San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Pet Expert Marc Morrone Offers Advice

HIS TV show is called “Petkeeping With Marc Morrone,” but you can barely see Morrone behind all the preening, squawking, camera-hogging animals arrayed – sometimes one atop another – on the table in front of him.

Harvey the Flemish giant rabbit, Dixie the dachshund and Murphy the mutt are the real stars of this show, along with more than 30 of their furry, feathered or scaly friends.

Morrone has loved animals since he was a toddler. When he was 18, he and a friend opened a pet store on Long Island in New York. It’s called Parrots of the World, but it stocks everything from chinchillas to bearded dragons.

You can see some of the collection on his show, which is broadcast Saturday mornings on the Fox network. Morrone took a break from cleaning cages recently to talk with us.

How many pets do you have and where do you keep them?

The exact number varies from hour to hour, depending on my mood and whom I’d like to add to my menagerie. There’s about 30 to 40 that regularly go on TV. Lots of them live in my house, and several people help me take care of them. The rest live at my pet store.

Cats, mice, dogs, parrots … how do you keep them all from fighting?

I try to make their environment as different as possible. My animals don’t know where they’re going to wake up in the morning, so nothing fazes them. That’s a mistake a lot of people make with pets. A routine is fine – exposing them to the same people and food – but the world is a big place, and your pet should be exposed to as much variation as possible.

What was your first pet?

The first one I bought was Jinxie (a parakeet). I’d had crickets and things before, but Jinxie was my first real pet. I remember taking a little can and drawing a picture of a yellow parakeet and putting it on the can, and any money my grandfather gave me went into the can. I must have been about 4.

Did your parents say no to any animal?

They said no to alligators. But they generally let me have whatever I wanted, within reason, as long as I paid for it and maintained it, and it didn’t interfere with their lives.

What should a kid think about before getting a pet?

Two things: What care it involves and how it’s going to influence your day-to-day existence. If you play soccer and don’t get home until 6 at night and then do homework, or if at 6 a.m. you have to be at swimming practice, maybe a dog’s not for you. But what might work is a guinea pig, because that’s an animal that can entertain itself all day. So think about whether caring for a particular animal is going to make your life more complex. You can’t think of it as a chore.

What if your dad says your yard is too small for a dog, or your mom is allergic to cats?

I tell kids, “That’s life. You have to look for something else. How would you like a guinea pig or a cockatoo?” Every animal is unique, and if you learn about it, you’ll respect it. If your parents have questions about an animal, do some research on it. Don’t just groan and whine that you want it.

If you were one of your pets, which would you be?

I’d have to be a ferret. Ferrets remind me of me. Cats are too vain, dogs are too insecure, but ferrets are very optimistic. Whatever life throws at them, they deal with it. You want to play with them? Fine. You don’t want to play with them, you’re too busy? Fine.

What’s the best present you ever got?

When I was 5, I got a 10-gallon fish tank for Christmas. Nothing has fascinated me as much since. I remember every single fish in that tank: two kissing gouramies, two swordtails, two guppies, two angelfish. And I remember that the guppies started having babies and the angelfish started eating the babies.


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