Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Pet Possums and Pet Rats

A couple of you have asked where the pet possums went. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here are the original posts with pictures: Look What We Found!, Update on Elvira & Pie (Pie is the possum), Pics of Pie, and Peanut (the second possum).

The vet who told me that they made wonderful pets and were smarter than dogs was very mistaken. The Scientist (my famous scientific family member) warned me that the vet was completely off the mark, but I didn't listen. They bonded to me, but to no one else in the family. And when you have animals with lots of teeth and powerful jaws, that's kind of detrimental.

They're also very dirty animals, and I had to work very hard to keep ahead of them. I hate to walk into a house where you can tell someone has animals.

One night (about a month before my surgery) I was holding Pie and watching TV. I grew very sleepy (I had to take muscle relaxants a lot then) so I asked The Other Half to take the possum and put her in her room (she lived in one of the three bathrooms, in a nice pagoda). By this time she'd grown to be the size of a small housecat, incidentally. So, the Other Half disconnected her, and she went wild. She started hissing and thrashing and snapping and it really freaked him out (he'd taken her away from "Mom", you see).

I took her back (he was worried she'd bite me too, which was very sweet of him, but I knew better). I had to go sit up with her in the bathroom to calm her down and get her to let go of my t-shirt.

Peanut was tamer, but he hadn't become an adolescent yet. And the more I read up on them, the more I realized that these simply aren't animals that can become pets, no matter what the vet said.

Knowing that I was about to go in for major surgery and wouldn't be able to care for either one of them, and that no one else could, I decided to find a possum rescue society. I donated the two possums and a wad of cash to take care of them until they'd been rehabbed.

The woman who took them informed me rather sniffily that anyone who thought that possums could become pets was out of her mind. When I defended myself by saying they'd been checked over by a vet and he'd recommended them for pets, she went into a ranting tirade that went on for about 10 minutes. I was happy to escape.

She keeps me updated and tells me they're doing fine, and will be released in the spring. They are currently learning to fend for themselves, as possums do.

Pet Rats

I don't wish to contribute to any rat prejudices that are out there, so I'd like to go on the record saying that domesticated pet rats are usually wonderful pets. They are the same to wild rats as dogs are to wolves.

I grew up with lab rats as pets. They're much smarter and more responsive than any other rodents (hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, gerbils, etc.) Rats are very clannish and get quite attached to their owners. They can learn to do tricks, they learn their names, and come when they're called. They're also much more hygienic than the other rodents and develop very unique personalities.

A lot of people are turned off by the tail, until they learn that the reason a rat has that tail is for balance and cooling. The tail acts as a little radiator, which releases heat (since rats can't sweat).

I currently own a pet rat (named Pele, after the Hawaiian goddess). I rescued her from a pet store when I found out that she'd been someone's pet but had been left behind because the girl was moving. Pele was destined to be snake food. She was young and, as I feared, pregnant. She had 12 babies two days before Christmas (in these pictures the babies are a couple of weeks old). I'm making arrangements with a local pet store to sell them as pets (they're hand-raised and therefore more expensive than 'feeder rats').

So, if your kids start asking for a hamster, you really should consider a domestic rat as an alternative pet.


Ted said...

So you grew up with lab rats. Did you steal them from NASA or was that only moon rocks?

mal said...

I had a boss who was a herpetologist by training. He had a whole different outlook on rodents of all types. Me? welllll not in my house

Eddo said...

I don't really like responsibility - does it show? I try to hide that side of me. That is the true reason why I don't have a dog - that and because I am always heartbroken when they die. We had great danes growing up and they only live to be about 10 years old - and that is a long life for a great dane. And they are such good dogs that they become like large humans - siblings even. And when pets die it is sometimes just as bad as losing a close family member. So no pet, no heartache, and no responsibility.

FTS said...

And I thought I lived in a zoo...

Lee Ann said...

Oh, I am sorry, I have trouble trying not to look at those pictures...I hate mice and rats...eeeewwwww!

Mr. Althouse said...

I used to have pet mice as a kid. My mother never could get used to them, but she tolerated them. I also had, at varrious times, guinea pigs, hamsters rabbits and of course, dogs and cats. I once caught a baby possum in my garage, but did not consider keeping it. My brother has an assortment of reptiles including rattle snakes (also not very good pets).

Despite my recent comment on your last post about my rat tale (sorry!), I totally agree that rats can make good pets. However, they make terrible house guests.

Incidentally, when I was about five, my dad and I were out for a bike ride in our very upscale suburban neighborhood when we came upon a lion cub! We shielded ourselves with our bikes, but it followed us home where it lept up and knocked me right on my but. It turns out that it was a pet of someone a few streets over. It was just being friendly, but it still scared the bleep out of me. It was my first claim to fame, garnering me recognition on the front page of our local newspaper. Lions, cubs or otherwise, do not make good pets!

Jamie Dawn said...

I've heard that rats make good pets. I think they are ugly things!
We had a pet raccoon just after we were married. Rascal was so fun and cute, but when he got near "puberty" he needed to have freedom to wander. One day, he just roamed and never came back. They can get aggressive, so I'm sure possums are similar.
I've been having trouble with your blog. My computer goes to your site, but then it freezes and won't fully load. I end up having to turn off the computer. I've had this happen at one other blog that I visit. I think there must be something in your templates that my computer just doesn't like.

Mr. Althouse said...

I have the same problem sometimes. I think it's the music. I don't have to shut down though, I just quit Safari (Mac's browser) and open it again.


Ellen said...

There was a little story on TV this morning about a snake that befriended his food (a rat) and has refused to eat him. They've even starved the snake, but he refuses still.
They've actually become best friends. Odd, huh?

I have to admit, it was hard for me to watch the story, as I do not care for either... but I found the story cute nonetheless.

Tan Lucy Pez said...

Ditto on the blog thing. I didn't have any problem today, but then, I'm not hearing any music today either.

I can't do rats. Or snakes. It has to be fuzzy like a dog or cat.

~Deb said...

My cousin had a pet rat- and it was just as smart as a dog! We'd tell "Baby" (her name) to get up on the couch, and she would! The rat would literally listen to you. It understood what you were saying to some extent. They're amazing little rodents!

Mike said...

I'm the same as TLP (wow, me and her agreein' on something?) I can't do rats either. Dogs, and maybe just maybe a cat but that's as far as I'll go.

Kathleen said...

No rats, please!

I have the same problem with your site. I always save you until last because I generally need to end program to get out . . . frozen solid.

Jenn said...

Do you have a dog or a cat besides the rats?

I had a mean miniature hamster once. He was very greedy and unthankful. With an angry look on his face he'd grab the soft bedding I gave him then march up the little ladder into his bedroom with it. He'd bite anyone who touched him.

Yes, it is the tail with no hair on it that creeps people out.

Fred said...

We have three cats, a dog, and two guinea pigs. We also take care of two feral cats. We did have a rabbit and turtles, too, but we cut back.

We keep busy with all the critters.

Monique said...

Rats as pets? I had a couple of hamsters in college and just never bonded to them. I've always been a cat person.

Ellen said...

Saurkraut- Just to let you know, I am not experiencing any problems with freeze-outs to your blog... thank goodness. My day wouldn't be complete without your stories!

Jamie Dawn said...

I just tried it again, and it came up VERY slowly, but at least it didn't freeze up. I use Safari and a Mac computer like Mike does, so obviously the problem lies there.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

Are you really SURE that those critters in you walls wern't just Pele's cousins come to visit?? Oh come on now, are you SURE???
Actually my kids had a hamsters some years ago, and there isn't much difference. One of their hamsters got away, and we didn't find it for three months. (I discovered it when I opened the file cabinet to get my income tax stuff out. You can imagine what it looked like, and the little rotten monster sat there in the middle of the shredded paper and looked so proud of himself.) Oldest son (after he left home,) used to raise rattlesnakes in his bedroom with a big cage of gerbils beside them. They didn't dare try to escape because deep in their hearts the knew what happened to any of their family that left the cage.

Speaking of possums, did you see the pictures on ExMI? I guess the stories are true.

Mr. Althouse said...


I haven't had the "rainbow pinwheel" (Macs hourglass) since this morning. Whatever you did worked, your page comes right up. I didn't mind repeated attempts though, it's a small price to pay to access your site.


ts said...

i love the big hamsters, not the stupid little ones. so i guess if rats are bigger than hamsters, i could love them even more (theoretically).

The Zombieslayer said...

No offense, but I'll stick with a dog.

Bar Bar A said...

you are a wonderful human being! One of my blog readers pointed me to you because he knows that I have pet rats and love them. I've had rats all my life and have resuced most of them. I recently bred a pair and had fifteen sweet little babies. I found loving homes for all of them and kept two - one of which was the runt of the litter, Isaac. Isaac only lived for 6 weeks and I found her dead, no apparent cause of death she had been sitting on my shoulder hours earlier happy as could be. It was heartbreaking.

If you'd like to see any of my pics please visit my blog and do a search on rats, I have lots of pics!!!