The Rats

Our rat died last night! She had taken a tumble from the top of her cage and had suffered some paralyzation. We’ve had to keep her separate from the other rat just so the other rat wouldn’t kill her. Well then the poor thing got mites, she was barely eating, and her breathing became irregular. Last night Brian went to feed her and found her dead. She looks so peaceful now.

I can remember when we first got our rats. The apartment we were staying in didn’t allow pets (at least not dogs or cats), but rats were fine. I would never have considered getting a rat, but my sister-in-law had one and I reaSummer 2011 171lly liked him. We had been planning on getting them for awhile when one night we stopped by Goodwill. Lo and behold, there was a rabbit cage with a water bottle, wheel, chew toys, and bedding for just $10 dollars. Even on our limited budget we could afford that. So Brian and I rushed home, cleaned out the cage, and drove to Petsmart to pick out our rat. I had read somewhere that you’re supposed to put your hand into the rat cage and the one that comes to you is going to be friendlier then the rest of the rats. Well I put my hand in and Snickers came to me immediately. We had  planned on only getting Snickers, but the sales lady told us rats are social creatures and need a companion. So we bought Oreo as well. They were so cute and scared. I would be too if some strange person came and took me from my nice warm cage with all my friends. We named them Snickers and Oreo because of their coloring. Snickers’ gray and brown spot reminded us of a Snickers bar, and Oreo’s brown coloring looked like an Oreo.

When we got them home we discovered that the bars on the cage were too big; the rats could easily escape. Random 8.24.11 021Luckily for us we had a fish tank and put them in that for the first night. Brian later covered their whole cage in chicken coop wire–an act of love. It took him hours and his hands were all covered with scratches. He’ll never do that again, but at the time it was a cheap solution.

We bonded pretty quickly with our rats. They would crawl all over us and take food out of our hand. In fact we taught them to look into our cupped hands for food. We would place them on top of the bookshelves and time them to see how fast they could get down. Snickers was the fastest; she’s always been our escape artist. She taught Oreo how to get down from the bookshelf and later how to escape from their cage. Someone gave us a huge ferret’s cage, which we eventually moved them into. One night we woke up to squeaking noises: Snickers had escaped from the cage and was in our bedroom. We had to be careful getting out of bed because we didn’t want to step on her. Poor rat was frightened to death. Speaking of fright, Oreo encountered Bella (our cat) not long after we adopted Bella. We had to hand feed Oreo just to get her to eat, luckily she snapped out of it. Now she finds the cat interesting. In fact one day she escaped her cage (the ferret’s one) and went nose to nose with Bella on the stairs, I had to make a dive for her before the cat got her. That was the end of the ferret’s cage. The rats went back to their chicken wired cage.

I often get asked if rats bite. Not really! Snickers did bite me once but that was because she had been licking syrup off of my fingers; she got a little carried away and bit me. Immediately she knew she had done wrong and looCharleston 297ked so sorry. I was fine.

These rats moved up with us from South Carolina to Pennsylvania. And they moved into Brian’s office. We live in an old farm house, so heating is always a problem. We couldn’t keep the upstairs warm enough for the rats. The solution was buying them their own heater. In the winter Brian’s office is always the warmest room in the house because of the heater.

Rats don’t have a long life span (about 2 years). Snickers, who died yesterday, didn’t even reach that two year mark. Oreo seems to be healthy, so she might reach two years in June. The hard part of losing them is knowing we’ll never get them back. We’ll never get Snickers’ adventurous spirit back. Saying goodbye forever is hard. It’s funny–you wouldn’t think you’d get so attached to a rat that you would bawl when it dies, but I did. I know it’s just an animal, but it still hurts. This is an animal that I’ve taken care of for the last couple of years. I’ve bathed them, fed them, watered them, cleaned their cage, and played with them. My husband posted this verse on Facebook, and I thought I would share it. Luke 12:6-7, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” God who cares about even the littlest of creatures, cares for me!

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