For those of you who don’t know, I have a six-year-old, female Goldendoodle named Scully (after Dana Scully on The X-Files, on which I was an extra way back in 1994, Season 2, Red Museum episode) and two rats. I’ve had pet rats since May 2009 when my then six-year-old niece and nephew, who are twins, Erika & Ethan, convinced me that I should get some so that they could play with them when they came to visit me. As a child, my father let my sisters and I have all kinds of pets, and my sister Karen has quite a few for Erika & Ethan. I love mammals so I went for it.
On January 23, 2013, I bought my 5th pet rat (they only live for
about 2-3 years +/-), a beautiful white & black hooded Dumbo and called “him” Rowan. I thought Rowan was a male as that’s what I asked the staff for at The Pet Store in Kingston where I bought “him”. The Pet Store in the Cataraqui Town Centre does not separate its baby male and female rats, which is very irresponsible, and apparently not all of its staff know how to tell the sex of a rat either.
Two weeks later I decided that Rowan needed a friend and on February 7, 2013, I bought a male Fancy rat and called him Lestat (both names are from Anne Rice novels). Rowan and Lestat lived contentedly together for a while until one evening I noticed Lestat mounting Rowan. UH OH!!! I had my suspicions that Rowan wasn’t a boy and sure enough, she’s not!
On Easter Sunday, Rowan delivered 11 baby rats, which are called “kittens” or “pinkies” (that a Facebook friend commented looked a lot “like marzipan” and I have been keeping a photo diary of their
development ever since. I’ve learned all kinds of things about baby rats that I didn’t know before. For example, those tiny white bands across the pinkies’ abdomens indicate that they were nursing and had received their mother’s colostrum, which is very important.
Rowan has been a superb mother and has nursed all 11 in her litter to good health. There are six blonde & white hooded ones that look like their dad, four black & white hooded ones that look like their mom, and one mostly white female with black specks on her head that’s unusual and the runt (I’m keeping this one and call her Claudia.). They are now two weeks old and have just opened their eyes. They’ve grown so fast and are super cute!
Yesterday, Maria Offin of Maria Offin Photography came over with her three children to decide which babies they would like to adopt into their home as their new pets. They picked two beautiful male youngsters, one blonde hooded and one black hooded and they’ll be able to take them home in a little over two weeks time, once they’ve been weaned and can eat solid food. My nephew Ethan’s friend Jason and his mother Holly and his sisters came over to pick out two wee male ratties to be their new pets too. There are seven males and four females in the litter.
Maria is an excellent photographer and she took these wonderful photos of Rowan, Lestat and their family that I just had to share with you. Please take a look at her Facebook page and LIKE it if the spirit moves you.
The good news is that I’ve found loving homes for all of them but one, so far! I’m going to keep at least one of each sex so that they can be companions for their parents who can no longer live together in the same cage.
This has been an unexpected but absolutely wonderful experience and I highly recommend rats as pets, especially to people who live in apartments and don’t have enough room or time for a dog or cat. Rats are very smart, sociable and sweet and make for excellent companions!
You can learn more about rats and other interesting rodents in The Rodent Reader Quarterly magazine, published by my friend Mil Scott, who has been a superb source of inspiration, encouragement and support to me and thousands of other rat lovers.