Book Review: My Rat and Me, by Monika Lange

Catherine Graf
From the RMCA web site, April 2003

My Rat and Me, by Monika Lange

Barron's has published several books on pet rats in the last few years and I pick up every one of them. Each has some different useful information and is relatively inexpensive ($6.95), but they are worth it for the color photos alone! It's always fun to see a picture that resembles one of your own pets. This latest book is actually a collaboration between four people: the author, a photographer, an illustrator, and another person who provided stories of her own pet rats interspersed with the text. It's set up as a fun activity book for adults and kids alike, and I'd like to urge anyone who loves pet rats or wants to learn about them not to pass it up.

The first section of the book is called "Golden Rules." I could have used this when I was getting my first rat. The author describes ten Golden Rules each for equipment, feeding, and care. As with another book I reviewed, however, a criticism I have is that the book doesn't warn about cedar and pine bedding being inappropriate for rats. I should point out this book was first published in Germany, and I have no idea what types of bedding are on the market there. I think the translator or editor should have checked this out as this is a serious omission. One good thing that is pointed out in this first section is that pet rats should be taken to a veterinarian. Too many people never bother doing this with small animals, even when the pet is seriously ill.

The rest of the chapters are Typical Rats (Watch it), Building Trust from the Start (Love it), Fun and Games with Rats (Have fun) and Active and Happy in Old Age (Old & Happy). I think it's great to devote a whole section to building trust. Sometimes, as with my blind rat Raphael (see my article One for the Angels on this site) it can take a long time. Patience with a pet rat will pay off. This section contains several foldouts that provide extra detail, such as building trust step by step. There is also a section on biting, which was the biggest problem I had with Raphael. I searched all over for information on this a few months ago.

The book contains a number of tips from breeders, veterinarians, and pet stores. There are "quizzes" in each section so the readers can evaluate their own situations. Some of the topics are rat personality types, whether a rat is happy, and how well the person knows the pet rat. Six stories, "Rat Adventures," of actual pets are provided. Tables, sidebars, photos, and illustrations, all in full color, get the points across and make for a fun read.

The book is generally very sensitive to the animals' feelings and the people involved in creating it clearly love rats. I recommend the book for pet rat owners, but I would not make it my only source of reference. A book with more detailed health information is essential, as is a good working relationship with a qualified veterinarian.