The menagerie of critters that the Lord has placed on this earth with us is a source of constant delight to me. Having pet rats has been especially rewarding, because I can see that God has taken care when making even these much-maligned animals. I am so encouraged to know that I serve a Creator who is kind enough to give even the least of His little creatures ‘personalities’ and intelligence.
Our current furbabies are two female fancy rats, Coffee and Faith. Although we love them both equally, Coffee is my rat and Faith belongs to Ninja. It’s hard to believe that these girls are sisters, since they’re so different in looks and personality (kinda like some human siblings I know :))
Coffee (AKA CrazyRat/Skewball) is our cherry-eyed Siamese hoodie. Her hood was only visible when she was very young; her coat has since faded into these mottled Siamese markings. She’s full of spunk; always the first rattie to discover new things and the first to get into trouble! An ear infection when she was younger left her with a permanent head tilt, which earned her the affectionate nickname Skewball.
Faith is our Berkshire girl, better known as Flea for the huge leaps she takes to get to where she wants to be. She has a very gentle and sweet personality, waiting for her sister to take the lead. She’s happiest peeking out from a dark hidey hole such as Ninja’s sleeve. She doesn’t enjoy affection much, but she can’t escape my kisses because she’s the softest, silkiest little creature I’ve ever cuddled!
Owning girl rats has been a very different experience from having boys (I’ll write more about our male rats in a separate post). Females are smaller and far more active and involved. Boys are usually fat (‘squishy’ is the polite term used among rat lovers) and laid back. Our first three rats were males, and these girls are our first females. There are pros and cons to each gender.
Male rats secrete an oil on their backs called buck grease, which can be a bit sticky and smelly if you don’t bathe them regularly. Girls are much cleaner and nicer to handle in this regard. However, females come on heat about once a week, which we’ve found quite annoying because the girls keep trying to pin each other down and mount each other – resulting in a lot of squeaking and scuffling every week. By contrast, our boys hardly ever fought, except for a few playfights when they were small. But then again, boys can be lazy and homely whereas girls are lots of fun to interact with.
Whether you decide to get males or females is up to you. If you want a cuddly ball to nap on your lap and give you loads of affection, pick a male. If you want an involved pet who’s always on the go and up to new antics, a girl is best. Of course, ratties have individual personalities too, and what I’m saying here is only my opinion based on a very limited experience of rat owning. But I’m glad we’ve tried both genders, because now we know that we’d prefer getting squishy boys again next time.
Does it seem odd to be talking about ‘next time’ when we still have these adorable little girls? Well, that’s the thing about owning rats: they only live an average of two to three years, so once they pass their first birthday (as Skewball and Flea just did in August), your mind can’t help wander down that sad road… 😦
Many people have asked us how we can stand it to have pets who will be with us for such a short time. But in a way it’s a blessing, because it’s taught us to love them to the full while they’re here. It can be too easy to take for granted a pet like a dog or cat, since they’re with you through so many seasons of your life. But when you have ratties, you need to love them today, every day, so that you can cherish their short little lives.
It’s a good reminder for all of life, actually.