Pet Possums and Pet Rats
A couple of you have asked where the pet possums went. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here are the original posts with pictures: Look What We Found!, Update on Elvira & Pie (Pie is the possum), Pics of Pie, and Peanut (the second possum).
The vet who told me that they made wonderful pets and were smarter than dogs was very mistaken. The Scientist (my famous scientific family member) warned me that the vet was completely off the mark, but I didn't listen. They bonded to me, but to no one else in the family. And when you have animals with lots of teeth and powerful jaws, that's kind of detrimental.
They're also very dirty animals, and I had to work very hard to keep ahead of them. I hate to walk into a house where you can tell someone has animals.
One night (about a month before my surgery) I was holding Pie and watching TV. I grew very sleepy (I had to take muscle relaxants a lot then) so I asked The Other Half to take the possum and put her in her room (she lived in one of the three bathrooms, in a nice pagoda). By this time she'd grown to be the size of a small housecat, incidentally. So, the Other Half disconnected her, and she went wild. She started hissing and thrashing and snapping and it really freaked him out (he'd taken her away from "Mom", you see).
I took her back (he was worried she'd bite me too, which was very sweet of him, but I knew better). I had to go sit up with her in the bathroom to calm her down and get her to let go of my t-shirt.
Peanut was tamer, but he hadn't become an adolescent yet. And the more I read up on them, the more I realized that these simply aren't animals that can become pets, no matter what the vet said.
Knowing that I was about to go in for major surgery and wouldn't be able to care for either one of them, and that no one else could, I decided to find a possum rescue society. I donated the two possums and a wad of cash to take care of them until they'd been rehabbed.
The woman who took them informed me rather sniffily that anyone who thought that possums could become pets was out of her mind. When I defended myself by saying they'd been checked over by a vet and he'd recommended them for pets, she went into a ranting tirade that went on for about 10 minutes. I was happy to escape.
She keeps me updated and tells me they're doing fine, and will be released in the spring. They are currently learning to fend for themselves, as possums do.
I don't wish to contribute to any rat prejudices that are out there, so I'd like to go on the record saying that domesticated pet rats are usually wonderful pets. They are the same to wild rats as dogs are to wolves.
I grew up with lab rats as pets. They're much smarter and more responsive than any other rodents (hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, gerbils, etc.) Rats are very clannish and get quite attached to their owners. They can learn to do tricks, they learn their names, and come when they're called. They're also much more hygienic than the other rodents and develop very unique personalities.
A lot of people are turned off by the tail, until they learn that the reason a rat has that tail is for balance and cooling. The tail acts as a little radiator, which releases heat (since rats can't sweat).
I currently own a pet rat (named Pele, after the Hawaiian goddess). I rescued her from a pet store when I found out that she'd been someone's pet but had been left behind because the girl was moving. Pele was destined to be snake food. She was young and, as I feared, pregnant. She had 12 babies two days before Christmas (in these pictures the babies are a couple of weeks old). I'm making arrangements with a local pet store to sell them as pets (they're hand-raised and therefore more expensive than 'feeder rats').
So, if your kids start asking for a hamster, you really should consider a domestic rat as an alternative pet.