Have you ever wondered what makes an animal a pet? I’ve been asking myself that a lot lately.
Here’s what happened. A few weeks ago–or maybe a couple of months, doesn’t matter–I had a conversation with one of the wild rats (I think they are marsh rice rats) that live around the house. “It is so hot and dry this year,” Ratpunzil said, twitching her tail. “I don’t know how I’m going to find water or get enough to eat.” She looked so sad, naturally I invited her in. “Are you sure your humans won’t mind?” I set her straight right away, “My humans love me and I’m a rodent. In fact, my parents are billed as giant rats, so why would they worry about a little rat like you?” And I told her about all the food I have, plenty to share. And a bowl of clean water too. Ratpunzil was a little nervous but happy at the prospect.
Not long after, she set up house in the wall in the kitchen. There’s a place where the baseboard has pulled away to provide a cozy little entrance. I was pretty happy to have a new co-pet even though Ratpunzil slept most of the day and only came out at night when everyone was asleep, including me. I can’t tell you how excited I was when Ratpunzil had five little babies!
Things were going smoothly until Ratpunzil invited her mate, Rataslitskin, in to live with her. He is braver than she is and came out when my humans were still awake. And the babies took his lead and started running around squeaking up a storm. That’s when I learned something very, very, surprising.
I thought that being an animal and living in the house is what makes a pet. Turns out that is not enough. My humans did not think of Ratpunzil, Rataslitskin and their family as “pets.” They weren’t even honored guests. In fact, my owner put out a trap and started catching them. The first day she caught two of the babies and she took them away never to be seen again!
You can’t imagine Ratpunzil’s horror when her offspring went missing! Only the fact that she had a new litter to look after kept her from racing through the house looking for them. So instead she had Rataslitskin do that. This only made matters worse. My owner put the trap back out and more of the baby rats were tricked into getting caught. My owner took them to work with her in the morning, just like she used to take me, only they didn’t come home at night.
Now almost all of the babies are gone but Ratpunzil is expecting a new litter. I don’t know what to tell her. I think my owner is going to catch them all and spirit them away also. And she is trying her hardest to catch both Ratpunzil and Rataslitskin too!
I eeped to her when she came home without the first two babies, “Why don’t you like my rat co-pets?” She just scratched my nose and set the trap back up. I could only imagine that someday she will catch them all and I will not have any co-pets except the three snakes in the house. I don’t play with the snakes because they’re in cages and I’m afraid they will eat me if they get out. Gives me nightmares. *shiver*
But just when I thought I had things figured out, my owner comes home with Maple, my new rabbit co-pet. And I mean co-pet, not pest-to-be-disappeared. Maple got a nice cage, food and water, a harness, treats and all kinds of things. She gets to come out in the day. My owner picks her up and pets her. What gives?
Don’t get me wrong, I love Maple. She is as cute as. But what makes her a co-pet when Ratpunzil is not? I do not get it. And could my own status change? Once a pet, always a pet? What if that’s not true? I think my owner lets the baby rats go in a field a long way from any houses. What would happen if she did that to me? Firstly, my little capy heart would be broken. But secondly, where would I get my yogurt?
I haven’t told Maple any of this. She’s just a baby and new to our home. Plus I hear rabbits have delicate little hearts. She’s already bonded to me and my humans, I don’t think she would survive the shock of being tossed aside to live with the wild rabbits. This is one horror I will have to keep to myself.