I love animals, especially rodents. I have had many different pets in my life, but most of them were hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. I had hamsters from age ten to around age twenty-two, and then I decided to switch to rats because I wanted a little change. I had some rats when I was a young teen, but at that time, we had many other pets, so I did not have time to really bond and learn about them…
You see, Erin, the woman who birthed me, was not just an irresponsible drunken druggie who had to spread her legs for every dick she ever came across, but she was also somewhat of an animal hoarder. We lived in a tiny apartment when I was in middle school, and we had so many animals, I’m surprised we didn’t receive some sort of fine. We had like three hamsters, a tank of fish, two cats, two guinea pigs, a rabbit, a lizard, a snake, and two rats. The rats eventually mated and gave birth to many litters we had to care for. Why? Well, the snake needed food, so we bred our own to save money… Erin’s choice, of course, not mine. Don’t get me wrong, I love reptiles, but I could never be the owner of a snake that ate anything bigger than a cricket just because I love rodents so much. I know it’s just nature, and I accept that, but still, I can’t see animals die, it makes me sick.
Of course, being the hopped up whore she was, Erin didn’t exactly take very good care of these animals. All she did was feed the snake, clean her cage, and buy supplies for the other animals… if we could afford it at the time. So who actually cleaned all of those cages, tanks, and litter boxes? Little ol’ me. The girl who was struggling with a combination of mental illness, severe bullying at school, and physical abuse from her sad excuse for a parent. I tried my best, but I was small, underfed, weak, and emotionally unstable. I loved our pets so much, and I really tried to show it, but how can you give so many different creatures the love they need? How can you focus on one if another needs you? The fish were probably the only ones who could care less if we spoke to them, but everyone else was in danger of being neglected. I also had school, so for eight hours a day, the animals had no one.
Every time Erin came home with a new pet, the part of me that liked animals fell in love, but the responsible part of me said, “how are we supposed to take care of another one if we can’t even care for the ones we have?” Still, I tried. The poor things weren’t as clean as they should’ve been, they were cramped, and sickness was inevitable. I was just glad that our cats didn’t try to attack the rodents, and in fact, they both befriended the rabbit. We opened the rabbit’s cage during the day so that he could run around the apartment, and the cats treated him like another cat, and would even sleep next to him. When they swatted at him, they always kept their claws retracted, and the rabbit was never nervous around his natural predator. I was very proud of our cats for this.
I sort of inherited the habit of owning too many pets from Erin, but I kept it under control. After the court finally took custody of me away from her, I was legally adopted by my grandmother, who had two cats (one would eventually disappear, we think she got eaten by a coyote), and the most I ever had was a hamster and guinea pig. When my guinea pig passed away, I stuck with one hamster at a time, that way I could focus all of my attention on him (I prefer male rodents over females). The hamster was well fed, watered, clean, and got lots of attention, and they always lived their full life span with no problem. Taking care of hamsters became my specialty.
I owned hamsters until a few years ago, and the last one I had was Pip. While he was still alive, I bought two rats on impulse, but my boyfriend and I were able to take care of them no problem. When Pip died, I did not adopt a new hamster, but stayed with rats, and since then, I’ve only owned two rats at a time. In case you didn’t know, you MUST have two rats living in the same cage, they are not like hamsters, who prefer to be alone. Now I am very experienced in rat ownership as well as hamsters. I don’t know what it is about rodents, but I just love them so much.
However, ever since my later teen years, I’ve had dreams where I owned cages upon cages filled with rodents. They usually include hamsters, mice, and rats, but sometimes there will be guinea pigs. In these dreams, the cages were all filthy, having not been cleaned in ages, there was no food or water, and each cage had way too many occupants. I have the feeling of fear that the hamsters will all start fighting because they’re supposed to be kept one per cage. Not only that, but males and females lived together, and I couldn’t keep track of who was dying, who just had babies, and which babies survived the obvious neglect.
Sometimes I have dreams were I find one of my old hamsters sleeping in a cage, and I say, “oh my god! You’re still alive?! I haven’t fed you in years!” Dreams like this have not decreased, and I actually had two in a row recently, one last night, and the one before last. Both involved keeping way too many hamsters and rats. There were no mice in these for some reason, but there have been dreams of mice, even though I’ve never owned a mouse. In these last two, there were so many occupants per cage, it was like a huge mass of fur, and in the case of the rats, tails.
I remember the predicament I had in these dreams about being unable to give each rodent the affection they needed. I guess I had given up on cleaning and feeding them because I couldn’t afford supplies, and the rodents kept running off, I couldn’t keep track of them. On top of that, so many of them had the same markings, so I couldn’t figure out who was who, and I couldn’t keep track of all of their names. I tried taking each hamster out one at a time, and rats out two at a time, but I continuously felt guilt about being unable to love them enough. There would also be times when the doors of the cages were accidentally left open, and the rodents would escape. I’d have trouble tracking them down and stuffing the poor things back into their small cages.
I don’t have trouble feeding, cleaning, or loving my real rats. Their cage is the perfect size for two medium sized adult males, and they’re clean, smell good, have shiny coats, have chubby bellies, and best of all, are happy. Taking care of them is not at all stressful, and since I work from home, there’s rarely a time they don’t have their mama right there if they need me. So why do I have these insane dreams where I’m uncontrollably hoarding rodents?
I think it has something to do with the fact that I was forced to handle so many pets at a young age. I had to deal with the filth, the neglect, and the guilt of not giving enough love all because Erin couldn’t take care of them herself. I felt so sorry for each pet we had, they did not deserve living that way, and I did everything I could to try and keep them healthy. Not many of them died before their time, luckily, but that doesn’t change the fact that their lives were more than just uncomfortable. I think, after more than ten years, I still keep that guilt hidden away in my subconscious, and it haunts me in my dreams.
I often go to the pet store with Michael or Sempai and talk to the rodents through their tanks. I coo at them, tell them how cute they are, and that I’d love to take them home. There was this large male rat I was totally in love with, but he was all alone in his tank. I felt so sorry for him that he didn’t have a buddy, and I wanted to take him home, but I knew it wasn’t the best idea. For one, I didn’t have another cage; I don’t think my medium boys would take too kindly to a new male that’s bigger than they were. In reality, I wouldn’t be able to afford to care for another animal, but I would if I could. As much as I love watching all of the hamsters, mice, and rats at the pet store, and as much as I want to take them home, I am responsible enough to know that I can’t. It wouldn’t be fair to them.
I feel like Erin treated our pets like objects. You can’t just collect them like dolls or figurines, you can’t just bring home as many as you like, they’re not toys. Animals have thoughts, feelings, personality, and they will love you unconditionally if you take good care of them. I consider my pets my children, I talk to them like they can understand my words, and I do everything I can to make them safe and happy. These dreams I have are guilty feelings punishing me for not being able to give our old pets the lives they deserved.
Though, one of the guinea pigs we had in that apartment was saved by me. Erin took him with her when she was homeless, so poor Bandit was living in her car with her. I was living with my grandma, and I wanted him back, especially since I knew they were homeless. So I took him back, and he was so filthy, the water turned brown when I gave him a bath. If I hadn’t taken him back, he would’ve lived a much shorter life than he did, but he lived for another two years after that, and we had already had him for about three. He died from some trapped gas in his belly, which according to the vet, is a common problem guinea pigs have.
I wish I didn’t have to deal with these dreams; they’re distressing. It wasn’t my fault that I had to care for so many animals by myself, and yet I feel like it was. Then again, I blame myself for a lot of things that aren’t my fault, but I won’t get into that. It’s unhealthy for me to think this way, but when you’re responsible for another living thing and you can’t take proper care of it, it really affects you. This goes for people, like Erin, who should never have children. If you can’t afford a child, or if you feel you must hit a child, you probably should not have a child.
I guess the only thing I can do is make sure I love my animals to my fullest ability, as well as keep them clean and fed. That should be a no brainer… I guess Erin didn’t have a brain. Then again, people who decide to do drugs don’t have brains to start out with. I wonder how many more years my guilt will plague my dreams.
Animal hoarding is cruel to the poor animals. They are victims of neglect.