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ft-petexpo

“Elmeri is occasionally a lap hedgehog, a cursing hedgehog or something in between,” says Marja Pihkala, the owner of the African pygmy hedgehog, which is becoming increasingly popular as a pet. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Filming and editing: Tony Öhberg

Cats and dogs with a pedigree, ferrets, bunnies and four-toed hedgehogs were lying in their cages and boxes as pet enthusiasts across breed and species barriers summoned at the Helsinki Fair Centre last weekend for PetExpo, the largest pet fair in the country.

“I promised Topi that I will get him a woman,” said Tanja Salo, the owner of the one-year-old handsome burmilla cat, a cross between Persian and Burmese breeds.

In a cage not far from Topi’s, Meu, a Bengal cat of 10 years, with the splendour of a leopard, was sharing a moment of play with an elderly woman holding a long feather.

As the woman opened the cage, Meu became curious of the world outside the bars but Meu was quickly pushed back in with the feather. Meu countered with a few furious slaps with his beastly paws.

Next to the cat section was the small dogs’ playground.

A middle-aged woman was grooming Sheldon, a 15-months-old shih tzu with long silky hair, a toy dog breed from Asia, while waiting for Sheldon’s turn to step at the blue carpet of the dog show. Another toy dog of Maltese breed, with a bow on its head, was lying flat on a table and looking bored while the owner was verbally giving attention to someone else.

“Is it a girl! Is it a girl!” his owner, Marja Pihkala, shouted.

At the other end of the hall was the section of small mammals.

Elmeri, an older African pygmy hedgehog, coloured in black and white, was rubbing his long nose against Vieno’s, a female counterpart of 7 months of age.

“Is it a girl! Is it a girl!” his owner, Marja Pihkala, shouted.

After a moment of love, Vieno plunged under the blanket of her owner, Annamari Ijäs, 25.

I wondered, what it’s like to live with a hedgehog.

“She’s a night owl like me. Typically, we watch TV on the sofa and Vieno frolics under the blanket and eats worms.”

ft-petexpo2

Seppo Räisänen and Muru, a female cockatoo parrot. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Downstairs, you could find the beautiful white female cockatoo parrots of nearly 20 years of age talking to their owner Seppo Räisänen, a man in his 60s.

“Päivää! Päivää!” said Muru, while sitting on Seppo’s shoulder, a signal of craving attention.

Occasionally, Muru nibbled on Seppo’s eyeball which shocked a woman who was watching.

“It eats the eyeballs off your head!” she shouted.

“No, she doesn’t,” Seppo said calmly, “while nothing is 100 per cent sure, one quickly learns to know the habits of the birds.”

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