The Jewish Chronicle - JC Magazine - - Family Life -

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.

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