There Are Rats In My House

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.

Hello, I'm a rat. In your house.

Hello, I’m a rat. In your house.

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.”

Rat Love

Rat Love

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.

Advertisements

How Long Do Goldfish Live?

Our family is growing. It’s been just enough time since the last baby for me to think about taking care of something else.

A fish.

Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated

And of course, it’s not my fish or the family fish, it will be my 8-year-old daughter’s fish.  A big birthday present.  But let’s be honest.  I’ll end up taking care of it.  I’ve dragged my feet on getting a family pet for precisely that point.  I didn’t want to clean up any more poop than I already had to.  But since the little one is pretty much potty trained, and the children are begging for a pet (or just something else to bug, because they’re bored with annoying each other), we’re going to give it a try.

It’s not that I didn’t have pets growing up.  Our family had a cat that climbed the screen doors in the summer, and dropped dead birds on the step.  We had dogs, one that walked the kitchen counters and ate entire loves of bread and one that curled up on laps and lived a long life.  My sisters had rabbits that lived outside in a cage and liked to take walks on cat leashes.  One sister had three mice.  Not at the same time, mind you, because they kept escaping from their cage and got lost in the basement.  (we did see one lurking about in its newly created life as a free mouse)  I even had a parakeet.  And when that one died, my parents let me get another one.  That second bird, HATED me, would never let me hold it without pecking my hand to pieces.

In between all of those pets, we had fish.  Fish we won at the fair, fish we bought on a whim from the pet section at Meijer.  I look at my mother now and say “What were you thinking?”  She sighs and says, “I don’t know.  I was crazy.”

Oh I’m crazy.  But not that crazy.  Yet.

So fish, it is.

My husband and I took a trip to the local pet store to pick out everything that the fish will need.  We thought it would be fun to let the birthday girl actually pick out the fish herself.  Apparently, things have changed since the last time I got a fish.  I’m thinking, bowl, food and we’re good to go.  Oh no.  The fish lady told us that goldfish need like a gallon of water for each inch of fish.  So my little bowl could only fit one fish and not any more because goldfish grow like 3 feet.  And I had to treat the water (aka buy more stuff) to make it safe.  Oh, and make sure I cleaned out the gravel a lot because goldfish are the dirtiest fish.  And I should probably get an aquarium.

Suckers that we are, we walked out of the pet store with a small aquarium, blue rocks, a fake plant, a tiny fish net and water treatment stuff.  A far cry from the simple round bowl and tap water that I used when I was a kid.  But, I guess we’re giving our new family member the best start we can.

Because really, my biggest fear?  The fish is going to die.  And I’m dreading the “your fish is dead” conversation.  Yes, I know, glass half full.  I’m already planning the funeral of a pet I haven’t even purchased yet (let’s all agree that the life of a goldfish is, well, short).  Some friends recently told me they secretly replace dead fish so the kids don’t realize how quickly they “turn over”, so to speak.  But these same friends have also had front yard fish memorial services to respectfully honor their finned friends who went to great aquarium in the sky.

I know I can’t shield the kids from everything (over protective mother alert).  Perhaps I’m over thinking just a little bit.

One thing I do know.  No one is getting a parakeet.