Here’s To You, Weird Pets of America

Pets are the best. In the US, we love dogs and cats to the point that we treat them like members of our family. Thanks to thousands of years of co-existing and learning to manipulate one other for our mutual benefit, the human-cat or human-dog relationship is quite a beautiful thing. And, believe me; I love both dogs and cats. But what about the other pets?  As someone with a “weird” pet ““ two, actually ““ I’d like to defend them.

First off, I have rabbits, which is really unfortunate. Why? Well, for starters, rabbits have the unfortunate position of being simultaneously a fairly popular house pet and a source of fur and meat in this country. (I know that there are other pets that fit this bill, chinchillas for instance.) Whenever a scarf or sweater feels a little too soft, I check out the tag and it’s almost always angora. I’ve learned most of the code words for rabbit in various restaurants. (FYI, coniglio is Italian for rabbit.)

Also, thanks to untold decades of misinformation, everyone thinks of rabbits as an exclusively childhood pet. Much like other small animals, like gerbils or hamsters, rabbits are often bought as a gift for small children who don’t know or care enough to take proper care of them. Not only is this a terrible idea, it also results in anyone who owns these kinds of pets as an adult to be treated like they’re some kind of perv. Furthermore, because rabbits are “wild animals,” there is the common belief that they should be kept outside in a hutch at all times. Or! If you get sick of them as a pet (which a lot of people do), you can just “release them into the wild.” Uh, no.

People’s reactions to finding out I have rabbits are kind of astounding. It’s as if I were telling people I keep a dragon for a pet. You keep them in your house? Do you let them run around? What exactly do they do? My answers, for those who are actually wondering: Their (giant, two-level) cage is in my living room, and when I’m around to keep an eye on them, they get to roam free. They hop around, sniff things, stand up adorably on their hind legs, do a happy dance, wash each other’s faces, cuddle with one another, and sometimes take a nap in front of the TV. In other words, it’s like having adorable little woodland critters living in your home. No, they don’t greet me at the door. No, they don’t hop in my lap for cuddle-time (though some rabbits do! Just not mine!). But that dHamster Silly Faceoes not mean they aren’t worthwhile pets.

I know it’s not just rabbit owners that have to deal with this. I had a hamster in late college, which I got because I desperately wanted a pet and it was the only one I could hide from my RA. He lived for about four years, which means I entered my early-20s adulthood with a pet hamster. (Weird! Look at the weirdo with the hamster!) He was a sweet, cuddly, cute little guy and I cried when I woke up one morning to find that he had died. But yeah, taking off from a happy hour because you have to go home and feed your hamster doesn’t exactly make you the coolest kid on the block.

Unusual pets are just that; they’re pets. They’re cleaned and fed. They’re admired for their beauty, or cuteness. They are loved by their owners. When they get sick, we take them to the vet. If they ever do feel like cuddling, we’re more than happy to oblige. We’re able to find joy in animals that don’t fit the mold of the normal American pet; they have a quirky charm all their own. And I don’t think there’s anything weird about that.

**Note to readers: I know this is the usual slot for my Ladyghosts: MSCL post, but I will be back next Thursday at this time with some hot 90s recap action.

Images: Getty

5 replies on “Here’s To You, Weird Pets of America”

Rabbit owner here. And my rabbit, just for the record, sleeps with me every night, she runs around my room during the day (and sits under any chair I’m sitting on), and is totally potty trained.

Basically, she rocks.

She’s perfect for my NYC apartment. Despite her mischievousness–my GOD can she be ornery– she’s SO loving. She doesn’t cuddle with anymore other than me and she DOES greet me at the door.

She’s my rock, man. My anchor. My soft, fluffy, adorable little anchor.

Our pets are pretty normal, but my friend has weird cats and dogs. She started with one sphinx cat, Bellini (because she feels like a peach), then took another from someone who couldn’t take care of him anymore. That led to a naked dog. His name is Harry and his ears feel like purse leather. Harry now has a sister named Piper. She has just enough hair for a mohawk. We call them the Naked Army.

I had a dwarf Himalayan in college, was inspired by my friend who had a bun-bun hidden in her dorm room. Foolishly–and ignorantly–believed friend’s words, “Rabbits are fine in cages, don’t need to be let out.” Sophie, short for Sophistiquee, lived 10 years. Then had Freckle, a gift from grandma to my firstborn for “graduating” kindergarten. Freckle pooped so much and was neglected.

I stick to cavies, AKA guinea pigs. Am on my fifth. Have a male harem of three: Paul (Newman), Monty (Clift), and J.D. (Joseph Cotten). If I could afford two more I’d adopt two males and name them Gene (Kelly) and Cary (Grant). They are over indulged, fat, furry, and easy to care for. I use the same vet as the Newmans, adopted Paul and Monty from my vet’s nurse.

There was much heartbreak when grand dame Sophie died.

When our pets died we had mock Chinese funerals for them, complete with burning of “ghost money” and incense, placing of loved objects and a family photo in their shoebox coffins, and planted bulbs in their graves.

I LOVE Guinea pigs! I’ve just never owned one. I think they are adorable. And I think it’s great that you have pet funerals; when I was growing up they were important for closure.

And yes, when they wash their or each others’ faces I have to stop whatever I’m doing to watch the cuteness.

Leave a Reply