The Pet Lady


I have an adorable cream-colored rat named Karmen who won’t stop destroying her enclosure. I bought her a big spacious three-story house, but all she does is cling to the corner wall of her pen, staring at me while chewing her little paw. She flips her levels off the bars and kicks her food out of the cage. I’m wondering if it’s nerves or I’m just not playing with her enough. Or does she need another rat to keep her company? Your input would be greatly appreciated.



The Pet Lady, while sympathetic to your difficulties (it must be dreadful to have that little whiskered face peering at you reproachfully), is nonetheless delighted to hear from you. All has been unsettlingly quiet on the rat front since many months ago, when a visitor to our fair city wrote about dear Karmen’s urban cousins dwelling in that charming little park above the freeway on Pine Street [see The Pet Lady, Aug. 30, 2001]. It seems that they were doing a bit of staring themselves and were reluctant to have their rodent routine interrupted by mere human passers-by. Our correspondent was both horrified and somehow charmed by these free-range, brazen park residents, and wondered about the possibility of catching one and making a domesticated fur friend of it.

The P.L. does not recommend the taming of wild beasts; yet a lesson lies herein for lovely ivory Karmen, living in her fancy town house. The scurrying ruffians of Rat Park, for all the dangers in their little fur lives (aggressive pigeons, foot-stamping humans, etc.), have the run of their park to frolic in at will; they have shrubs to rat around and trash cans to provide a nice chew of garbage. They also have their merry little rat band, with compatriots to fight over crusts and make new generations of baby rats with—and isn’t that truly what it’s all about?

Karmen’s beseeching look, paw chewing, level flipping (the Pet Lady isn’t sure what this means, but it does sound mildly exciting and destructive), and food flinging are, taken as a whole, a message for you, dear Heidi, and the text of that message, if the Pet Lady may take the liberty of translating, is this: “I am a lovely and cream-colored rat, Heidi! I like you, and I do appreciate that you have purchased this lovely three-story home for me and that in addition you do play with me as much as humanly possible, and yet I long for more! If I cannot run free as rats have since time immemorial, at least give me a nice rat companion! I am too darn smart to be bored here alone and I will continue to destroy my enclosure until my demands are met! ‘Nerves’ is one way to put it! Do you hear me, Heidi? I am looking at you!”

Best to you and rats everywhere! Cheers!

The Pet Lady

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