Pets are cultural artefacts, aren’t they?
Every now and then I like to nip into the shop ‘Pets at Home’ to browse the animals for half an hour or so. It’s like a miniature zoo with it’s assortment of furry, aquatic and reptilian creatures. At one point I was considering getting a rat. I’d heard they make good pets: that they were intelligent and could be trained to do things. Plus, I liked that Michael Jackson song Ben, which is a boy’s affectionate homage to a rat of the same name: ‘You’ve got a friend in me.’ Having a rat sounded like having a dog, but less trouble. So I did some research into rats. I spent a while observing them in the pet shop, being careful not to loiter too long in one place as the staff start to look at you suspiciously, and then the look turns to indignation as if you should be paying for the privilege. It turned out that I didn’t find rats very appealing. Looks aren’t everything, I know, but I didn’t find them particularly attractive with their weird hand-claw feet, their wormy long tails, their yellow daggery front incisors and their sharp twitchy faces. I found them a bit intimidating. They’d probably end up being the boss in our relationship, and I’d probably have nightmares about them escaping. Then there’s the stigma of the Black Death. Then I found out that ‘Ben’ was actually a killer rat from the horror film of the same name. That put the lid on it really: I definitely wasn’t getting a rat.
To cut a long story short: