The Story of Our Visitor
A few months ago strange inexplicable things were happening in the rat room, the most annoying of which was that Sausage had this never-ending lice problem. It was making me crazy. By the book I went: 1 grain of uncooked rice worth of Ivermectin. Gave it to him once, watched the bugs die. Came back the next week and gave him more, couldn't believe how many bugs there were - watched them die. No biggie - could be from the bedding I guess. Came back the next week, gave him some more. The week after the bugs were still there. WHAT THE HECK?! I'm losing my mind at this point. It has never taken more than 2 weeks to get rid of even the worst of louse problems, nobody else had 'em - just him (and his roomies - but not as bad)...what were we doing wrong?!
And then one of our girls developed (and still has) one of the strangest nastiest skin conditions we have ever seen. Kind of like chapped body. Awful, really. Ivermectin doesn't help her either, Zithro doesn't help, anti-inflammatories make her comfortable but it comes back...crazy stuff!
Plus there's the whole food chunk disappearance phenomenon. The girls kick the food chunks out onto the floor in piles. Suddenly they "stop" this behavior. HUH?
Roll ahead a couple of months and one morning I see this shadow fly by across the back wall of the rat room. "Oh, not again!" I think to myself. I'm quite upset. I think we've missed putting someone back in their home. But headcounts are right...I think. I keep second-guessing myself. I finally conclude it's one of the younger girls since the shadow was so fast. So I get worried thinking she escaped and is running into the boys cage on a nightly basis. Crip crap and all that!
Well, I try to be polite about it. I set out a cage with the door open and put a water bottle in it. I put cereal, noodles, chocolate soy milk, pudding, cake, cookies....whatever any normal rat would be tempted to eat. Every morning I'd check and not a thing was missing. WHAT THE HECK?!
On top of that, she keeps shredding the carpet underneath the rat room door. Boy the landlord is going to be pissed!!
So patience is wearing thin at this point and we've got food stashes on the floor in just about every corner of the house and I keep stepping in it. I'm going mad. And then one night...or should I say one morning, we both stay up very very late with the intention of catching her once and for all. Andy is in the kitchen holding a rope which is suspended by a nail from a door holding a cage right above the rat room door. He's sitting in the dark - "The rat can see better that way," he says. How thoughtful.
Well, as luck would have it, the rat skitters under the door into the rat room and, predictably, Andy doesn't see this in time to catch her :O) Fortunately I am in the rat room but unfortunately I'm not really sure if she's in or out so I snoop around some thinking I saw and heard something but far from sure if the hopeful side of my imagination isn't playing games with me. After a few minutes I talk to the individual on the other side of the door and inquire as to whether he'd seen anything come into the rat room. "Yes," he says "I think so."
So, I cover the base of the door with towels and am happy that she is at least trapped -in- the rat room. And then I hear something....
I look around and see a shadow skitter up the side of a table and then a blob shadow fly up from that table to a cage nearby and then back onto a windowsill and then back on top of that same cage.
And then it stops.
And then my brain starts processing millions of awful things, the first of which was:
"It's not a girl!"
And the second of which was:
"It's not ours!!"
"Oh MY GOD!!! THE GIRLS! They're all pregnant. Oh no, blah-blah-blah.... ....boy does he raisin!"
Ok, so I've regained my senses. Everything is explained. Everything - including the black marks running along the walls, the bugs, the disappearing lab blocks...HUH? nah... Forget the lab blocks. OK, must catch him. And the poor girls...they're all close to 2 years of age...or older...have never had kids....they'll die....oh, must catch him, yes.
Well, let me tell you.... We had one rat who was a nasty nasty rat. She was my vision, my expectation of wild. I had NO idea. This guy was FAST. He could FLY. He had turbo engines in his legs and in his butt (I kid you not, I have never ever seen so many raisins!).
But somehow we managed to trap him and he screamed and screamed and we got dirty looks from everyrat in that room.
So fearing that he's milliseconds away from having a heart attack, I am inspired with a brilliant idea. We'll just send him back out from whence he came (that would be a loose panel in the bathroom) and he'll just run for his life and never come back...
And that is exactly what we did.
And get this... I know, you'll all be quite surprised by the results of my ingenious little plan:
He came back.
Only this time, he didn't use the door. He went around the house through the walls and chewed his way in through the other side.
OK, so we're cleaning up the ratroom and one of life's great mysteries is solved. That mystery (for me) was: Why us? Why the rat room? What made him come back?
His addiction, his purpose, his reason for being (in our house) was lab blocks. He loved them. It's crazy! He didn't want chocolate, he didn't want icing, he didn't want spaghetti....he wanted lab blocks. Lots of lab blocks - he had a mound. And what better place to find them but on the stoops of the various penthouse suites located in the projects of RatRaisins, Inc?
OK, so we have to catch him again. Fun. He's living in the kitchen now. Our kitchen is completely and entirely unused. I've seen wreckage from tornados that is more kempt than our kitchen. He picked a really good spot. You know how, in theory, you can usually get mice to leave your home by simply not feeding them? Well, there is no food in our kitchen - just veggies in the fridge, and he obviously wasn't getting in there. But that didn't matter because he had the rat room.
Well, we fixed that. We now have an industrialized looking old house. Floral wallpaper, ornate baseboards, all decorated with gutter mesh and dry-wall brackets. Really, a nice touch which I'm sure will be featured soon in Metropolitain Home magazine.
So he sought revenge. He ate our turtle. Bit the poor guy on the nose and scraped off a good portion of his shell. Poor Fred. We're not feeling too nice anymore but in the back of my head I can't stay angry with him because it is in his nature....but boy am I miffed!
So, obviously, he hasn't left (and probably isn't planning to) so my next brilliant idea is to try to escort him out the front door. I start leaving lab blocks in the stairwell leading to the outdoors in the hopes that one day we'll get lucky and we'll either be coming home and he'll be in the stairwell and take off outside or we'll be inside and note that he is in the stairwell, close the door, run around to the front of the house via the back door, and we can then escort him out that way.
This really was a good idea so stop shaking your respective heads!
He went for the food. He came back for it. He stopped destroying various parts of the house. But one night there must have been a breeze because the door at the top of the stairwell shut and Jaws the Ghetto Rat managed to shred some more carpet and chew on some more wood fast enough to make his escape out of the stairwell before we awoke.
Well, it was almost a good idea....
Then Andy gets fed up again and decides that he's going to tear the kitchen apart looking for him. We knew where he was hiding because, as a result of another one of my brilliant ideas, we had flour sprinkled over the floor of the entire kitchen. As a result of this, we knew he was in the kitchen. Actually, we already knew this but thanks to my plan, we got to learn this again :O) He walked in circles by the way. Footprints everywhere. Seriously, though, we knew he was hiding underneath a board in this little makeshift shelving system in the back dark recesses of our constant tornado (this revelation had nothing to do with the flour).
And why does Andy get fed up this time, you wonder? Well, I forgot to tell you but this rat has a sense of humor. He, for example, always made absolutely sure that he would leave his raisins in places that Andy was sure to step - Always in the middle of doorways, stairwells, and, of course, right in front of the toilet bowl. He also thought it funny to sleep on a stair, right in the middle, on his back - as if to mock us - to let us know to what extent he felt our home to be his. But the straw that broke the camel's back: He was sleeping, quite comfortably, behind the microwave one night when we came home. Andy made noise and he skittered off to his little abode in our makeshift cabinet space...
So Andy decided he was going to take the cabinets down.
We got lucky. Andy made a noise at the door of Mr. Rat's quarters and Mr. Rat comes out to inspect what's going on. He was apparently quite stunned that anyone would be so silly as to venture into that tumultuous mess because he sat there long enough for Mr. Reaction-Time to drop the cage over his head.
So now we had him. Again. And he's screaming. Again. We gave him some water and lab blocks and put him in the stairwell leading to the great outdoors so he could adjust to his new temperature.
And we started our deliberations. For example: The book says that rats live in colonies and that before relocating them, you should collect as many of them as possible and relocate them as a group in order to be humane about it. Problem: It's only him. Common sense says: It's kinda chilly out there. That's not too humane, is it? But trapping him in a cage isn't either. How will a full-grown male make new friends?
So I do the first silly thing that comes to mind. I call around and ask. The zoo people were friendly but didn't know. They did know that they needed some place to burrow but wanted me to be able to give him a good second chance. So I called Second Chance Wildlife who, I was told, is an equal-opportunity wildlife rehabilitation organization. But, get this, rats don't count. "Just dump him outside." Nice. But the nice young man was kind enough to inquire about his current conditions - "Was he in a humane trap? Comfortable?" So sweet. So for giggles I call SPCA. "Nobody will care about your rat, ma'am." Well, at least they were honest...
So I wing it. I check the weather predictions and start saying things like "If I were a rat..."
And I stay home the next day to wait for the noon-day "sun" and for the rain to stop coming down because "If I were a rat" I would prefer to start off my journey on a warmer albeit wetter day versus a freezing but relatively dry day. And at the right moment, I put on my rubber boots and head out to...Devou Park.
I find this funny so I'll share but it may just be a "You'd have had to been there" kind of thing....
I didn't feel like hiking all the way out to the only wooded park I knew of so I decided to ask a co-worker who lives near where we do if there were any good wooded parks around. Nobody listens to me. I'm used to this. But this just killed me. I told her that we had trapped our wild rat and that I needed something with a food and water source, with trees and with burrows in which to release him. Her reply: "Devou Park. It's really close by and has a great view of the city!" Well that's nice, I'm sure my barely far-sighted rat will really enjoy a great view of Cincinnati!
Anyway, I trek his butt out to Devou Park, march down a wet trail, and find a really nice spot with pre-made burrows. I open the cage door. He just sits there. He figures it out. He walks (not runs, walks) out the door, hops down onto the ground, and starts inspecting.
To be nice, I sat there. I figured if it was all wrong, like if he was a street rat and never really played in the wilderness, that he'd do what any rat would do and run to the most familiar place, that being back into the cage. I sat there for awhile. He inspected, he marked, and he didn't go back into the cage so....I said my farewells.
I actually kind of miss him. He did so many things the books say rats do but that our little lard-butts, as a result of gravity, would never be able to achieve. Plus, he was beautiful. I really did like watching him, his wide eyes, his long fur, his sweet little white feet....
But I'm sure if he's not frozen to death by now (the weather predictions were close but off by about 20 degrees for the following days) he's wishing he never chewed the turtle and wishing he never mocked the Andy....
By the way....we did get some snaps of him before letting him go "see the city." If interested, those pics are here.
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Disclaimer: There are many non-sarcastic accounts and tips on the web regarding rat care. This is not
one of them. These are merely accounts of our experiences with rats, our perceptions of these experiences, where we've failed
and where we've succeeded. These accounts are here for two purposes: