KATE: Why would anyone buy THIS as a pet?


One of the ways I get my daughters to come to the supermarket with me – you know, so I don’t drop them at the library – is to promise them 10 minutes poking around the pet shop. They look at rubber toys I won’t buy for our dog, and coo at the cute things you can get for kittens if you had the kind of mother who would buy you a kitten.

They know not to ask me for a kitten. One of the dog’s redeeming features is he gives me a damn good reason to say no to a cat.

However, the local pet shop has begun to stock baby white mice and my girls are besotted.

‘But Mum!’ says Annabel, ‘They’re only $7 each and they are soooo lovely. I could train them!’

‘No,’ I reply, ‘Come on, we need to get to the bakery. And the bottle shop.’

‘But Mum!’ says Sally,who’s six, ‘If we had mice and the mice have babies we could sell them and then we could get seven dollars and seven dollars and seven dollars.’

‘No no no no no no no no.’

‘But whyyyyyyyyyyy?’

‘Because a mouse is not a pet. It is a rodent. Daddy and I have paid money to GET RID of mice.’

‘But they are pets!’ wailed Annabel, ‘You buy them in PET SHOPS.’

On the way home we had one of those talks you know Carol Brady never had to have. I attempted to explain that there are, in my opinion, ‘Second Tier Pets,’ i.e. not dogs or cats or ponies. Animals that are decorative at best, pests at worst, which contribute little to family life.

A mouse is not a pet. It is a pest.

These include:

1. Fish. Tropical and gold varieties. No fish has ever acted happy to see its owner come home. They can’t do tricks or change their expression with their moods.

Even Samurai Fighting Fish can’t be allowed to fight because if they did, one would die and you’d be back at the pet shop looking at mice.

Fish do look pretty, I’ll give them that. Until  the bowl gets smelly and the fish trails a long bit of fish poo. Then no one wants to know about it.


2. Snakes. Our former next door neighbour has two pet snakes. One in a glass box that needs to be fed baby mice (available frozen – keep CLEARLY marked next to the peas) and one that just hangs about on the roof.

It’s not a bad security measure. A sign on their front gate says, ‘Beware of the snakes.’

3. Guinea pigs. We have been down this road and in 2009 owned a pair of guinea pigs imaginatively named Blackie and Goldie. Sadly, they were susceptible to some particularly gross skin infection which required daily antibiotics, administered orally. I’ll give you a moment to think about that…

If you’ve ever struggled to get 5mls of medicine into a toddler, quadruple the amount of wriggling and squealing. On the fourth course of antibiotics (at $65 a pop) I decided to take Blackie and Goldie to visit the vet one final time. It was sad, but had to be done. When friends accused me of cruelty, I pointed out the animals’ passing was, at least humane. I could have listened to my father in law, who thought it was outrageous that I PAID to have a guinea pig euthanised, ‘When a creek runs behind your backyard!’

If rats were affectionate, there would be organisations that take them into nursing homes. But there aren’t.

4. Rats. Pet rat owners get quite evangelical about their pets. ‘Oh, but they’re so CLEAN and so AFFECTIONATE!’ If that was true, they’d have organisations take rats to cheer up nursing home residents. But that doesn’t happen, does it? No! They take labradors and border collies and spaniels. Mainly because they are not rats.

5.Hermit Crabs: These seem like the silliest of all because you can’t even see them half the time. Same goes for turtles, terrapins and axolotyls. I spend most of my days looking for things – socks, keys, iPod Touches, glasses. I do not have time to look for camouflaged pets.

6. Birds. These are almost top tier pets. We have two cockatiels called Pearlie and Skittles. They don’t sit on your lap while you’re watching telly (not for long anyway) but  they’re  pretty and sing when they see us. They have personality.

“Mickey,” I tell my girls, “Was the only mouse to have a personality. He lives at Disneyland, not at our place.”

Do you have a pet that’s not a dog or a cat? Do you love it or tolerate it?

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