www.whyville.net Jan 23, 2011 Weekly Issue

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AHHH! A Rat!

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I've grown up in a house that was also built into a veterinary office/animal rescue shelter that my parents own. My parents are both veterinarians, and they wanted to keep the business close to home. Ok, maybe a bit too close. I remember being 4 years old and sitting in the front of the office, playing with my cat's long tail, trying to braid the overgrown fur. Suddenly my mom burst through the door with a tiny little stretcher, maybe the size of a shoebox. I used to always use it to play hospital with my dolls. On the stretcher was a small, wriggling little blob of fur, squealing in pain.

"Mama, what is that thing? And why is it squeaking?" I remember asking. "It's a rat, honey," my mom said in a hushed tone, knowing people wouldn't want their animals in a place containing rats. "Some older kids were trying to kill him and were hitting him and trying to step on him." When my mom said that, I burst into tears. I had absolutely no idea what a rat was, all I knew was I was sad and that rat suddenly belonged to me. So that day I got a rat, and named him what I thought was the coolest name a pale white rat could have. I named him Bean Buddy.

I don't remember why I named him Bean Buddy, I just did. I took him everywhere with me in a cute pet purse. Oh that rat was spoiled rotten. He got treats, learned tricks, and used his amazing intelligence to learn to come to his cage door when he wanted play time. Eventually Bean Buddy passed on and became more of a Gas Buddy, (there's my lame joke that I love to include) and I got a new rat. To me, nothing else existed. Rats were a toddler's best friend.

Most people who hear the word rat either scream "WHERE, WHERE?" and run, or go and pull out the traps. What most people don't know is how intelligent rats really are, and what great pets they make. For starters, rats don't bite, and are way cleaner than people think. They are hygienic and love to play. They also don't cost too much. At my local pet store, rats are only $10.00! Just throw in a cage, love, and compassion and you will be on your way to total rat love. Rats also live pretty long compared to hamsters, who only last several months. Rats can last around 5-7 years if played with and cared for properly. They are also very social and love people.

Rats are extremely intelligent. They can be taught tricks, learn to come to you when their name is called or when you even come up to their cage, and always make toys and games out of simple things! A lot of people tend to think of the stereotypes when it comes to rats, but remember that they make excellent pets. They are also so cute, cuddly and adorable furballs!

I always had a harness and leash for my rat, and I would take him on walks. During they day, I would set his cage on the floor in my room and open the door, allowing him to roam free and come back for food and water or his cozy hiding spot. At night, when he got sleepy, he would waddle to his cage to take a nice, long rest. A strange bond between my animals was that my rat would always snuggle with my cats or even my dogs whenever they were asleep, inviting him into the crook of their bodies which he used as a warm blanket.


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