Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Creepy Water-Treading Animals

Anyone who knows me knows I have strange tastes in pets, animals and insects. As far as insects go my favourites have always been preying mantises and wetas. Wetas I like so long as I don't have to touch them (because they are violent, grumpy little buggers and will take you on even if you are a million times bigger and holding an axe.) But when I was a kid I had a pet mantis for about a month that I named Burt. Burt was possibly a strange pet for a 'sweet' little girl who would never consider cruelty to anything, including bugs. I used to catch flies for him in the morning and then watch innocently as he ripped the body parts slowly off his live wriggling victim, munching away enjoying his meal completely unaffected by the writhing creature trapped in his vice-like grip. (Who would guess that I would grow up to have favourite songs like Mein Teil!) Burt must have been a real member of the family just like the cats because to this day if anyone in my family sees a preying mantis out goes the cry “Look! There's a Burt!”

Last year I had a pet weta for a while who lived outside on the rose bush underneath my office window. I met him when I went to put the clothes in the dryer one day and he was stuck to the door and wouldn't get out of the way. I called him Rover. I called him Rover because he's a big bugger. If you want an idea how big he made a big clunk as he landed on the ground when I flicked him off the door – with a spade. He looks like you should put a studded collar and lead on him and provide him with a kennel for a pit bull. I haven't seen Rover for a while though so maybe an extremely large bird ate him. I haven't seen any Moa's in the garden lately but whatever ate him must have been at least that big.

Aside from Rovers and Burts the other animals I like are lizards and bats. Lizards are easy to come by. You can buy one from the pet store that will grow to the length of your arm. (Probably also looks good in a studded dog collar). I cuddled one once in the local pet store and was surprised how much personality it had. Bats unfortunately you have to go to the zoo for where they just hang upside down and glare at you but you can't cuddle them, which might be a good thing because I heard that they smell bad. I mean otters look cuddly too until you go near them and then it's like “Holy Hell – who forgot to empty the rubbish bins?!” My other favourite animal is Indonesia's Komodo Dragon – a type of 5 foot monitor lizard that drools poisonous saliva and eats small children and livestock. OK, I draw the line at wanting to cuddle one of these! But they look cool.

Anyway what prompted this blog wasn't mantises, wetas, lizards or dragons but rats. And of course I think these are cuddly and cute as well. A friend of mine has several as pets and they are rather sweet. But at the same time these guys are a pain if you get them in your roof. There was an ad on TV for a humane pest control unit that just scares the rats away. (Plug In Pest Free) I like this idea because I hate killing stuff and it's available from my favourite organic store – IE Produce. These guys had some really interesting facts about rats on their site that I didn't know about.

  • One pair of rats and their offspring can produce 15,000 rats yearly.
  • Rats eat enough grain annually to fill a freight train 3,000 miles long.
  • Rats can gnaw through metal, lead pipes, and cinder blocks.
  • A rat can squeeze through a hole no larger then a 50 cent piece (US not NZ!)
  • Rats can survive being flushed down a toilet.
  • A rat's teeth will grow from 4-6 inches per year.
  • A rat can swim one half mile and tread water for three days.
  • A rat can jump off a five-story building unhurt.

OK, so if you are not like me and you are trying to get rid of someone's pet rat rather than cuddle it - flushing it down the loo, throwing it of the Sky Tower or paddling out into the middle of the harbour in a kayak to drop it off at it's new “home” is probably not going to cut the mustard. These facts are pretty impressive. I think the only thing that can beat this is a cockroach which can reassemble itself with more legs than it started with after you've squashed it three times and even after that go on to survive a nuclear explosion.

Perhaps the only pest more difficult to get rid of than this is “Hillin Cluck” (say fast in a Rove voice and it will all make sense!)