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.
A little over a year ago Rattie Ratz was asked to help with a hoarding situation. A woman had gotten in over her head and had far too many pet rats living in her home. There weren’t enough cages to separate genders, so the females were getting pregnant indiscriminately. The local authorities had to get involved and from young pregnant females to old males, the rats made their way to the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter. The shelter asked Rattie Ratz to help and between December 2018 and January 2019 Rattie Ratz took in almost one hundred rats.
While the females and babies got adopted right away, the sad reality is that a lot of the adult males had a difficult time finding homes. Most of them were under socialized and would scream when you picked them up. They would also fight with each other. A lot of males from this group were missing toes or tips to their tails. Getting the males neutered would solve the issue of them fighting with each other, but they were still distrustful of the foster volunteers who were now caring for them.Over time and with continual trust training, the Santa Cruz boys slowly started to make progress and were adopted out. As an active fosterer myself, I worked with about ten Santa Cruz males over the course of 6-8 months. One of the boys I fostered was Rocky. He came to me in a group of five boys, and even though he was neutered, he tended to pick on his companions. As I worked on the group’s socialization Rocky’s four companions were slowly adopted – and then there was one!
Normally we don’t like to keep rats alone, but in Rocky’s case I felt that some one-on-one time with me would really help him. Since he wasn’t bonded to any of the other males I hoped if I kept him as a solo, we would be able to adopt him out as a companion to another rat, and maybe he would better connect with the new rat.
Luckily, that’s exactly what happened. After a couple months of one-on-one time, Rocky Man really started to come out of his shell. He was still reserved, but he would not only tolerate me, but seek me out and initiate interaction. I knew he was ready, so the rescue featured Rocky on a Foster Friday post on Facebook. The stars must have aligned that day, because right after the post went up, we received an email from Haley, who was interested in Rocky as she had a single female that needed a companion. We all agreed it sounded like a perfect match and after a quick upgrade in her cage set up the adoption was promptly set.
Haley recounts how: “The first time I saw Rocky on the Facebook page I was in love. His picture was super cute and the description of him seemed like he would be a perfect fit with my Rae. Plus, the fact of having their names together would be super cute! Rocky & Rae…that’s just adorable. The post described him as a mellow boy that was dominant with other male rats. While my Rae is the exact opposite, she needs you to know she is there and in charge. When I had Rae with my other female rat, she was a little too dominant around her. So, I thought it would be perfect if I could get her a male friend … I felt Rocky would be a perfect fit and let me tell you, it definitely was!
I got many tips from Rocky’s foster mom, Stephanie, about how to introduce Rae & Rocky. I probably texted her every other day for at least a week or two! Obviously in the beginning there were squeals and other nervous behavior, but that did not last long at all! This went so well, and I have no idea how I got so lucky with these two. They were literally a PERFECT match!!!! I had them living together with no worry within eight days.
Even to this day they are doing so well. I am very happy and lucky I was able to find Rocky and bring him together with my Rae to make this wonderful friendship. They are so cute – they play tag and snuggle together. Rae is sooooo dominant and Rocky is very much the submissive one. I think that is why they are so perfect because Rae can walk all over Rocky and he won’t do a thing about it. I typically give them treats at the same time so that Rae doesn’t steal Rocky’s, but sometimes she eats hers so quickly and is able to get to Rocky and steal his treat straight from his mouth!
Rocky used to be almost double Rae’s size, but she has grown now so they are closer in size, although Rocky is still bigger than her and could totally take her down. She will push on him, hold his head down, take his food and he doesn’t make a peep about it. On the few unlikely occasions when he does any of that to her, she yells at him and she always wins!!! I still look at them, laughing because she is not so large and in charge.
Even though Rae can be a mean sister sometimes, she definitely has helped Rocky come out of his shell. I remember having them out together on the bed with me sitting there, when Rocky would always make the longest route to wherever he could stay as far away from me as possible. With the two of them playing together this changed. The first time he actually followed Rae and crawled on my lap, I was so happy I wanted to cry. Then slowly he started to crawl all over me and let me hold him for a second.
They have free roam of the floor of my room where I now live, so Rae is still helping bring him out of his shell and explore new things. He is definitely still the shy one, but I think that is just his personality. However, he has opened up to me and even my eight-year-old sister! Honestly, I think he does better with her than me. In his description it was recommended that he be with kids ages thirteen-plus, so I think that shows how much he has grown and learned to trust certain humans.
I have had Rocky for about six months now and Rae for a year and they both add so much enjoyment and happiness to my life. I hope I am making their lives as happy and enjoyable as they are making mine. They are one hundred percent spoiled and I love them so much. I have thought about getting another rat to be friends with them, but I don’t want to mess with their perfect relationship.
I will forever be thankful to Rattie Ratz & Stephanie for helping me better Rae’s life and for letting Rocky come into our lives as well.”
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.
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