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“The Rat Lady’s” Rats

The number of rats I have tends to change from month to month!  As of March 2017, I have 13.  Most of the rats I get are rescues. That means I take them in when someone can’t keep them, adopt them from the humane society or a rat rescue, or rescue them from a bad situation. I have been amazingly blessed to rescue rats of a wide range of colors and varieties.



On October 10, 2014, a woman brought me a tiny wild mouse that she had been trying to hand raise. She could see that the mouse was not doing well, which is why she brought it to me. I didn’t know what kind of mouse it was at the time, but I have since figured out she is a harvest mouse, a native species of field mouse. When she arrived her eyes weren’t open yet, and she was only about one and three-quarters inches long. Her eyes opened the next day, and I found a reference online that their eyes open on day 9-12, so they apparently grow very quickly. She quickly gained weight and did very well. Now, as an adult, she is a little over two inches long. Although I usually release the wild orphans I raise, including roof rats, Norway rats and deer mice, because she is so small and harvest mice are social, I thought she may not do well without her family, so I decided to keep her. She continues to do well and runs on her exercise wheel at night. She is shy with strangers, but will come out when it’s time for her dinner and still takes treats from my fingers. In the wild, references say they rarely live longer than a year, so it will be interesting to see how long she lives.



Harriet the harvest mouse, as a baby and an adult.


In May 2015, I got a call from a local rat owner. She said she had an oops litter and had found homes for all of them except 2 boys, who were 8 weeks old.  She was wondering if I could take them. I really didn’t need more rats at that point, but she said she had handled them from birth, and one was blue and the other blue hooded, so I was persuaded to go meet them on May 23. They were very playful boys and seemed quite smart and friendly, so I decided to adopt them. I named the hooded boy Bixby and the other boy Louie. Turns out they weren’t really blue after all, but actually blue agouti. Louie, in particular, has a very beautiful blue agouti coat. Agouti fur has 3 bands of color on each hair. On regular agouti, the bottom is gray, the middle is brown, and the tip is black. On a blue agouti coat, the bottom is gray, the middle is brown and the tip is blue.  Louie is the shy one, although when I decided to teach them some tricks, he was most interested in playing the piano. Bixby was super smart and learned several tricks in just one or two lessons. He learned to pull up a basket on a string, pull open a drawer, pull a string to ring a bell, and pull a toy train. However, unfortunately, neither boy wanted to learn any other tricks, and they did’t seem interested in performing them for anyone.


On December 9, 2016, I found a large mass in Bixby’s lower abdomen. I started him on amoxicillin and gave him a shot of dexamethasone, and the next day the mass was smaller, which was encouraging. However, the next night Bixby had a seizure while he was out on the couch with me. I didn’t know if the seizure was related to the mass, but the only way to know for sure what the mass was was to do exploratory surgery. I was very scared that the mass might be a malignant tumor and I wouldn’t want to let Bixby wake up from the surgery, so I put it off until the 17th. Amazingly, the mass turned out to be a large nasty abscess, not a tumor, and I was able to successfully remove it. Physically, Bixby recovered well from the surgery, but mentally he was not himself. He didn’t want to come out and see me or be petted, which was very sad. On December 29, I saw him have another seizure, so I started him on prednisone, but it didn’t help and over the next two days he became nearly comatose. He even lost the ability to swallow, so I made the decision to euthanize him. Unfortunately, an autopsy did not reveal what caused the damage to his brain. Ironically, the area where I had removed the abscess had completely healed.


Bixby and Louie.



In late January 2016, I saw a post on the RFC Facebook group that someone in Sacramento needed homes for a litter of 6-week-old babies. I assumed the litter was accidental, but eventually found out they had bred them on purpose to give their kids the experience of raising them. Fortunately, the mom only had 9 babies, because they didn’t realize that 12 is average, and obviously did not have homes lined up before breeding the litter. They did not handle them from birth, but started socializing them at 2 weeks of age, and said they were quite friendly. I told them I would take two boys, but the day before we met to pick them up, they said they only had one boy and two girls left, and would I take them all? I said yes. The boy is an agouti hooded, and is quite sweet and playful. I have named him Winston. The girls are both agouti Berkshire, typical active girls, and I named them Cayenne and Clove. I spayed them so they now live with Winston and Kale.

Cayenne and Clove


Ten days after getting the babies, I adopted another agouti hooded rat from a woman in Chico who had rescued him a year ago, but didn’t feel she had enough time to give him attention. Her mother had bought him as a baby to feed to her snake, and the rat had lived in the snake’s cage for a week until she couldn’t stand it any more and took him home and named him Kale. When I asked if she knew if he would get along with other rats, she said he was fine with her guinea pigs and rabbits, just ignoring them. I knew that was a sign that he was probably not at all aggressive, and he was happy to live with Winston and get a new friend. He arrived in a tiny cage without any toys, so I’m sure he is very happy to be in a large cage with a companion. It is obvious Kale has not been well socialized, as he doesn’t like to be touched or picked up, but he is very sweet and is slowing learning to trust me.


Winston and Kale


On April 18, 2016, one of my rat friend’s, Rachel, brought me the gift of a young hairless boy!  She actually let me choose from two that she had gotten from the breeder, and I chose the shy one who was wheezing. Treatment with amoxicillin quickly cleared up his symptoms, and I was able to quickly introduce him to two boys I had at the time. I tried out a few names on him, and the only one he responded to was Squid. Squid was a very shy boy, but he has come out of his shell a lot. Sometimes he gives me kisses. When his cagemates, who were older than him, died in November and December of 2016, I tried to introduce him to Louie, but he was quite aggressive, so on February 10 I neutered Squid. After about 2 weeks Squid aggression was pretty much gone, so now he and Louie live together.




In June 2016, I adopted two boys from a local rat owner who had rescued them from separate situations. They were both aggressive and biting and she wanted me to either euthanize them or adopt them. When I told her that neutering them would reduce their aggression, she still wasn’t willing to keep them. I promptly neutered both of them and after a few weeks I was able to introduce them to each other. One was a good size black hooded who was supposed to be one year old. I named Lincoln. The other was a small black Dumbo, supposed to be 10 months old. I named him Tad. Unfortunately, although no longer aggressive, neither boy has been properly socialized and so they don’t want to be touched or picked up, and they don’t want to come out of their cage. A funny thing about Lincoln is that he self-barbers his arms.


Tad with Lincoln’s back in front of him.


Lincoln taking some B vitamins, and showing off the bare patch on his arm he barbered.


Two weeks later this same rat owner asked if I would take yet another aggressive rescue. This was a blue rat who had been used as a breeder at a local pet shop. I only agreed to take him because I happened to have an empty cage. However, even after he was neutered, I couldn’t get him to accept any other rat, so he continues to live alone. His name was Leo, but because one of my other boys was named Louie I kept getting their names mixed up, so I changed his name to Neo. He is also very unsocialized and doesn’t like to be touched, even though I have tried working with him using the Trust Training method explained on my website.




Between November 24, 2016 and January 15, 2017, my four most friendly rats passed away, so I told my friend Nicole Marlin, who is a breeder and rescuer, that I was in the market to get two or three friendly boys. She told me she would shortly be getting back two boys she had bred back from a customer who was going off to college, plus another boy that the customer had gotten somewhere else, so I said I’d take them. She brought them on January 19, and the third boy turned out to be a hairless Dumbo!  I was so excited! The two boys Nicole bred are big: a black masked named Gus, and a blue named Sterling. The hairless boy is smaller and had a name I didn’t like, so I tried out several different names to see what he liked. At first he seemed somewhat suspicious and feisty and the only name he showed any interest in was Festus. Out on the couch, at first he spent most of his time scent marking with his hands! Now he has adjusted to his new home and is very friendly. Gus is the friendliest, and he has a coat that is sort of wiry, so he looks a bit like a rex, although his whiskers are straight. He was the first to come out and he licks my hands and my lips! He wants to get into my mouth, but I won’t let him. Sterling isn’t quite as trusting as Gus yet—and he hates posing for pictures!—but he is coming along.


Festus and Gus




On January 20, 2017, I got an email from the Yolo County Animal Shelter in Woodland, CA, about a two-hour drive south of me, that said, “We have this little rat here at the Yolo Co Animal Services shelter in need of rescue. A family found him on a riverbank in West Sacramento a few weeks ago, and have been trying to find a home for him, but sadly he is very fearful and has bitten them several times when they try to handle him. They weren’t sure what else to do so they brought him here. He remains very fearful and I’m at a loss at how I can help him feel more comfortable. He really needs a more experienced handler. If you are at all able to help, please let us know ASAP.” I replied that I might be able to take him if it worked out to get a friend in Sacramento (about thirty minutes from Woodland) to bring him up with her since she was planning to come up soon. Well, Monica was happy to help, and in fact picked him up from the shelter the day I contacted her. She brought him to my house on the 26th, and I named him Marvel. He was indeed aggressive and non-socialized, so I neutered him on February 10. It can take up to 8 weeks to see the full effect of a neuter on aggression, so I’m just waiting until then.





Click here to see pictures of some of my rats who have passed on.


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