The smallest things can take up the most room in your heart

Companion Rats

“Sometimes,’ said Pooh, ‘the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” ~A.A. Milne

Bubonic plague, disease, vermin – These are just a few words that most people associate with rats (all of which have recently been debunked!).  But there is another side to this animal that many do not know.
Companion rats are:
  • extremely clean animals
  • extremely clean
  • deeply bonded to their guardian and other animals in the home
  • much better pets for kids (compared to other small rodents)
  • highly intelligent
  • easily trained
  • very social
  • very curious
  • very sensitive
  • love human interaction
  • not aggressive
  • known to laugh 
  • ticklish 
  • swimmers
  • deeply bonded to their guardian

Companion Rat Facts:

  • Many people compare the companionship of a rat to that of a dog (myself included).
  • Domesticated rats are physiologically and psychologically different from their wild relatives.
  • They have been bred to be gentle and affectionate.
  • Rats Will Refuse Treats to Rescue a Distressed Cage Mate!
  • Domestic rats are as different from wild rats as dogs are from wolves.
  • I have never known a rat to bite (although anything with a mouth can bite.)
  • They are fastidious groomers; they groom themselves like a cat several times a day.
  • Companion rats (“fancy rats”) were first domesticated by rat-catchers of the 19th Century.  These people were paid by town governments to trap rats.  They soon started breeding the wild rats to stay in business.  This was how they discovered how intelligent and loyal these “pet” rats could be.
  • Rats have demonstrated compassion and empathy toward other rodents in studies.
  • Rats are 1 of only 2 small mammals that I recommend to families with children.

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Those “rat facts” listed above are all true.  I know this because I lived with a companion rat for many years.  Her name was Sandy.

I met Sandy when she was just a wee rat pup while I was working at a the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center in Baton Rouge.   She and her family members had a very specific purpose.   They were snake food.  One day I was in the feeder rat room and I saw this sandy blonde rat pup with the softest fur and the kindest brown eyes.  Well, I just couldn’t resist her, so I decided to let her hang around with me for a few days.  Sandy would ride around on my shoulder while I worked.  She enjoyed hiding in my hair and would peek out when she was curious as to what was happening around us.  I fell in love with her and could not let her fate be decided by a snake, so Sandy came home with me.

Sandy became a very special member of my family.   I introduced her to my dog  Maggie, and to my cat, Mr. Beaux.   Maggie was a timid dog, so she showed Sandy nothing but love (or avoidance, depending on her mood).   Mr. Beaux however, had other plans.  Once I was clear that Sandy was not food, the cat and rat got along splendidly.   Sandy would even take car rides with Mr. Beaux and Maggie (Yes, this cat loves car rides).  Sandy and I took long road trips across the country together.  She was such a kind, gentle soul.   I later realized that because I had taken her away from her mother just after she was weened, this enabled Sandy to bond so strongly with me.  That was such a blessing.  She trusted me unconditionally.

A few years later, ovarian cancer formed in her body.  At the time I was not aware of how important it was to spay female rats to prevent this, so Sandy suffered for a short while until we could do surgery to remove the cancerous mass.  Sandy recovered splendidly with the help of medicine and a lot of love and care.

Eventually the time came to say goodbye to Sandy as the symptoms of  old age were setting in.   My veterinarian was a close friend, so he helped me to say goodbye to Sandy peacefully and humanely.  I knew I loved Sandy, but I had no idea how badly I would mourn her passing.  I cried for weeks. I was almost shocked at how much of an impact she had made on my life in just a few years.  Although it is over a decade later, I still miss her.  She was such an incredible soul and animal companion.  I am grateful for all of the lessons she taught me, and for the beauty and gentleness she brought into our lives.

Sandy, you are forever in my heart.

sandy rat

sandy rat

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 If you are interested in learning more, Dr. Anthony Pilny from The Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine discusses common misperceptions about companion rats.  
Rat in hand
Our animal friends leave paw prints on our lives and souls, which are as unique as fingerprints in every way. ~Amy Martin, Conscious Companion

2 thoughts on “The smallest things can take up the most room in your heart

  1. I am teary-eyed reading this beautiful tribute! I had gerbils as a kid and in the past few years have had 2 rescue rodents. A sweet head-tilted kangaroo gerbil our neighbor’s dog found in their yard and a misunderstood rattie. She was snake food (wahhh!) that the snakes wouldn’t eat so she was sent to be a classroom pet. Of course since she had no positive socialization with humans, she did what any sensible creature would do when a bunch of wild elementary school humans tried to grab her: BITE! I came across a plea for a new home for this girl, Sami, and spent 3 fabulous years with her. Ratties are great companions if you give them a chance!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww,thank you for sharing that! How wonderful that you can relate! Yes, they are wonderful animals when given the chance. Ratties have been on my mind a lot lately.
      I have never really talked about Sandy to anyone. If felt really great to share her story here. Thank you for sharing with me as well 🙂


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