*in Europe, baby rats are called kittens, so for the purpose of this post we'll pretend I'm in Europe
It had been over four months since the passing of dear little Fred, and I started thinking about getting another pet. Then I had allergy tests done, which pretty much confirmed what I already knew - I'm allergic to cats, dogs, rats, and apparently horses (also trees, grass, weeds, etc., but that stuff is outside). My allergist suggested a bearded dragon or a hedgehog as possible hypoallergenic pets, neither of which appealed to me. I don't mind reptiles, but I don't want to live with one, and hedgehogs are nocturnal and not very smart. I really wanted another rat, so I looked at a couple of breeders' websites and checked on Kijiji (which is like Craigslist) for listings of baby rats for sale. I contacted a few people, and when all of them proved to be either very strange and/or terrible communicators, I ended up back at PetSmart again. This time, however I was armed with questions and experience, and fortunately, there was a lovely young woman working there who had pet rats, and was very friendly and knowledgeable.
And now these two little girls live with me; the brown and white one is Ginger, and the white one is Ruby. Neither of them were freaked out when I held them at the store, and they have adjusted very well to their life in Fred's former home (which had been cleaned and sterilized). And they are adorable.....
They were so small when I brought them home two weeks ago. The store clerk said they were the youngest rats they had ever had in the store (most likely about 8 weeks old).
I knew rats are very social, and should not live alone, and if I could go back and do it over, I would have got Fred a sister. At the time I didn't know if I would like having one rat, much less two, and while I gave her the best life that I could, she was lonely. There was no question that the next time there would be two. The difference is amazing (and makes me even more sad for Fred) - the two of them sleep together (sometimes stacked, like blocks, or nose to tail, or whatever is going on in the bottom right photo) and chase each other around the cage like kittens.
"What are you looking at??"
There is also a whole lot of rat wrestling going on, and Ruby has turned out to be quite a scrapper.
Ginger is similar to Fred in her colouring (this photo looks eerily like one I have of Fred), although she is a darker brown. She's a little piglet, who will climb over/step on anything (usually Ruby) between her and a treat.
Ruby is very pretty, and her fur is as soft as a cotton ball. I've never been drawn to white rats because most have red eyes, which I find rather demonic, but she has black eyes, which is very unusual. She is proving to be a quick learner as well, and braver than her sister.
And what about my allergies? Well, within 24 hours of bringing them home, I was coughing and wheezing, and to be honest, the first few days were horrible. A week after I brought them home, they started making the same chirping and huffing noises that Fred made when she started to get sick, so back to the store they went, where they were checked over by the vet (they were still under warranty) and pronounced fit as little fiddles. A change to a more expensive, 99% dust free, bedding seemed to do the trick; I wish my allergies could be cured so quickly. I've been experimenting with taking an antihistamine and using my ventolin puffer at different times of the day to find which works best, and it has been getting better. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, as I already am attached to the little girls and they are bonding with me. Wish me luck!