Of Androids and Electric Guinea Pigs

(First published in Le News edition 18, 13-19 March 2014)

This summer I’m going to replace all the pets with robots. This fabulous idea came to me when I was reading an article about something called a ‘Robo Fish’. Apparently it was the toy to get last Christmas, with over 15 million sold. They’re brightly coloured toy fish that swim around when you put them in water and stop swimming when you take them out. My initial response was, ‘Isn’t that what real fish do?’ But no. These fish start swimming again when you put them back in water, which is very much not what real fish do.

Anyway, the reason I like them so much is that you don’t need to feed them.

The second my feet hit the floor in the morning, everything in the house starts clamouring for food. If my life has a soundtrack, it’s made up of meows, squeaks and the sound of a fat goldfish breaching like Shamu. It’s not as if I didn’t feed them all just before bedtime: fresh water and dry food for the cat; fresh water, hay and vegetables for the Guinea Pigs; flakes for the fish. I can understand them being keen for breakfast, but the performance the cat puts on is worthy of a part in Les Misérables.

And after I’ve put food into them, I have to deal with what comes out the other side. I change cat litter, sweep up pellets, wash out filters and rinse aquarium pebbles … it’s never ending.

So when the children started begging for a dog, I just started laughing hysterically. But then I remembered a friend surveying the post-dinner fallout under my dining room table and saying, ‘You should get a dog. They double as vacuum cleaners.’ And I thought, why not do it the other way round? Why not get a vacuum cleaner and let it double as a dog? Seriously. I’m going to get a Roomba, stick googly eyes on it and tell the children that it’s alive. This is not going to strain their credulity at all – they’ve convinced themselves that my car is alive and they hold long conversations with it almost every morning, so a cute, googly-eyed little vacuum-puppy will be no problem. They can feed it scraps of food and watch it suck them up; they can put a lead on it and take it for walks around the patio … it’s genius.

Then I’m going to swap the Guinea Pigs for Furbies. I know Furbies don’t do much but, quite honestly, neither do the Guinea Pigs. Unless you think that the world is suffering from a surfeit of hay and we urgently need it converted into mounds of little poo pellets. Then the Guinea Pigs are doing an ace job.

I’d also like a drone of my own, to play me music all day and occasionally fly over to the school with whatever piece of gym equipment the children have forgotten.

And the cat … well, I think I’ll have to keep her. The only robot cat I’ve seen is some bloody terrifying thing called a WildCat. I have no idea what the makers intend to use it for but I can assure you, it’s not as a pet: it has no head, it sounds like a chainsaw and it gallops along at over 25 kilometres per hour. It’ll scare the Furbies out of their wits.

And then, when I’ve filled the house with robots, all ready to do my bidding? Well. The children had better look lively. The latest incarnation of ASIMO the android can look at whoever is speaking to him and answer them politely – skills the seven-year-old is still struggling with – and is capable of carrying a drinks tray into the lounge every evening at six o’clock! 

2 Replies to “Of Androids and Electric Guinea Pigs”

    1. But you can cuddle a Furby. In fact, you can do everything with a Furby that you can do with a Guinea Pig, which is nothing.

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