Rats rescued from food chain

Sharna Johnson

“18 cats?” The young officer asked me.

“No, 18 rats,” I said, watching the predictable change in his expression while he tried his best to not laugh, instead focusing on his notepad as he scribbled.

That’s right, I was filing a police report for 18 stolen rats.

Time warp back to the beginning … It was several years ago and we were moving to Clovis.

It had all started with three rats the snakes refused to eat, as they often do and for reasons only they understand.

Predictably, I got attached and the thought of watching them get “snake hugs” became less and less appealing.

Before I knew it, they too “bonded” and there were 15 more rats.

And then unexpectedly it was moving time.

A local breeder recommended vented plastic storage bins — the perfect solution to my quandary. Packed complete with food, bedding and water, my prolific little friends joined the kids, cats, dogs and luggage in the car and off we went to visit family before heading west.

The cats and dogs were easy to accommodate but let’s just say the rats didn’t go over well at Mom’s.

So they were given a lovely shelf in my brother’s art studio and moved to cages I had packed complete with ladders, toys, and fresh bedding.

Strange things started to happen.

My brother and I went to check on them and found them in a very large storage bin with shredded newspaper and things for them to climb and hide in.

The next day there were two bins; one for boys, one for girls.

Then a phone call from his studio mate. “I stopped by the studio with a friend and she was appalled at the conditions your sister’s rats were in,” she told him, explaining the friend had relocated them out of sympathy.

I was shocked. I had been forced to explain their presence to my family and questioned my own sanity for going to so much trouble to travel with rodents that make people climb furniture and scream for an exterminator.

Yet someone was appalled that my rats were living in temporary cages on their journey halfway across the country.

I tried to explain the situation was temporary — they had a large cage waiting for them.

“But you have male and female juveniles together in one cage. They are getting close to breeding age. You need to separate them,” she said.

Nope, making more rats was part of the idea.

Sure, little rat faces cute and their antics are entertaining, but they are also incredibly nutritious snake food.

Wrong answer.

Poof…!

The rats were gone the next day. Just gone, new cages and all.

I was truly devastated. I did what any responsible rat owner would do.

I called the police.

“I know, it’s crazy, but they are rats,” I told the officer as he looked at me with huge eyes but managed professionalism, bless him.

I explained the whole situation, ending with the part about the studio mate with the do-gooder friend who I believed had absconded with my rats.

The next day he called. They had gone to the women’s home and looked around, but no rats were found. He believed they were involved, but there was nothing he could do.

On a mission, I scoured local animal shelters, contacted rat rescue organizations (yes, they do exist), and even hit the streets asking if anyone had seen anything.

There were rumors of a new fad. Local artists were turning up with pet rats all over town (18 I’m guessing), but I couldn’t prove a thing and reluctantly gave up and headed west with empty cages in the trunk.

I didn’t realize until that experience I had overcome one of the challenges of loving animals — in learning to accept that they eat each other.

If you want to know a secret, I bet I’ll be one of the first to cheer when they invent a tofu-rat that really gets a snake excited.