Pygmy Hedgehogs: Pet-Keeping MadnessWritten by Pete Wedderburn on Tuesday, 05 January 2010
The latest pet trend - African Pygmy Hedgehogs, kept as handbag accessories – is as predictable as it is ridiculous. At the start of 2009, I wrote my predictions for the year and the top of my list has certainly come true: '' Bizarre pets will become more popular''. We’ve had micro-pigs in October, and micro-hedgehogs in December. Anyone for micro-ostriches in January?
The phenomenon of bizarre pets is complex. There are three factors involved.
1) Cuteness. Yes, small, strange-looking creatures are adorable, in an ET kind of bug-eyed, charming way.
2) Kudos for the owner. If you have an unusual, eye-catching pet in your possession, you immediately score lots of social brownie points. Strangers flock to you, clustering around you, and uttering cries of delight. People’s fascination may not be directly with you, but it’s certainly pleasant to bask in the reflected glory of your new possession.
3) Follow the money. New and interesting exotic pets are never cheap, and there’s always someone profiting from their popularity in the background. Their high costs also adds to the kudos for their owners, which is why they’re sometimes also referred to as “trophy pets”. Those involved in producing the pets always deny the profit element, and whilst there may not be a conscious act of exploiting the market, I doubt if they’d be in the animal production business if they were giving them away for nothing.
The problem with these weird pets is simple: they’re not inanimate objects that can be put back into the cupboard once they’ve lost their appeal. They’re living, sentient beings, with continual needs for their entire lives. They must be fed, watered and toiletted. They need to be kept in an environment that allows them to express the natural behaviours that keep them sane. Do you think a social butterfly, who enjoys having followers flocking to see little Prickles, is going to be the type of person who’ll enjoy mixing hedgehog mash three times daily, as well as cleaning up hedgehog piddle and poo? Do you think that Prickles will be allowed to carry out the social and physical activities that are an important part of the normal routines in his natural environment?
Unfortunately, the media has a fascination with these pets: the three factors that make them popular also mean that they attract attention whenever they’re mentioned in the media, and this adds to the upwards spiral of popularity.
You think this is bad? Just wait for the era of genetically engineered pets. I’ll tell you more about those in my predictions for the twenty-teens…. Peter Wedderburn is a veterinary surgeon and freelance journalist who's mission is to use the media to act as an advocate on behalf of animals.
I am a veterinary surgeon with a passion for communicating my love of my work through writing, radio, television and the internet. My mission is to use the media to act as an advocate on behalf of animals.
I am a partner in a busy 5 vet practice in Bray, Co Wicklow, Ireland, but I spend 50% of my working week on media work. Come visit my facebook page and become a fan. I also have a Petchums.com profile page, come say hi!