The Family

My family is large, if you include every living creature living under my roof - and I do. You see, I like being surrounded by cute fluffy things, and I have this natural instinct to care for others. I don't think I'd make a suitable mother at this stage in my life, however; plus, children are even more expensive than pets. The pets aren't actually as expensive as you'd think, either; we've learned many tips and tricks over the years, like buying in bulk and using cheaper farm-grade products rather than expensive pet store brands, or enrolling in the Oxbow card program at our local Chuck & Don's, that keep costs down without compromising on quality. I do extensive research on proper care and nutrition for each of my animals so I can be sure that they are given exceptional care, and I do this before I ever bring a pet home, especially if it's a type of animal I've never owned before. We take our pets in for regular check ups and have veterinarians who are experienced in treating exotics available to us, as well as a local emergency veterinary clinic that's open during off hours and holidays that we've made use of more than I'd care to remember.

So, while it might seem like a lot to you, we are not hoarders. Hoarders get more animals than they can possibly care for. They can't keep up with the cleaning and maintenance, so the animals are neglected. This is not the case in our household. My boyfriend and I give all of our animals plenty of individual attention every single day. We ensure their homes are kept very clean, both for their sakes and ours. Does our home smell like pets? Well yes, it does - but it doesn't smell like feces. We work hard to ensure everyone is happy and healthy, because it's what we love to do and we love all of our critters.

Okay, that being said, I will now introduce the family! :D (Pictures coming soon)

Name: Ross
Species: Human
Age: 26
Ross is my boyfriend/fiancee. He doesn't officially get the title of fiancee yet because there's no engagement ring as proof, and well, he's never actually popped the question, (*ahem* hint hint, love... hehe) but we do plan on getting married someday so I can give him a little credit. We've been together for six years as of July 1st, 2013, and he's been my lifeline. He keeps me sane, gives me a reason to keep going when I otherwise wouldn't, and I love him with everything in me. What else is there to say? He shares my love of the critters, too, so don't go thinking that this furry family is all my fault! He has an especially large soft spot for the guinea pigs, who are pretty much his babies. It's the cutest thing ever to see him cuddle them!

Name: Jiro
Species: Cat
Age: 10
Jiro is the best kitty ever. Don't get me wrong - I love our other cats, and I have met many nice cats in my day, but there will never be another cat like him. He is the cuddliest cat I've ever met, for one. He just about lives on my lap. I'm surprised he's not here right now, but perhaps that's because my typing was disturbing his napping. He craves attention, but he also seems to know exactly when I need him the most. When I am depressed and anxious, when I'm crying tears of frustration or shame, he jumps up on the bed or the couch and crawls up onto my lap as if to say, "Don't cry; I'm a cat, and nothing else matters." I've fallen asleep with him in my arms and never have I felt so comforted and secure. He's like a fluffy grey security blanket.

Name: Wesley
Species: Cat
Age: 5
Like his namesake Wesley Crusher, "Shut up, Wesley," are words Wesley the cat frequently hears. He is LOUD. This is the cat that, the one and only time I turned on American Idol, got up on the kitty castle and started yowling along with Adam Lambert as loudly as his little kitty lungs would let him. Wesley, I love you, but you are NOT the next American Idol! At our old apartment, he used to sit in the windowsill and make the weirdest chirping noises along with the birds. Oh, and he loves to show us just how loud and obnoxious he can be early in the morning, too, because he is a fat little chubtard. He's a really dumb cat, and he's always finding new ways to show us just how stupid he is, like jumping up on top of the refrigerator and then fussing because he thinks he can't get down. No matter how annoying he gets, though, I still love him. He decided to get up on my lap when I started writing this (good timing, bud) and it reminded me of just how affectionate he can be. Sometimes a little too affectionate - he likes to lick me, and I hate the feeling of that little rough kitty tongue on my skin. Bleh.

Name: Sifka
Species: Cat
Age: 6
Sifka is technically Ross' cat in the way that Jiro and Wesley are technically my cats - he got her before we moved in together, but we'd been dating for a month when we took that fateful trip to the humane society together to "just look" at the kitties. She was the first little kitten he saw, this scrawny little black thing with the biggest yellow eyes who was so sad because she'd just been spayed. Despite the pain she must have been in from the surgery, though, she still came up to the glass to say hello to him. That just melted his big heart. He took her home that day, poop-covered butt and all. Today she's a beautiful, dainty lady, who is very affectionate when she wants attention, but when she doesn't, she is, as we say, "stealthy like the night". She's incredibly shy around people she doesn't know - Ross had her for years before his mother ever saw her, and his mom used to visit him at least every two weeks to bring him grocery shopping while he was in college. She's gotten very fat recently (not obese - maybe a touch overweight, but not a danger) since we switched our cats to a raw meat diet, and we think it's because she had an allergy to fish. She'd always had runny, smelly stools, and we'd tried grain-free diets, so it wasn't the grain. Ever since we started feeding raw, though, (and here I must plug Woody's Pet Deli, for anyone in the Twin Cities area interested in raw feeding) her poops are perfect and she has "chubbed up". She's also a lot more demanding for dinner, the silly butt.

Name: Kira
Species: Ferret
Age: 4
I got Kira as a lone ferret, thinking that for my first foray into ferret ownership I would start with just one. Oh, how wrong was I. She drove me insane! She wanted my attention constantly when she was out to play, and when I wasn't giving her one-on-one attention, she was getting into trouble, whether it was chewing and digging at the carpet or sneaking out of the playpen I had her in at the time. I was going out of my mind, and on top of that, the little butt had a nasty habit of eating her hammocks and blankets. She didn't just chew them, oh no - she was actually eating them. I found bits of green fabric in her poop! Her cage had to remain incredibly bare from thereon out, and I could only use certain fabrics she either had little interest in eating (maybe they didn't taste as good?) or she didn't appear to be able to get chunks off of as easily. The same went for toys - all of her toys had to be solid things that she couldn't bite chunks off of. Even the miniature KONG toy ended up in the garbage after she got little chunks out of that. In the end, I determined that what she needed most was the company of another ferret, and so I brought home Dukat about six months later. Ever since then, she's been a joy. She's a petite little thing, though - when I tried giving them a cage that once belonged to the chinchillas, a cage that was originally intended for ferrets, I came in from outside a half an hour after putting them in it to find Kira chasing the rabbits around the living room. She could squeeze through the bars; they were spaced too far apart in some places and she's so much smaller than the average adult ferret, even for a female.

Name: Dukat
Age: 3.5
Species: Ferret
Dukat may be named after the cunning Gul Dukat from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but he and his namesake are nothing alike - the ferret Dukat is dumber than a sack of potatoes. Really, he's not a bright creature. Well, I should give him some credit, he can show intelligence on occasion, like when he climbed the cords of my computer tower to get into the drawer of my desk from the rear, so when I pulled the drawer out there was a ferret inside. Most of the time, though, he's pretty stupid. We always joke that ne needs a little helmet because he bangs his head on so many things. He's the sweetest ferret, though. He's cuddlier than either of my female ferrets, and he just sort of ambles about most of the time. He loves his dig box filled with brown rice, and he gets very protective of it when he catches either Kira or Geraldine in there. He's a big, lazy lump of ferret love, and I wouldn't have him any other way.

Name: Geraldine
Age: >1
Species: Ferret
Named after my ferocious badger companion from a D&D campaign, Geraldine has a ferocious amount of energy! She is bouncing off the walls most of the time. That's to be expected with a baby like her. I'll admit, unlike Kira and Dukat who were both adopted from the Animal Humane Society, Geraldine came to us from Petco. I decided that if I was going to bring a third ferret into the mix that I wanted a baby this time around for the experience of it. Now, do I recommend people consider adoption first? Yes, absolutely! Especially because baby ferrets, Geraldine included, are a handful. She will have the other two completely worn out and napping but still have plenty of energy to spare, and then we run into the same problems we had when Kira was a lone ferret - she either wants attention or she gets into trouble. Potty training her was also not easy, and it's only been in the past month (we've had her since last October, this is the end of March - you do the math) that she's finally stopped pooping outside the box daily. Still, she is an absolute joy to play with, and she keeps the older ferrets on their toes. I think Kira and Dukat would be far lazier if Geraldine weren't around to make them play with her.

Name: Sable
Age: 6
Species: Rabbit
Sable is, like Sifka, technically Ross' bunny. She's a big, beautiful woman, and she likes to be treated like the queen that she is. She's a bit of a diva, I think. Her husbun, Poof, is constantly grooming her, but she never returns the grooming, like that's beneath her. She bosses the cats around if they're in her way, and she'll come up to you and nuzzle your foot expecting crasins or a rub behind the ears. She loves to be pet so long as all four paws are on the floor, and she'll flatten out all comfy-like as you stroke her from nose to her incredibly large buttocks. She's built like a bunny linebacker, so she's not the most graceful when she does a binky (that's what we bunny parents call the little happy jumps rabbits do just for fun sometimes). She'll also let you know when she's pissed, whether it's with a great big thump to the ground or by flipping her back feet at you ("flipping you off", as we say). Still, as much as she maybe doesn't enjoy it, she's a great cuddle bunny and there's plenty of bun to cuddle.

Name: Poof
Age: 3
Species: Rabbit
Poof is technically mine, but in reality, he is Sable's. He adores his bun-wife. When I was looking to adopt a bunny several months after the passing of my rabbit Daisy, I knew I needed to find one that would get along with Sable, because Sable and Daisy were like oil and water - if you let those two out together, the fur went flying. I saw Poof's picture on the Animal Humane Society's website and arranged for a bunny date so that he and Sable could meet. It was love at first sniff - although it helped that Poof had just been neutered, thus some of the man-juices remained in his blood and well, I guess he has a thing for larger, older women. I think Sable liked the complementary attention Poof paid her, too. Ever since then, the two of them have been inseparable. On his own, Poof is a little bit of a brat. He doesn't actually like me much. He hates being groomed, but with all of that poof he has, it's not something I can just ignore. He does like me if I have the bag of crasins, though, so I guess the way to this little man's heart is through his little fluffy stomach.

Name: Zumi
Age: 8
Species: Chinchilla
Zumi and I have been together the longest - longer than even Ross and I. I got her about a month or two before I met him, actually. She came to me via Craigslist from a family that couldn't care for her anymore. The daughter had "outgrown" the pet, the family had dogs that were terrorizing the poor chin, etcetera, etcetera - I felt bad for the girl who was sad to see her pet go, but I knew that Zumi was in a far better place with me. Even so, because she obviously didn't have the best of upbringings, Zumi is a bit of a brat. She does not tollerate being picked up or held, and so it was that I learned that chinchillas can projectile urinate! Quite accurately, at that. She would jump up on her back feet and spray me anytime my hands got near enough to pick her up. Today, she and I have a mutual understanding - I give her pets while she's inside the cage, which she enjoys. She makes her "happy chin face" for me while I rub her cheek and chest. I just don't try to pick her up unless I absolutely have to.

Name: Lina
Age: 4
Species: Chinchilla
When I finally moved out of the college dorms (and admittedly, for a couple of months, I had a chinchilla and a hamster living with me in the dorms in my closet) and had the freedom to have my own pets, I got Zumi. At the time, I already had a hamster, Ashley, who I'd snuck into the dorms for a year with my roomie's permission. Once I finally felt free of university housing, I slowly began to add to my furry family. I got rats, a bunny, a cat, another hamster, and then I moved in with Ross who had a cat, a bunny, and guinea pigs of his own. We were like the Brady Bunch, but with pets. We got a bigger apartment, and so on - but Zumi had gone from pretty much having my undivided attention (Ashley didn't require much, as he was already pretty old by the time I got Zumi) to having to share my attention with the others. She got jealous, although even then I suspect she craved the attention of her own kind prior to this. She began furiously chewing on the bars of her cage, and no matter how much extra attention I paid her, she wouldn't stop. So, enter Lina - a gorgeous white baby chinchilla from a breeder, because I needed a young female if bonding her to Zumi was going to succeed. I'd already tried once with two Craigslist chins and Zumi hated them, forcing me to rehome them to someone else. Lina is a sweetheart. She allows us to hold her, as she was held from a young age, and she likes attention. I still took me six months to get her and Zumi to finally bond and live together, but it was well worth it. Lina does have a few quirks, the biggest of which is her nightmares. Yes, she has nightmares. She'll be sleeping peacefully, and then all the sudden she'll start crying, making a warning call, but she's obviously still asleep. When she first started doing this, we had no idea what was going on, but when we figured it out, it sort of baffled us. Now, we just call out her name to wake her up and reassure her that she's okay. She wakes up, and usually she goes right back to sleep. She also messes up the fleece blankets we use as bedding, which is a little frustrating. She's supposed to be pooping and peeing on top of those, not burrowing underneath them! Still, it's cute to see this big lump in the blanket, because you know it's her.

Name: Happy
Age: 7
Species: Guinea Pig
It's hard to talk about Happy and not mention his papa, Harry, who unfortunately is no longer with us. Harry passed away last spring. The two of them were like a pair if there ever was one. Harry was smarter and more brave than poor Happy, who, even for a guinea pig, is especially dim-witted. Happy would follow dutifully behind his daddy, or cower behind (or underneath) him if he was scared. It was the cutest thing! We adopted them from the now-defunct Twin Cities Guinea Pig Rescue, who rescued the pair from horrific living conditions. They were happy to see us take the two, as they had this bad habit of nibbling fingers thinking they were carrots - not a good thing if a family with children were to adopt them. Still, Happy is getting along alright these days, even without the guidance of his father. He's blind in one eye now, and Ross thinks his hearing's going bad, too, but he's fattened up now that Harry's not stealing all the food from his intellectually disadvantaged son.

Name: Hubert
Age: 4
Species: Guinea Pig
Hubert is a fatty. I can't really be more eloquent than that, because it's the truth. He's a big, fat pig. He'll be nice and sit on your lap, but what he really wants more than anything is more food. We're always giving him more timothy hay than the others because he eats so much more of it. He's a big ol' boar, and he's loud, too - he'll let you know when he's ready for his greens. If you aren't fast enough giving them to him, he'll tip over his little castle in protest. There's not much more to say about him - he's just a big, fat, glutton of a guinea pig.

Name: Humphrey
Age: 4
Species: Guinea Pig
You see, Hubert and Humphrey were supposed to originally live together. While we were going through the bonding process, though, I turned my back for a couple of minutes, and during that time Humphrey started picking on Hubert. Hubert said, "Screw this!" He bit Humphrey in the face, and split his lip right open. Once again, Ross held a bleeding critter while I drove us to the vet so Humphrey could be stitched up. Now Humphrey has a nifty battle scar and the two of them live in separate "condos". In fact, if Hubert has been sitting on a blanket and we put him away, then we set Humphrey down on the same blanket, Humphrey starts getting real upset, his fur going on end and making the guinea pig-equivalent noise of, "Let me at him! Let me at him!" All that fuss by scent alone. So, while Humphrey might hate Hubert, he does love his noms. Not as much as Hubert, but well, he is a guinea pig - he's got a reputation to maintain, you know.

Name: Henry
Age: 4
Species: Hedgehog
Henry is like a little hedgie businessman - he wakes up in the evening (he's nocturnal, so he works the night shift), hops on the wheel for eight hours, eats the same TV dinner-kibble for supper, then makes himself comfy in his little castle for bed to sleep the day away before he gets back up and does it again the next night. Imagine him with a little suit and tie and briefcase while you're at it. He has no interest in treats or toys. He doesn't really have much interest in us, either. He just wants to be left alone most of the time. He likes his routine, and it suits him just fine. He doesn't normally come out until we've shut the lights off and gone to bed. The only evidence we have that he lives is that his dish is empty in the morning and there's poop stuck to his wheel. That, and we do make him interact with us on occasion, plus he needs to be bathed and have his nails trimmed, things like that. He's the lowest-maintenance critter we have, besides the hermit crabs (and they don't really count, do they?). Easy to clean up after, easy to care for, and he asks for very little. Plus, it's adorable to watch him swim around in the bathroom sink during bathtime!

Name: Rasputin
Age: 2?
Species: Rat
Rasputin is a weird little fellow. You see, unlike most rats, who crave the company of their own kind, Rasputin is literally afraid of other rats. Yes, afraid. I've tried bonding him to others, but his reactions aren't aggressive like what you usually see with male rats but rather anxious. He does what I call "fear-poops" - he voids his bowels at the sight of other rats. He got so freaked out once that he bit another rat on the side and ripped a big hole in him, which cost me a trip to the emergency vet. After that incident, I decided that Rasputin would simply have to live alone. I wasn't willing to risk another rat getting hurt, and as long as Rasputin gets plenty of human attention, he seems perfectly content. I've seen rats get depressed when they're alone, and he isn't depressed at all. He's also got a permanent head tilt issue from earlier in his life, before I adopted him. That's part of why I adopted him, actually - the head tilt, balance issues are endearing. He doesn't use upper levels in his cage and he falls over when he climbs the bars because of it. He's really sweet, and loves to sit and let you pet him.

Names: Rosencranz and Gildenstern
Ages: 2
Species: Rat
Rosie and Gil are my dwarf rats. They are adult males who are the size of the average female rat. They've also got funny shaped heads. After hearing about dwarf rats I'd always wanted one, and when the opportunity arose I pounced on it. What I didn't know was that the original breeding stock of the dwarf rat was prone to skittishness, so these boys have always been very jumpy. They've calmed down a lot with age, but they'll never be calm lap rats like Rasputin. They were originally supposed to be paired with my boy Hamlet, who sadly has since passed away, but they didn't get along with him. Perhaps they were worried he'd send them to England and to their deaths?

Name: Nibbler
Age: 1
Species: Syrian Hamster
Nibbler is your standard Syrian hamster. He stuffs his cheeks, he runs on his wheel, he begs us for more food even though he's got a huge stash of it already - basic hamster stuff. He used to have an expansion on his tank, a topper that gave him extra levels, but it had to be removed because he wouldn't stop chewing the bars and we couldn't sleep. One of these days I'm going to drag a spare 20 gallon long tang up from the basement for him if I can get Ross to buy a topper for it. We keep many heavy books stacked on top of his cage to prevent him from escaping. The cats don't bother him, but we've still had some... unfortunate incidents with the cats and hamsters in the past. They were dwarf hamsters, though. Still, we will never own a dwarf hamster again, because the cats show too much "interest" in them. They don't pay Nibbler any mind, so he must not be mouse-like enough.

Names: Wade and Herren
Ages: >1
Species: Degu
Very few people in the US even know what degus are, much less own them. Degus are South American rodents that, to me, look like large gerbils. They're popular pets in Germany, but here they're very rare. Because they're so rare, I have to make my own blend of seeds, dried herbs and greens, and a special organic guinea pig pellet (mollasses free, thank you very much) to feed them. It's kind of fun to make the food and to dry the greens and veggies for them. Wade is the friendlier and the dominant of the pair, much as I imagine the fictional Wade (from Dragon Age: Origins - remember the armorer in Denerim, who makes the drakescale armor for you?). In fact, Wade and Herren bicker all the time, but it's never anything serious. Really, of all the names I've ever given to my pets, these two have to be the most appropriately named ever.

Names: The Fish
Ages: From at least 3 to ?
Species: 2 Blood Parrots, 6 Clown Loaches, 5 Rosy Barbs, 1 Bristlenose Plecostomus, 1 Albino Longfin Bristlenose Plecostomus
I currently have a 56 gallon tank, and yes, I realize I'm a bit overstocked. I do have plans to upgrade. As soon as I can get the money I'd like to, actually. I have dreams of a 150 gallon, actually. I really enjoy my fishes. They're relaxing to look at, and feeding time is always fun. A few of them do have names - the large blood parrot is Bubbles, the smaller one is Buster, and the largest clown loach is Willem Dafoe. Willem has a weird eye, and he reminded me of that one fish from Finding Nemo with the scar over his eye, but I could never remember the name of the character, only that he was voiced by Willem Dafoe. Oh, and there's Gimpy, my clown loach with scoliosis. I got her for free because she's "deformed", but I think she's beautiful!

Names: The Hermit Crabs
Ages: ??
Species: Pretty sure they're all purple pinchers, but there's one that might be an indo
I have a 20 gallon tall with approximately six hermit crabs in it. I say approximately because I'm not sure if there are still six in there or not. I know there are two for sure alive, but after I moved everyone to the 20 gallon (and bought a few more) they buried under to molt and haven't all come up yet. Again, two of them (the two biggest) have surfaced and the one that might be an indo was a recent addition that I think just recently went down to molt so I might not seem him for awhile. We'll see. Still, the crabs are more like a fun hobby than pets. Sure, I care for them like I do for the other pets, but it's not the same sort of... attachment. They're crabs. I still give them they best care possible, though, which means giving them proper substrate and food, unlike most hermit crab owners. They also have lots of places to hide and things to climb, so overall, it's a pretty happy crabitat. It needs a bigger heater, I think, but I'll get there.

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