A word of caution for the family relocating to California: load Fido and Socks into the minivan, but leave the gerbil at home.
Many pet lovers are surprised to learn that these Asia natives are banned in California. "People are notoriously careless," says Phil Nelms, a captain in the California Department of Fish and Game's Wildlife Protection Division. "The gerbil has the potential to destroy the kangaroo rat," a California native with five species on the federal endangered list. Wild gerbils, Nelms says, could monopolize the kangaroo rats' food and water supplies and take over their nests. The agency's concern is that gerbils will escape or, more likely, be released into the wild by owners grown bored.