VERY PARENT worries about what the children are viewing on the internet but a few weeks ago I was horrified when I saw the websites that my daughter was viewing.
She had spent ages watching videos of... vermin! The reason? Because she is an animal lover she wants a pet, or I should say another pet, as she already has a blue-grey budgie with lovely plumage who can say his own name — in fact he says hello to himself all the time. But what she would really like, bearing in mind that a dog is out of the question, is a pet rat. For me, pet rat is an oxymoron. A year or two ago I had to fight to keep the rats out of my home by putting down poison and filling in gaps behind the dishwasher. So the thought of not only inviting such a creature into my home but actually paying for it and then feeding it is anathema. However, having read about keeping rats as pets, there are definitely upsides. Owners say that rats are very intelligent (rather than just cunning), can answer to their names, are most definitely not fussy eaters (they will eat your soap or electricity cables if there is nothing tastier in the house) and are very affectionate — apparently they like their tummies tickled. However, there is a downside — and that is... they are, well, rats!
Kids these days are not so keen on traditional pets. My daughter’s second choice, given that rats are clearly not a viable option (for me), is a chinchilla. She has apparently seen them on the internet.
I had never heard of chinchillas, so I looked there myself. I discovered that there are many more chinchillas on the internet than there there are in the wild (their fur was once much sought- after). I also discovered that chinchillas are very cute and can jump very high. None of these things make me want to own a chinchilla, although to be fair I have now spent more time than I anticipated on chinchilla websites.
There is no doubt that my children are part of a worldwide trend towards unusual and exotic pets. Whereas we got to see weird and wonderful creatures only if we went to the zoo or watched Animal Magic, they are Googling them constantly. So no wonder there is an appetite for — to take a few examples — pygmy hedgehogs, tarantulas, meerkats and boa constrictors.
These are not taken at random but rather from an unusual pet survey conducted by pets4homes. co.uk. The pygmy hedgehogs are said to be very low-maintenance, but not so great for cuddles; tarantulas are also easy to look after and have great shock value when your auntie comes for tea. Whereas meerkats, while riding a popularity boom due to a certain TV advert, are not particularly “simples” to look after.
Of course there are concerns that animals are being transported from the wild to satisfy our hunger for new and interesting pets and that once we get them home they can cause problems (finding a scorpion under the sofa would be especially problematic for me).
So I remain old-school Jewish on the matter — animals are to be kept outside the house. And as for the urge to nurture pets? Well I’m very fond of my houseplants — they look nice, they cheer me up every morning and — the clincher this — they have yet to bite through any of my electric cables.