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 does 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.