Rats giggle when you tickle them
They're voices are so high pitched you need special instruments to hear
But when you do they're laughter becomes immediately evident
I take pride in the fact that on my little farm I treat my animals with respect. Not just the animals I own but also the ones I encounter. I am not a practicing Buddhist but I appreciate some of their teachings, and I like the phrase that we are "all sentient beings." Yes, I have been known to carry a wayward spider outdoors to safety. Yes, I have brought in a sick chicken and nursed it behind the old wood stove. Yes, I have trapped invaders and spent hours transporting them to more remote areas.
The exception though is rats.
I had no idea the damage rats could do and their speed of reproduction until the winter they invaded the barn and feed room. At first I thought I might be imaging it . Maybe that gnawing and tunneling was a weasel and I could just set a trap and problem solved. I went out one night with my trusted 3000 candle power flashlight and there they were. Rats. Feasting, frolicking, hosting open sexual orgies in the storage room.
What would you do?
I put out rodent bait, the stuff that says it works quickly and waited. In three days I found dead rats, and a few more staggering weakly in the yard wondering what had gone wrong with their ideal life. Shortly my rat problem was over. Or so I thought....
In mid April I called in our neighbor with his front end loader to move the manure pile next to the barn. He was almost finished and was lifting the last bit of steaming goodness next to the barn wall when I went out to pay him. I saw something drop out of the bucket of his loader. Two baby rats. Two pink... hairless creatures... eyes closed... squirming and nudging each other. Newborn baby rats. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the loader heading with the last load out to the far pasture. The ground was clean now, and there were no siblings, no mother, nothing scampered near by
What would you do?
Rats can become fertile at 5 wks and have five litters a year of 7 to 15 pups
They can chew through wood, metal and even concrete
They can swim half a mile
They can fall 15 meters and not be injured
They can go longer without water than a camel
A rat can survive a large amount of radiation
Rats can kill small baby animals and pets
What I did was walk quickly over and raise my oversize five pound thrift - store rubber boot over their heads.
But I couldn't bring it down.
Why? Life is a paradox sometimes.
What I did was go to the house and make a nice cup of chai tea. The mother rat would come back and get them, and I would get what was left of the poison and put it out.
Murder by accidental poisoning is easier. I must remember that for future reference.
When I came back an hour later they were still there. I glanced around but only the pony was staring suspiciously through the smoky barn window.
I ignored all those rat facts above, bent down and slipped them quickly in the left pocket of my jacket.
According to the Comprehensive Manual of Rat Care you can't just feed newborn rats anything. So much for my plan of just blending up leftovers with the sour milk in the fridge. They need something close to their mothers milk, and you can give them a little dilute pedialyte to hold them over so I headed off to the drug store. I searched through no less then a dozen cans of infant formula, reading the ingredients, hoping to find something that said 'Recommended for Rodents.' A helpful clerk approached.
"How old is the baby" she asked
"Newborn" I replied.
"Has the mother been breast feeding ?" she inquired "No, I think the mothers dead" I said
She gave me the 'look' and stumbled back a bit into the display of breast pumps.
"You think?" she gasped.
Shortly I headed home with my supplies :
Bottle pedialyte $7.95
Isomil Advance infant powder 32.95!!
At home the babies were wiggling around in their new shoebox home and I found it remarkably easy to flip them holding the loose skin on their neck and give them their first feeding.
Like I'd been babysitting rats all my life.
I will tell you proudly that the rats lived. At first I fed them four to six times a day. In eleven days their eyes opened. They grew fur. They started to come out and anticipate their mealtime. They 'held' the syringe and sucked greedily. I started giving them pieces of fruit and seeds and dry bread. They started to play with one another and they ran up the sleeve of my sweater. Yes, they became cute. I mean, look at the picture again. What amazed me the most was how clean they were. They were constantly washing up. Disturbed when I spilled something on them they washed each other.
It was cold and damp that spring and I kept them longer then I should have. I moved them to a larger cage and started introducing bits of meat and bugs. The one weekend hubby and I got out of town my trusted neighbor friend helped look after the place. We had loaded the car and I was shouting last minute instructions.
"Oh, and I forgot to mention the two rats in the back porch. "Instructions on the cage," I yelled.
We knew her well and we felt confident as we sped quickly away.
It was a warm Sunday in late May when I scooped the little creatures in my jacket pocket and headed toward the river on our old A.T.V. About a km from our house I put them carefully at the base of an old hollow log. I deposited enough dog food and scraps to last them about six months. Although I knew they wouldn't stay around it made me feel better.
If a member of a rat pack becomes ill they will care for it
A lonely rat becomes depressed
Rats like chocolate
Rats are affectionate, curious and intelligent. They love games
Rats are an important part of Eastern spirituality
They have been used to sniff out land mines and have been found to be able to detect tuberculosis
95 % of wild rats don't make it through their first year
As I drove away I looked back to see them scampering around the tree. I know I imagined it , but I thought I heard a giggle.
Over head a hawk circled.