On Gerbils

Mavis is a disadvantaged child. Well, at least in the pet department she is. Horace, for reasons of guilt, me having a full time career, had a sequence of pets which survived for limited periods. We had:

  • A rabbit which was truly enormous – a New Zealand Blue – with an overwhelming desire to escape. We eventually gave it to the local farm park where they put it in with the ornamental fowl which attacked it. It was moved into an outdoor enclosure where it promptly took the fence and made its escape to freedom.
  • A rabbit which got lonely and needed …
  • A guinea pig to keep it company. The rabbit began rogering the poor guinea pig to their mutual anguish and frustration and eventually had to be destroyed because of repeated abscesses, apparently caused by stress. The poor guinea pig was then all alone so we bought …
  • Another guinea pig. The local children enjoyed playing with and dropping the guinea pigs and much fun was had pursuing the creatures in next door’s garden. Both guinea pigs eventually kicked the buttercup and we bought …
  • A hamster which, apart from the fact that all the mucking out was done by yours truly, was actually rather sweet and a great success. It lived for four years which was pretty good going in hamster terms and very good going given our track record with pets. I swore that there would be no more caged animals in this house.
  • We won a couple of goldfish at a fair which lasted about a fortnight

We found a lost cat and kept it for a while, putting up a notice in the local shop. We were just getting used to each other when the owners rang and it had to go so of course we had to get…

  • A cat of our own.

It was at this point that Horace’s dad (The Mod) and I parted company and on Horace’s next birthday what did she get but another…

  • Cat.

So now we had, and have, two cats. Cats are perfect pets, disdainful, self-sufficient(ish) and easily minded by the neighbours during holidays.

When Whiz and I got together he even managed to overcome his cat allergy to be with me!

Then one weekend we had a visit from an old school friend of mine and her children and dog. The cats took flight. The dog made itself at home and the children spent the weekend swinging from the banister rails and standing on their heads. In despair I sent children and men out for a walk so I could have a girl chat with my friend and get the dinner prepared.

When they returned, the men looked sheepish and the children, excited. They had been walking along, minding their own business when the most adorable, lop-eared bunny had hopped out in front of them just begging to be found.

I was not amused. ‘We’re not keeping it. We must put up posters and find the owner’.
The rabbit came into the house and we gave it a litter tray. It was undaunted by the noisy children, the enormous and inquisitive dog or the drunken adults. It hopped about cheerfully leaving little currants on the carpet but not peeing. ‘It’s obviously used to people, this rabbit!’ We all marvelled. ‘And isn’t it well trained?’
The guests left and peace returned.

As if to celebrate, the rabbit hopped up onto the settee and did the longest (time and distance) pee you could imagine. A jet of urine projected straight out from its rear for about a metre saturating two of the three foam cushions almost through to the other side.

You may think that the rabbit would have been firmly booted to kingdom come but no, we kept it, bought it a female friend, necessitating an expensive operation to prevent thousands of the little darlings arriving, and watched as the two of them destroyed our garden up to knee height, especially enjoying the Lobelia in our tubs.

I should have been warned by my first pet experience as a grown up (sort of) person …

Before the arrival of children and the adoption of a permanent stoop of the shoulders and cleft between the eyes I had a rather irresponsible and alcoholic early adulthood unlike my then brother/sister in law who had children, mortgage Sunday dinners, the whole thing. They occasionally tried to make The Mod and I take our child free life more seriously by giving us little responsibilities. One of these was minding the school gerbil while they, who had custody, went on holiday.

The Mod and I were entertaining a couple of friends for the weekend and after a riotous evening when we consumed more alcohol than was advisable, the friends went to bed leaving The Mod and I alone with the school gerbil.

Now, this gerbil was housed in a plastic cage. Not the kind with bars but with a transparent plastic lid and a tray shaped base. The gerbil was doing what it seemed to have been doing since we took possession of it; it was trying to escape by digging away at the corner of the cage with great energy.

I looked across at it blearily and slurred ‘Look at that poor gerbil; it doesn’t seen fair to keep it caged up like that.’

‘Well let it out for a while.’ Returned The Mod

‘I will!’ I announced, full of compassion – and alcohol. I carefully carried the cage to the middle of the carpet, closed all the doors and gingerly lifted the lid.

The gerbil appeared bemused at his sudden cage expansion. He looked about, slightly agrophobically, and didn’t move.

‘See,’ proclaimed The Mod, ‘He doesn’t want to come out!’

At that moment the gerbil shot out of the cage and straight under the sofa.

In our lounge we had two sofas at right angles to each other. As soon as The Mod lifted the end of the sofa so I could catch the little b*****d it shot under the other settee. Well, a certain amount of hilarity followed as I dived under sofa after sofa and The Mod became more and more hot and bothered running from one to the other. At one point our friends came down and tried to open the door to see what we were up to. We both yelled ‘Don’t open the door for God’s sake!’ With the sound of panic clear in our voices they returned to bed, wondering if we were testing the Karma Sutra!

Eventually I had a brainwave and fetched a towel. The Mod lifted the sofa up and I threw the towel over the gerbil and quickly gathered it up. The gerbil, desperate to escape was attacking the air through the towel firing itself towards the ceiling and from side to side in its attempt The Mod held the lid up ready to clap it down on the gerbil as I tipped it from the towel. Clunk; it was safe. We threw ourselves down on our respective sofas and surveyed the room. There was sawdust everywhere! We looked at the gerbil.

It had a right angled tail!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *