Reub's journey

23 April 2009

Our three rats

Rat sketches, by Georgia Relman

...both the goose and the gander were worried about Templeton. And with good reason. The rat had no morals, no scruples, no consideration, no decency, no milk of rodent kindness, no compunctions, no higher feeling, no friendliness, no anything. (From Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White)

At first I wanted nothing to do with the brothers Ansel and Berbatov, Christopher and MG's two rats. "Find them a home while you are gone," I said, "because I don't want them here." And find a home they did, but there were conditions. Here is what happened:

There was a young couple with a big snake. They fed rats to the snake, which is normal, and usually a relatively quick business. One terrified little rat, however, escaped the snake again and again...and the point where the snake owners (although not the snake itself) took pity. They decided to spare this little rat. They offered to care for Ansel and Berbatov until June, but after that all three rats would belong to C and MG. Christopher offered to introduce the rats to one another, a tricky business, it turns out. It needed to happen at our house. It needed a good bit of rat research. And it needed about $15 worth of real vanilla extract, plus a spray bottle of water.

Are you still with me? Because as you have guessed, I became fascinated with the process. It took about a week. C washed out their cage repeatedly, doused them all with vanilla so that they would smell the same, and sprayed them with water when they started to fight. The new young rat, Mr. Bojangles, had his own little igloo to hide in. Then one day, they were all friends, napping together in a round ball of furry contentment. It would work! I thought "Good! Now they can all go back to Bend, Oregon, and live happily until June." But of course by this time, I was already engaged with them. I had handled them and realized how curious and friendly they were. They would not bite me. And I would not contract the plague. Did I want them to go live with The Snake People? So when MG asked me, haltingly, "Do you think they will be upset, will they know what is happening, when in the next room they hear the snake...going after...their kind...?"

So, obviously.

And you know what? There are morals, scruples, considerations, decencies, kindness, compunctions, higher feelings, and friendliness, all of these things involved here. Rats.


  1. Oh God. What if they heard the snake? You saved them!!!

  2. You did, you saved them, Mom! I am the proud daughter of a Rat Lover.

  3. Yes. I wish, though, that they still smelled like vanilla.

  4. Wow. I am so relieved for that little rat. I mean, he would have had a very real picture of what was going on in the next room. I loved meeting the two rats and was also really surprised at how lovely they were. I tried talking D into a couple I saw on Freecycle...I mean, we homeschool, aren't we supposed to be over-run with animals?...His old roommate had ferrets and he was not to be convinced.

  5. You know, rats might be a good start for you. (Four months ago I doubt I would have said this.) But maybe you should get young ones, little guys that you can handle and socialize. BoJangles needed socializing when he came here, but now he is very friendly, easily handled, never bites. There are dozens of websites about rats. Rat rescue groups. Rat poets. They only live to be 3 or 4 years old. And the literature with rats in it...I have only scratched the surface. There are plenty of "good rat" characters out there. (have you seen Ratatouille?I hope so.) So maybe you should re-visit this with D.

  6. I'm proud of you. Rats can be loving and intelligent little creatures.

    Great pets.

    Well, unless you get the plague!

  7. Thanks everybody,for making me feel absolutely noble here. I wonder if I could make their tails look a little more attractive. They shouldn't have to have tails like that.


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