find them packed tightly together, sweating, panting and smiling at their comfy little lifestyle.
Leiren's friends would daily come and they would take out a few and play with them. Then, the new kid showed up. The new kid was somewhat afraid of the creatures but insisted on holding a few of them. As the little guys began to play with one another and seek out her pocket as they often did with Leiren, she went into a panic and ejected them from her lap...right into the floor. They were terrified by the reaction and scattered to all corners of the room. Leiren was able to retrieve one that evening and cried herself to sleep thinking the others were bound for certain death.
Her parents - we - on the other hand were at our breaking point and intent on delivering the rest to the petstore to make HIS problem since he had sold us a hamster who obviously had no moral character while residing in his store. The next day, the plan was implemented. First, Leiren called all her friends. SURE, it was o.k. for them to come to my house and play with vermin but not a single parent would allow the child to bring one home! Friends- ugh!
As we were rounding up the remaining nine babies, we discovered our cat Mystery had gotten in the house. Leiren was in the living room when Mystery showed up with a peculiar expression on his face. He was attempting to get her to let him out the back door when she realized the expression was the result of yellow fluffy ....something...in his mouth! Oh the drama....She screamed - literally screamed - I believe people in New York heard it. Mystery dropped the limp creature and it lay on its back, looking dismally wasted. I opened the back door and Mystery escaped before becoming a victim.
There was Leiren...sobbing...walking towards the little creature, still laying on it's back, mouth open, tongue hanging out...her head down, her hands at her side...falling to her knees (I swear I could hear background music from the Godfather playing at this point). She leaned over the little guy, tears rolling to the floor and appeared to be intent upon kissing him his last goodbye. As she reached him, he bounded to his feet and scurried under the couch. Who knew that a hamster could act! This hamster had fully convinced one and all, mostly the cat, that it was dead!
Leiren screamed again - "It's alive!" and I screamed louder "Get it out from under the couch!" We had to re-arrange the living room but we finally caught it. Examination revealed no open wounds, no death punctures, just a slobbery mess of a fluff ball. We bathed him and she put him back with his mother. He got a reprieve from delivery to the petstore.
Two weeks later, Dexter had another litter of babies - her carousing days still in full swing obviously. This time there were only five and we quickly removed them and delivered them to the petstore while we were purchasing a new cage for the renegade.
Dexter and the renegade lived about three years. They had peaceful lives, alone in each cage and enjoyed residing in the computer room - the designated residence after many a sleepless night from the wheels in the cage going round and round.
So, that was the beginning. As they passed into the history books of our family, we were able to resist vermin pets for a very long time. Then, Gizmo was "rescued" from a snakefood set up and now we have Forrest. Forrest was easy to name...as we were retrieving him from his box last night, Leiren kept saying "run Forrest run".
Vermin may not be the best of pets, but they are easy. At least the rats are. As I have already described, they entertain without truly annoying. They enjoy the occasional bit of attention but never demand it. And you can leave them alone for days on end provided they have ample food and water. So far, they are easier than cats or dogs.
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