by Charmaine Benson
I bought my first rats in 2009 and I’ve been hooked ever since.
In 2010, I rescued Pandora and Wallace, who came with a mouse I named Grommit. I began to educate myself about caring for rats. Visits to the vet taught me about Myco and tumors which domestic rats suffer from all too commonly. These visits also helped my vet learn more about rats.
Word got around as our rat community grew. Pet stores and vets began to refer to me as the Rat Lady but I prefer Rat Whisperer.
I officially became Charming Rat Rescue in 2011. Facebook has been a great resource in knowledge and support. I began a rat group on social media so adopters could find answers and help when needed. One thing I tell all new rat owners is that the vet is your first choice when your rat is sick. Breathing issues are not the end. There are many ways to treat rats. Any vet that tells you there is nothing they can do…is not the vet for you. I would consider myself a bit of an expert on rats at this point but would never expect people to follow my word as gospel. I still look for answers. Trust your heart and call the vet.
If you discover your rat in respiratory distress the first thing you need to do is keep him calm by holding him close to you. Getting to the vet is the tricky part as you will have to hold them on the trip. Carriers and car rides sometimes do not end well so have someone else drive while you hold the rat. I have gotten some from the brink of death by just calming them down.
My rats enjoy a good life. I prepare supper for them every night. Their dry mix is all prepared by me. The bill for food alone in a month is about four hundred dollars (keep in mind this is a rat rescue so there are a lot of rats to be fed). Sick or elderly rats spend their days roaming on my bed. I am woken many times a night for comforting or cuddles but I’ll never complain. I keep supplies of Boost and Ensure then I know even if they don’t eat very much, they still get fluids and nutrients.
I currently have 30 cages housing about 100 rats. Keeping that many cages clean is definitely a challenge when I do it all alone. I use blankets as bedding in cages because it cuts down on the cleaning time and the rats enjoy shredding them. Every room is a rat room and that is how I like it.
So far I have loved, and sometimes lost, 256 fabulous furbabies. Many of the rescues needed extra love to trust again. Some came into my care with only days or even hours left. I grieve each loss greatly and make sure every one of them has known love when they cross the Rainbow Bridge.Many have taken pieces of my heart with them but none so much as a little girl that came to me when I took rats from a rescue that closed. We dubbed her Luna but as the days went by started to refer to her as Goblin. She had a funny way about her with a hunched kind of walk and a squinty eye. Goblin didn’t just bite….she attacked. Her previous caregiver said she was always a bit odd. I was concerned that if she became ill would I be able to handle her to help her. I am crying now as I write this because that answer came all to soon. Goblin was ill, and she came to me not to bite but for help. I took her into my room, but medications did not help her URI. She cuddled next to me as I slept. I have a video of her boggling while I held her. When her time was near, I cradled her in my hand and then she was gone. I am grateful for that time with her.
At the end she was Luna.
I have taken in a number of rescue cats and two rescue dogs. My heart will always have room for animals in need.
My rats have comforted me when I have lost others. They make me laugh and cry. I am owned by rats and will be until the day I die.
Charming Rat Rescue is in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. If you would like to adopt, donate, help animals, or want more information, contact Charmaine directly through Facebook. Every bit helps!