Kirby: Teaching Patience One Pinch at a Time

Jul 30, 2016 | 2016 Articles, Rodent Ramblings

by Saralan Chen

Saralan Chen is an adopter sharing her story of rats that she adopted from Rattie Ratz Rescue in the bay area of California. Rattie Ratz shares an animal rescue adventure with KRL almost every month.

After upgrading my cage, I realized it was much too large for my two female rats, Peeka and Boo. But I had the perfect idea for them; more rats!

After doing considerable research, I chose to adopt. It’s not as easy to find a rescue group for rats as it is for cats or dogs, but I did find a couple of good places and Rattie Ratz was one of them. They had great reviews and were very quick to respond. I submitted my application and they recommended a trio of neutered males, and suggested that I go meet them in person before making a final decision.

I drove to their foster home, where I sipped coffee and chatted at length with their foster mom, Sarah, while I watched the rats play and explore. Sarah told me all about Bruno’s past bouts with respiratory issues and Kirby’s bad vision, and explained their social dynamics to me. Kirby, a handsome albino male, was the alpha. Bruno, an older agouti hooded, was laid back and lazy. Buster, a black hooded, was adventurous and curious.



When I approached them to present my hand, Bruno and Buster were relaxed. But Kirby…well, Kirby pinched me. It wasn’t hard enough to break the skin, but it definitely hurt and it sure startled me! He also pinched Sarah’s foot, for no apparent reason–quite the trouble maker! But that didn’t deter me, I was ready to take them home, and Sarah snuggled each rat before putting it into the carrier. Kirby, true to form, gave Sarah a good-bye pinch.



Because of Kirby’s bad vision (common in albino rats) he is easily startled. Sarah reassured me that if it didn’t work out for me with these boys, Rattie Ratz would welcome them back, but I was already starting to grow fond of them and wanted to give it a try.

For the next several days, I slowly moved the boys and girls through the introduction process. Introductions went great, with lots of sniffing, grooming, and wrestling. And after scrubbing it clean from top to bottom, I moved all of the rats into the large cage. The females were so excited they were bouncing and pouncing all over the place and all over the boys. The boys also acted excited to share this rattie mansion with their female friends.

Soon they settled into a routine, Kirby was still the alpha and when not bobbing for treats (his new favorite pastime), he spent most of his leisure time grooming his cage mates. Boo was great at throwing tantrums, and was second in command. Bruno was all about snoozing and chewing. Buster and Peeka were the most submissive to the other rats, but they also showed the most interest in me and got lots of human attention.



They were all getting more comfortable with me (and learned to recognize their names) except Kirby; it was still possible to startle him and get bitten. I learned to read his body language and recognize when he was about to bite, but I was getting more and more hesitant to reach into the cage and interact with the others, so I reached out to Rattie Ratz for advice.

They knew about lots of resources, and immediately sent me links to articles and videos that taught me how to work with biting rats, and build up my confidence for working with Kirby. They reassured me that they would support whatever decision I made, but they wanted to give me the best chance possible at success.

Soon I learned that Kirby might have something called “cage aggression.” I did more research, came up with a plan, and was ready to start trust-training with Kirby. He wasn’t afraid of me and happily took treats from my hand, but he did not want to be reached out to, snuggled, or touched while inside the cage. We started a daily routine of several training session per day, every day, and Kirby soon started to show signs of improvement and my confidence increased too!


rattie mansion

Kirby and I continue to teach each other a lot. He might never be the snuggly cuddly kind of rat, but we are learning to be good companions for each other. These days Kirby allows me to reach into the cage and interact with the other rats, and will even let me reach in to pet him while he eats. As much as I try to teach him, Kirby has been the one teaching me valuable lessons during our journey, and for that I am ever so grateful. I have learned to be more patient and accommodating, and in return Kirby has proven to be an incredibly resilient rat who is always willing to work with me. I know that thanks to Kirby, I’m a better and more knowledgeable rat owner, learning skills that only a rat can teach!

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: If you are interested in advertising with KRL you can designate 10% of your advertising fees to go to Rattie Ratz.

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.


  1. I would mind adopting one or two. It’s been awhile since we have had any. Not since Bongers died. Not sure how long it would take the cats and dogs to get used to them. Too bad your so far away. I had not thought about checking the local shelters. But. Can’t hurt to do so.
    Thanks for a nice post. And the reminder

  2. I FINALLY got ’round to reading this story. (Lee Juslin sent it to me way back in August!) KRL and Rattie Ratz never disappoints! Good luck with Kirby, Saralan! He sounds like a li’l STINKER, but very smart!


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