by ViVien Hoang
ViVien Hoang is a volunteer with Rattie Ratz Rescue in the bay area of California. Each month KRL will be featuring at least one animal rescue adventure story, and every other month there will be one from Rattie Ratz.
The hardest thing about fostering rats, or any living creature for that matter, isn’t changing litter pans or medicating sick, squirmy animals who hate the taste of the medicines. It’s not dealing with anti-social critters who nip or chasing down escapees from cages as they skulk and scurry under couches.
It’s having to say goodbye after you’ve welcomed their whiskered little faces into your heart and home and made a commitment to love them and care for them. Because the fostering timelines are unpredictable, you don’t know if you have them for two weeks, two months or for the rest of their lives, but regardless, you love them as one of your own. You treat them as one of your own and when the time comes, you say goodbye like they were one of your own.
The temptation to adopt every animal that you foster is always there. You start thinking that maybe you’re the only person who can truly care for the rat the way it deserves, that you’re the only one who understands its quirks and idiosyncrasies. Would the adopter know the exact spot that Scabbers liked to be scratched? Would they know that Whiskers only liked cooked broccoli? You forget about the joy of discovering what your rats liked and disliked, and their highly individualistic personalities. You forget that an adopter will also go through this really rewarding process of discovery and find out that Scabbers likes to be petted behind the ears and Whiskers will ignore raw broccoli with a vengeance.
It struck me the hardest when it was time to adopt out the baby rats that I had raised. I had seen them develop from fuzzy, blind pink blobs to friendly and rambunctious rats. They knew my touch and my voice as well as their mother’s. I knew all of their personalities and could identify them based on their white belly markings alone. My husband and I were the only humans they had ever known. Who would be good enough to adopt them? How could we thrust them out into the wide, cruel world?
My concerns were assuaged by Rattie Ratz’s adoption process. The initial adoption form asks potential adopters about themselves, how they plan on caring for their rats, and their history with animals. Adopters are asked specifically about what kind of rats they are interested in– Young? Old? Male? Female? Adopters are screened and an adoption only goes through if there is a good match. Foster homes are permitted and encouraged to turn an adopter away if it doesn’t look like it will work out.
Still, it doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. What helps is the reminder that for every rat I foster and find a forever home for, is another rat I can rescue from a shelter. For every rat that I foster and adopt out, it’s another friendship between human and rodent that I’ve facilitated. All my goodbyes mean a new hello. These are the thoughts that are with me, every time I say goodbye.
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.