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.
I was still living with my parents when I got my first rats. It was only after months of wheedling that my mother finally caved. At the beginning, when I first broached the topic, my mom would jokingly threaten, “If a rat moves in, I’m moving out!” I’m not certain what it was that finally changed her mind; she once told me that she had thought to herself that if other people were not afraid of rats, then why was she? It didn’t make sense to her that she was so afraid of these tiny animals and other people weren’t!
When I brought home my first rats, I put their cage towards the back of the family room. They were visible as you entered and exited the room, but if you were sitting on the couch or watching the television, you didn’t see them. It was a good compromise: the very social rats would be around people most of the day but my hesitant parents wouldn’t be forced to stare at these little pink-pawed intruders constantly.
I’m not sure if the exposure therapy was more beneficial for socializing the rats to my family, or if it was really for socializing my family to the rats. But it was not long before my mom started setting aside tiny rat-sized portions of our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for me to put in their cage. Soon, she would venture to the cage herself, at first dropping the food through the bars and then eventually opening the cage doors. I once caught my father proffering my rats a piece of his cake, chuckling to himself as their greedy hands snatched at the dessert from his fork. There seems to be a universal need of grandparents to feed their grandchildren, no matter what the species!
Needless to say, the rat cage was moved from the back of the family room to the front of the family room, where their antics were often more amusing than the generic, live-before-a-studio-audience sitcom of the day. My mom would give me daily reports of what the rats had been up to when I got home from school: how much they had slept, what they ate, if they had been “bad” or not.
To say the rats were spoiled by my parents would be an understatement. They got to unwrap Christmas presents along with us on Christmas morning. They spent evenings “watching” the television with us. The more well-behaved rats would hang out by the kitchen, where my mom would totally accidentally drop scraps of food for them.
How much my parents came to love the rats probably surprised them, but it didn’t surprise me.I know my parents and I know rats; it was inevitable that they would charm each other. Even though I’ve moved out of the house, my mother still asks me how my latest fosters are doing and what I’m feeding them.
Having rats, whether as permanent family members or fosters, often means also sharing them with the other people in your life. Here’s to the rattie “grandparents” and “aunts and uncles” who welcome these whiskered faces into their lives as well!
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.