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Old 10-31-2019, 01:06 PM
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My pet rats


I have owned pet rats for over 10 years and have had 15 rats in that time. I currently have two rats, Frodo and Bilbo, who are nearing the end of their lives. Every rat has a unique personality. Let me introduce you to Frodo and Bilbo.

Frodo is in many ways the best rat I've ever had. He is, for a rat, extremely outgoing, bold, friendly and mischievious. When he hears me approach their cage he usually runs to the top level and presses his face into the corner nearest me, his way of asking to come out. When I open the cage he will usually jump into my hand. He loves to be stroked firmly along his back, and for me to squeeze his head in my hand. Very unusually for a rat, he allows and often seems to enjoy being turned on his back and having his stomach rubbed. He likes to lick your hand while you pet him. He is naturally curious and will readily explore new places and new objects. He's on the high end of the rat extrovert spectrum. He likes to ride along with me while I walk around the house, sitting on my arm or riding in the pocket or hood of my sweatshirt.

Bilbo is more timid than Frodo. He has a more typical rat personality, and is more cautious of new things. When I take both of them to a new environment, usually Frodo will be off exploring while Bilbo stays right next to me. But he is very sweet when he is comfortable. He likes to be carried around, as long as we don't venture out into unfamiliar areas. He's more likely than Frodo to get nervous and dive into my pocket when being carried. His favorite way to be petted is for me to rub a ridge along the top of his head and simultaneously rub his cheek. He often will start bruxing when I do that. (Bruxing is a behavior some rats do where they grind and chatter their teeth; it usually indicates pleasure, like purring in cats.)

I love my rats. They have been my friends and companions for years. But the sad fact about having pet rats is they only live about 2-3 years. Frodo and Bilbo are about 32 months old, so are quite elderly. Bilbo in particular is showing signs that he's near the end of his life. He is getting quite lethargic and is starting to turn away food, even previous favorite treats. His weight has declined from about 555 grams to 475 in the last 4 weeks, which is a very bad sign. He has always been robust and by far the larger of the two, but now he weighs less than Frodo and is looking gaunt. I've put him on the "you can have whatever you want" diet, but it doesn't seem to have slowed his weight loss. He's also showing some signs of confusion, startling or showing fear for no reason. When he gets too weak, or otherwise stops having a decent quality of life, I will have to make the decision to have him euthanized. Based on my previous experience, I expect that will be within the next few weeks. For now he still seems to be content much of the time, and he still bruxes when I scratch his head.

Frodo is slowing down too but still seems healthy and pretty lively. In recent weeks when I play with them on the couch, he's started coming over to me and nuzzling into my hip while I scratch him, for many minutes at a time. Younger rats, even friendly ones like Frodo, generally have too much energy to sit and be petted for very long. Older rats are more cuddly and Frodo is a real teddy bear these days. He still like to explore and play, but he's a lot slower than he was even a couple of months ago.

It's hard facing the inevitable. I tell myself that when Bilbo dies I'll still have Frodo, but Frodo probably won't live more than another few months at most. A rat owner has to learn to deal with death since it happens a lot more often than with dogs or cats, but these two guys are really special rats and it's going to be hard to lose them.

Here are a some videos of Bilbo and Frodo.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfO...8HiMYHFP8RGi3g
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Old 10-31-2019, 01:09 PM
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Thanks for sharing Frodo and Bilbo's story. It's kind of a microcosm of what we all go through with all pets. (2-3 years is more accelerated than most, and would be hard for me to deal with).

Are the two of them friendly with each other? Will one be sad to see the other go?
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Old 10-31-2019, 01:15 PM
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My son had a pet rat (Ralph) when he was young. That sonofagun would play with our tennisball addicted golden retriever. Ralph would clamber up onto a tennis ball, such that he was standing on his back legs, with the front of his body on top of the ball. Daisy would curl her lips back and ever-so-gently pluck the pall from under Ralph with her teeth. Daisy would back away slightly, then nose the ball back to Ralphie to do it again. What a riot!

Rats are cool pets, but it IS a shame their lives are so short.
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Old 10-31-2019, 01:23 PM
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Cuties!!!
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Old 10-31-2019, 01:34 PM
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I dated (briefly) a girl who kept a pet rat, Jason. Not just in a cage, but when she was home, he had the run of the house.

Not my cup of tea, but I was fine with it if it was her thing. However, she confided in me that she always let her dates know about her unusual pet before bringing them home, after the first date ran screaming from the apartment when, at a semi-intimate moment, Jason jumped onto the coffee table and began nibbling the snacks with her approval.
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Old 10-31-2019, 01:41 PM
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Very cute and very sweet.
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Old 10-31-2019, 02:05 PM
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That is some ratty goodness. I'm sorry about the eventual loss of your pals but they have had a great life, thanks to you.
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Old 10-31-2019, 04:32 PM
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Do vets have anything that can prevent pet rodents from being disease vectors? Evolution (or maybe superstition) make me afraid of keeping rodents close. I also love cats so any small animal, rodent, bird or reptile would need to be locked up tightly.
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Old 10-31-2019, 07:35 PM
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Thank you for sharing your precious ratties with us. Right now I have Leonard and Domino. Len is a grey and white hooded, and Dom is a white dumbo with a grey patch on his eye. Both love to climb on me and are sweet, affectionate and nosy. I do wish rats lived longer. 32 months is a very good run, no matter how you slice it. Do you boys kiss you? I love little rat kisses.
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Old 10-31-2019, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by madsircool View Post
Do vets have anything that can prevent pet rodents from being disease vectors?
Indoor pet rats are no more likely to be disease vectors than your indoor cat. Unless you are living in a cabin in the Sierras with a ground squirrel problem that are harboring sylvatic plague. In which case the ground squirrels are ~10,000x the threat .

Last edited by Tamerlane; 10-31-2019 at 07:40 PM.
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Old 10-31-2019, 08:25 PM
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Yeah, 2-3 years is too short a life for me to risk attaching.

They are little sweeties though.
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Old 10-31-2019, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by madsircool View Post
Do vets have anything that can prevent pet rodents from being disease vectors?
I get my rats from a rat breeder who is very conscientious about the health of her rats. I don't think it's any more likely that I'd get a disease from my rats than it is that someone would get a disease from a pet dog or cat. (The breeder is also VERY good about handling and socializing them when they are pre-weaned babies, which is important to do for them to get really comfortable with humans.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by janis_and_c0 View Post
Do you boys kiss you? I love little rat kisses.
Bilbo doesn't kiss much, but Frodo loves to. He licks my face, my nose, my hand while I'm petting him. He's giving me some kisses in the "licking my face" video. How old are Len and Dom?

Last edited by markn+; 10-31-2019 at 10:25 PM.
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Old 11-01-2019, 12:28 AM
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Awwww, I had ratties in college, a series of pairs & trios, always girls.

They're perfect for college students, since they're crepuscular and/or nocturnal (for those late night study sessions) have small space requirements (student housing isn't known for being spacious) and can pretty well live off whatever you're eating (the core from your apple, the crust off your sandwich etc.)

Smart as hell, curious and friendly, come in a rainbow of color options including Siamese. That damn short lifespan eventually got to be too much.

Timely thread, as I was idly considering maybe getting some rats again. Hmm.
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Old 11-01-2019, 12:26 PM
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Since you've had rats before you probably don't need this advice, but I'll just mention a few important points. Get your rats as babies, preferably right after weaning, and get them from a rattery / breeder which does good socializing of the babies. Don't get a pet store rat or a feeder; they won't be socialized and it will be an uphill battle to get them socialized through their whole lives. Always get at least a pair -- a single rat will be very lonely. Gender is a personal preference -- I started with girls but switched to boys. Girls are more active and energetic but boys tend to be more affectionate. Martin cages are the best, and bigger is better, although it's best to start babies in a smaller travel-sized cage. I feed them Envigo-Teklad blocks. Blocks are better than grain mixes because they can't just pick out and eat the parts they like.
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Old 11-01-2019, 01:16 PM
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I pretty much only hear good things about companion rats. Best to yours!
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Old 11-01-2019, 02:08 PM
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I kept a lot of hamsters as a kid. From middle school up into college. After I moved into the dorms and couldn't take Jericho with me, my mom took care of him and became very attached. I know how sad it is to lose a little buddy you've had for 2-4 years. Each one of my hamsters had a unique personality. I'm sure you'd say the exact same thing about your rats.

Once they do eventually move on, I do hope you'll plan on giving another little guy or girl a new home. One of my hamsters, a big white albino named Winter, was one I adopted at the Humane Society. You may not have them a whole two years, but at least they'll live in a loving and comfortable home.
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Old 11-01-2019, 02:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by purplehorseshoe View Post
They're perfect for college students, since they're crepuscular and/or nocturnal (for those late night study sessions) have small space requirements (student housing isn't known for being spacious) and can pretty well live off whatever you're eating (the core from your apple, the crust off your sandwich etc.)
I would have gladly taken my hamster to college, if the dorms would have allowed it. All they ever allowed was fish. I've lived in 3 different apartments since then and not one of them would allow rodents of any kind.
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Old 11-01-2019, 09:42 PM
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Leonard is 16-19 mos ( he wasn't full grown when I got him so I am approximating) and Dom is under a year, probably about 10-11 months, maybe.. I got him from a breeder, and the first rat I ever had was given to me by someone, so I am not sure what her origins were, but all the other rats I have ever had have came from a pet store. (that includes Leonard, BTW) To a rat, they have all been sweet, friendly and well socialized. YMMV. I LOVE the Kisses video! That's just what my boys do ( Len moreso than Dom, he is more of a nuzzler) Incidentally, When I reflect on what short lives rats have, I am comforted by the following. (I didn't write it)


Lend Me A Rat

I will lend a rat to you - for awhile, God said.
For you to love him while he lives, and mourn him when he's dead.
Maybe for twelve or thirty months -
Or maybe two or three.
But will you, 'til I call him back, take care of him for Me?

He'll bring his charms to gladden you; and should his stay be brief,
You'll always have his memories, as solace for your grief.
I cannot promise he will stay, since all from earth, return.
But there are lessons taught below, I want this rat to learn.

I've looked the whole world over, in search of teachers true.
And from the folk that crowd life's land, I have chosen you.
Now will you give him all your love, nor think the labour vain,
Nor hate Me when I come to you, to take My rat again?

Then it was that I said: 'Dear Lord, Thy will be done.'
For all the joys this rat will bring, the risk of grief I'll run.
I'll shelter him with tenderness, I'll love him while I may.
And for the happiness I've known, forever grateful stay.

But should You think to call him back, much sooner than we'd planned,
I'll brave the bitter grief that comes, and try to understand.
When this faithful little soul departs this busy world of strife,
We'll have yet another rat, and love him all his life.

- Author Unknown

*sniff* Now it's dusty...
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Last edited by janis_and_c0; 11-01-2019 at 09:46 PM.
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Old 11-02-2019, 02:04 AM
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I would have gladly taken my hamster to college, if the dorms would have allowed it. All they ever allowed was fish. I've lived in 3 different apartments since then and not one of them would allow rodents of any kind.
Oh, yeah, I had a hamster (with my roommate's blessing) when I was in the dorms.

They didn't allow rodents, either. Well, probably not; I mean, I didn't exactly ask. (Or care.)

He was the long-haired kind, and when I'd let him out he ran with this scuttling kind of scurry low to the ground. We called him "The Furry Roach."
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Old 11-09-2019, 10:52 AM
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A few days ago the rats were on the couch when Bilbo suddenly climbed up to the back of the couch, a place where he doesn't usually hang out, and started gasping for breath. His whole body was heaving and his mouth was open. This went on for about 10 minutes and was quite distressing for both of us. But he seemed fine afterwards, or as fine as he gets these days.

Last night I was sitting on the couch with both of them when Bilbo, with a burst of strength I didn't think he was still capable of, ran up my arm to the top of the couch and stood there, tense and panting. He wasn't gasping like he was the first time but he was clearly in distress. Then he suddenly winced and _shrieked_, like he'd had a sudden pain. I don't think I've ever seen a rat do that before. I got up and held my arm out to him and he immediately jumped onto my arm and nestled in the crook of my elbow. I petted him and in a few minutes he calmed down and in fact got extremely relaxed. He lay on my arm while I petted him for about 15 minutes. After that he seemed to be fine again.

It's pretty scary to imagine something like that happening again and not resolving, and not being able to do anything to help him. On the other hand, it was quite sweet and touching how trusting and relaxed he was when I consoled him. He continues to lose weight. At this point I just hope that he passes peacefully.
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Old 11-16-2019, 11:27 AM
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I had Bilbo euthanized yesterday.

His episodes of gasping for breath were getting longer and more frequent. Yesterday afternoon he had one which lasted over 30 minutes, and he's had a couple in the last few days that were almost as long. He is clearly very distressed during these episodes. At other times he was mostly just lying down; he rarely walks around and explores things any more. I made the decision after his long gasping episode yesterday.

The vet was busy so we were waiting in the exam room for about 40 minutes. At first he was a little freaked out being in a strange place, but after a couple of minutes he settled down and rested in my arms while I petted him for the whole 40 minutes. His usual doctor wasn't in the office so this was a vet I hadn't seen before. She was very sympathetic and handled it well. After she gave him the shot, he climbed back into my arms and died there. Damn, I've had 14 rats die, but this doesn't get any easier.

One interesting thing -- when I've had the rats on the couch lately, Frodo has also seemed fairly lethargic, mostly lying down next to Bilbo. But last night and this morning, without Bilbo there, he's been more active again. I think he was just keeping Bilbo company.
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Old 11-16-2019, 12:43 PM
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I'm so sorry to hear about Bilbo, but it sounds like you gave him a wonderful life. I've never known a rat, but the videos of yours are very cute! May he rest in peace.
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Old 11-16-2019, 07:03 PM
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((((Markn)))
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Old Yesterday, 11:49 AM
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Thanks Enola and janis. And hugs to you janis; hope you're doing ok.
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Old Yesterday, 12:37 PM
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I'm sorry to hear about Bilbo. Losing a pet is so hard.
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Old Yesterday, 09:29 PM
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I'm sorry for your loss.

You did your best by him, in his life and in his death.
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Old Today, 07:28 AM
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I'm sorry.. Bilbo sounded like such a sweet rat.

Last edited by Two Many Cats; Today at 07:29 AM.
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