By Olivia Short ’17
It’s officially the year of the rat in my household. In early January, my sister got some new pets: three baby female rats.
I know, I know, it sounds nasty at first. I understand that. They have a bit of a reputation. But pet-store rats are nothing like the pests that likely first come to your mind. Domesticated rats are sweet, smart, affectionate, and cleanly– they groom themselves even more than indoor cats do!
With disclaimers out of the way, let’s get to know each rat. Two of the three, Clementine and Clover, are biological sisters who came from a pet store. The last rat, Peridot, came from a litter born at Rattie Tattie Rescue, a nonprofit rat rescue based in Amelia. (If you’re still grossed out by the thought of pet rats, see their “Why Rats?” page for some more detailed information. I’m writing today simply to brag about my babies like an overly-proud soccer mom, not to persuade the masses that rats are alright.)
In the two months that I’ve known them, each rat has developed her own little personality and unique set of mannerisms. It’s cool to see so much livelihood packed into such a tiny creature that people presume to be so simple.
Clover has the biggest personality of all the rats. She’s outgoing, energetic, and absolutely loves people. She prefers human company over rats– whenever I get them all out of the cage, Clover is the first to climb all over me. I feel like she’d do musical theater if she were a human. She has a grey-and-white fur pattern and a real big heart.
Clementine is the more bashful of the biological sisters. She tends to stay in the corner and fully observe the world before coming out to interact with it. Her coloration is technically called “champagne”– it’s a light orangey-white, which explains her name. Like most light-colored rats, she has red eyes and relatively poor vision. Now that I think of it, this may explain her nervousness– wouldn’t you be hesitant to meet people if they just looked like big, blurry shapes?
And finally, Peridot is the baby. She’s recently been getting more accustomed to the house, so her personality is starting to come out. She’s really rambunctious and loves to play– she and Clover are always wrestling! Peridot treats humans like her jungle gyms– she’s got no qualms about climbing up and down backs and running around on shoulders. She’s the rat equivalent of a candy-fueled kid 100% of the time. The more she opens up, the more I see that she’s truly a gem.
My favorite part of visiting the rats is seeing the way my sister pampers them. She’s always loved her pets hard (her cat Ramona has a leash and takes walks outside), but the rats are different because they return the affection so much. So far, my sister has bought them toys, prepared nightly plates of veggies. She’s topped herself recently, though, and reached the height of Crazy Pet Lady-dom. She made had cooked pancakes for dinner one night last week, and used the excess batter to make a small pancake for each rat.
But beyond all the (subjectively) cute things about the rats, I love their passion for life. I fall pretty easily into depression, but it’s always helped me to see animals get excited over the smallest things. When I see these animals– who were originally sold as snake food– thriving and being happy, I have to feel hopeful. When I see the way they care for one another, I have to be glad for human community. And when lil’ Clementine goes absolutely nuts over a plain old cardboard box, I can’t help but smile.