Our pocket pet journey began at Christmas when our 10-year-old daughter asked for a hamster. I decided to buy her a magazine called “Critters” which I bought at Petco. When I went to pay for it the young cashier said, “If you’re thinking about a pocket pet, I’d get a rat.” “A rat?! Really? Why?” I asked. “They’re smart, they’re social and you can train them to do stuff. Mine sits on my shoulder while I do homework,” she responded. She had me at “sits on my shoulder while I do homework.” I had a gerbil when I was Sophie’s age and I had no affection for it at all. It didn’t interact with me and seemed to resent contact with me.
So I bought the magazine, which explained the benefits and limitations of gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, sugar gliders, chinchillas, ferrets and yes, rats. Sophie read every word of the magazine over Christmas break and decided that she too wanted rats. Adding a pet to the family is a serious responsibility and an added monthly cost. I told her that she needed to make a written proposal to us including researching how much a cage, food, bedding, etc would cost. She needed to think about her schedule and commit to a time that she would play with them and clean their cage. Rats don’t like to live alone so it would be two rats to consider. We had her do this proposal because I wanted her to know that being prepared and organizing your case is how you get people to listen to you and take your request seriously. She did the proposal and we began looking for young rats because they only live a couple of years and we didn’t want to get one that might be at the end of its life.
Long story short, we got these rats, Taffy and Toffee, last weekend and the woman we got them from gave us a hammock to borrow until we could make our own for them. I decided to post this tutorial because the hammock is appreciated by all manner of pocket pets and is the perfect project for small scraps of fleece. The rats have been a lot of fun and are indeed as social as we had hoped.
Pocket Pet Fleece Hammock Tutorial
a 12″ x 24″ piece of fleece (size is a guideline – it can be smaller)
4 shower curtain hooks
4 extra large eyelet (also known as grommet) sets and the tools for setting the eyelets
small, sharp scissors
a sewing machine and thread
1. Turn under a 1/2″ edge on both of the short ends of the fleece.
2. With right sides together, bring the ends to the center of the fleece so they meet in the middle.
3. Pin in place and sew the sides.
4. Turn inside out.
5. Place one of the eyelet pieces on the fabric and trace the circle on the inside of the eyelet onto the fleece.
6. With either a leather punch or a pair of small, sharp scissors, cut an X through the center of the circle large enough to accommodate the shank of the eyelet. Cut just a little at a time and try to work the fabric tightly around the eyelet piece. If you make it too big, the eyelet won’t hold so smaller is better.
7. Following the instructions on the eyelet set, assemble the parts and hammer until the metal shank overlaps the flat part of the eyelet. We put the nice side of the eyelet on the flat part of the hammock because that’s the side that’s visible from outside the cage.
8. Repeat the eyelet setting for the other corners of the hammock.
9. Using the curtain hooks, hang the edge of the hammock from a point that the pet can reach but that allows that hammock to move freely.
10. Pocket pets are sensitive to smells. So when you introduce a new hammock to them, fill it with bit of fabric or toys that already smell like them so they’ll feel at home.