Tuesday, March 23, 2010

But their tails are so gross!

2) I have pet rats

Over the years I've had a variety of pets. I started out with fish, my Chinese Fighting fish was BA. I also had an aquarium with a slew of fish. Moved up to a gerbil, Skippy. Had family dogs. Had a pet, wild snake for a bit (had to release him when he wouldn't eat). Had a couple of anoles (wee lizards), Tarzan and Jane. Had a gold fish and fiddler crabs.

However, once I was living in an apartment in college, I really missed the pets you could play and interact with. While Cucumber and Asparagus (the fiddler crabs) were entertaining to watch, doing their little mating dances, trying to have babies, eating brine shrimp, it's not like you're going to pick one up.

After doing an immense amount of research on all sorts of animals, I decided on getting pet rats (a corn snake was close second). Before you get all "eww" on me, rats are super clean. Even though they are often portrayed as pest ridden, garbage lurkers, they are obsessed with cleaning themselves, very similar to a cat.

They are far, far more intelligent than gerbils and hamsters. Not only will they learn their names, minor tricks, and who you are (ie human treat dispenser), they can problem solve and know where the loo is.

We ended up adopting Noam and Jean, two sister rats, from the locally owned pet store. If I were to do it again, I would have checked out the local humane society. You should almost never adopt pets from a pet store, especially not those big box stores. Not only are they gross and typically don't have the right environment for the animal, you're also indirectly supporting companies that breed the crap out of small animals. Blech. Many small animals sit day after day, week after week at local humane societies without homes.

We brought them home and they grew up fast. I got them a huge cage and we let them run around all over the couch when we were watching TV or doing homework. When they got a little older we let them roam around the floor. We brought them in the bathroom while we showered. They liked to lick the water off our toes when we got out, which is a little alarming. My boyfriend accidentally left the cage open when we went to bed and we woke up to find them hiding under a desk. Seemed okay, so we put them back. Later we found out they chewed half the electrical cables to hell (especially the TV connection and an ethernet one).

I ended up finding a cool site (goosemoose.com) which showed other rat owners doing crazy awesome stuff. Using fleece for liners for the cage floors. Creating little fleece cubes for the rats to snuggle in. Items in the cage color coordinated, and these cages were huge! I wanted to make sure my rats were living in just as plushy environment, so I searched Craigslist for a sowing machine and got to business. These days my cages have fleece floor liners, cubes, hammocks, tubes, etc. for the ratties to play in. (Probably should call this weird thing, number 2.5...)

I also got my rats medical treatment when necessary. Unfortunately, Noam kept getting reoccurring mammary tumors, which is very common in female rats. I kept getting them removed at about 250 a pop, but after a while it was getting too hard on her and we had to put her down. Her sister was put to sleep earlier due to an apparent pituitary tumor.

There was a bit of time where Noam was still alive, by herself. I ended up adopting another pair of girl rats, this time from a local breeder. I didn't want to have to deal with the emotional and financial trouble of pituitary and mammary tumors, and a responsible breeder is one way to accomplish that. They all hung out together until Noam passed away. Now it's just Volt and Nimbus.

The only problem now is that we have a dog. A rather small animal aggressive dog. It took her awhile to get used to the rats (there's a dent in the cage where she charged it one time), however, we can no longer let them run about unsupervised. This is really a shame since it's cut back on the amount of time they are handled. These two are not as well socialized as Noam and Jean were, and honestly, it's all my fault. Volt does fine with me, but she has a tendency to bite others. She also likes to climb up my pants or get into my slippers and nibble on my toes.

Long story short, rats are the best. If I have kids and they want a pet, it's going to be rats, not stupid gerbils or hamsters. They are way cooler and loads of fun! A great pet option, they've been referred as mini dogs by some people. If you aren't in a position to get a cat or dog, rats are a good alternative pet.

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