I have two pet rats. I got them about two months ago from a pet shop.
That was my Dad’s question when I told him I was going to get rats.
I got rats for a couple of reasons:
- I live in an apartment. Dogs and cats are out of the questions. Besides, I dislike cats.
- Dogs and cats are expensive.
- I hate hamsters. Some of these tiny fuckers are aggressive.
- Chinchilla are expensive pets. They are expensive to maintain since they come from the Andes and require a cool room (i.e. 24 hours air-conditioned room).
- One of my housemate dislikes guinea pigs.
- The squirrels at the parks are rather hard to capture.
- Mice are too small. I’m afraid of crushing them in my big hands and they are constantly jumpy and uptight.
Going through my list of requirements, rats were perfect. They’re clean (they’re compulsive groomers), intelligent, don’t make too much noise, can be kept in a cage, big enough to be handled and best of all, easy to feed. Rats are omnivores like humans and eat damn near almost everything and anything, including chocolates. That’s right, chocolates. Kryptonite to dogs, solar power to rats (but not too much, best in small doses).
Most people know that rats eat anything or how else would rats be such fantastic chefs? Like this guy:
It’s not advisable to piss off the chef. (Taken from Cookie In Hand).
But rats are nasty, dirty little critters! Remy might be an exception because he was a genius (being a rat makes him much more incredible), a supertaster and spent 10,000 hours slaving away at the stove to create haute French cuisine. But other rats? No way.
Well, yes way. Rats are naturally neat creatures.
But Zareth, rats live in sewers, underground train tunnels and cargo ships and sometimes they come out from toilet bowls!
True that, but those are wild rats. They live in the wild and therefore, are subjected to the environment.
But rats carry fleas and have rabies!
Erm… dogs can get fleas and rabies too.
The point is, pet rats live in the house. Your house is clean, right? You do clean it, right? Unless you’re a pack rat, then… you need to see a psychiatrist.
Furthermore, rats are fucking adorable:
Two lazy rats.
Look at those two big fluffballs. Women love them. Seriously, most of my housemates’ friends find them cute though there are some that are afraid of rats. But they do attract a lot of female attention.
Meet Bentley and Pan (short for Pantalaimon). They are litter brothers and are about seven to eight months old. Rats are social animals and live in groups so it’s best to get two rats minimum. If you get one rat, you’re just torturing the poor fellow. So don’t get one rat, get two, minimum. Two rats will not be any more expensive and two rats provide much more fun.
The downside about rats is that their maximum lifespan is 3 years although there are some rats that lived up to six years. But all animals do get sick and rats are no exception.
You see, Bentley have been suffering from respiratory infection since I got him. At first, I thought it was something minor (first-time rat owner) and attributed it to the stress of moving into a new place. Besides, Pan was sneezing slightly too.
Two weeks passed. Pan was doing great but Bentley sneezing got worse. Due to rat’s high metabolism rate, it was easy for rats to develop secondary infections rapidly, so at the advice of my housemate, I booked an appointment with the vet. I was busy with exams and essays at that time, so my housemate, being free, brought my rats to the vet and since the rats were under my name, she decided to pretend to be me.
I asked her why couldn’t she give her real name.
“It’ll be too confusing and complicated.”
“Complicated? But you just have to say that you’re my housemate. They’re going to be more confused the next time I go back there!”
“I didn’t want to. Besides, I know enough about you to pretend to be you.”
And scarily enough, she does. Now the vet sends me mails to my address under Miss Zareth Lim.
That aside, the vet put both Bentley and Pan on a two weeks antibiotic course. Feeding them was pretty easy, all I did was to mix the antibiotics with strawberry yogurt on a spoon and give it to them. They both lick it like it’s the last strawberry yogurt in the universe.
Their infections cleared up and both seem well. In fact, Pan gained weight.
But a week or so, Bentley began sneezing again. At first, I attributed it to the weather since Sydney was going through a crazy phrase. Sunny one moment, thunderstorm the next.
But then I realized it was the weather because Pan was doing fine. Bentley was sneezing with increasing frequency and his breathing sounded congested, not a very good sign.
So I brought Bentley to the vet, along with Pan since I was concerned that Bentley might have infected him.
True enough, the vet looked confused.
“Did you come the other time?”
“Well, that was actually my housemate.”
Fuck, now he thinks my housemate is the owner.
Anyway, Pan was fine. Bentley had to go back onto antibiotics again. This time, the vet upped the dosage and increased the duration to three weeks.
So I left the vet, feeling relieved (that Pan was fine and Bentley wasn’t going to die anytime soon). Oh, and I forgot to pay the vet and collect the antibiotics but that’s another story.
I did the same method as before. Mixed the antibiotics with strawberry yogurt and fed it to Bentley.
But this time, he didn’t want it. He did take a few licks before running away. This was normal, sometimes he get distracted by a smell or sound and would go off exploring. All I had to do was to put the spoon in his face and he would go right back to licking the yogurt.
But not this time. He took another sniff, then turned tail, as if he was offended by what I was feeding him.
I didn’t think much about it and just thought it was one of those days where he had no appetite.
But the same thing happened over next few days and I knew it wasn’t his appetite because he was still gobbling up his dinner and when I gave with strawberry yogurt without the medicine, he ate it.
So the medicine was the culprit or more specifically, one medicine: Baytril.
You see, Bentley has two antibiotics: Baytril and Doxycycline. Baytril is the primary antibiotic used to treat his respiratory infection while Doxy is the secondary one used to treat and prevent secondary infections.
This is Baytril:
The bane of Bentley’s and my existence. (Taken from World Chelonian Trust).
Baytril is a clear, sticky liquid. It’s also one of the most bitter-tasting medicines ever. I know, I tried it and almost gagged. Imagine the fruit bitter gourd (or bitter melon). In Chinese culture, this bitter fruit is used in herbal medicine to improve health and stimulate digestion. My mom used to make me bitter gourd soup and forced me to drink it. Now imagine that bitter soup, but distilled to extract every drop of bitterness. That’s how Baytril taste like.
If you don’t know what bitter gourd is, then imagine a horrible, piss-tasting beer. Now multiple the bitterness by a million. There you go. Guess which one the vet upped the dosage. That’s right, Baytril.
One drop of Baytril was enough to send me gagging. Imagine how bitter this is for the rat.
On the other hand, Doxy is a sticky brown paste and it tastes fine. To some people, it tastes like raspberries. For me, it tastes like chocolate cream with a hint of hazelnut. Why does Doxy tastes okay? Because it’s used to treat humans. So it sure as hell better taste fine.
No I’m serious, here’s the wiki showing the uses of Doxy.
Now that I identified the problem, I decided to use strawberry jam instead of yogurt. It worked at first, but a day or two later, Bentley caught onto my trick and outright refused to have anything to do with the jam.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
So I did this:
- Use spoon to extract a tiny dollop of jam.
- Use empty syringe to extract 0.1ml of Baytril from bottle.
- Squeeze Baytril onto spoon with jam.
- Squeeze 0.01ml of Doxy onto spoon with jam and Baytril.
You’ll get this:
It’s a spoon, not a sperm with four tails.
- Now, using the empty syringe from before, mix everything up on the spoon.
- Extract mixture from spoon using syringe.
Syringe with the mixture
That’s right, I’m going to force feed Bentley. I did it a few times to Pan and Bentley when they first started out on antibiotics. But it was a highly distressing time for both rats and I. The rats hated having something being forced down their mouths and I kept getting my arms shredded by their claws during their attempts to escape. So I stuck to spoon-feeding them their meds.
But with the increased dosage of Baytril, spoon-feeding was not working anymore. Furthermore, Bentley was still sneezing and I needed to get the meds into him at all course. This was the only option left.
So yesterday morning, I prepared the meds, went to the cage and woke Bentley up. Now I had a grumpy rat to deal with.
I sat down on the coffee table in the living room, syringe in my right hand and Bentley in my left.
“Good boy. Are you a good boy, Bentley?” I spoke to him in a soothing voice as I stroke his head. Bentley was on my lap grooming.
I shifted, making myself comfortable. By now, Bentley was scampering off my lap and sniffing around the coffee table.
I scooped my Bentley with my left index finger hooked gently behind his neck. Bending forward so that Bentley’s back was against my chest, I trapped him in a warm cocoon of human flesh and synthetic cloth.
Bentley wasn’t happy and began struggling. With my face inches from his, I stuck the syringe into the corner of his mouth and squirted a small amount. The mixture didn’t go in completely, some of it was stuck to the corner of his mouth.
Bentley managed to free his front paws and pushed the syringe away. At the same time, he wiggled out from my hand and jumped down to the coffee table.
Fuck, there was still a lot of mixture in the syringe. I needed to stick the syringe deeper into his mouth.
Picking Bentley up, I repeated the procedure again, but this time, I tried to move the syringe deeper into this mouth. It didn’t work. He refused to open his mouth and another small amount was stuck to his nose. Bentley was clawing my left arm so brutally that red welts rose.
Damn, people will be thinking I’m a depressed person with suicidal tendencies.
I watched Bentley as he stood on the coffee table, licking the jam off his face. When he was done, I scooped him up again while talking to him in a soothing voice.
I stuck the syringe further in. This time, it worked. Bentley opened his mouth and swallowed as I released the mixture down his throat. All was going well, Bentley was eating his meds and the mixture was diminishing slowly.
Then the smell hit me.
I looked up and sniffed around. It smelled like someone ate broccoli for one week before releasing a massive dump in the toilet bowl. But I was alone. Both my housemates were back in Singapore. Maybe there was a ghost taking a dump in my toilet.
But the smell got stronger and it seemed to be coming from my lap. What the… did I somehow unconsciously relax my sphincter muscles?
I took out the syringe from Bentley’s mouth and moved my arms. Bentley scampered out of my hand and landed on my lap.
My shit-filled lap to be exact.
I didn’t move for ten seconds. I just stared at my lap as Bentley proceeded to have an explosive diarrhea all over me. Shit was on my t-shirt, my shorts, my legs, my arms and even on Bentley as he ran around trying to look for an escape.
More shit came out as Bentley ran around. Great, now there’s shit on the coffee table.
In hindsight, Bentley was probably so stressed out by having a syringe stuck in his mouth that he lost control of his bowels. You would too if a Godzilla picked you up and stuck a syringe down your throat.
But at that time, I was pissed off. Really, really pissed off. I had scratches on my arm and there was shit everywhere. There was still some mixture left in the syringe, so I grabbed Bentley, shoved the syringe in his mouth and squirted the rest of the mixture down his throat.
“Finish your medicine, you little shit!”
It was not my finest moment.
After it was done, I left Bentley on the coffee table while I waddled over to the toilet to clean up. The stench was overwhelming. Once I managed to get rid of the shit on me, I went over to clean the coffee table before giving Bentley a quick bath. Bentley hated baths and I got more scratches on my arms again but thankfully he didn’t shit. I guess he must have completely emptied his bowels on me while having his medicine.
The day passed and I gave Bentley the next round of antibiotics at night. He did struggle but it was a marked improvement from the morning routine.
I did feel a bit guilty about the morning incident, so I treated him and Pan to some chocolates and hand wrestled with them on the couch.
And how did Bentley thank me for the chocolates?
By sticking his snout into my nostrils.
P.S. Rats can swim up toilet bowls. But only under certain conditions.
This video came out a few weeks back. I have to admit, it’s way better than the original.