Get a pet, they* said. It will be good for them.
So we did it.
We bought the kids two female guinea pigs and an outdoor hutch.
I used to have guinea pigs growing up so I’m all over this shit. I like the weird noises they make, they are totally low maintenance and cost next to nothing as they mainly eat all the vegetables you buy from the January health-kick-rush-of-blood-to-the-head and then keep in the fridge until they smell like a compost bin.
The kids named them Snuffles** and Bella and they were due to live outside and rub along with us with minimal disruption.
Until hurricane Brenda or whichever one it was started to blow a gale and I realised that the guinea pigs would die of hyperthermia before they reached their 2-month birthday.
So we moved the massive hutch inside.
Not ideal but two clicks later and I’d bought an indoor hutch on-line. This was starting to be a slightly more pricey endeavour than the occasional bag of hay and pet food but hey ho, it might be easier to look after them/ harder to ignore them, if they are just at the bottom of the stairs so we have to breathe in to squeeze past them every time.
The new hutch arrived.
And the outdoor hutch went outside again, the children declaring it’s their holiday home ‘like Pontins.’ Perfect.
The first thing I noticed now they’re inside is how fucking noisy they are.
They reach optimum squeak at about 3am.
We’ll get used to the noise I tell myself. We might even start to not notice it at all; they will just become part of the house.
They start to grow. Like really quickly.
These guinea pigs are gigantic. I don’t remember them being this big when I was a child.
And then we realise why.
‘Mummy, Snufffles has shrunk!’
I look in the hutch.
No she hasn’t.
That’s a baby.
And there are two more.
Bella was pregnant when we bought her it turns out. We have five guinea pigs for the price of two.
And the massive hutch doesn’t look so massive now.
We plan to find homes for the babies, but after Ben referred to them as ‘family’ we couldn’t do it.
We couldn’t split up ‘the girls.’
When did we start calling them ‘the girls’? Kill me now.
But one trip to the petshop later confirmed that they are indeed all girls and so the chances of them procreating further are biblical.
Come Christmas and the kids are putting together their unrealistic lists of things they’d like to appear under the tree, and we’re trying to convince them that perhaps what they’d really like is a gigantic guinea pig hutch.
A double decker, two story, block of flats style hutch.
They’re both slightly disappointed but it’s the only way we can keep them all.
So what started out as a lovely exercise in empathy and looking after another creature has become a quick lesson in teenage pregnancy and incest.
You can’t win them all.
*The voice in my head and Yahoo news.
** I have never met a creature who is less like her name. She bites. And if you look at her straight on she reminds me a bit of General Wooundwort from Watership Down.