After the Stork

Arianna Edson
From the March/April 1996 Rat & Mouse Gazette

Well, it happened. Maybe it was an accident. Your boy-rat escaped for a secret tryst with the girl whose cage you're sure you locked, or the girl-rat you brought home from the pet shop blessed you 23 days later. Perhaps it was done on purpose; you wanted a few more rats; you wanted to pass on the wonderful temperament of your favorite rat before she got too old; you were trying to get a certain color. However it happened, a little tiny stork brought you somewhere between eight and sixteen little bundles of joy; tiny pink squeakies. Before you know it they're four weeks old running around eating mama's food, climbing the walls, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. You realize, perhaps with a mounting sense of helplessness, that the one you planned to keep, the one you promised to your brother, and the three the girl down the street wants only scratches the surface of the litter! Then the girl down the street backs out, and your brother moves to a "No Pets Allowed" apartment...you're stuck! What do you do?

First: Make posters. If you have a computer, all the better; make the posters look as clean, professional, and attractive as possible. Photocopy them onto colored paper if possible; it catches the eye. Be sure to mention on the poster how clean, intelligent, and easily trained rats are; the beautiful colors you have in your litter; a picture of the babies if you have one; and your name and telephone number. Also, be sure to put in big letters: FOR PETS ONLY - ABSOLUTELY NOT FOR FEEDERS! Charge between $8 and $10 each for the rats--especially if you've handled them from the beginning and they are nice and tame. Remember, free rats = snake food! Put these posters up anywhere where people who might want a pet would look: pet supply stores, veterinarians' bulletin boards, and any pet shop that will let you. NEVER sell your babies to a pet store unless you are sure they won't sell them for feeders, or chances are your precious babies will end up as reptile chow!

When people call, encourage them to come over and see the babies. It is always harder to turn down those sweet, fuzzy faces when you can see them. Watch them handle the babies. Give them pointers if they seem timid or inexperienced on how to correctly hold and cuddle the baby. Remember, if you can get them to hold those soft little critters, your job is done for you! Interview them; make sure they have a good cage, know what to feed them, and are using healthy bedding (NOT pine or cedar) and know what to do if they get sick. If you can, put together a little information sheet about how to care for their new rat, and include your own vet's name and number. If you don't feel comfortable with the person, don't sell them the baby, no matter how much you want to get rid of it! Be prepared to take the rats back if something happens and the new owner cannot keep them. It is better than having them end up in a shelter or a feeder tank.

One last trick: insist that the babies be sold in pairs or trios of the same gender. Rats are social animals and don't like to live alone. By insisting that the new owner take more than one, the rat is guaranteed a playmate and you will get rid of the babies twice as fast.

When the babies are finally gone, remember that there are a lot of breeders and pet shops out there whom all have rats who need homes. There are people who "rescue" rats from the shelter, and people who bring home feeder rats to be rehabilitated and loved; these rats also need homes. Before you decide to breed a litter "just to see, to experience it, or to get another rat or two," remember that there are a lot of sweet rats out there who need a home and lots of love. Instead of breeding your own pets, consider looking in other places first.