Featured Image: My new rats, Frank (big boy) and Beans (sitting in my shirt). They are about 3 months old.
If you know me, you know I love rats and I’m passionate about defending them, both legally and socially.
Growing up, I never had a cat or dog because my dad and brother were allergic to them. My dad always had fish, but of course fish arent exactly the most cuddly. As an alternative, I had two guinea pigs (Woodchip and Mr. Pig) and two hamsters as well (Baby and Hammy) who I enjoyed very much, but I felt like I didn’t get the whole “pet” experience. You ever try to bond with a hamster?
So when I was in high school, I really wanted a pet of my own, something cool that wouldn’t bite like a hamster and wouldn’t sit around like a guinea pig. I decided I wanted a hedgehog. After seeking out a breeder, I emailed her that I was looking to adopt and explained the kind of qualities in a pet that I wanted. She responded saying that a hedgehog wasn’t a great fit for me, as they aren’t exactly the most cuddly animals. She told me I would be better off with pet rats! At first, I had the same reaction most people have to pet rats — ew! But after researching them a little, I realized that they were a perfect fit for me.
I convinced my apprehensive parents and we were off to PetSmart. I picked out a tan rattie and named him Pablo. At first, my dad was a little weirded out but eventually, as all dads do, warmed up to him and even gave him the nickname “rat-man”, and eventually, when the poor old ratman lost the ability to use his back legs, “drag-ass”.
Pablo was a cool little guy. He knew his name, and even some tricks! He had his favorite places to run to when he knew I was trying to put him back in his cage (under the stove, behind a picture frame, and in my dirty laundry basket sniffing my undies). He once came to my anatomy class final with me in my sweatshirt pocket.
Pablo passed away my freshman year of college and I ended up getting a rat tattoo on my ankle. Ever since then, I get questions about it. As much as I loved to talk about Pablo, it hurt my feelings to have to defend him and his species time and time again. Just this past weekend I tried to show someone a picture of my rats and she ran away from me. Rude!
Most people don’t think very highly of rats, as they have a stigma of being dirty (they did not cause the black plague, it was the fleas and humans. Just like covid, we can’t blame that one bat for having it, blame the humans that spread it). In reality, rats groom themselves just as much as cats and they can even be litter trained. Rats are also highly intelligent and social animals, despite the “two brain cells rubbing together” look in their eyes.
I now have a litmus test on whether or not I can date someone, though; when I bring up my love of rats, if they react badly, then they’re out! Example, one of the most uncomfortable “breakup” texts I’ve ever received (lol):
I’ve been waiting to get another rat ever since Pablo passed away, but my parents would not let me while I was living under their roof. So, here I am, six years later, moved out into my own apartment for the sole purpose of having pet rats.
And two weeks ago, I finally got my wish. I drove all the way to New Hampshire to get my two male rats, Frank and Beans.
But like I said in my post “What Does Happy Look Like?“, waiting for something for years, and thinking This will be the thing that will finally make me happy, never really works out. They actually made me a little more depressed. I don’t take well to rejection, and with the rats not immediately falling in love with me, and actively fighting to get out of my grasp, I was feeling rejected. I felt like a bad mom.
But Frank got sick on Tuesday, and for a moment I contemplated not taking him to the vet and seeing if it got worse. I imagined what would happen if he died, and immediately, I cried. Despite only knowing them for two weeks, I knew I would be distraught.
Since no nearby vets accepted exotic pets, I drove them nearly a half-hour away and, because of their not-dog-or-cat status, waited 5 hours in the waiting room for them. Because of COVID, I couldn’t be in the room with them, and so I waited with bated breath to see them again and make sure they were okay. But I finally felt like their mom. Frank even has my last name in the pet records.
After shoving medicine into the mouth of poor Frank, I realized just how much they meant to me. I didn’t wait 6 years and drive 3 hours to not put my heart and soul into these little guys. I didn’t spend hours of my life explaining to people how cool rats are just to give up when it got hard.
I’m very excited to spend the next 2+ years with them.