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.
This month, instead of sharing someone else’s adoption story, I thought it was time I shared one of my own. I adopted Hazel from Rattie Ratz Rescue back in August of 2015. I needed a companion for a sanctuary rat who had just lost her sister. Hazel was the runt of the litter, a tiny black and white hooded baby, and my family fell in love with her instantly. Thankfully, my sanctuary girl Rowan also fell in love with little Hazel. They were happily living together within hours of being introduced.
For those who are not experienced in the fine art of rat introductions, having rats happily living together within an hour of meeting is not common. Rats are territorial and for some rats it can take a month or more of baby steps in the introduction process before they are happily living with a new companion. Rowan and Hazel were best buds from the moment I put them in the bathtub together. Rowan was still grieving over the loss of her sister and I knew she was lonely. She started grooming and cuddling with Hazel immediately. I was thrilled that she took to Hazel so quickly, but I knew part of her easy acceptance stemmed from loneliness and the grief of losing her sister, which made the moment bittersweet.
They lived together happily for almost a year before Rowan passed of old age in July of 2016. At that time, I had recently adopted two boys–also from Rattie Ratz–with beautiful Rex and agouti brown coats, brothers I eventually named Almond (Berkshire) and Cashew (hooded). Hazel had been spayed earlier in the year to minimize her risk of developing mammary tumors. Since she was spayed, I was able to begin introductions with the boys right away.
Although introductions went well, they didn’t go as smoothly as they had with Rowan. The boys were not neutered when introductions began and let’s just say they were VERY interested in Hazel, which she did not appreciate. I got the boys neutered and they settled down. Introductions became easier and they eventually became a happy family of three. Almond is the alpha rat, but he lets Hazel get away with quite a bit. She’s always pinning the boys down and power grooming both Almond and Cashew. But don’t feel too bad for them, the boys always find their revenge in the end, usually by stealing her treats. They’ve worked through the power grooming and treat stealing and have developed a lovely bond over the last year. At least two of them are always in the hammock together.
While the boys were happily living with Hazel, I had a second cage. This cage originally had four females, but because some of these girls were very dominant, I didn’t attempt introducing them to my other rats. Sadly, before I knew it three of them passed on, leaving one
senior girl by herself. Diamond is quite the chunker, and while being dominant in her younger days, now she was on her own and no matter how much time I spent with her, I knew she missed having other rats around, so I began introducing her to Hazel and the boys. Introducing Diamond to the group was the most difficult because although she was older and lonely, she was still a dominant rat. She had in fact been the alpha rat in her previous group, so suffice it to say, introductions took a while.
Thankfully, because the rats all loved Hazel, she was a wonderful mediator during the introduction process. If Diamond and one of the boys were getting a little too rough, Hazel would investigate, which usually ended the altercation. Eventually Diamond settled into the new group and although there were frequent tussles between Diamond and Almond, she was happy to have rat friends again. If the group was out for play time, Diamond would follow the other rats around, making sure she didn’t get left behind. As evident in her soft roles, Diamond loves her food, so it’s no surprise that she would become very upset if the boys stole her portions, especially if it was a cheerio or cereal puff, but Hazel was always there to console her.
As I am writing this, it’s been about five months since Diamond joined the group and all four rats are still happily living together, although Hazel and Diamond are now in their senior days. Hazel is still as sweet as ever. Through all the rats Hazel has met, I never once worried about her reaction. She’s been a sweetheart from day one with both people and rats. She loves to explore and even though she’s now over two years old, I still can’t keep her where I want her. She always wants to know what’s on the other side of the room, no matter where we are. She’s the only rat I trust to free range in the bedroom with no supervision. She doesn’t have a destructive bone in her body, she simply wants to explore and discover new things.
Hazel has always had such a quiet and calming presence, even when she was a baby. She has such a large heart and the day she leaves this earth will be a sad day indeed. She’s a special girl who just wants to love and play, I couldn’t ask for more than that.
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. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to Rattie Ratz.