The Rat Fan Club

Memorials for Debbie “The Rat Lady’s” Rats

Updated 5/5/11

Skin was my favorite rat. He was said to be about a year old when he came to live with me and already had his unusual name, although I guess you can see how he got it!

Although he looks pretty pink in this photo, he actually had darker skin. I adopted Skin in November 1998 right after my 40th birthday—a wonderful birthday present indeed!  He had already lived in two other homes, and it’s hard to understand how the other people could give him up. Skin was a very cuddly rat and loved to nestle in my arms or lay on my lap to be petted. He was also very playful and enjoyed wrestling with my hand. I gave him two nicknames, Muscle Man, because he was so muscular, and Mr. Clean, because he was constantly grooming himself.

I had to have Skin euthanized 4/15/99 after an ear infection developed into a serious abscess. We fought the infection for more than 2 months before we had to give up. I missed him deeply. Since Skin’s death, I have learned of other similar cases. If your rat develops an external ear infection, be aware that it can break through the bottom of the ear canal and infect the muscles of the neck and jaw. If treatment doesn’t clear up an ear infection within 2 weeks be sure to have a culture and sensitivity test done to determine the best antibiotics to use. In many cases, however, it has turned out that the underlying cause of the infection is cancer. (See the Rat Info page under Tumors for possible treatments.)

From May 1997 to January 1999, I also had an African giant pouched rat named Buta. At his heaviest, he weighed 3 lb 13 1/2 oz. His body was about 17" long, with his tail about the same length.

I got him at 10 weeks of age, and he hadn't been socialized as well as he should have been. He didn't fully trust people, but as time went on, he learned to trust me quite a bit. He only tried to bite me once when he was a baby, but when he wanted to be left alone, he would lunge at me and threaten to bite to warn me not to pick him up or come any closer.

African giant pouched rats can make good pets if they are well socialized as babies. However, not enough is known about them to keep them healthy in captivity. I have known of 9 of them in captivity, and all but one has died young. They have been known to live 7 years, but Buta died of congestive heart failure (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) and a tooth infection at only 2 years of age. However, a breeder in Florida has had better luck. I think perhaps the diet Buta and the other rats got was not correct.

Seymour was a platinum hooded rex Dumbo, and I think he was just about the cutest rat I have ever seen. I got Seymour in July 1998 along with several other special rats, including Nimitz and Tigger (below), so they could appear with me on The Tonight Show. Seymour was only about 3 months old then.

Seymour's favorite activity was exploring. He was definitely not a couch potato! He was always on the go and was very hard to photograph because he was rarely still. He generally didn't like to be held or petted, but he was always happy to meet new people and would allow strangers to hold and pet him while he wouldn't allow me to do so!

Nimitz was a silver fawn rex rat, and his fur was very soft. When Nimitz appeared on the Howie Mandel Show with me he was held by Lorenzo Lamas.

Nimitz was kind of a shy rat and a little bit of a loner. He didn't like to be held much, although he did occasionally like me to scratch his back. Nimitz was a pretty good sized boy: his body was 10" long and his tail was 8 1/2" long. He had to be euthanized in July 1999 because of congestive heart failure.

Tigger was a Manx seal-point Siamese rat who was about 4 months old when I adopted him.

Tigger was a very bouncy boy, and a very good jumper, hence his name. He was very playful but tended to nip a bit too hard. He wasn't very cuddly but occasionally liked his shoulders scratched. He loved to explore and on one excursion in the back yard traveled all the way around the house to the front yard before I found him. Tigger had to be euthanized in August 1999 because of congestive heart failure.

Bubba was a fat boy who weighed 1 ½ pounds! And he was all love. He was a very cuddly boy who loved to lay on my chest and have his head and shoulders rubbed.

I got Bubba in March 1998 when I got a call from a local vet saying that Bubba’s owners had brought him in to be euthanized because they were tired of him. Of course, I offered to take him. Bubba was such a sweetheart, I can't understand how anybody could get tired of him! When Bubba was on The Tonight Show with me, he was picked up by Jay Leno and then went over to visit with Jon Crier. Bubba developed heart disease and for several months seemed to be doing well on his medications, but I had to euthanize him early in September 1999. His autopsy showed he had a very enlarged heart, which wasn’t evident from his symptoms. I now recommend that all rats with heart disease be x-rayed, because if the heart is enlarged, there are more options for treatment.

I rescued two wild roof rats in May 1997. They were found injured in someone’s driveway. The mother appeared to be full grown and her son was only half grown. The male was so badly injured he was handicapped and couldn’t stand up on his back legs. He obviously could not be returned to the wild. His mother's injuries healed but I kept her so her son wouldn't be alone. They were very wild and could not be picked up. After a while, the female allowed me to scratch the top of her head when she was sitting in her little house. This picture is the female coming out of the house. The male was much more wary, probably because of his handicap. When the mom was younger, she ran all night on a wheel I made from a slice of a 5-gallon bucket. I had to euthanize the mom on May 14, 2000 because of a tumor in her nasal cavity. She must have been at least 3 ½ years old.

After his mother died, the male roof rat became more trusting of me and allowed me to pet him on the head and back. I had to euthanize him in October 2000 because of heart disease. He must have been about 3 ½ years old also. Roof rats are a different species than domestic rats. Domestic rats are Rattus novegicus while roof rats are Rattus rattus. Roof rats are more aboreal and slender with larger eyes and ears, a longer nose and a longer and thinner tail with more pronounced rings. They are most common in tropical areas, and are the most common wild rat in California.

Peaches was a short-haired rex Dumbo who lost a lot of her hair as she aged. Eventually, her body was almost hairless. I thought she was beautiful.  I got her in October 1999 when a local pet shop wanted to retire her as a breeder. They thought she was about a year old. I had her spayed to help prevent tumors. Peaches didn’t like to stay on the couch but jumped down on the floor to explore. She never liked to be held or petted. Shortly after I got her she developed malocclusion so I had to trim her teeth regularly. She hated it so I usually had to sedate her to do it. In April 2001 she suddenly developed symptoms of congestive heart failure, and although she responded well to treatment for a few weeks, she died on May 1, 2001. She probably also had some kidney failure.

I bought Jean-Luc from a breeder in June 1999 at a Rat, Mouse & Hamster Fancier show when he was 3 months old. I named him after Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was in the market for a hairless rat and decided to get him instead of a little baby because I felt sorry for him not having a real home of his own at his age.

At first Jean-Luc was very nervous and jumped at any sound or movement, but he quickly gained his self-confidence and turned out to be a very playful boy. I think maybe he wasn’t taken out of his cage much before I got him. Once he got his self-confidence, Jean-Luc also became a very macho little boy, rubbing his hands and sides on everything to mark them as his territory. So I neutered him and then he was more interested than playing than marking. When he got older he liked to be petted more than he did when he was younger. I lost Jean Luc on November 9, 2001 at the age of 2 years 8 months to congestive heart failure.

On March 29 2000 I got a rat in San Jose. I was visiting my friend and member, Linda, and we went to all the pet shops to promote the club. In one shop we saw a tiny black rex male in the “feeder bin.” Linda asked for him to be brought out and he was very calm and happy to sit on my shoulder. We found out he had been bred in the store as a pet, but was put in the feeder bin because he was a runt, was sick, and they had too many rats. Well, I couldn’t let him go for snake food, so I bought him.

After treatment with antibiotics, the little guy was no longer so calm! In fact, he was so lively and fast I named him Speedy Gonzales! However he became a very loving rat who loved to have his back scratched. Speedy was a special rat, very playful and responsive, and very good at doing tricks! He was a rat I felt lucky to have and I miss him.  I lost him on 3/10/02 due to cancer in his abdomen.

On September 23, 2000 I adopted 3 rats who had been found abandoned in a house in San Jose by the San Jose humane society. Linda then brought them to me. She presented them to me saying, “Here they are, 2 hairless girls and their pillow!” Their “pillow” was a very fat neutered boy. I named one of the girls Ilia (after a bald woman in Star Trek: The Motion Picture) and so I named the boy V’ger (also from the movie). I named the other girl Iris. In the picture, Ilia is on the left. I'm not sure how old they were, but they were at least 8 months old when I got them. To start, the girls were very dominant and constantly pushed V’ger around. Then I had the girls spayed, and then V’ger pushed them around sometimes too! Iris was a shy girl, V’ger was a little more cuddly, and Ilia was a very outgoing rat who loved to meet new people. When the 3 of them appeared with me on the the TV show To Tell the Truth, Ilia loved coming out to see the host John O'Hurley, and after he put her back in her cage, she wanted to come back out! Iris died on 7-25-01 because of skin cancer on her jaw, V’ger died suddenly on 11-11-01 from a pituitary tumor, and Ilia died 12-20-01, also from cancer on her jaw.

On December 20, 2000 I adopted 5 male rats from the Chico humane society. They had been found abandoned at a gas station stuffed into a make-shift container made of chicken wire. I decided to name them after famous bears. From left to right (as far as I can tell) they are Paddy (Paddington Bear), Yogi, Pooh, Boo-Boo and Pookey. Yogi is the most outgoing and Pookey was the most shy. They had not been well socialized when I got them, but soon learned to trust me. It took them 3 days to learn to use their hammock! Pooh and Paddy were very sick when I got them, wheezing badly and very thin, but they improved a lot with treatment. Pooh was a blue-beige, which is a beige rat with blue guard hairs, an unusual color I had not seen in Chico before. He also had only one eye, and maybe he was born without his right eye. Boo Boo died suddenly on 10-3-01, most likely from pulmonary hypertension. Paddy died 11-4-01 and Pookey died 11-16-01, both from congestive heart failure. Yogi died 1/26/02 from a pituitary tumor.  I treated Pooh for congestive heart failure for 6 months and he lived until 7/25/02 and died from cancer in his abdomen.


In August 2001 I also adopted 4 older rats from member Barbara Henderson in Sacramento when she was threatened with eviction if she didn’t reduce the number of her rats (she had 16.) Of these rats, Seska, was the most amazing.  She was named after a bad character on Star Trek: Voyager because she was very aggressive when younger. When she turned 3 years old she mellowed, but was still a character. She had cataracts in both eyes (as you can see in her picture), her back legs were partially paralyzed and she had malocclusion of her teeth, but she still went everywhere she wanted to!  In fact she was still climbing her ramp up to the day she died on May 27, 2002 at the age of 42 months.  She was an inspiration.


On May 12, 2001, my friend Linda Bradley of San Jose gave me a gift of a 6-week-old hairless rat boy. I named him Merlin, hoping he would be good at doing tricks, and he was! Merlin was a very outgoing and friendly rat, and very playful. He was the dominant rat of his group. Because of his personality, Merlin was a perfect rat to teach tricks and take traveling. He loved doing the tightrope walk, and was also very good at pulling up a basket on a string. Unfortunately, Merlin died too young on Dec. 20, 2002 at only 21 months of kidney failure.  Here is Merlin doing some tricks at America’s Family Pet Expo in Sacramento in Sept. 2001 during my seminar on teaching tricks to rats.


Over Memorial Day weekend (May, 28 2001) member Ed Luckin of Oakland came up to visit and attend Chico’s annual fair. We also visited 2 pet shops in town, and at Petco Ed saw a black rex Dumbo male in the “feeder” cage. This Petco keeps most of their feeder rats in the top row of their display aquariums, which is too high for me to easily see into (I’m only 5' tall.) The cage was marked “jumbo” which just means he was an adult rat. I hate to see any rats sold as feeders, but I especially hate to see fancy rats like this sold for that purpose. The rat seemed friendly, so I bought him. When I got him home, I found out he was quite aggressive, probably the reason he was in the “feeder” cage. But I just neutered him and within a few weeks he was a very sweet boy. I named him Mr. T (tough on the outside but sweet inside) and he became so trusting that he would lay on his back in your hands, as you can see in this picture.

Mr. T died on Nov. 1, 2002 from a large lymphoma tumor in his chest.  I estimated that he was probably 2 years old.  I miss him a lot.

On February 6, 2000, I got Schmullis from Barbara, a friend and member who lives in Sacramento. She found him in a pet shop, very sick with a respiratory infection, and she knew I would want to save him. She was right! Schmullis was a partial hairless Dumbo and a real sweetie. His name is from a Star Trek Voyager character.  Schmullis was only about 5 weeks old when I got him. After some antibiotic treatment, he recovered from his respiratory infection and turned out to be a special rat. Isn’t he adorable?  He was extremely photogenic!  Here is the driver’s license I had made for him.  He developed an enlarged heart and cataracts, but lived until March 3, 2003, a ripe old age of 38 months.

On June 7, 2001 I bought a 5-week-old rat from a local pet shop who was supposed to be a patchwork hairless. It turned out he was just a rex, but he was a great rat anyway. When I picked him out in the store, he and his brothers would leap from the cage into your hand! When I got him, a friend who was an exchange student from Japan in my senior year of high school was staying with us. His name is Miki and he suggested I name my newest rat after him. Then he changed his mind and said he didn’t like to think about a rat with his name dying after just a few years, so I compromised and named the rat Mickey.

Mickey was a very outgoing and friendly rat. He kept his love of jumping, and performed this trick very well. He performed it for several TV appearances. In the picture, he has just jumped from one stool to the other. He was also good at the tightrope walk. He also learned how to jump down off the couch!  I had to neuter Mickey at 8 months when he became aggressive to his cagemates, but after that he got along with everyone.

I lost Mickey on August 27, 2003 at the age of 28 months from a pituitary tumor.  I miss him very much.

On June 4, 2002 I adopted a 2-week-old wild roof rat baby who had been brought in by someone’s cat, and bottle-fed him.  I tried to keep him wild so I could release him but being an only rat, he bonded to me strongly and thought I had to keep him.  I named him Flicker, because he is so fast and flighty.  Here is Flicker at 4 weeks of age.  As he got older he got wilder, so I should have released him after all.  But when he was in the right mood he could still be very friendly with me, and the older he got the more cuddly he got.  Flicker died on July 25, 2005 at the age of 3 years.



On June 3, 2008 I adopted a tiny 4-week-old boy with megacolon, a genetic problem that causes poor peristalsis of the intestines.  This causes feces to back up into the colon and results in varying degrees of bloating, constipation and diarrhea.  It took a while to get his system functioning well, and at one point he was very close to dying.  I ended up naming him Lazarus.  Just a day or two before he arrived, I had prayed, saying, “God, please don’t send me any more rats…unless they’re really special.”  Well, God answered my prayer and Lazarus was very special.  He learned the pull-up the basket trick at the age of 7 weeks just by watching Jimmy and Schnozzle attempting to do the trick.  Lazarus learned it better than they did and performed it over and over at the 3rd Annual Rat-stravaganza on June 28 in Sacramento at the age of 8 weeks!  I thought he was going to be my best performer ever, but he had ongoing discomfort from his medical condition and never performed in public again.  He died at the age of 9 months old from a blood clot in his intestines.

Lazarus at 5 weeks.


On March 26, 2007 I adopted a rat from Dianne Fitzgerald of Carmichael, CA.  She had bought a Dumbo hairless from PetSmart and as he got older he became aggressive so I adopted him and neutered him.  I named him Rascal, and he became a very playful boy.  Rascal’s favorite thing to do was to jump off the couch and explore the living room.  He wanted to get into everything, but fortunately, he wasn’t a chewer.  He was my main performing rat in 2007, although he would only do jumping tricks in public because he loved to jump. At home he would do several other tricks. He also didn’t like wearing costumes during presentations, but he did put up with it.  He traveled with me to Massachusetts for a pet expo in November.  For most of his life he was always too busy to be held and petted, but after he turned 2 ½ years old, he started spending more time on the couch with me, and would sit on my lap under an afghan. His back legs got weaker and weaker, but he would still scoot across the floor when he wanted to.  His last couple of months he got quite cuddly and sweet and would sit on my chest and let me pet him while he licked my hand or my chest.  Rascal lived most of his life with another rat named Grant, and was very sad when Grant had to be euthanized due to a stroke on 7/10/09.  In fact, Rascal’s minor respiratory symptoms became worse and he ended up having to be euthanized just 11 days after Grant.  Although I spent extra time with him, I think losing Grant sapped some of his will to live.  Rascal was quite a character and one my favorites, and I miss him.


I adopted Jewel and her sister Tiger August 14, 2008 from a local family who didn’t want them anymore.  The family had adopted them from a breeder in Chico who since moved to the Bay Area, so I was able to find out their birthdates.  They were 2 years old and the family had allowed both rats to grow huge mammary tumors (they claimed they didn’t notice them).  Tiger’s tumor was 2 ¾ inches across and weighed 88 grams (Tiger weighed 348 grams) while Jewel’s tumor was 3 1/8 inches across and weighed 100 grams—one third her weight!  (Jewel weighed 309 grams.)  Both girls came through their surgeries well.  A couple of weeks later, Jewel starting having neurological problems.  I thought she had a pituitary tumor and started her on treatment with prednisone and an antibiotic, which helped a little.  Then I noticed that she was growing a cancerous mammary tumor in her groin, and I started her on treatment with tamoxifen, which helped really well.  With both of her problems I only expected her to live a few more weeks, but she made it until August 2, 2009, 37 months old!  In fact, her sister Tiger was the first one to die on Sept. 6, 2008.  I’m not sure what caused Jewel’s neurological problems. She did have a small pituitary tumor when I did her autopsy. Despite her mammary cancer, which got pretty bad at the end, and severe paraplegia, Jewel was a happy girl right up to the end. What a trooper!


Hoppy, my little dwarf girl, as an angel.

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