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.
While the primary focus of Rattie Ratz Rescue is placing rats in foster care as a precursor to adoption, there is a second program that is just as important but not as well known. Rattie Ratz is a no-kill rescue which means any rats surrendered to the rescue that are deemed unadoptable to the general public still need to find a good home. These homes come from very special volunteers who have enrolled in the rescue’s Sanctuary Program. Just because a Rattie Ratz rat is not adopted out to a new family does not mean they do not get a happy ending of their own. The following is a less traditional happy tails, as it follows the story of two semi-feral rats who, while never adopted out of the rescue, have found a place within Rattie Ratz to call their own. The below “happy tail” comes from a Rattie Ratz foster (and now sanctuary) volunteer, Garth Honhart.
When you’ve fostered rats for over eight years, you think you have probably seen every possible outcome, from happy tales where beloved foster rats find the perfect forever home to rats who had to say goodbye too soon. It’s just a part of being a foster home. Little did we know that last October we were going to get a completely new experience when Mia and Curly Sue found their way into our home.
They came to Rattie Ratz Rescue as part of a hording situation, so almost none of the rats brought in were social. When Rattie Ratz has these types of situations the rats almost always go directly to sanctuary but in this case, there were enough very young rats that the volunteers thought there was a chance the rats could be rehabilitated. Rattie Ratz is a rescue after all and we would be remiss if we didn’t try. The rescue has had similar situations where incredibly skittish and anti-social rats were rehabilitated and eventually adopted as wonderful companions, so we took four rats from the hoarding group to foster.
Hiram (4-month-old recently neutered male), Ellie (2 ½-month-old female) were the candidates for rehab. They came with a rat we think was the mom, Mia (1-year-old female) and her daughter Curly Sue (6-month-old female). We had been rehabbing Hiram & Ellie for about three months with almost no progress when it came to light that they both had similar internal issues, likely genetic defects, due to in-breeding which isn’t uncommon in hording cases. It’s hard to be a friendly rat when you don’t feel good all the time. They were both getting worse and as a rescue, we made the difficult decision to let them go.
That left us with the two older girls that were borderline feral who we had never planned to rehab. The funny thing is that while we were not putting any effort into socializing the girls to become adoptable, they managed to find their own middle ground and accept us as the people on the other side of the door. Over the course of the first five months we had them they came to allow us to change their hammocks, fill their food dish, and clean out the wheel and the like. Keep in mind that these are all activities where we must put our hands into their territory. Though rarely, they still nipped to let us know to get out of their way. For semi-feral rats, that’s huge progress.
Even those of us that run dedicated foster homes need to take a break once in a while, so we dispersed our mischief of rats across a couple of different homes in preparation of a much-needed vacation. At that time, it was all but agreed that the rescue was going to place Mia & Curly Sue in their sanctuary program, so we did not think we would be picking them up when we returned. Things didn’t work out that way! Between the sanctuary home being over capacity and us getting used to having the girls around, we brought them back into our home once our vacation was over, this time as our new sanctuary rats.
I am fortunate enough to have a job that permits me to work from home on a pretty regular basis and frankly, I’ve gotten used to having Mia sit on her perch – in her cage mind you – to watch me as I work. Curly Sue loves the wheel and she frequently has her tail curled as a result, hence the name. It’s also fun to do evening treat time with them. Banana flavored puffs are their favorite and we try to do about six treats each – small, tasty and not much in the form of calories – every night. They will take treats from our hand and not snap, which is more than a real feral would do.
In the end Mia and Curly Sue are not likely to find an adopter that is the perfect forever home, but they are happy and healthy where they are right now. With a clear boundary established the girls have become much more comfortable in our home and with our daily interactions. These girls may not have gotten the normal outcome for a foster rat, but we’re okay with that. In the end we are Mia & Curly Sue’s ‘Happy Tails’ story and that’s really the best outcome any foster family can wish for.
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.