I seem to have purchased some more critters.

See, I was out at a gig in Allston, and it turns out there's a PetCo between where I was and the nearest T stop. One thing led to another and somehow I walked out of there with a box of itty-bitty rats. I was worried that they'd get uncomfortably cold on the walk back to Harvard, but no. Apparently it's never too chilly to jam your nose into the leading corner of the box and try to smell where you're going.

This batch is a trio of ruby-eyed albino girls. Notoriously, red-eyed rats have eyesight even worse than the normal ones. As far as I can tell, they can see blotches of light and dark and that's about it. They can't track my hand if I wave at them from outside the cage, although they'll happily chase my fingers if I make some kind of noise for them to follow.

They've been named Bianca, Yuki, and Edelweiß, although this is largely for my convenience. If history is any indication, what I'm actually going to call them to their faces is "rat" or "boo-boo" or "get back here if you want your treat you fuzzy little bastard".

I can kinda-sorta tell them apart up close; Bianca is smaller than the other two, although I'm not sure if she's runty or just a few days younger than Yuki and Edelweiß. (I didn't bother asking. Finding a PetCo employee who knows anything about the small animals they're tending is like finding gold bars in an airline toilet. It's happened, but it's probably not going to happen to you.) She fears nothing, but rather vehemently does not want to be picked up just yet. She's probably not going to be runty for long, inasmuch as she eats like a tiny racehorse.

Yuki is the biggest. Most young rats automatically go ASDFGHJKL NOTHING UNDER MY FEETS HALP HALP HALP when you pick them up, probably as an instinctive reaction to predatory birds who like to snatch them up and eat them; Yuki has already gotten down to going 'oh no. nothing under my feets. halp. or something. eh.' because she's figured out that if she doesn't fight, I'm just going to stuff her into my shirt, where it's warm and dark. She's already begun picking up on Important Rat Life Lessons, like 'she who throws herself at the cage to greet Mommy in the morning gets some of Mommy's breakfast'. I feed them all, of course, but five seconds is an eternity to a rodent, especially when it measures the head start your sibling has gotten on chewing.

Edelweiß likes being pet, but is still a bit iffy about being picked up. Mostly she wants to play. She's taken to sleeping up on the top level of the cage now, by herself, where she knows I can stick my hand in and scritch her. She's strangely fussy about food; regardless of whether I'm handing it to her or have put it down in front of her, she has to sniff it a good long time before shoving it into her face.

None of them are actually afraid of me, which means that at least the PetCo employees were nice. They're not bitey, although I've gotten the experimental are-you-food? nibble a few times, and girl-rats are strangely insistent about giving manicures. They startle easily, though, on account of the whole 'can't see for shit' thing -- if I don't remember to click my fingernails together while I approach, they apparently aren't aware of where my hand is until I poke them, and they jump a (scale) mile.

Female rats are supposed to be far more active than male rats, but so far they're no more hyperactive than the boys are at that age. This may have something to do with how I pick pets: I stick my hand into the terrarium to attract the attention of anybody either stupid enough or brave enough to smell something that's 500 times their size and might eat them whole, and the first few I grab get to come home and be spoiled rotten. It tends to select for rats who have the personality of a slightly dim Labrador retriever, and don't waddle too fast.

They photograph remarkably badly, considering they reflect like gangbusters. It doesn't help that I keep their cage fairly dark, on account of they're rats and they like it that way. Most of the shots I've tried to take are kind of a white blur on a low-light, low-contrast background. Nevertheless, here they are:

Yuki & Edelweiß


  1. "squeeee!" New rats! May they bring you much joy and affection. :-)

    Also, I'm thinking about getting new rodents after Christmas and I am hoping you can point me in the direction of some actually good resources/info about keeping rats. I've had two hamsters in the past but figure things will be different, particularly wrt space requirements.

  2. "We three rats of Allston-Mass are/Fuzzballs poking noses through bars..."

    Congrats on the new rodent chums; they're sure to provide hours of scritches and amusement.


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