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.
What I love most about rescue is being able to give an animal a second chance for a better life, and this could not be truer than for two very sad situations in which many rats find themselves: their use in labs and being bought as live food for reptiles.
The luckiest of lab rats are those that are ‘excess lab stock’ that the facility does not need. If a caring soul happens to be nearby, these young rats may find their way into a rescue instead of being transferred to another lab, or worse. Such was the case for Sammy. along with his young brothers and cousins, Sammy was surrendered to Rattie Ratz Rescue when they were not needed in the lab work they were born for.
It was quite a large rescue and Rattie Ratz needed help placing the rats, so they reached out to their friends at New Life Animal Sanctuary, who were more than happy to help, taking in 20 of the close to 40 rats surrendered. Thankfully, the majority of the boys surrendered were quite young. They ranged in age from 5 weeks – 4 months. The rat’s being younger was a good thing, as it meant their chances of being rehabilitated were much higher. Many of these boys were sweet, but very nervous.
As for the rats being bought for live food, it’s quite common for reptiles to reject the rat and as with the lab rats, if a kind soul is nearby, they will try to find the rat a new home. These ‘snake bait’ rats are often traumatized and require socialization to both other rats and humans. Saltine was originally purchased as live food, but the snake rejected him, and when the snake owner didn’t know what to do with him, a friend took Saltine in as she had rats of her own.
When the friend had to leave town suddenly, she reached out to Rattie Ratz asking if they could help. Though all of her rats were surrendered to the rescue, she had only had Saltine for a couple of weeks and she had been unsuccessful introducing him to one of her other groups. Saltine was very hand shy and did not like being picked up at all, and worst of all, it was obvious that he was lonely.
Sammy was the last lab boy not reserved for adoption, and the rescue had been looking to find a friend for Saltine, so Sammy was chosen as a good candidate and while the initial introduction was a little rocky, the volunteers at Rattie Ratz could see that Saltine needed another rat to keep him company. He still didn’t completely trust the attention he was getting from his foster mom, but thankfully, she was patient and willing to put in the effort. Before long Sammy and Saltine were best buds and could be found cuddling together in a hammock.
Not long after Sammy and Saltine were living together, a certain individual reached out to Rattie Ratz rescue, and asked if these boys were available for adoption. Jason Hildebrand had first heard about Rattie Ratz from New Life Animal Sanctuary, which is where he had adopted his rats in the past. Being that New Life was a 6-7 hour’s drive away, when they told Jason about Rattie Ratz, he was hopeful that this local rescue could help him find what he was looking for. You see, Jason’s passion is adopting rescued lab rats. Jason mentions how, when he first saw Sammy and Saltine’s profile online, they were in his mind, perfect.
The rescue was honest in their behavior notes for the boys, explaining that Sammy and Saltine would require an adopter with experience working with skittish rats that needed additional socialization. Jason explains that: “These are the type of rats I’m used to having and have a good record helping them feel comfortable around humans again. Either they can completely come around, or they will not, and you just let them be and enjoy their time left on this planet on their terms…”
Sammy & Saltine were no different, they were described as timid, fearful and not liking to be grabbed or held, so perfect!”
To the volunteers and Adoption Coordinator, Jason sounded like the perfect person for Sammy and Saltine and after some additional communication and the completion of an adoption application, the adoption of Sammy and Saltine was quickly arranged. The genuine excitement Jason expressed in getting to take the boys home was wonderful to see and the volunteers had a good feeling about this match.
Jason reminisces how when he and his girlfriend first brought the boys home, Sammy and Saltine “were exactly as described, really hard to grab or hold, they were terrified. I worked with them very hard in the beginning, pulling them out of the cage every few hours and spending time with them on the floor in our room letting them just explore and just learn to accept me as they chose to, never forcing anything on them. Eventually they started to explore me and feel more comfortable with me, I gave them treats while we played which never hurts!”
Sammy and Saltine were very social and wanted to explore and play but were timid and fearful. After months of working with them, Jason finally started to see their real personalities shining through, as the boys came to not only trust Jason and his girlfriend, but to enjoy their company.
According to Jason, “Sammy is just the sweetest, but he was always a little more trusting then Saltine. He loves to hang out with us and he loves to curl up and snuggle under the blanket on my stomach while I watch TV. He really is one of the sweetest rats I’ve ever had. He’ll just sit there and want to hangout.
Saltine is the Alpha of the two, a little bigger and he is super strong and super-fast. He loves to eat and hoard food! He too has come around completely and is the first to run to the cage door when I approach and wants to come out. He’s still not a huge fan of being grabbed, but always lets me get him because he knows he’s about to have some free-range play time. Once he’s out of the cage and on his own, he loves to be on me, running across the room, wanting to be on my shoulder or lap. They both LOVE head and face scratches.
“It always blows my mind at how attached I get to these little guys, and to think they would have been killed if it weren’t for places like Rattie Ratz and other rescues that take the time to save them, because they are the most special little beings, so sweet and innocent. I’m extremely happy Sammy and Saltine ended up with us, they are family.” The transformation of scared and timid little rats to the brave and confident boys Sammy and Saltine are today is a testament to the dedication, patience and unconditional love Jason shared with them.
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.