J and her pet rat

The Unwanted Rat Became a Good Pet

When my husband, my daughter, J, and I stepped in our front door after soccer practice, my neighbor Susie followed  holding bags and a cage in her arms.

She said, “I bought J a rat for her  birthday.”

I said, “Funny.”

She said, “I asked J what she wanted for her birthday, and she told me that she wanted a rat because they make great pets.”

Susie pointed to a cage that contained a gray and white baby rat with a snake-like tail and an anteater nose.  The rat disgusted me.

I told Susie that I thought that she should have asked me first. However, though I was angry, I wouldn’t jeopardize our friendship over a stupid mistake.

The rat stayed and J was ecstatic.  She named her new pet Oreo.

J kept Oreo in an aquarium in her room. His tail and four yellow jagged front teeth repulsed me and I worried that if he escaped, I might have to capture him.

Daily, I entered my daughter’s room, and I forced myself to touch Oreo’s back with my index finger. Within two weeks I held him, though he still revolted me.

My daughter quickly bonded with Oreo and walked him on a leash ensuring that anyone who saw her questioned her parents’ sanity.  She also dressed him in a  silky-short-sleeved-pink top and mesh-tutu-doll outfit and transformed  him into a transvestite ballerina.

One day, Oreo struggled to breathe and seemed in pain, and we took him to a vet. While we were in the waiting room, a woman approached my daughter and asked if she had a kitten in the bag.

My daughter said, “No, it’s a rat!”

The woman’s eyes widened and she loudly sucked in her breath, then she pivoted and hurried to the opposite side of the room.

We saw the vet and he sent us home with antibiotics and soap because Oreo was also losing his hair. Can you imagine the neighborhood gossip if we allowed J to walk a bald rat?

J  treated Oreo by sliding an eyedropper filled with antibiotics into the corner of  his mouth, and he accepted  it.  Though it nauseated me, Oreo also allowed  J to bathe him, and his health improved.

One day, as we cleaned Oreo’s cage, he escaped. I called his name, and he ran from under a cabinet and allowed J to pick him up. He was smarter than I thought and became a good pet.

The day he went to the big cheese, J and I cried while my husband gleefully ran to get the shovel. Though I bonded with the rat, the experience confirmed that a live animal or rodent should never be an  impulse gift.

When, Susie’s daughter’s birthday arrived, I called Susie and said that I had her daughter’s gift. I told her it was an anaconda with a  year’s supply of food.

I put a lot of thought into this, and I never said that a reptile  wasn’t a great gift.

28 thoughts on “The Unwanted Rat Became a Good Pet

  1. We don’t have rats here, so I think they might freak me out a bit too.

    We got one of our too many dogs like that. My son went over to play at the neighbors, and came home with a puppy as a gift. Yesh! Who gives away a puppy as a gift, I wondered? Until last year when we had puppys of our own and I would have happily passed off the last few that we couldn’t find homes for, to any of my son’s friends who stopped over, as gifts of their own! 🙂

  2. Rats repulse me–I blame the old movie “Willard” that I saw when I was a kid. I had gerbils and hamsters as pets, so I can see a rat would make a good one, but still.

  3. Haha! Rats are great pets, but I agree – NEVER give one to someone else’s child! It’s like dropping off a baby on someone’s doorstep. “Here, thought you might want this…”

  4. “The day he went to the big cheese!”, haha! I can’t imagine buying someone else’s kid an animal, but it sounds like it worked out well enough this time. 🙂

  5. A friend had a rat whose name was also Oreo, and they loved it like a dog! It ran loose in their apartment, came when called, and snuggled. Though rats gross me out in their looks, I feel like that kind of behavior would win you over, kind of like your Oreo. Pets are TERRIBLE gifts, though, and I loved the joke on your friend who gave the rat to you. 🙂

  6. Ha! Paybacks. Nice. I actually owned a rat as a pet. It was all white, and my mom felt the same about the tail. But she was a sweet little thing, and my mom grew to love her as well. They are great pets and very smart. Although, my mother would have killed a neighbor if they had bought me a rat. (I was 19 when I brought Lexi home from college, where she had previously been a lab rat and was given away to a good home . . . me).

  7. Awww, poor Oreo. I’m glad he was such a good pet. Though I agree with you 100%: live animals do not make good gifts. If my daughter received a rat as a present I would freak. out.

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