This story starts like most will, at the beginning.
I think I’ve always been a lover of animals. Some of my earliest memories are of pets that I encountered at a very young age. At home was a Tabby Cat called Rambo. He was only around for 2 or so years of my life, long before I could remember anything too significant, but I’m sure he fascinated me. The same goes for Shadow, my Mum’s Dog. In my mind he is black, brown and dog shaped. My childhood neighbour also had a Dog, a Golden Retriever named Amber. I recall sharing biscuits with her at the green plastic chain-link fence in the back garden.
My favourite school trip was to a place called Dell Farm. We stayed for a 5 day week (I think) and learned things which I’ve all but forgotten. What I do remember was a Donkey at the far end of the farm. One day I leaned on his gate to fill out my worksheet. He must have deemed this unacceptable, so he bit the corner, tore my papers in half and ate them without breaking eye contact… Savage. If my memory serves me well, this encouraged some of my classmates to also ‘feed’ the Donkey.
Later on, our house over the years had 5 Guinea pigs. Their names were: Salt, Pepper, Ketchup, Piglet and Pooh. It always has and always will bring me joy when an animal becomes comfortable and accepts you. Guinea pigs make a great squeaky/purring noise and become very vocal when they’re happy. They’re also great at crunching vegetables.
As I grew older to the ripe and very independent age of 15, I wanted a pet (or pets) of my own. So without asking permission I bought home two Gerbils and a medium sized cage.
I named my Gerbils Osiris and Liberty, and fell in love with them.
Yes, they kept me awake every night for a week before I realised earplugs were a thing, but you couldn’t stay mad at those whiskers. I managed to keep them a secret for about 2 weeks before Mum found out. I guess it’s safe to say she was not best pleased with my impulse purchase.. but a few weeks later she was feeding them sunflower seed treats too.
Once I’d had Osiris and Liberty for about 4 weeks I began to feel like their cage was too small. I mean, I wouldn’t enjoy being kept in a small cage and they started spending hours gnawing at the bars, even though they had plenty of other things to keep their teeth in check. Fortunately for the gerbils I came across a 3ft terrarium and had recently discovered Ebay, where I offloaded all of my Pokemon cards for a decent price (I wish I kept them now though…I’d make a bit more than I did back in 2006). So after a few Ebay purchases I was able to create something like this.
Now, I realise it may look like I went a little overboard on their cage, but there were many positives. First of all the gnawing on metal bars stopped instantly. They had so much room to explore and play they no longer felt the need to attempt an escape (in fact I could leave the cage open, they would come out and have a sniff, then decide it was better back in their home). It also meant their cage didn’t require cleaning for a weeks at a time. Gerbils are very clean for rodents, and the sheer volume of space they had kept them cleaner still!
To keep them occupied and happy, every couple of weeks I would re-arrange their cage and give them lots of new places to explore and things to chew.
Then as it so happened on one evening, I was at a well known pet store, and I saw a Gerbil all alone in the Animal Adoption section. This I could not live with, he was the same gender as my other gerbils so I left the store with my new buddy, Nexus.
It is no easy feat to introduce a new gerbil to a cage. Gerbils are very social animals but are also very territorial. Luckily for me I had the means to keep the gerbils separate while still able to see and smell each other. It was a long couple of weeks but Nexus became part of the family.
I really did love these guys. They provided me hours of entertainment and every morning I would see 3 little noses poking through their door awaiting treats they knew were coming.
On average Gerbils live between 2 and 4 years. I am very proud to say that each of these guys lived a whole year above that statistic.
Small animals can make great pets. They can teach compassion, kindness, patience and the basics in animal care. If you want the animals in your world to be as happy as possible, then think of life through their eyes. Do they have enough space? Is their surrounding environment too noisy or busy? If you were that little guy, would you be happy?
I Believe everyone should grow up around animals. But i also believe that you shouldn’t claim ownership over them. If you truly love the animals in your life, then they are not pets – they are part of the family.
For more of my animal adventures, please click here!