Will that infernal macaw ever shut up, I think, as I look through the horizontal bars of the cage. He always makes such a racket. I thought that he had been sold but obviously I was wrong. I can’t say I blame them. Who would want a gobby parrot with a feather problem?
Today is the day. Today I will say goodbye to this 8 by 12 box and say hello to paradise. Tonight, I will be in a big house with warm, fuzzy saw dust, yummy food and blissfully cool water. I just have to be good, advertise myself, curl my tail like a good little rat and run on my wheel for all the little humans – even if they smell funny.
A shop keeper refreshes my water; about time too! It’s been warm and between you, me and the rat post, it was starting to smell. And it had green stuff in it! The woman drops a treat in my cage and I eat it gladly, taking a peek at my neighbours.
To my right are the albino mice. Odd creatures if truth be told – their eyes are creepy – I can never tell where they’re looking. They hardly make any noise so I can’t say I’m overly fussed. The left neighbours are altogether different. As the constant hum of the AC isn’t enough (not forgetting that parrot) I have to deal with the chipmunks! Yes! A giant cage filled with squeaky, stripy, hyper chipmunks! If I could roll my eyes, I would believe me. I look across the way and see (surprise, surprise) more cages. Hamsters. A little grey one is huddled up in its straw bed, hardly visible. It’s trying to sleep, I get that, but really? How can it be so dense? It’s never going to get out of here like that. My whiskers shake in irritation – sleeping, how ridiculous.
A sudden smell has me recoiling, running into my little hut at the back of the cage. A dangerous scent has hit the air: cold, hard, predatory. A young man walks down the aisle with a grin on his face, holding up a glass box. I shiver in my black and white coat, my tail trembles. My whiskers quiver and I can feel my nose wrinkle at the horror. A snake. Every rodent hides away until the danger passes and the fun begins. Why bring a snake down here? Imagine if it broke free – caged little happy meals just ripe for the picking! A couple enters with two little ones and I push the scaly thoughts aside. They rush to our cages and it’s my chance to show off.
I do my best, I run on my wheel, I do funny tricks with my tail and they watch with smiles. In my own way, I am screaming “Pick me, pick me!” And it seems to be working. But no. They don’t want a native pet. An animal whose name they can actually pronounce. No, they want a fancy, all singing, all dancing exotic pet from Chile, or wherever it is that Degus come from.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a racist rodent. I adore my cousins big and small. I just want to be loved. And if we’re honest, what makes an ‘exotic’ pet so bloody special anyway? And it is not just one that they buy! They take two! They’re taken out their cages without much effort and placed in a carrier. I’d congratulate them both if they didn’t look so smug. I can hear them now, with those smarmy accents, “Adios amigos!” Disgusting.
Am I doomed to remain a pet shop rat forever?
I go to bed, feeling gloomy and forlorn and make little effort to look cute when people come to peer in my cage. What is the point? Still, as it reaches closing time and a birthday boy runs in, I can’t help but lift my head. The boy wants a rat. What can it hurt, I think? My tail twitches and I head to my wheel. One last go for old time’s sake.
He runs straight to my cage and jumps with excitement. This is it! This boy is the answer, my ticket to a new home! Minutes later, as I’m taken out those weird sliding doors at the front of the shop, I look back at all my exotic cousins. “Cheerio,” I think. They really aren’t so bad after all.