There are two rats in my house. Two. Long tails, beady eyes, and twitchy whiskers. They skitter around, sniff the air, steal food and can climb anywhere.
I can see your face right now. Like you simultaneously sucked a sour lemon and saw your parents naked. A horrified-disgusted-I-could-puke-and-turn-to-stone look.
“Oh dear Lord, how did they get in your house?” you sputter. As a person who is slightly control freaky, hates bad smells and is sort of tidy (my husband may debate this), the answer still surprises me.
I bought them.
Yep, I bought two pet rats. Or rather, I adopted them. From some guy I never met off of Craig’s List. I’m not sure you can utter “pet rats” and “Craig’s list” in the same sentence without automatically getting the bubonic plague. But I’ve clearly taken my 2015 resolution to “loosen up a bit” to a new level. And opened our home to the next stage of pet beyond fish, but just short of dog.
Our oldest, Caroline, had been begging for a puppy. But her brother and I have some pretty nasty allergies to dogs. Plus, I finally got a new sectional and carpet in my living room after 11 years of baby spit up, toddler tricycle traffic and a few too many red wine parties. I was feeling a bit selfish and not ready to commit to the cleaning and allergy shots. So, she started researching small pets. Hamsters? They bite. Gerbils? Them too. Bunnies?
“They’re so cute!” she squealed.
Then I had a heart to heart with her about what bunny pee smells like. Not so cute. Parakeet? I had two of them when I was twelve. They all hated me and refused to come out of the cage and perch on my shoulder. Mice? Good luck catching them if they ever escape. What about rats, she asked. Hmmm. My sister, Cara, had one in college. It would sit on her shoulder and came running when she called its name. It would even lick her hand, like a dog.
So Caroline did some rat research and found out rats don’t bite, are very intelligent and you can teach them tricks. And you should keep them in pairs. Which led to random surfing on Craig’s List for someone giving away rats on a cold night in January. I blame this entirely on my other sister Patrice, who recently adopted a bunny for her daughter from someone on Craig’s List. (She and I don’t agree on how offensive bunny pee is)
A few emails exchanged and $20 later, we have two rattie sisters living in our house. We surprised Caroline as an early birthday present – you probably heard the glass-shattering scream when she saw them – and made sure she knew that the rats were now her responsibility. Cage cleaning and all.
So far, Oreo and Angel seem to like hanging out with our family. There is no shortage of people walking by and talking to them. Or sneaking them bits of fruit and crackers. They like to run around, hide under towels and pop up on your lap.
Whenever I walk by, I say “Hello girlies” and they come to the cage door as if to say – “Hey crazy lady, we’d like to walk on your shoulder and perhaps poop a bit on the floor. We know you’re good with that.”
The best part though, is watching my daughter Caroline turn into a responsible rat mother. She has a certain confidence about her and thrives on the responsibility of caring for and loving these little things. The ratties are starting to come when she calls their names. Oreo even licked her hand yesterday.
Our 5-year-old said solemnly the other day, “Daddy, we are lucky we have rats.”
Indeed. Well, not everyone would agree.