I have an addictive personality. When I become interested in a topic, people around me find it difficult to redirect conversations away from my current obsession. The summer before sophomore year, I became interested in gerbils. Gerbils are, in theory, the perfect pet. They aren’t nearly as needy as a dog or a cat, but they also aren’t as boring as a fish or a rock. Since I had already experimented with owning dogs, cats, fish and rocks, I basically knew this to be a fact. For the entire months of May and June, I begged my mother to let me have gerbils of my very own.
“Who would take care of them?” my mom asked.
“Me, obviously,” I responded.
“Who would pay for their expenses?” my mom asked.
“Me, obviously,” I responded.
“Who would –”
“ME. I have always been a responsible pet owner! Except for the time that I left my hermit crab in my closet for a month in second grade, but that was a long time ago, and I have learned from my mistakes!!!”
My mom finally caved, and we went to the pet store.
My youngest brother Ian and I decided to purchase two gerbil sisters, and after decorating their cage with origami treat baskets, a running wheel and a couple cereal boxes, we made the big purchase at PetCo.
When we got home, we put the gerbils in their tank in my brother’s room. Ian named his gerbil Cameron, I named mine Sketch, and everything went well for the next hour and a half. At that point in time, Ian came out of his room sobbing hysterically, “Kyra! Cameron is trying to kill Sketch, and I think she’s going to die!”
The next day, we returned Cameron and Sketch to PetCo and resolved to chose less bloodthirsty rodents in the future. Unfortunately, the gerbil troubles did not end there.
My brother and I purchased two different gerbils from PetWorld. These ones were supposedly both male and supposed to be more docile. Kermit and Lock, as we decided to name them, definitely loved each other, but not the way we originally thought.
Several months passed, and I was at basketball practice when I received the alarming text from my brother: “LOCK HAD BABIES!!!!! FSDIOFSDFHF.”
My mind was pretty much blown at that point because Lock was a boy. Apparently, when we thought he had been growing up and getting bigger, she had been hooking up and getting pregnant. When I got home, I discovered two pink quarter sized blobs flopping around in a nest. I went to the kitchen to eat some cereal and try to process the situation. While I munched on my Frosted Flakes, Kermit, the daddy gerbil, ran by my feet. My thirty pound cat galloped behind him, nipping at Kermit’s tail. This was also unexpected. I swiftly scooped up the rodent and plopped him into the tank with the other unexpected events of the evening.
Upon interrogation as to why a gerbil was running around pooping all over the house, my other brother Noah revealed that Kermit had eaten a baby, so Ian had made the executive decision to store the cannibal in the bathtub to await his trial. At this point, I was so done with the situation, I left Kermit in with the mother and babies because I was too lazy to think of other options. I guess he just had first time dad jitters when he ate his pup because he ended up being a wonderful father to all of his other litters.
Ian named the babies Sugar and Spice, and I tried to figure out what to do with them. According to the gerbil forum, Lock was probably already knocked up again, so we didn’t separate her from her baby daddy. After Sugar and Spice were about six weeks old, we gave them to one of my dad’s coworkers, making and remaking sure that they were both female.
Lock stopped having babies for a while after that, but it wasn’t like Kermit and her weren’t trying. I couldn’t sleep at night because the gerbils were thumping their hind feet on the bottom of their cage. I googled why they would feel the urge to do this, and I found out they were having sex.
In March, Lock surprised us with another litter. This time, she had two more babies, and we named them Mac and Cheese. Then spring break happened. We had a neighbor take care of the gerbils while we were out of town, but when we returned we were met with atrocious news: Kermit was not the only cannibal in the family, and Lock had had four more babies. While we were gone, Lock had killed the two babies from her second litter and spread their gruesome remains all about the cage. Our neighbor had placed the dead babies in a grocery bag, and when we got home, my dad tossed them in the garbage can. I made up a lie about death by respiratory infection to tell my brother because I felt the need to preserve his innocence a little bit.
Lock did not kill the four babies of her third litter. When the babies were four weeks old, I separated the boys from the girls, leaving the only girl baby Ms. Piggy alone with her crazy mother. I took Kermit and the male babies Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle down to my room and kept them in a 20 gallon tank.
Lock had gotten pregnant just after she had her third litter, and pretty soon, she had six more babies. We didn’t name them. Four died because Lock weaned them too early. We gave the other two to the pet store.
For those of you keeping track at home, my brother and I had an eight for fourteen baby gerbil survival rate, and gerbils are not actually the perfect pet. I am not obsessed with gerbils anymore. I have moved on to bigger and better things like Doctor Who and frozen yogurt.