Earlier this spring, I was at a county animal shelter where there was a critter not listed on the shelter’s online adoptables: a chubby black-and-white rat (marked like a skunk in reverse, with a black stripe down his back) who came out of his hidey-hole to come and visit with me. I definitely had to inquire about this little guy, but let’s just say they were shocked that he had an adoption inquiry. The shelter manager was so disgusted by the rat that she offered to give him — and his nice, two-story cage — to me for free.
His backstory was that he was kept by a guy at a group home, who left the rat when he left the home. So I thought of good inmate names to give him — I’ve been calling him Red, a la The Shawshank Redemption. He’s 2 years old, so he won’t be around much longer, but he’ll get spoiled in the meantime. He’s obviously aged, as well — his fur is coarse and scrungy, and he prefers a nap to much running action (he makes really clear he prefers his cage to anywhere else).
(Oh, and he has a nose, just moved for the shot)
This is my first rat (never even lived anywhere where rats were pests, so could use any advice from reader rat aficionados), but I’m really enjoying him. He’s a bit shy as far as being picked up and handled (and a bit round and difficult to hold on to), but enjoys a good petting/scratch behind the ears and will make that happy chatter sound (which I had to Google for explanation because in my guinea pigs, chattering means mad). His cage came with wood shavings in the bottom, and when I cleaned it and put Carefresh natural (what I swear by for my guys) in the bottom, he plopped down for a rest in the pile of new fluff with a contented look on his face. He loves the paper stuffing that they put in handbags, and I tear a bit of that up each night for him to shape into his “nest.” He sleeps more in the open than in his hidey-hole, which I’m not used to with hamsters.
He was a snappy and grabby at first with food tibdits, but has since gotten a bit gentler. He definitely wasn’t used to fresh fruits and vegetables, and threw a baby carrot to the side the first time I gave him one. His people-food snack favorites are bits of bread and cereals such as Cheerios and Crispix (hello, kiddie-size variety pack to share). He gets along great with my other pets and has never snapped at them. I find his extra-long snake-ish tail fascinating to watch. Red’s just a very sweet rat with a twinkle in his eye. And he promised not to tell about the piece of french fry I let him eat.