by ViVien Hoang
ViVien Hoang is a volunteer with Rattie Ratz Rescue in the bay area of California. Each month KRL will be featuring at least one animal rescue adventure story, and every other month there will be one from Rattie Ratz.
One of my favorite moments when adopting or fostering a new rat is discovering who they are. You wouldn’t think that such a small fuzzy bundle was so capable of big personalities, but rats are never shy about letting you know.
They are the explorers. These intrepid rodents have no qualms about exploring every nook and cranny. They are fearless; you can’t turn your backs on them for one second otherwise you’ll soon be missing a rat! These rats will leap from couches, chairs and tables, wriggle their way into closets and drawers and dart across your floor as they dash from room to room. Being outside of the cage isn’t a cause for alarm; instead, it’s an opportunity to boldly go where no rat has gone before.
They are the cuddlers. Rats who love to sit in your lap or under your shirt or curled up on your shoulder against your neck and tangled in your hair. Anyone who has ever had lazy boys or older rats know the love and affection these sweet rats can give. They’re like furry hot water bottles pressed against your skin that reward scritchies, pettings and with enthusiastic bruxing and boggling.
They are the groomers, manicurists and “ro-dentists.” You are never quite clean enough. They will grab your fingers and lick them clean, turning them over this way and that. They will gently use their teeth to trim hangnails or hair, stick their noses or paws in your ear or try to crawl inside your mouth to clean your teeth. Ginger, one of our fosters, constantly tried to straighten my husband’s naturally curly hair. These rats will constantly pin their cage-mates down and vigorously groom their backs, faces and bellies, often to much protest and squeaking!
They are the playful spazzes. Young rats will often bound around the cage or floor and are always up for a game of Tag. These rats will never turn down a game of Tug of War, a tickle fight or wrestling with your hand – and may even let you win occasionally! If you have a cage with mixed ages, you can often see the younger rats clambering all over the older rats in an effort to play and you can almost hear the long suffering sighs of the adults.
They are the lazy or grumpy. These rats just want a quiet and simple life: food and naps. Too much excitement in the cage and they will retreat to their hammocks. Too many people or rats? The best place is to hide in their box. When you take them out for playtime, they are happiest if they can just sit beside you and relax.
They are the nest-builders and collectors (which I suppose is a polite way of saying “thief”). These rats will carry everything their greedy little mouths can grab back to their cage (receipts, tissue paper, money, clothes, homework…) where it is promptly shredded and incorporated into a palatial nest. Nothing is safe from them. We once placed a rat cage too close to some curtains and by morning, we were one curtain panel short and they had scraps of cloth that really tied the whole cage together.
Of course, rats have so many individual quirks it’s hard to categorize them all, but you can be sure each one will tell you who they are. Riley thought she was a human and would watch TV together with me, her fuzzy body sitting at the end of the couch and facing the screen. Bodhi would carry her tail around in her mouth as she walked around the cage. Boo would never eat unless she could run in her wheel first, while carrying her food (a rat’s idea of take out?). When Cosmo and her sister Ruby would squabble (honestly, who has never fought with their sibling?), they would each refuse to acknowledge the other afterward and would sleep facing the opposite corners of the cage.
First time rat adopters are often so surprised by the different personalities. It’s why Rattie Ratz insists that adopters get a chance to meet their potential rat and learn about these personalities from the foster homes or at adoption fairs. You’re not “just adopting a rat” – you are adopting a new member into your family with personality, idiosyncrasies and lots of love to give!
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.