Remember the days when people kept leopards and cheetahs and other exotic animals as pets?
Neither do I.
All my knowledge of big cats as pets comes from movies like Bringing Up Baby.
(If you have never seen it, you should. Not only did Bringing Up Baby star Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant and a leopard, but it also stars Asta, the best canine actor ever.)
I am, however, old enough to remember monkeys being sold in suburban pet stores. Nobody I knew had one, but I did have an memorable encounter with a pet store monkey once.
I was quite small, and we were there choosing replacement fish for our tank. I’m not certain, but I think my brother and I were on our own in the shop while my mother was buying groceries next door at the A&P. That might not be true; I suspect my various memories of that pet shop have merged into one, but in any case, I know my brother and I were in the pet store, choosing fish.
I am certain I chose an angel fish, because I never chose anything but angel fish. Free of decision making, I could roam the store looking at the puppies, kittens, and monkeys. That was the best part of the pet shop, the puppies and kittens. The monkeys were a novelty, but I didn’t want one the way I wanted a kitten, which were forbidden due to my brother’s allergies.
The monkey cage was front and center in the shop, with the cash register between it and the door. I was standing by the cage, simultaneously waiting for my brother to choose a fish and watching the door for my mom. So my back was to the monkeys.
One of the little imps reached out and grabbed my hair! He yanked his arm back in the cage, slamming my head against it. Monkeys are strong and tenacious! He was not going to let go.
I did what any little girl in that situation would do: I screamed as if that monkey were about to eat my brains! The pet shop man ran over and pried my hair out of the monkey’s grasp, while the monkey and I both continued to shriek in horror.
Never again did I stand near a monkey’s cage.
Also, I decided to stick with dogs and cats….or, maybe, a cheetah or a jaguar or a herd of baby elephants, like the lady in Hatari.
What about you? If you could have an exotic animal as a pet, would you? Which would you choose?
(Since this is make believe, pretend it is not cruel keeping wild animals as pets, and pretend nothing is in danger of going extinct. However, do not pretend that tigers are herbivores or that monkeys won’t pull your hair or anything crazy like that.)