Rats! Living in the woods we get lots and lots of them. And we have several traps that L. will set faithfully with peanut butter every night. During the winter we often catch more than one a night and I cry every time.
Why would I cry, you ask. It’s just a rat, considered to be a pest by most people. Well, not by me. I used to have a pet rat, Whiskey by name. I called her that because of her whiskey colored coat, not because I am a whiskey drinker. She was super smart and very tame. She came running when I called her name. She would go out with me, sitting in my sweater, perched on top of my bra or hanging in my sleeve under my armpit. She was awesome.
When my friend’s rat had babies and I first met them, the smallest one of them crawled right into my hand and it was love at first sight. I announced to my parents that I was going to get that rat as a pet. My Mom had a fit, she thought that rats were a nuisance. My Dad was more or less indifferent, he said he was fine with it as long as I take care of it. My Mom finally gave in, after all I was 19 and she decided that she no longer could tell me what I can and cannot do, especially since I would pay for all the rat stuff with my own money.
Whiskey moved in and fit right into the household. The dog and cat didn’t pay her much attention and my Dad thought that she was kind of fun to watch. My Mom wouldn’t even look at her. I took great care of her, her cage was always tidy, there was no smell, she was well fed and and actually very clean. She would wash herself several times a day, a fun process to observe.
Twice a day she would get a yogurt drop, a treat made especially for rats and bunnies. She loved it! After a while I noticed that the bag of yogurt drops kept disappearing faster and faster. It seemed that I had to buy a new bag every week. I was a bit puzzled, but didn’t question it any further. I was happy with my little rat!
Once day our teacher had to leave for a family emergency and I got to go home two hours earlier than usual. As I got home and stepped into my room, I found my Mom sitting in front of the rat cage, feeding Whiskey yogurt drops. Not expecting me home yet, my Mom jumped up like she had been stung by a bee, face flushed. All I could do is laugh! My Mom started giggling as well, and then admitted to me that she really started to like Whiskey. She began to feed her yogurt treats about a month earlier (hence the drops disappearing at a faster rate) and she found it fascinating watching the rat carefully eat the treat, holding it in her paws and turning it while chewing.
A couple of months later I came to the United States for the first time and was gone from home for six weeks. My Mom eagerly volunteered to feed Whiskey, my Dad cleaned her cage and my sister carried her around in her sweater for a while every day. Whiskey managed to change their minds about rats. My Mom never again called them a pest or nuisance.
Whiskey passed away at age two of lung cancer. The whole family was sad about her passing. My Mom even cried a bit! Unfortunately most pet rats don’t get older than three, and almost all of them will die of cancer. They make great and entertaining pets.