As Woody Allen put it, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”
Our little baby rat, Mr Bubbles, rescued from our psychopathic cat at maybe a week old, eyes still closed, improbably stayed alive, fed by hand with milk from a dropper. He was thriving.
Don’t fear, he’s alive and well. But while he got furrier and cuter, he also got shyer, more wary of us. So when Jay found the definitive online test for distinguishing Norwegian Rats from Roof Rats, it wasn’t a surprise to find out Mr. Bubbles is a roof rat. Ears long enough to cover his eyes. Tail reaches his nose. Pointier snout.
For those who haven’t been Googling about raising wild rats as pets, I can tell you: Norwegian Rats from the wild can make decent pets. It’s more challenging than domesticated Norwegians, but possible. They’re burrowing creatures and that translates well to a cage. But roof rats make poor pets. They’re social with other roof rats, but extremely skittish of humans. They climb high in trees trees for safety, and don’t adjust to captivity.
With a heavy heart, we started preparing Mr. Bubbles for the wild. A baby rat’s not ready to live on its own until 6 weeks. A genius online guide suggested giving him a little cardboard box, with a single rat-sized hole, as a safe place. He took to it immediately, still eating, but hiding from us in his box whenever we were there.
By the time he turned 6 this week, it had become clear that we were on the right path. Even the kids had to admit, it was not in our little rat’s nature to live with us happily, and we barely saw him peek from his box at all. He ate and sneaked around in his cage after dark. “If Mr. Bubbles’ parents are alive, they’ll be so happy we took care of him,” Shayla told us at dinner one night.
So this morning, the time came. We taped up the little hole in the box, and brought the cardboard box up to Tilden Park. We found a spot near a creek so he’ll have drinking water, and with a nice mix of trees, where surely there are some friendly critters of his kind to socialize with. I hid the box under twigs and leaves, and untaped the hole. We sprinkled seeds and rat food nearby to get him started. I’d brought the dropper with milk, to see if he’d peek his nose out of the hole for one last drink, but Mr. Bubbles stayed hidden, true to his nature. Sometime today, or as evening approached, he probably ventured out to see his new home. I hope his little heart swelled as he scampered up his first real tree. Free, and with a chance at life.
Be well, Mr. Bubbles. We sure loved having you as our baby rat.