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.Below is the story of Johnny, a big rat with an even larger personality, whose antics both entertained and exasperated his human mother Cassie Columbus. Cassie describes how a few summers ago, she reached out to Rattie Ratz Rescue with the intent to foster, but quickly discovered that Johnny and his three brothers were just too special to give up. Cassie’s recount of her heartwarming relationship with trouble child Johnny from his first moments with her, to his last, will leave you feeling both heartened and wistful.
“I hadn’t had rats since I was a kid and as I was not quite willing to commit to getting rats, I decided to try fostering them from the rescue organization, Rattie Ratz. I ended up getting four very shy and somewhat “bitey” boys. Since they were not well socialized as youngsters, I had the pleasure of nurturing them to come out of their shells and trust humans.
This worked well for three of the rats – Ant, Slug, and DeAngelo – but Johnny still remained my wild child. I eventually ended up adopting them, as I got too attached to each of their unique personalities, but Johnny stood out in his eccentricities and chewed a hole into my heart.
Johnny was the biggest of the four, but when I picked him up, he would give a blood-curdling scream, causing me to drop him immediately. After the initial shock passed, I would try picking him up again. There was an art to avoiding getting bitten, and I could feel his tense muscled body waiting to escape at his first opportunity.
This contrasted greatly to his brother, DeAngelo, who had the squishiest and most pliable body ever. Outside of the cage, Johnny was quite the wuss and one could pick him up without fearing his quick sharp teeth. However, my boyfriend would still say otherwise! I often thought we should have named him Tromper, since he filled his days by stomping around the cage, tugging vigorously on fabric for hours to collect more nesting material and stealing food from his brothers.
He had certain standards when it came to hygiene and sleeping spaces. He was the only rat to consistently use the litter box and he liked to arrange the cage “just so” moving toys around to make his nest more comfortable, even if it meant snatching one from his brothers while they were chewing on it. He also hoarded food like a pro.Possibly because of his size, Johnny was dominant in his domain and wanted to be the alpha, but he was more of a misunderstood outcast who acted out. He definitely tried to take over as much territory from his brothers as possible and they were wary of his mood swings. Not sure if Johnny ever got along with his brothers, I probably should have made him a solo rat, but I kept them together in the hope that he would join the pack and enjoy the benefits of having friends groom him.
I would often see Johnny interrupt Ant and Slug’s grooming sessions by slinking down and nudging his head under Ant’s head in the hope he would get groomed, but to no avail, breaking my heart. There were a few rare sightings where I saw Slug grooming Johnny (Slug was the designated groomer in the group) which was a delight to witness.
It was fun watching Johnny’s hilarious behavior of tromping all over, yanking violently on blankets to appease his nesting addiction and dragging lose scraps of nesting material much bigger than him back to the cage despite it not fitting through the openings. He was governed by his instincts alone and was concerned with keeping reign of the cage like a crazy dictator. Despite this, there were still times when you could see Johnny relax for a moment to let you scratch his head and chin and know that he was a sweet rat under all those layers of aggression.
After Ant and Slug passed away, I was faced with a difficult decision. I felt bad for DeAngelo, left alone in the cage with his crazy brother who only seemed more content with his newly expanded reaches of the cage. DeAngelo kept to himself mostly – he was never one to fight -, while Johnny tromped around him. It wasn’t long before they became ill and one day, I saw them cuddling. They were inseparable in their final weeks.
Now, I miss each of them so much every day, especially when I have left-over scraps of veggies and treats that I know they would have loved. I wish Johnny could tromp through the blankets one more time and find a few more treats.
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. You can also keep up with our pet articles by joining our KRL Facebook group. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to Rattie Ratz.
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