And the answer is….a pet African hedgehog.
For a little creature covered with quills, he’s awfully cute. He’s an insectivore so he’s made to eat lots of bugs, but currently eats a blend of cat chow. He can be trained to use the litter pan, although he seems to prefer ‘going’ while running on his wheel. Curious, cuddly, little snout always in motion. He can be held in a towel or with bare hands and when he’s unsure of something he pulls down his upper quills as if he’s raising his eyebrows. He likes Diana to carry him around in his cookie-monster hideyplace so he can peek out. And, he can swim and has already had his first bath. He only needs about two a year. The twins’ favorite part was when he pooped in the bathtub. Ask them — they’ll still crack up.
Diana and I picked him up on her actual birthday — Mr. Bumpercars had just been weaned and was a ready-to-go seven week old. He came with two little blankets decorated with Paul Frank monkeys and hearts. He won’t get a lot bigger, unlike his European cousins. A hedgehog is an ‘exotic’ pet, but he works for our family. No fenced in yard or early morning walks, no scratching the furniture or acting imperious. And, I just couldn’t do a rat. I couldn’t. Besides, since Mr. Bumpercars isn’t a rodent, he doesn’t have an odor.
It took five years of Diana asking for a pet and then a year of research into the best match, but WELCOME MR. BUMPERCARS. May all your birthdays be filled with mealworms.