"Rats are so hard. I miss mine, but not the having to say goodbye so often." 
-- Squeaky


The brevity of a rat's life is not easy on their Mommy, but I tried not having rats for a few months, and it did not go well.  I discovered a long time ago that if I feel lousy and I'm the only one who would be screwed over by my inaction, I don't get out of bed. If I feel fine I'll go do things, and if other people are counting on me I'll do some -- although not necessarily all -- of the things I have slated, but just me? Fuck it, moving is not worth it, I'm going back to sleep.

Rats are nom-oriented like dogs and obstreperous like cats. They won't let you not feed them. They live in a big metal box and can make a truly astonishing amount of noise when they put their minds to it. Mine are spoiled rotten and have no idea what starvation actually feels like, so they think if their bowl is empty, that means they're hungry. The fact that they have emptied it by stealing all the rotini one by one and hiding them in the corners makes no difference.

They are very easy to please. Literally all you have to do to make a cage full of rats scamper around in joy is personally feed them one by one. Food is good and individual attention is good, but when they get to pick a food up right out of Mommy's hand that's awesome. Everything tastes better when Mommy hands it to you directly. They are also suckers for pets. One of the boys from the Bridge Crew used to sleep on the roof of his house, on top of the cage cover, flat on his back with his belly to the sky. All he was missing was a tiny hand-lettered sign that said DEPOZIT TUMY ЯUBZ HEER.

Rats are otherwise tolerant of procrastination. It's not great for them if I let the cage go a few extra days between cleanings, but they don't personally care. Eddie is very proud of her pile of random stolen crap and has no problems hanging onto it a little longer than normal. They have a free-feed bowl of dry things like oatmeal and uncooked pasta that I can just leave with them until they've eaten all of it. Their diet in the wild is mainly grains, and this has the advantage of being incredibly cheap. They have another ramekin of wet/perishable leftovers that I can take away again after a few hours if they're finished with it.

I don't close their cage anymore, since they've realized their own house is way more awesome than anything they can get to outside it, so if I want to pet one of them, I just cruise by and stick my hand in. When they want attention, they climb all the way up and camp on the Attentioning Corner (the top right corner of the cage roof), cantilevered out as far as they can go without falling off. It took them about a year to come up with the bright idea to chew through the boot lace that holds the top door out as a porch, and one of them landed smack in the wastebasket, so they seem to have decided that's not worth the trouble.

You basically forfeit your decorum when dealing with rats. If I were concerned with looking sophisticated with my pets, I would not interact with a species who routinely try to stuff themselves head-first into my bra. I'm pretty sure that letting a rodent jam its tail into your nose and use your nostril for balance is universally considered the opposite of dignity. You can kiss them on the tops of their little heads, but they shed like any other pet, and they taste like rat.

On the other hand, they learn all kinds of things. I've watched most of them discover, test, and finally cement into their wee little brains that tugging on my sleeve or pant leg is the signal for upmommyUP! We had one once who had chronic sniffles, and because it's pretty much impossible to titrate out the correct dose of Sudafed for a half-kilo rat, he got caffeine (decongestant) and theophylline (bronchodilator) in the form of dark chocolate chips. It took several weeks and all three housemates coincidentally coming home in quick succession for us to realize we were being had: He had learned how to make the horrible asthmatic honking noise on purpose, because we responded by giving him delicious noms. It's a wonder he didn't manage to OD.

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