“The Little Things” – In praise of pets, the joy they bring and all their little moments

“Enjoy the little things in life, because one day you’ll look back and realise they were the big things.”

I read this quote years ago on a typically happy Pinterest-and-coffee morning, no doubt with Simba or Pipkin – our most dedicated bed-lounging former pets – on my feet, enjoying time and thoughts on an easy Saturday. It really struck a chord with me, as someone who has always enjoyed the little things in life the most and seen in them so much of value. Those quiet weekend mornings, the first few moments of fresh air and daylight in the morning, beauitful views, cosy coffees with family and friends and time with our pets.

Over the years, I have found so much strength and inspiration in some of the everyday moments in life and in huge part this has been contributed to by my relationships with my animals. Of course to a massive degree with my little horse Charmer, my partner in crime for sixteen years now; or my mum and dad’s collie Ginny, with us since I was living at home as a teenager, our loyal companion for over thirteen years. These pets have shaped whole chunks of my life and times spent with them have been the cornerstones of my growing up, in all the little moments that do really and truly add up to be one of the biggest blessings, “the big things” in life.

Yet it is not only those who are lucky enough to have this longevity that I feel this way about – over the last five years we have had the pleasure of owning thirteen little bundles of fur and love, and each and every one of them has brought so much joy. I am well aware that many people would wonder quite how rewarding these very small pets can be and whether they really give much to their owners – to me, they always have, more than I can say.

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

The hamsters, rats and rabbits we have had the pleasure of sharing our home with in the past may have been small things in size, but have deserved – and often ethusiastically demanded! – a huge space in our hearts as their lives with us have unfolded. The first time Pipkin ran to the cage door to greet us; the first time Grace saw her new cage and wheel and had to be persuaded to take a break after an alarmingly long gym session; the day we moved into our new home and Simba settled himself on the rug in front of the fire to set the seal on our new life; the day an elderly Chae surprised us with an uncharacterstic leap up on to the settee to join us; the first time Lizzie was afraid but didn’t bite and cuddled into us instead, in one little action turning a big corner for her into a happier way of life. All of these memorable moments – and even more than that, each and every boring, normal night watching Friends with Harvey on my knee, Ty playing with my hair and Rosie’s wheel rattling down in the kitchen; are the moments – the little things – that often provide me with everything I need for the more challenging aspects of life.

Our pets may be in some ways the smallest things, but they do truly take up an enormous space in my heart, very often being some of the highlights and biggest blessings in my days; and I will always be grateful for them.

The Adventures of Rosie Hamster

Rosie is our little Campbell x Winter White hamster, 2 years old in March and a little furry force to be reckoned with! She came to us at 10 weeks old via a Gumtree advert, turning up nearby after needing to be separated from her cagemate. Having had Syrian hamsters in the past, and the most recent of those being Darcy, a solid and classic large ginger and black hamster, little Rose seemed impossibly tiny when we first brought her home – and has grown very little since!

She is a wonderful presence in the house, a very contented wee soul who loves nothing more than organising her cage layout, re-arranging her bedding and building award-worthy tunnelling systems to transport her little self around.

In a household of boys, I have always been glad of Rosie’s female company, enjoying Friday mocktail nights in and joining in briefly with my hen do below..!

While very content to spend her time mainly in her cage, which she is very settled in, it is lovely to spend some time with her out and about – we’ve always let hamsters free-range in the past as the rats do in our living room, but she is just such a little minature thing that we tend just to relax on the couch where she always enjoys a scarper up the cushions and a sit on a shoulder, and especially some time exploring in a blanket.

I always find observing the way a solitary hamster chooses to live its life and its whole outlook very inspiring, and Rosie is just a joy to watch. She lives simply and is utterly content with her surroundings and all her favourite things, and is very structured in her routines and set in her ways – although now and then apropos of nothing she will suddenly shake things up and move from one of her little houses to another as her chosen bed, or dispense with the rules and relocate her food store, starting a new little rhythm she’ll settle to with enthusiasm.

In the last couple of months, wee Rose’s eyes have been almost entirely covered by cataracts, and when I first saw this happening – never having seen it before in any of our previous hamsters –  I was worried her quality of life would be affected. Quite the contrary though, she is utterly unabashed and is zootling around the cage, spinning her wheel and climbing the bars like she always has; and – with a new little extra sniff she likes to do first to be sure all is well –  is very happy to be picked up and to come out for free time with us.

She is a really lovely little soul, so friendly and so enthusiastic about every aspect of life, and I just love to enjoy her and her happy pootling.

Games for pet rats

Love to browse pet blogs and read all about new toys and ideas to entertain the little ones, so just thought I’d do a quick round up of some of the most loved games in our little household…

Pea-fishing! – Always a winner, with hours of splashing and fun! In these old photos Harvey & Ty  are enjoying this back  when they had Chae & Winston with them too, all with varying tactics! This gameis always so amusing to watch, Winston was very dedicated to this and  quite happy to get as wet as needed to secure the peas, while Chae would make a swift few grabs and retreat to a pile he was accumulating of his winnings at a dryer spot, with Harvey opting just to steal from Chae’s pile and avoid the water altogether, and Ty hanging from the edge enjoying the fun but undecided on the best way forward! A good game for the team together.

DIY toilet roll kong – lace some favourite treats into a toilet roll tube and let them have some fun rattling, rolling and unwrapping to roll out the treats. Harvey demonstrates the game in action below!

Hanging food from the cage – dotting favourite pieces of food along bridges and walkways or hanging from fruit sticks – stretching and grabbing for food and getting some ability in is always better than just arriving at it in the bowl to keep minds and bodies entertained, so like to find new and inventive ways of suspending it!

One really easy version of this I love to do is just cooking (unsalted) spaghetti and hanging it through the bars from the cage roof so it’s to be climbed and reached for.

Burrowing and building nests and tents – one thing all our little ones have loved to do when out free ranging is build dens and burrow into cosy blankets. Harvey and Ty are particularly fond of making a den on a bookshelf or behind the couch and dragging any envelopes or pieces of paper they find there to make it homely! But all our rats past and present have loved a cosy into a fleece or blanket for a bit of comfort and good fun snuggling, or bashing it into a suitable tent-like hiding place and enjoying the lookout.

A frosty morning with my pony: the perfect start to the day 

Woke this morning to the sun glittering on the silver road, the kettle providing dual purpose today, filling my flask with the much needed first coffee of the day and also, cooled a little, sweeping the thick layer of frost from the windscreen as I squinted against the low golden sun and got the day off to a crisp, white start.

Reaching the farm, it was a cheerful Charmer who greeted me this morning from his stable, all bright eyes under his floppy gingery fringe and feet lined up at the stable door ready to greet the day and his waiting fieldmates. Got our usual weekday-morning routine underway, handing him his first handful of pony nuts as I changed into my wellies and waterproofed up, the second to keep him amused while I threw on his rug (his cosiest one today at -3 degrees and a hint of snow to come) and buckled it up, headcollar on and ready to go. Watching our step across the white sheen of the yard, we walked side by side towards the gate where three of the boys stood waiting, ears forward, idly watching our approach.

Safely in the gate and the last couple of handfuls of treats successfully extracted from my pocket by Charmer’s incessant expectant nosing – always looking at these times 5 years old instead of 20 in his excitement – one of my favourite moments of the day was upon us, just that brief breather inside the field, setting the boy up for his day out and taking a moment to look out to sea, watch the sun rise and properly begin the day.

Over at the water trough there was ice to be smashed, and as is inevitable at this time of year the walking was over a tricky combination of mud and pockets of ice, so when I did get back to the car – work boots back on, heater up full blast and travel cup steaming happily in the holder – it was all much appreciated and a relief to get cosy.

Still though, for me there is nothing better than those few moments in a muddy field with ice-cold fingers, standing beside my scruffy little pony and looking out at the world at the first light of day.


At the break of day 

Early February always seems to me to be a time of change and new light – a time to open our eyes and take in the different outlooks the world all of a sudden has to offer, after what invariably seems like a long January often most definingly of darkness and unimproving weather.

This February, still in its early days and finding its feet, arrived at the end of another cold snap as the most recent storm of the  winter relented and moved off, leaving behind a dazzling display of nacreous clouds, a unique phenomenon reaching us unexpectedly in a breath-taking and calming swirl of pastille colours as the good weather replaced the bad; the new sight of blue skies mingling with the reflected goodbyes of the storm.

In the first few days of this month, I have watched – side by side with the horse in the field or from the house as darkness wanes, doing the morning pet feeds and making coffee – as the sun has risen and light has crept into our dark days in so many beautiful ways, watching with the hope of a new season as the night gives way to the break of day.


Goodbye to Winston Rat 

❤️ This week we said our final goodbye to Winston rat, after 2 years and 4 months of his wonderful company. Over his little lifetime he changed considerably as he grew up and grew with us – from a timid wide-eyed baby rat born in a rescue centre, once called Pinocchio, who when he first came home was so afraid to even step out from his cage door; to our strong and playful young Winston rat, gambolling around the room at top speed; and eventually to our old flop Winnie, never far from our sides, always tugging at a trouser leg to be picked up for cuddles or settling down for an evening snuggled under a chin. He brought us and all of his cagemates so much joy, and I am so glad to have been blessed with him. ❤️