Friday, June 14, 2013

Death of a Rat

Not my Rat
Mine Don't Play the Banjo
By JccKeith

I had the most brilliantly written piece of literature ever to grace the screen of a laptop prepared to post today.  Stay with me… really.. I did.  Then tragedy struck.  I was informed, but not much to my surprise, that one of my daughters’ rats had died.  To be honest, I knew it was coming.

There is something about a sick animal, about the way they behave and about the way the other animals near them behave that lets you know it’s their time to go.  For the last two weeks, I had taken an unusual notice of this rat.  She was not the oldest nor the oddest of the rat trio.  Up until recently, she had been the fattest but over the last month she had lost a little weight to be the same weight as the oldest rat.  This is not in and of itself noticeable.

Her subtle weight loss accompanied her sudden distance from the other two rats.  Rats are social creatures.  The trio could usually be found lying in a heap atop each other either all together in the bottom of the cage or on one of the levels.  They all rush up to the cage bars to take any food offered at the same time. 

Recently, Jewy, the now deceased, had begun sleeping alone.  She had taken to sleeping atop the food dish all three shared.  She also appeared to be breathing heavily.  To me, it seemed odd that she no longer slept with the other two and no longer rushed to the cage bars to grab whatever food I offered.  She was just distant.  Also, the dog, who normally plays with the rats by sitting right next to the cage and sniffing them and making them squeak as they often do – she had kept her distance.  The cat on the other hand, had begun to take more interest in the cage. She usually ignores them.

As I said earlier, this rat’s death was not a big shock.  Fortunately, it was also not a shock to my 7 and 9 year olds.  They had lost a hamster last year suddenly.  That seemed to disturb them and had brought on numerous conversations about small rodents as pets.  I have had several conversations with them about the short lifespan of small pets.  My daughters were completely aware that rats have an average lifespan of only 5 to 7 years. 

Most pet rats die from cancers, oddly enough.  That is why rats are used so frequently as lab subjects because they have similar DNA to humans and because they have a very high rate of developing cancers.  My husband and I have had two previous rats, years ago, that died from large tumors.  Actually, rats are social creatures and when the first rat died from large tumors, most likely cancerous, the second rat who until that time was healthy, stopped eating and interacting with us and just gave up and died shortly after.  Animals are like that – loyal till the end.

Anyway, I found today’s death very sad.  It is always depressing to lose a pet, even a rat. That is all I have to say about that.


  1. Though your rat didn't play the banjo, I hope that, wherever rats go when they pass, they have internet and the ability to read a blog. Nice post and a fitting tribute to a loved family member with a very long tail.