This is the story of Smartie – a black and white hooded female who I was so lucky to rescue.
A friend of a friend was sharing a house with a girl that had a rat.
I heard that the girl had moved out of the house and had left the rat behind to be looked after by another tenant. I was worried that she wouldn’t be looked after her properly so when I received a phone call asking me if I wanted her, I went straight round to the house to pick her up. It was 16 October 2001.
I suppose she was about 6-8 months old. She had a nice clean glass tank and although she was quite skinny I realised that she had been well looked after.
I was told that she wasn’t very friendly, which was hardly surprising when I discovered that I was to be her 4th owner. I decided to call her Smartie.
Smartie had respiratory problems, her previous owner had lived in one room and was a heavy smoker so I don’t suppose that helped her at all. Also the glass tank must have restricted any fresh air circulating.
When I let her out in the hall she was quite nippy and tore around. She was quite happy to climb over me as an object but if I put my hand out to her she would try to go around it. Eventually she realised that she could use my hand as a stepping stone and began to wait for me to put my hand up to her so she could climb on.
I eventually started letting her play on the bed, as I also had 3 male rats who also played in the hall and the girly smell was becoming too much for them!
Smartie soon became a lovely little pet. She really loved a cuddle and having her head scratched. She would lie in my arms for ages while I stroked her. I noticed also that although she still breathed really fast, she didn’t wheeze quite as much. I supposed that the smoky atmosphere must have really affected her.
Smartie had been with me for around 5 months when I realised that she had stopped tearing around. She would just come out for a cuddle for maybe an hour then she would run across the living room floor and climb on the bookcase and stay perched on a book until I put her away.
Her eating was always quite erratic and she seemed to go for days without eating or even drinking. I tried her with everything I could think of but eventually discovered that she liked Farley’s rusks. She had about 1/4 of a rusk every morning and night with milk and that was all she ever ate apart from the occasional yoghurt. It certainly wasn’t a healthy diet and not one I’d recommend for rats, but she did start to put on some weight.
She was a lovely clean girl and never weed in her bed, but she was quite happy to wee on me though. So when I called her to let her out in the evening, I would say ‘have a wee first’ and she would squat then climb up to come out! She smelt lovely too. I’ve never had a rat since that smelled as delicious as Smartie.
She had been with me almost a year when one Sunday I was feeling particularly lazy so I spent the day lazing on the settee watching TV. Smartie lay in the crook of my arm with me and had stretched herself out making contented little noises all day. As I say she would have no problem having a nice big piddle on my lap. So every couple of hours I put her back in her house and told her to have a wee, which she did, then I got her out again.
I eventually put her away about 10pm and began to get ready for bed. But about 15 minutes later my boyfriend Phil shouted that she had collapsed in her cage, I picked her up but she was dead! I breathed into her nose and massaged her chest hoping she’d come back but no such luck. What a shock!
Obviously I was sad, but what a lovely day we’d had, just cuddling. I was just grateful that I had been given the chance to know such a precious thing.
By Kerry May