Sunday, 9 April 2017


After years of saying I would, I have finally enrolled on the course run by the British Association of Rodentologists/Cambridge Cavy Trust.

I know its not a normal subject matter and it has resulted in a lot of people asking if I'm kind of mad, but let me explain.

Most veterinary training only includes very basic information in the care of many rodents. This means that there are a lot of vet practices that are not adequately equipped to deal with some smaller pets such as Guinea pigs, Rats, Hamsters, Rabbits, etc. They are still considered exotic species and require specialist vet care that many veterinary practices cannot provide. Of course, this is not the case for all vets but for the most part it is difficult, at least in the UK, to find a vet who can offer the kind of specialist service that make sick, small pets need.

I have had many four legged companions in my life; from cats, dogs, hamsters, chinchillas, degus, rats and an unfortunate accident in which I was sold two "female" bunnies and ended up with 9 because of the mistake. My passion for animals has always been apparent and because OF that passion, I'm also a vegan. My pets have always been my biggest passion, over any other interest, hobby or aspect of my life and while I don't think I have the stomach, co-ordination or capacity to become an actual vet, my little dream has always been to own a guinea pig rescue when I get back home. I know I'd need to find a lot of ways to fundraise to support it and it isn't something to ever be taken lightly, but I want to live my life in a way that is more than just a regular 9-5. I want to help make the world a better place, even if it is only in the tiniest of ways by helping guinea pigs and other small pets find their forever homes.

Animals are non judgemental. They are never going to make false assumptions about you based on what you look like or what disabilities you might have and if I can do something in my own little way to protect them, I want to.

So, why Rodentology do you ask? Why not a veterinary nurse?

This is mostly down to two very very special pets I have owned in my lifetime. While all of my pets have touched my heart in many different ways, there are two that I connected with on a much deeper level. A beautiful shoulder rat I had when I was much younger and my beloved Twinkie, a very special guinea pig who I sadly lost a few years ago due to an upper respiratory infection. I was so heartbroken when I lost Twinkie that I literally cried for the best part of a month. She was such a clever, intellectual and comforting little thing and knew her name, knew how to do tricks and was always so genuinely so happy to see me. I think, since guinea pigs are prey animals and therefore so much more cautious and wary of humans, that when they eventually do trust you, its the most rewarding experience ever.

At the time I had a two level C&C mansion I made for all 7 of my pigs and Twinkie would always be the first one waiting for me when I got home from work, or when I woke up in the morning. She had a little ikea doll bed that she'd crash on and watch TV. I have no idea what kind of eyesight pigs have but she definitely seemed to be watching. She had the loudest wheek and the sweetest disposition that I don't think I'd ever to replace. Sadly, I lost 4 pigs from my herd in a very short amount of time due to an upper respiratory infection. In one week, 4 of my babies were gone, including Twinkie and while I was lucky enough to save 3 of them, I felt like I had been failed by the care that my local vets did have. It is true that illnesses in guinea pigs are difficult to spot, since they tend to hide all symptoms of their illnesses until their condition deteriorates to such a degree they cannot hide it anymore. If I had known more. If my vets had known more about pigs... I would have been able to share my life with my girls for longer than I got to, thus my decision to study Rodentology. Not only so I can prevent it from ever happening again with my own pets, but to help other people who might be suffering the same as I did.

Rodentology is not exactly a recognised profession and there are no official government/employment recognised courses that can be taken but I have found the best one that is available. It is apparently quite a heavy course, broken down into 4 parts. First of all the RHA (Rodent Health Advisory) which is all standard care information, a 2 day residential practical training and two optional lectures and workshops. Once those are completed you can then sit the more detailed GBAR courses, which are for Graduates of the British Association of Rodentologist courses. There are 3 separate parts; Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology and I've heard that it is very information heavy and definitely requires some dedicated study to absorb it all but thankfully, due to my current living situation, the BAR have agreed to let me get all the course material to study and I can sit all the examples, residential, workshops and lectures when I get home. I've only got the RHA part so far but if I start it and enjoy it, I'll go ahead and start studying the next parts in advance.

I plan to document a lot of my studies here and use the blog, not only as an outlet for many of the things floating around my head, but also for self motivation. I know from previous experience with home studying just how hard it is to be disciplined. However all my hard work with wig making and never taking days off, has definitely helped in that regard.

In my current apartment, we have been unable to keep pets here as part of our contract, but our new apartment we move to in September is pet friendly and so I have every intention to get some pigs as soon as we are settled! We're probably going to be looking into building a big cage out of IKEA furniture. I've seen some really beautiful ones and Alex is really quite excited about building their environment from scratch.

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