(J'ai réécrit cet article en Français ici)
We recently got a place in the countryside. So we're now splitting our time back and forth between the house out here and the flat back in Wapping.
And so that means the guinea pigs come back and forth with us too. At first they weren't so keen on the idea; previously the cat basket had been associated with trips to the vet and the ensuing prodding and poking, so they didn't take too kindly to it. But now, after only a couple of months, they've settled into the routine of going back and forth between two cages.
Given we moved into this house when it was still cold, their cage was in the sun room. I wouldn't call it so much as a conservatory; it's just a simple building attached to the back of the house with lots of windows, and heating and lighting - so ideal for the guinea pigs in winter when we wouldn't really be using the room anyway.
Also in there are the gerbils. They don't always come back and forth with us, as they can go a few days without daily attention. They are in a glass tank with a metal attachment at the top that they can go up into when they want to get out of the burrows they've made in the tank below. The burrows are so extensive in all the substrate that it's not unusual that we only see the more adventurous mother of the group every day; the others only put in an appearance now and again when we're out there.
A few days ago, I was out feeding the guinea pigs and I saw what looked like a mouse scurry under the cage. It's not surprising that there are mice out there; the other day I saw next door's cat wander past proudly carrying a mouse in its mouth, so it's no surprise the lure of food would bring mice into the sun room.
So today, whilst preparing the guinea pigs to move them into the summer house at the far end of the kitchen lawn, I thought I'd have a look for the mice. I looked down into the hessian bag where we keep the gerbil food and noticed a hole chewed in it. As I moved it around, two shapes darted out and underneath the guinea pig cage. Obviously the mice had made a nest in there where there was both a supply of bedding and a supply of food.
And so I decided to try to catch the little buggers. I lay down on the floor and looked under the guinea pig cage and a little brown face was staring back at me. A very familiar little brown face. In fact, it was our little brown gerbil's face.
And so, it turns out, we didn't have mice after all. But the two younger (and slimmer) gerbils had managed to create a hole in their cage just big enough for them to squeeze out and had spent however long since they'd got out living a rather wonderful life in our sunroom with open access to food and bedding.
Devious little sods. Round one to them. Time to buy a stronger gerbil house!