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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

July 3, 2012

Perfidious Rodents

By Elizabeth Creith

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I was laying the latest shipment of frozen feeder mice out on a cookie sheet the other day and musing on the perfidy of rodents. See, we had originally planned never to buy feeder mice. We were going to breed our own. We have 10-gallon aquariums in the back with little harems of four girl mice for each lucky boy mouse.

Theoretically, mouse breeding capacity being what it is, we should never, ever run out of mice. But we do; hence the shipped-in freezer mice. And it is all due to the perfidy of rodents. We should have known. We had a lesson in it 20 years ago.

One person's pet is another's pet food, and the place where this overlaps most often is in the rodent department. To rat people, a rat is a charming little furry pet—intelligent enough to respond to its name, cuddly and sweet. To snake people, a rat is the blue-plate special.

A rat can be a pet or food to a snake.
I like both snakes and rats, and acquired my first pet rat, Pipsqueak, about 20 years ago, in a month when my ball python Houdini wasn't hungry. Pip never did hit the menu; when Houdini began to eat again, I had to get a rat I didn't know to feed to him. The guilt was incredible. Believe me, it was a relief when he switched to gerbils.

Well, it was a relief in emotional terms, but financially it was stressful, because rats were $2.50 at the time, and gerbils were $8.00. I decided to get a pair of gerbils and breed my own snakebait. Homegrown is good, right?

The gerbils were my introduction to the perfidy of rodents.

Do you know anyone who has gerbils? Let me put it another way: Do you know anyone who has just two gerbils?

No, of course you don't. You have one gerbil, or you have a gazillion gerbils. If you get two gerbils I-swear-on-my-mother's-grave-these-are-both-females from any pet store, overnight one of them will morph into a male and in nanoseconds you will have baby gerbils on every horizontal surface and hanging from the chandelier. Like tribbles, gerbils seem to be born pregnant.

Unless you decide to breed them to feed your snake.

I don't know if the little furry buggers are psychic or what, but I had two gerbils for months and months and months. I believe I set the Guinness world record for the length of time you can have just two gerbils.

Please don't tell me I had two females, because you can always tell when you have an adult male rodent. The phrase "let it all hang out" was invented just for them. If human males were equipped proportionately to rats, the wheelbarrow would be a male fashion accessory. I'll just give you a moment to try to wipe that image from your mind.

What I obviously had was a pair of gerbils who had taken a vow of chastity, or maybe just managed to master the secrets of gerbil birth control.

The same thing happened with the breeder mice in the back room of the store. Whether rodents are psychic or what, I don't know. I do know those lucky boy mice were getting whatever it is that keeps boy mice happy, but the population boom had gone bust.

We did everything we could think of; new males, new females, vitamin E. If we'd been able to buy black-market mouse porn to show the guys, we'd have done it. Nothing worked. Finally we gave up and began ordering mice from the supplier, just like everyone else.

But we should have known. After all, I was the girl who set the Guinness world record for keeping just two gerbils.

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