About five years ago, when my children were little (literally, they are now rivalling me for height), my oldest daughter set out to the pet shop to buy some pet mice. “Why mice?” asked the pet shop owner, “Have you considered rats?” (Little did we know that we had chosen to purchase mice from the foremost local breeder of domestic rats – Animal World in Boronia.) “Rats??” shrieked my wife – but as soon as she saw them, she was convinced.
That day we bought Twitchy home, and he was a constant companion, for me as much as for my children. He would sit on my shoulder as we were watching television, and, if I fell asleep, he would still be there when I woke up. When he died two years later (rats have a short life span – if you buy them for your children, they will be introduced to death and grieving on a regular basis), we missed him so much we went out and bought two new rats, Tiffany and Minerva – both females, because unless you want lots of rats, don’t buy two of the same sex! They in their own turn expired, and by then the girls were sick of having the rats in their rooms (they make a bit of noise at night) and having to clean out the cage every couple of days.
So we didn’t replace them, but I missed having the little rodents quite dreadfully. In fact, I have become so “rat friendly” that in order to remove a small infestation of ratus ratus (as opposed to ratus domesticus) from my ceiling, I decided to use a live catch trap and to release them “in the wild” rather than kill them (there must be a bit of Buddhist in me).
But then the other day I came across this great bird cage on the hard rubbish collection in our neighbourhood, and I thought – that would fit nicely in my outdoor retreat (aka to my family members as “The Cave”), and I could put rats in it! So I brought it home, cleaned it up, adapted it as necessary so that it would provide a sheltered environment for small rodents, and then rang the Pet Shop to see when their next little would be available. “End of October”, they said.
Yesterday then was the day of the arrival of the new family members. And here they are. The one with the dot on her head is “Dot”, and so the other one had to be “Smudge”.