Monday, April 18, 2011


This post is not about the World of Warcraft.  You have been duly warned.

One of my daughters has pet rats.  Given that I have traditionally hated rodents to the point where I had battles with the family hamster, I'm sure this is surprising to some people.  She had begged and begged, and after many years of persistent begging (and research on her part), we finally capitulated and got her the supplies a year ago Christmas.

A couple of months later, we happened to be up in a city large enough to have pet stores, and we looked for pet rats.  Unfortunately, none of the pet stores had rats in stock.  In desperation, my husband decided to stop by a reptile store he was passing and ask them if they knew who might have pet rats for sale.  The man said he really didn't know, then he hesitated and said, "Well, actually, I have rats."

The reptile store bought rats from a breeder who bred them specifically for feeding to the snakes.  They were, therefore, chemical-free and very healthy.  My daughter selected two female rats--one a sort of champagne color and one two-toned, with a brown middle and white ends.  She named the two Sakura (Japanese for cherry blossom) and Daisy.

Rats are very social creatures, which is why we picked up two, instead of just one, but sometimes they take a little while to become accustomed to socializing with humans.  Sakura was friendly from the start.  Daisy required a bit more persuasion to be socialized.  My daughter took a small pouch with a strap and placed Daisy inside it.  Then she carried the pouch everywhere while she was at home.  In this fasion, Daisy grew accustomed to her, while feeling safe inside her little hiding place.  (My daughter originally used this for baby chicks which needed special attention.)  Soon both Sakura and Daisy were friendly and well-adjusted, sitting quite happily on her shoulders or playing on the keyboard tray of her desk while she did her homework.

I, who detested rodents, fell absolutely in love with my daughter's rats.

A few weeks ago, my daughter noticed that Sakura had a large lump, which has since grown.  She also developed an abcess on it, possibly from the rate of growth.  After much research and inspection, we believe she has a tumor, which is a common killer of female rats.  We called our vet, but he doesn't care for rodents, and the nearest one which might take care of rodents is about 2.5 hours away.  When we weighed the cost of the vet care to save her (if she could be saved at all), we realized it was more than we could afford.  We, along with our daughter, decided the best thing to do would be to care for her the best we could and give her a lot of love while she is still with us.  (We thought about dispatching her as things got worse, but between the fact that she's too small to dispatch cleanly, my daughter and me getting emotional at the idea, and the possible effects on Daisy if Sakura just disappears and she doesn't know why, we decided against that course of action.)

Accordingly, we've treated her infection the best we can, cleansing it and trying to keep her environment clean.  My daughter fixes the rats nightly "treats", including things such as leftover rice, grated carrot, and soy milk.  (Soy is supposed to assist in preventing tumors.  She hopes it will help Daisy.)  And she takes the rats out on the lawn in controlled conditions so they can run around and experience new things.  (Without having to worry about the cat or any owls.)

I do not think it will be much longer.  And now it is time to think of Daisy.

When Sakura goes, Daisy will need a new friend.  Unfortunately, the shop where we got Sakura and Daisy is five hours away, so traveling up there just to pick up a four-dollar rat (or two--we're planning ahead for when Daisy leaves in another couple years, so the new rat will still have a friend) seems a bit excessive.

Then we remembered the desert museum more local to us.  Perhaps they would have rat breeding contacts.

I called them today.  While they feed their snakes mice, instead of rats, one of their employees breeds rats to feed her own snakes.  Turns out I know her, from my CCW class.  She will be back at the museum tomorrow, and I will tell her my story and see if she can help us out with a couple of new rat friends.

I hope so, for Daisy's sake.


  1. Hooray for ratties! I have 23! :)

  2. I told my daughter about your 23, and she giggled in delight. :)