What it Takes to be a Pet

Me with my new co-pet, Maple

Me with my new co-pet, Maple

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!

One of the baby rats before it was "disappeared"

One of the baby rats before it was "disappeared"

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?

Why is Maple a co-pet but Ratpunzil isn't?

Why is Maple a co-pet but Ratpunzil isn't?

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.

13 comments to What it Takes to be a Pet

  • Wow! dat is a sad story!! I dunno why some pets make a pet and some don’t. Lots to think about for sure. I wonder sometimes if I’m a pet, or what?? I’m a bear, teddy bear to be exact, but there’s a dog here who’s da pet. It’s so confusing!!
    I wish you and everyone there the best!
    You all sure is cute!!
    Jed xoxo

  • Stacy

    I wonder if Caplin has noticed that the word PET is almost like PEST and in the phone book, they are sometimes on the very same page! I think when Maple gets settled, she will demonstrate that dutch rabbits are spunkier than regular rabbits like Seabiscuit. The dutch rabbits I have had try their hardest to bridge that gap from PET to PEST. I’ll bet Caplin has a real lively co-pet there! Show him how to kick up his heels, Maple!

  • neva

    I have a little rat living in my wall! Sometimes, at night, I see him scamper across the floor. I would like him to be my pet, but he isn’t housebroken. My late pet mouse (name: Mouse), was not housebroken either, but he had a cage. The little rat seems to have cage phobia, and so, try as I might, I can’t catch him. What to do? I can’t hurt him; he’s too cute. For the time being, I’m just keeping all my food in the refrigerator.

    So… what is a pet? Does it have something to do with knowing how to use a dish of water or kitty litter? I dunno the answer to that, but I do know this: It’s a funny world we live in, Mr. Rous, a funny world. Maybe I should offer my uninvited ratty guest some yogurt and see if that does the trick.

  • What a sweet ..sad little story, I wanted come and get them and let them live happy everlasting at my farm. I have big barns, lots of food and so much water to drink.
    mary lee

  • AbsoluteRemix

    That’s a hard question to answer Caplin! Being a human…you would think I would know the answer. But I don’t..I will have to think about this one!

  • Oh, Caplin! You wrench my heart with your writing. I wish I could say a pet is that which the pet believes himself to be, but I know that is not always true. It is a sad world sometimes. I am sure your and Maple’s petdom, however, will never change.

  • Oh, Caplin, I think you’re safe. I can tell your humans love you too much to just leave you in a field, and I don’t think they would have bought Maple all those fancy things if they were going to get rid of her either. But, just in case, make sure you take a computer or cell phone with you everywhere. This way if they drop you off somewhere, you can tweet and let everyone know where to rescue you from!

  • Hay Caplin, Iz wondering why you never get something like a doggie for a co-pet? There is probably a good reason for it. Is it because they are to hyper or maybe theys scare you? Or is your person just partial to rodents? BOL! I really like Maple though, she is sooo pretty. You look so big next to her, or maybe she looks so small next to you?


  • Katy

    Pretty good post. I just came by your site and wanted to say
    that I have really enjoyed reading your posts. Any way
    I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you write again soon!

  • The difference between pets and pests is like the difference between flower and weed. They can be the same thing, but it is whether it is WHERE you put it. I happen to think dandelions are beutiful flowers. And they were brought to America on purpose because they serve herbal purposes. But now they spread to fast and are called weed. However, for me, they are NOT weeds, because I have a tortoise who loves them and so I grow them on purpose. They are plants and not weeds because they are exactly where *I* want them!

    Rats make GREAT pets. They are smart and clean and cute. But a rat from outside can carry sickness and may even bite YOU and make YOU sick which would be SO awful. Those rats are from the WRONG place.

  • I liked a lot. It has lots of useful info. This article is very professionally written. I will be back for sure.

  • Very good article, I love animals myself, I’ve been interested in animals from a very young age and this article was really interesting.

  • My brother just adopted a Golden Retriever pup. What a rambunctious ball of fur he is. Unbelievably cute and cheerful. Only issue is that he annhiliates everything in the basement. 😉

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