Posts Tagged ‘ferrets’

                                                           Rattata, I choose you!

I own rats. Or more specifically; I have furry kids. Rats have an unjustly designed reputation among humans. The myth of them spreading disease is vastly exaggerated. The Bubonic Plague, for instance, was spread by Mongol tribes who sent rats and cats infected with fleas to Europe on trade ships in the first recorded ‘biological attack‘. These flees were then transferred from the felines and the rodents to the unwashed European masses resulting in the ‘Black Death’. And yet, I do not see cats being euthanized for their part in that sordid history (of which they had no control over anyway).
Here is a simplistic history lesson for your kids (or you), courtesy of the dreaded Disney Corporation:

To those they bond with, rats are affectionate and loyal to a fault. They are independent like cats, and can eat (almost) anything you do, thus making them very low-hassle pets. They are also very loving, like dogs, and greatly enjoy to cuddle or riding on their human’s shoulder.
Our rats have free-range of the common-area of our home, since it is our firm belief that keeping an animal (human or otherwise) confined to a cage for the majority of its existence will drive it insane and (unsurprisingly) turn it hostile to its captors.
This puts me not only in the minority of animal owners, but also in the minority of rat owners.
Double trouble!
Our rats chase our cat and ferrets around and play with them as they would with another rat from their own pack. They have adopted and have been adopted by all the inhabitants of our home (we have two rats, two ferrets, and a cat). Like ferrets, rats are social creatures, so it is good to have one other of their species for them to cuddle with when you aren’t around.

557522_337938352980743_996786424_n                                        They just want to cuddle! (and of course, feast on your cat’s food)

Allow me to back up. I recently found a rat-lover’s group on facebook and enthusiastically joined, only to discover that they have strict rules regarding posting other animals getting along with rats because ‘its a dangerous example’. I took particular offense to this because of the strong friendship between my wife’s cat and my familiar, Katirina.

cat and rats2                                Katirina the Great (rat) cuddling with her favorite friend, Hannibal the Cannibal (cat)

This bewildering denial of something I would have imagined rat owners would be proud to advertise aside, they also all took a firm stand against allowing their animal companions to free-range. This REALLY pissed me right the hell off, and I asserted that:
1. Animals take after their humans, so if their animals could not be made to get along and see each other as family, they the humans, are SHITTY parents.
2. A rat (or any animal) needs to be comfortable with its human and other animal housemates as well as its environment before it can be taught right from wrong (for instance, litter-box training or learning that it is not ok to chew on electric cords). This is impossible, if they are confined to a cage for 90% of their existence unless some giant mammal occasionally feels like reaching in and petting on them. That is clearly a terrible existence for any creature, and unsurprisingly, these type of rat owners have overwhelmingly failed to truly bond with their companions.
In short, I called all of these rat-bastards terrible people, and expressed honest sympathy for their captive animals.
One retort I received challenged that ‘they are better off in a cage than dead on the street or being fed to a snake’.
No shit. Of course, if your best argument is that the existence you provide them is slightly better than death, then you’ve only endeavored to make my point for me.

025                                      The Family, before our ferratty kids joined it. (mom is holding the camera)

However, like with caring for any animal, there are hardships. One thing I can say to the negative about taking care of rats is their very short lifespan (3-5 years). It is very difficult when an animal familiar you have bonded with dies of old age or health complications after only such a short time together. Additionally, be prepared for the development of possible tumors if you are caring enough to rescue them from being fed to snakes by buying them off a breeder. Since those fucked up people tend to inbreed the poor creatures, it creates health problems, specifically with the mammary tumors of female rats. But a good veterinarian can give your beloved animal many more months to live even as you give them a life worth living.

Morgan LeFay recovered from her surgery                                 Morgan Le Fay recovering, after Doctor Tanja successfully removed her tumor.

Older rats are prone to strokes but can often recover very quickly. Regardless, your older companion will require a lot of personal care to make her final days as dignified and peaceful as possible. Feed her how you can, keep her clean, and keep her close.
Before Katirina and Morgan passed away, we adopted a baby rat named Anniebel so that our old girls could pass on what they learned about living with people to their little sister. After they died, and Annie grew a bit, we decided to try breeding her (a fancy rat) with a Dumbo rat (to avoid the inbreeding issues).

photo7                                                                    Anniebel all preggers!

She gave us a litter of two, beautiful baby boys. Zechs Marquise and Dorian Gray. A group of rats is called ‘a mischief’, so to be more accurate, Annie gave birth to a mischief of two!

IMG-20140130-00298When they are happy, they will ‘brux’ (grind) their teeth together to tell you they are content. When they get REALLY happy, their bruxing makes their eyes bobble!!

We then decided to try getting a pair of ferrets, contrary to all the online warnings about how ruthlessly cruel ferrets can be to rats. Of course, by then, we were taking these terrified pearls of ‘wisdom’ with a grain of salt since we received much the same untrue advice about cats and rats living together. Our cat Hannibal loves nothing more than to be protective of his rattie friends (even if they do chase him around occasionally). So baby ferrets we got, named Marcus Antonius and Vicious Vorenus. Anniebel quickly took to putting them in their place, teaching the ferrets what was okay and what was off-limits. She was a spunky mom, to be sure!

IMG_20140613_234831                                                               “Good ferret! This is okay.”

I would like to close up by saying that rats are beautiful, empathic creatures, and people who take the time to look past their own medieval prejudices will be privileged indeed to have a rattie companion in their life. Rats, when made a free-ranging part of the family, can get along with any other animal; provided you are patient and willing to help all the animals learn that you love each and every one of them all the more when they love each other. And then? Then they will love you right back.