Squeak! at Wood Green

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 21, 2012 in Rat News | Subscribe

How do you feel about rodents? Do they make you go ‘aw, look at the ickle-wickle furry ball of fluffiness!’ or do they make you stand on a chair, screaming and sweating in girly panic?

Whether you love them or hate them, get yourself down to the Squeak! event at Wood Green on Sunday, where you can either relish in the delights – or conquer your fears – of guinea pigs, rats, mice, gerbils and hamsters.

Squeak! is a fantastic fun family day celebrating all pets small and furry; it’s a fabulous free event and we’ve got lots of stuff going on,” says Emma Hudgell, education officer at the animal charity.

“We’ve got talks, face painting, a treasure hunt, and toy-making for pets too: people can make things to take home with them, like hay kebabs, treat bags and rat crackers.”

But if the very mention of the R-word makes you nauseous, Squeak! is the perfect opportunity to overcome your phobia. “We’re having ‘face your fears’ in the rodent room, so people can come and meet some rats,” says Emma.

Why don’t people like them? “Because they associate them with wild rats, and think that they’re dirty and carry all kinds of diseases – and some just don’t like their tails! But last year we converted lots of people.

“I’ve got two pet rats myself, and I know what fantastic pets they are. I’d say they’re the most fun rodents: they’re very intelligent, and they get to know your routine. Mine sit waiting for me at half past five when I get in from work, because they want to have a play. They love climbing on you; mine sit on my shoulders and in the hoods of my hoodies. They’re just fantastic.”

But don’t they bite? “No! If you handle them every day they become really tame: I’ve never been bitten by my rats at all. In fact I’ve been bitten by more hamsters than rats.”

Squeak! is now a popular annual event at Wood Green, not least because they have experts on hand to check that your own ball of furry fun is fit and well: “People can ring up and book, then bring them along for a free heath check – and leave them in our crèche while they do all the activities.”

But the main aim is to offer advice to current and wannabe pet owners about how to care for their fuzzy friends; not least because, says Emma, they may not be getting the right information.

“On the internet now you can get advice from anybody, so through no fault of their own, people are being misguided.”

Take bedding: you’d assume hamsters and the like should live in sawdust, right? Wrong. “Every pet shop sells sawdust for small animals, but unfortunately it’s not good for their breathing: the dust in it can cause asthma-like symptoms, and there can be lice and mites in sawdust as well.

“At Wood Green we keep ours on shredded paper, because it’s more dust-free, and there are lots of different beddings you can get. So hopefully we can encourage people to make that small change.”

Putting your furry friends’ food in a bowl is another no-no: “We scatter-feed our small animals because it encourages their natural behaviour of foraging. It’s all about enrichment: you need to make feeding times fun for the animals.”

Still don’t fancy meeting a rodent? Well with 52 acres of countryside, a playpark and a restaurant, there’s plenty of other things to do at Wood Green. But, says Emma, the main purpose of Squeak! is to have fun. And who knows? You may never have to stand on a chair again.

::Squeak! is at Wood Green. London Road, Godmanchester on Sunday (March 25) from 10am to 4pm, and admission is free. To book your small creature in for a free health check, call 0844 248 8181 or email handson@woodgreen.org.uk.

Emma Higginbotham

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