Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'I don't get pets. You work hard to save up for a nice home with a half-decent sofa and then you spoil it all with a cat'
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The Independent Online

The new must-have pet in Britain is a hedgehog. Yes, you read right. That's what we're all going to be getting, according to recent studies. And it's an African pygmy hedgehog – a mix between an Algerian and a white-bellied. "They're unbelievably pretty little creatures, the way they bumble along," hedgehog breeder Bonnie Martin told Reuters. Who knew? Mrs Tiggy-Winkle for every house by 2020.

But I have a problem. I just don't "get" pets.

Seriously. I'm not trying to be ornery – it's just that it doesn't make any sense to me. You work hard your whole life to save up for a nice home with a half-decent sofa and a nice aroma. You can afford a fridge, you're old enough to invite other grown-ups round for a shepherd's pie or sex and then you go and spoil it all with a cat...

I mean, what is that about? A cat. Let's just focus on the species for a moment, shall we? They moult and scratch things (so bang goes the sofa), they sleep about 20 hours a day but manage to wake up at 6am and shriek like Bonnie Tyler, so bang goes the sex – and to top it all off, they squat on a tray filled with small pebbles that smell of sick when they go to the loo. This makes the whole place smell of, well, cat pee, and the stench never goes away.

They're mean – really mean (think Alexis Carrington with fur) – and they don't like anyone but themselves. They sit and lick their little paws with their little rasping tongues all day long. And then feeding time is truly horrendous. You have to open a can of wet, disgusting goo that says it's "salmon" or "chicken" but is actually just hell in a tin. It smells of putrid turd and will make the cats' breath smell worse. They hiss at everything, they think humans are idiots and they can't even have a bath.

Don't think I can forgive dog people, either. Here's the thing with dogs: they take up an awful lot of time. And they can't drive or make a stew or tell jokes. You see my point? I mean, I do quite like them – they have floppy ears and when they're very small they can be not unpleasant to look at. They thump their legs on the floor when they're happy, which can be a bit alarming, but I suppose you could get used to it.

Then they grow up and you walk them once or twice every day, you give them baths and feed them strange oatmeal things that are moulded into the shape of bones. You worry about what they're going to do when you go out for supper and you talk to them round the clock and you think they understand you.

But here's the thing: they're dogs. So yes, they can go and fetch a stick and they can mount your best friend's leg for three hours solid every time she comes over, but that's really about it.

Now let's focus on the other most popular pets in Britain: fish. Now people who keep fish disturb me the most, if I'm totally honest. They always smell a bit like fish food and they know just a bit too much about eels. Oh, and in case you're wondering, knowing anything at all about eels is too much.

They are obsessed with the temperature of the water in their tank and the fish will often be referred to as their "babies". Unlike a dog or a cat, which you can actually get near, a fish is, well, truly separate. Aquariums are also extremely expensive. Spending all that dough on a bubble machine and a faux sunken treasure chest so that a small thing with fins and a seven-second memory can swim in a circle is a worry...

Rodents are pests and not pets, and anything that manically runs around a wheel 24/7 and occasionally has 19 babies in the middle of the night should not be brought into the house. Guinea pigs are fine, but only when dead and stuffed, and then they can be used as slippers.

There are stranger things to keep as pets. Someone always seems to know someone who has a friend who once had a tarantula called Cuddles that escaped and ate next door's cat. There are people who keep snakes and chinchillas and geckos. I once dated a boy who had a lizard in the corner of his bedroom. Yeah. I couldn't love him either.

So now it's all about hedgehogs. They're prickly, so they don't need cuddling. They're nocturnal, so they don't need to be looked after in the day. They hibernate, so they're pretty much fast asleep for six months of the year. They don't eat wet stuff in cans – and they hardly poo. I've changed my mind about pets. I'm getting a hedgehog.