by Stephanie Cameron
Stephanie Cameron is a volunteer with Rattie Ratz Rescue in the bay area of California. Each month KRL will be featuring a column from Rattie Ratz.
Rattie Ratz Rescue is a non-profit organization located in the California Bay Area that is dedicated to saving domestic pet rats in need. Rattie Ratz is fully driven by volunteers who donate their time, energy and resources in their common goal to help domestic rats find loving homes.
Although Steph D’Agostino has been volunteering with Rattie Ratz Rescue for less than a year she has quickly become an integral part of the team. She was exactly the type of volunteer Rattie Ratz needed, someone who genuinely loved rats, was proactive in her efforts to help the rescue, and passionate in her endeavor to spread the message that domestic rats are wonderful animals and loving companions. The below is Steph’s experience with Rattie Ratz, but more importantly, the journey that brought some new squishy boys into her life.
Last summer, I was going through a tough time in my life. I didn’t know it at the time, but an untreated illness was slowly eroding all of the things I enjoyed in life. I had a good job, a husband and two beautiful daughters and three adorable rats that I loved, but constant worrying and anxiety made it all overwhelming. The rats in particular became a focus. If I didn’t get them out to play for very long, I was wracked with guilt. I started worrying about (pretty far-fetched) ways they could be injured. I ended up re-homing my three beloved rats.
A few months passed and things still weren’t better, until a new doctor finally diagnosed me with anxiety and depression. She listened to me, didn’t judge and gave me the medication I needed to turn the volume way down on the constant background anxiety. I started to feel good for the first time in a long while. I realized I really missed my rats, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to commit to owning them again. That’s how I found Rattie Ratz.
It’s a little nerve-wracking for me to meet a group of new people and I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to help (what would they expect from me? were they nice?). Delightfully, the volunteers were so welcoming and friendly that I knew I had found a wonderful community and before I knew it, we were fostering rescue rats!
My two daughters, Nina (5 years old) and Alia (3 years old), loved that we had new rats to play with, and when each foster rat was adopted, we were thrilled to see them go to their new homes. I still wasn’t ready to adopt though… right?Then along came Lightbulb and Peanut. They were chubby, kind of greasy and not particularly friendly, but something about them just captured our hearts. Lightbulb in particular bonded quickly with my daughter Nina, climbing onto her lap and sitting for pets. The next day I said to my husband, “TJ, we can’t let these ones go!”
TJ agreed as long as the rats were “my” rats, but I could tell there was something about Lightbulb that charmed him too. A couple of weeks after we adopted them, he said “I’m starting to warm up to those rats.” A few weeks later and he put Lightbulb on his shoulder and fed him a chip. Now he requests couch snuggle time with his favorite boy.
Peanut and Lightbulb were bonding quickly with our family, but Lightbulb started picking fights with his brother (that he’d lived with for a year!). We decided to add two new baby boy rats to the group in the hopes of easing the one-on-one pressure (a group dynamic is usually better). We adopted two 6-week-old darlings from Rattie Ratz, which the kids named Snowflake and Boat. Unfortunately, it only made things worse. Lightbulb went full “agro” mode and even bit baby Boat during introduction! After discussing with my friends at the rescue, I decided it was time to neuter him.
I was really nervous, but Lightbulb did well after surgery. He was quarantined on Bachelor Island (his own separate cage) for 5 weeks and I’m happy to say we were able to integrate him into the group again. He and Peanut have been cuddling in the cage non-stop, and it made me realize how much his hormones were messing with their friendship!
Now, we couldn’t be happier with our four rescue rats. Peanut is our sweet gentle alpha who does a great job showing the baby rats how to be big boys. Snowflake is a Cuddler in Training who loves snuggling in my sweatshirt and even climbs up my legs for attention. Boat is our escape artist! One time he found a way out of the cage after I went to bed. He managed to avoid our dog all night and I found him hiding silently behind the dryer. Lightbulb is, admittedly, our heart rat. Named for his giant white body and tiny brown head, he is a squishy cuddle buddy that loves to be scratched and will enthusiastically groom you back as thanks. I even brought him to my daughter Alia’s preschool for Show and Tell. Lightbulb took his duties as an Ambassador Rat very seriously and sat quietly on my lap while the children fed him treats.
The rats are fully part of our family, and I’m so happy that I got involved with Rattie Ratz.
P.S. I asked my daughter Nina what her favorite thing about the rats is, and she said, “I like that the rats lick you, and they’re so soft.”
And Alia’s favorite rat is Lightbulb, because he’s the “bestest.”
If you would like to know more about Rattie Ratz Rescue you can visit their Facebook page. If you are interested in adoptable rats or volunteering for Rattie Ratz Rescue you can visit their website: www.rattieratz.com.
Check out more animal rescue stories in our Pet Perspective section & watch for more stories from Rattie Ratz every other month. You can also keep up with our pet articles by joining our KRL Facebook group. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to Rattie Ratz.
We also have a brand new pets newsletter which is still a work in progress but will likely go out every couple of months. We also hope to provide some additional content and maybe even some pet related giveaways. You can use this box to subscribe!