With having raised so many children (7.5 children actually), so we have had quite a variety of pets throughout the years!
We’ve had typical pets…cats and fish. We’ve also had less common pets…turtles, aquatic crabs, hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, and snakes.
Pets Teach Life Lessons
Pets have taught the kids responsibility. They have to feed them and water them. Pets have taught them that there are consequences for not being responsible. We had to rehome our guinea pigs after two weeks of reminding my daughters to keep the homes clean. When I walked in my front door and smelled poo (downstair when they lived in an upstairs room)….it was time to find them a nice new home. (A older lady happily responded to our internet add for free guinea pigs and was excited to have new pets!)
They taught the children that not everyone can be friends. Trying to make the hamster and pet rat friends did not work out well for either one of them. Both passed away from their less-than-pleasant interaction a couple of days later. (On a side note….my younger daughter won the rat at school. One in thirty chance to win the class pet at the end of school….and she won the silly rat!)
Pets have also taught our children about life and death. It was much easier for them to learn about life and death from pets when they were little and then be able to transfer this knowledge to understanding great-grandma’s and great-grandpa’s funerals.
Again with having so many kids we have had various different rituals with our pets. We had a “pet cemetery” in our back yard behind our yard barn for several years. We would bury the animals in cardboard boxes (usually shoe boxes or smaller depending on the animal) and bury them in the back yard. We would talk about life and death, as well as biodegrading. And our second oldest son was usually in charge of digging the holes to bury the critters in.
The exception to this was fish. Dead fish get flushed. However, with five boys in the house that death ritual became pretty exciting. Since our youngest two boys were very little the “fish funeral” consisted of putting the fish in the toilet, peeing on them to say good-bye, and then flushing the toilet. REALLY! They no longer do this (they are 15 and 17 now), but they did that for YEARS!
Currently, we only have snakes and fish.
We have two snakes at home in separate habitats, one fish tank at home, and two fish tanks in my office. The fish are easy. Feed them. Clean tanks periodically. Done.
The snakes take a little more work. We typically purchase feeder mice and rats at the local pet store to feed them. Then we have to keep their water dishes full, tanks clean, and make sure they shed fully when it’s time to shed.
However, no purchasing mice and rats this summer! We live the county and are pretty much surrounded by cornfields (we live in Indiana). This summer we’ve experienced field mice in our yard barn (only the second time in fourteen years living there thankfully). I had only one thought when we found mice…FREE FOOD!
Remember mice are food, not friends!
I purchased live mouse traps at the local home improvement store and brought them home.
We placed them around the yard barn and one on the back deck and free food appeared! The live traps worked great! However, I’ve only dealt with feeder mice…I had no idea field mice JUMPED!
So far we have caught…Breakfast, Lunch, Supper, the Hobbit (second breakfast), Afternoon Snack, Appetizer, and Fast Food!
When we have rats or mice as feeders I do not allow the children to name them cute pet names. They are not our new pets or new friends…they are food. So, I typically name them after some meal! So far we have caught seven mice and some are more interesting than others.
All have become food for our pet snacks, besides Fast Food and Appetizer. Appetizer was the baby mouse caught, but he passed away on its own soon after we caught him. (He looked so sick I even tried to feed him…I tried to feed the food!)
Fast Food on the other hand, hid from my husband in the live catch trap from outside, up the stairs, into the room with the snakes, having the trap shaken over one snake tank, back downstairs, and to the kitchen door leading to the outside….then he jumped out of the trap and ran under our stove. Yep! He ran away INSIDE our house! We still have not caught him or seen him again…I’ve convinced my self he found his way outside somehow…I hope I’m right!!
We definitely have many, many adventures with so many kids and so many pets! My stories could go on and on!