Our daughter has brought her roommate home with her for the holidays. Beatrix is beautiful. A lovely, quiet guest who doesn’t eat much and only occasionally jumps through the shelf under our coffee table. When we let her roam from her cage that is. We’ve been warned to keep cardboard, paper, and electrical cords away from her because Beatrix is a lop-eared bunny.
I haven’t lived with a pet in the house since I was back at home after college. We had a cat. We dangled string, or gave catnip; he’d join us on the couch and allow us to pet him. If I was stretched out on the floor reading the paper, the cat would inevitably saunter over to me and plop down on the article I was looking at. When the cat went out, we’d never see him other than skulking through the bushes. As evidence of his hunting prowess, he laid trophies at the door – mice, voles, birds, and once, a rabbit.
When we had young kids, they sometimes asked for a dog. My husband grew up with dogs, and would have welcomed one, but we concluded that with both of us working, it would be too cruel to leave an animal crated the majority of the week. Instead, we had an aquarium. Contained! Clean! Educational! But sort of boring. You can’t pet, chase or play with fish, so kids lose interest, and the parents are the ones cleaning the tank. For a while we had a pair of dwarf hamsters. Very cute with big eyes and fat cheeks, they’d stand on their hind legs and scurry about. You could hold them, but I was usually worried that they’d escape, so back into the cage they’d go, left to the entertainment of their squeaky wheel.
Pets are a good learning experience. It takes a lot of responsibility to care for another being who is dependent on you. Consistency in feeding times. Fresh food and a clean water bowl. A comfy dry sleeping area, and room for exercise. It also requires a new perspective on your surroundings. “Pet-proofing”, much like child-proofing, means looking at everything in the animal’s reach to determine how incredibly attractive it might be to an exploring nibbler.
When we’re in the room, Beatrix is allowed to come out of her cage to explore. So far, she is treating our carpet as a sort of life raft in the sea of hard wood flooring. She’ll hop all around the carpet, ducking under the couches, or through the aforementioned coffee table. But she will not step off of the carpet. This seeming barrier is keeping her away from our computer cords, a stack of magazines, and the Christmas tree. But I cannot become complacent. She’s got powerful back legs, and I’ll bet she could tackle the ornaments dangling from branches four feet above her head – not a sight I want to see on Christmas morning.