I remember feeling something crawling across my bed in the middle of the night. Something small. Something furry. I jumped out of my bed and flipped on the lights to find Salt on my blanket. Pepper, I soon found out, was in the closet with the kids. I didn’t bother to wake up my parents.
It was nothing new for my pet hamsters to escape from their Habitrail, led by Salt, the silver and white mother hamster with Houdini-ish teeth, but it was the first time she climbed on my bed while I was sleeping. I had nightmares for weeks thereafter — after I extracted all the hamsters from my bed and closet and put them back in their cage. At least, I think I got all of them. My cat did seem extra content the next morning.
I’d tried duct tape and weights (books, shoes, a metal bank shaped like a soccer goal) to keep the hamsters’ cage door closed, but somehow, Salt could still get out. Her spouse (the pet store had said Pepper was a “she”) and their latest brood of babies would dash out behind her and make a beeline for whatever nook or corner they could find. That night, they were busy chewing through cardboard boxes in my closet. When I found them, I decided I was so very done with owning hamsters. I brought them back to the pet store and didn’t look back.
So when my neighbor told me this morning that my fifth grader had expressed interest in one of the babies that her kids’ guinea pig is about to give birth to, I thought of Salt and Pepper, and I shuddered.
“That’s nice that he’d like one of your guinea pig babies,” I told her, “but he’s not getting one.”
“Why not?” she asked. “They’re very cute.”
Cute? I’d taken care of my neighbors’ last guinea pig while they were on vacation, and I did my best to avoid her big ole teeth as I reached into her cage to change her water dish. I told her what I thought of her guinea pig.
“Well, this new guinea pig is nicer than Rosie was,” she assured me. So I was right to worry that I’d lose a chunk of finger, eh? Hmmm.
“I don’t want anything in a cage,” I said. “And Pete doesn’t want any animals at all.”
She tried to sell me on how easy and cute guinea pigs are, but I would have none of it. I told her about Salt and Pepper and the midnight dash across my blanket.
“No guinea pigs,” I reiterated. “No rodents.”
“Well, that’s not very nice,” she said while I laughed at her and her guinea pig baby problem. She confessed that the pet store didn’t know their brand new guinea pig was pregnant when they sold it to her.
“Still no. But if the cat gets pregnant, give me a call,” I said.
She assured me that the cat can’t get pregnant, but I’ve been told that before — before I wound up extracting hamsters from of the boxes in my closet.