For quite a long time, Bean and Plum have been asking to have a pet and we’ve so far said no. Bean wanted a dog. Sort of. He likes the idea of having a dog, but in reality he’s very nervous of dogs. Mostly, I think he just wanted a pet of his own. Plum has been asking for “a real pet cat”, although a real pet sheep has also made an appearance in the requests. We haven’t the room for a dog and Bean’s eczema is made worse by cat hair (we had cats when he was born), so the answer was always no.
We’ve been thinking for a while that it would be good to have a pet though and last week we made the decision that we would get a couple of rabbits. Once we decided, it naturally became a great learning opportunity. Lots of looking on the internet at different kinds of rabbits gave the children a list of rabbit breeds they didn’t want. No lionheads (Plum didn’t like them), no giant anythings, nothing with very long hair.
We walked down to our local pet shop – not to buy rabbits, but to look at the rabbits they had, as well as various types of housing. Whilst there, PK (2) stood and chatted to the rabbits. Plum (4) decided her rabbit must be white. Bean (9) decided that he didn’t want a rabbit at all. He wanted a rodent. We discounted hamsters, since they are nocturnal. He wasn’t bothered about mice, rats, degus. The gerbils fascinated him.
We gathered some info leaflets and headed home. Bean immediately got on his laptop and before long had informed me that if we said yes to a gerbil, we’d have to get a pair, because they don’t do well alone. He’d looked up housing. I sent him a link to the RSPCA website where there is a wealth of easy-to-understand care information for a range of animals. Between us, we compiled a list of what we would need to properly house gerbils and rabbits. How much space do they need, what do they need in the way of activities, what should they eat, what should they not eat?
Before the end of the day, I had found a pair of female rabbits who were in need of a new home. One was white. They came with a hutch and a run, and food and such. They were free, because their owners needed to rehome them quickly. We called, Stonelaughter went and collected them and before long, we had adopted a pair of rabbits.
I also found a local rodent rescue charity with several pairs and groups of gerbils for adoption. We had to complete a questionnaire for them and show them what housing we had. Well, we didn’t have any, so I sent them a photo of the kind of housing we had in mind. They told us that once we had it, set it up, replaced all the plastic wheels, toys, ladders etc with wooden, we could go and see their gerbils.
In the meantime, another lead got back to me. They had a litter of gerbils Bean could choose from. He wanted boys. We arranged to go and see them. Shortly before we left, we went to our local indie pet shop and bought a large cage, nearly a metre tall, with a nice deep base for burrowing and three floors above it with wheels, ladders, a house, hidey holes and such.
Bean had to choose from silver gerbils with black tails, various grey, black and brown gerbils and one ginger coloured one. He fell in love with the ginger one and we discovered it was female. So he decided on girls instead and chose three – the ginger one, a grey one and a dark chocolate coloured one. All girls!
And so in the space of two days, we added five family members and now the learning really begins!