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.
Antoine and Bijou are two special boys with a very special role: teaching the next generation how wonderful rats are. Antoine and Bijou are brothers who began life, as do so many of the babies brought to rescues, as part of an “oops” litter. However, they had a lucky start to life–a much different story from what most rescue rats go through. The two beautiful brothers were born into a loving family with children who doted on them every day. When their female gave birth, the family reached out to Rattie Ratz Rescue to help ensure the babies were placed into good homes. Rattie Ratz worked with the family, and all the babies were happily adopted. Two of those babies are Antoine and Bijou, who found their forever home with Donna.
Donna has been an owner and lover of rats since she was in high school. Now, after experiencing what wonderful animal companions rats can be, Donna works with one of her local shelters in the summer months, sharing her experience with children.
Donna describes how it works: “One of my favorite things to do during the summer is to be a volunteer speaker at Critter Camp at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. During each camp session, I give a little talk to the campers, who range in ages from first through sixth grades. My talk focuses on rat care and why rats make such great pets.”
At each presentation, Donna always makes sure to bring some furry rattie friends to introduce to the children. Since she is an avid rat lover, this isn’t usually an issue. However, while gearing up for the summer critter camp this past spring, Donna found herself in the unfamiliar predicament of not having any rats to bring to her camp presentations.
“At each session, I always bring along a couple of my own pet rats to share with the kids. It’s their favorite part of my talk. But this past spring, I found myself having only one rat, and she was not very friendly. I needed a couple of friendly, social rats to be my ratty ambassadors for the summer.”
Donna reached out to her local shelter. While rats may not be the most commonly found animal at city shelters, there are a surprisingly large number surrendered to shelters each year. When trying to re-home their pets, rat owners who don’t know where else to turn to often seek the help of shelters as a last resort. Unfortunately, the pair of rats at Donna’s local shelter were already reserved, so she reached out to Rattie Ratz. And Rattie Ratz just happened to have two double rex, dumbo boys who were as sweet as could be, and were surprisingly calm for their young age (only two months old). The volunteers surmised that their uniquely calm temperaments were, in part, due to the environment they were born into. After all, these are ratties who had plenty of children playing with them from the time they were very young. This is why early socialization is so important, not just for rats, but for any animal. A well-socialized animal is a well-adjusted animal.
Donna came to pick up the boys; all of the volunteers at Rattie Ratz who had the pleasure of knowing these brothers were sorry to see them go; they had a way of sneaking into your heart. When Donna brought them home, “They settled in quite quickly and were not even bothered by the cats and dog. They have just the sweetest personalities. They are so playful and joyful. At first, they were really hard to tell apart…they were like identical twins. I even had to put a little blue dot of food coloring on the back of one so I could learn to tell which rat was which.” Since Donna was going to be traveling to France, her mind was in ‘French’ mode, and that’s how she came up with the names of Antoine (Anthony) and Bijou (Jewel).
Antoine and Bijou now have a lovely family who dotes on them every day. But these little guys can’t get too spoiled, because come summer, they have a very important job to do. Donna explains how, “The campers just loved the rats and their very exotic names. They were super patient with all the kids handling them; they did just great. I always hope that these kids come away from these sessions having learned to love rats just as much as I do.” Antoine and Bijou get to rest and enjoy their winters off work until they have to gear up for next summer’s new campers. In the meantime, they get to run around my rat room (which is off limits to the cats), and enjoy snuggle time in the evenings while we watch TV.”
When Antoine and Bijou become too old to attend the summer camps, they will retire and live out the rest of their days being spoiled by Donna. But for now they are still young and have many more adventures ahead of them.
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.