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.
In the summer of 2017 a large group of domestic rats were dumped in Tujunga California. Nobody knows why the animals were dumped, but because of the sheer number of rats, it was clear that someone had gotten in way over their head. Unfortunately, instead of being responsible for the situation, they chose to release the rats.
Thankfully, dedicated volunteers from rescue groups all over Southern California stepped in to help capture these rats in need. There were so many rats that many of them were caught by hand and when volunteers left for the day, humane traps were left on site. According to the Tujunga Small Animal Foster Group, a total of 168 rats were rescued (this includes litters born after their mothers had been rescued). These rats became affectionately known as the Tujunga Rats.
The rat community came together beautifully in a time of need and all the captured Tujunga Rats were placed in rat rescue organizations throughout California. Of these rats, Rattie Ratz Rescue – located in the San Francisco Bay Area – took in six females, three of which were pregnant. This story is a personal one for me, as I myself took one of the pregnant mamas to foster. She gave birth to 12 beautiful healthy babies (8 boys & 4 girls). By day four we could easily see that the babies were going to be black hoods, just like mama. There was just one runt in the litter, a little girl my sister named Clifford (though she affectionately goes by the nickname PeeWee).Although Clifford/PeeWee was born pink she never grew to be red and never got very big, but she’s just as gentle and sweet as her cartoon namesake. Of course, we had to name the mother Ellie, in honor of Clifford’s eight-year-old adopter Emily Elizabeth.
The mother Ellie was obviously untrusting of humans when she first arrived in our home. We can only imagine what she went through when she was dumped with her fellow Tujunga Rats, or what her life may have been like before that. We don’t know if this was her first litter, but she was a wonderful mother. She made sure the nest was always clean and that all her babies were well fed, though we had to be extra sure little PeeWee was getting enough milk. The larger babies often push the smaller ones out of the way, so it can be difficult for the runts to get enough milk, especially with larger litters. When the babies were young, Ellie was very protective of them, so much so that she would lunge at us when we tried to interact with her or the babies inside the cage. This wasn’t a surprise to us however, as many mothers become protective when their babies are young.
As a foster home we tried to stand firm, but we fell in love with the babies and my adult sister decided to adopt Ellie, PeeWee, and one of her sisters she later named Yuki. The remaining 10 babies found forever homes with Rattie Ratz adopters. Even after the babies were old enough to take care of themselves, Ellie didn’t quite know how to handle humans. We would speak to her, and give her treats, and slowly we would let her explore our hands. The nibbles our hands first received slowly became gentler, and now she gives kisses instead of nibbles. She’s an adventurous rat for sure and takes every opportunity to try and escape, but she’s a clumsy girl, so she never gets very far! According to my sister, Ellie loves taking walks outside from the comfort of a sweatshirt pocket.
Yuki is the resident fatty of the cage. She’s the first at the door for treat time, and believes it is her personal mission in life to steal and stash the other rat’s treats. She has developed something called wheel-tail, or curved tail. At one time it was thought that this condition was caused by having a too-small wheel in the cage but upon further studies it is now believed to be caused by genetics. Unlike some rats, Yuki can uncurl her tail when she wants to. She acts like a scaredy-rat but is very brave and willing to explore new things. Her sister PeeWee on the other hand, thinks she is brave, but is a chicken when exposed to new things.
My sister took an instant shine to PeeWee the moment she was born. PeeWee is very sweet to both her human and rat companions, but don’t let her small size fool you – she is more than capable of letting Yuki and Ellie know when she’s had enough! PeeWee enjoys dive-bombing Ellie from the top level of the cage and she absolutely hates bells. There is a small hanging toy in the cage with a silver bell attached to the bottom. PeeWee has learned how to remove the bell and hide it in the bedding on the lowest level of the cage. If she is having trouble removing the bell, she will push the whole toy until it is resting on top of the tissue box, so that the offensive bell is out of the way. She’s a determined little rattie!
Ellie, Yuki and PeeWee have traveled a long way to be where they are today. They wouldn’t be in our lives now if it were not for the caring volunteers who dedicated their time and resources to capturing as many of the Tujunga Rats as possible. Thanks to these unnamed but very much appreciated Southern California volunteers, and the involvement of Rattie Ratz Rescue, my family was given the opportunity to welcome three mischievous and loving fur balls to the family.
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. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to Rattie Ratz.