Fancy rats, fine friends

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

John Gotti, Al Capone, Bugsy Malone, Jimmy Hoffa—there’s no shortage of mobsters and mob associates, fictional or otherwise, to be found in the Fayette home of Scott Stevenson and Ashley Matesic. Of course, that’s in title only.

The couple has named quite a few of their pet rats after criminals, but they hold the animals in much higher esteem than they would habitual lawbreakers. How quickly their brood of pets has grown is proof of that.

When Scott and Ashley moved into their apartment in May, they didn’t have a rat between them, but Ashley had a friend who kept rats and always wanted some of her own. Unfortunately for her, the animals were off-limits in her parents’ house.rats.2

So, after settling in to their new abode, one of the first things they did was drive to Tony’s Pets in Wauseon and pick out a pair. The next day, they went back and purchased another two animals. Since then, their pack of what they affectionately call New York City Sewer Rats has ballooned to 17.

Why keep so many? They couldn’t bear the thought of such kind and intelligent creatures being sold as snake food, which is one of the reasons pet stores keep the animals in stock.

But also, at two to six dollars a piece, the animals are bargain pets, said Ashley.

“You can teach them tricks, litter train them, teach them to come by their name,” she said. “They are very, very, very intelligent.”

They may jokingly refer to their pets as sewer dwellers, but the breed of rat they keep—fancy rats—are actually very clean.

A domesticated breed of brown and black rat, fancy rats aren’t called “fancy” because they’re fancy, but because they are fancied, or bred and domesticated, by pet owners.

In addition to weekly baths, the rats clean themselves and each other as many as six times a day, said Ashley. The emphasis rats place on community cleanliness is an advantage to keeping them in groups of four or five, she said.

Additionally, a socialized rat is a happy rat—rats are very social animals, so much so that the National Fancy Rat Society considers it cruel to keep a rat on his or her own.

However, Ashley and Scott had to make an exception for Tucker, a female that was prone to walking around in circles, bumping into things and tilting her head at strange angles.

About a week ago, they took her to their veterinarian at the Northwest Veterinary Hospital and, after a few simple tests, he had his diagnosis—due to an illness, Tucker was going blind. The veterinarian prescribed an antibiotic and Tucker gets her own cage while she undergoes treatment, which consists of a daily shot in the mouth with a tiny syringe.

And yes, getting a rat to sit still long enough to administer a shot in its mouth is as hard as it sounds, said Ashley.

Things didn’t turn out so well for Clyde Barrow, who was also exhibiting some unusual behavior. Another trip to the veterinarian revealed that he suffered from a number of congenital health defects, and would never lead a healthy life. Ashley and Scott made the decision to put him down.

Dealing with death is part of owning most any kind of pet, and the couple believe the benefits of keeping their furry friends around far outweigh the costs.

As nocturnal animals, they spend most of the day loafing in the hammocks and artificial hiding spots—an old boot, for instance—in their cages. At night, they spring to life, performing acrobatics and play-scrapping with one another.

The animals don’t always get along—the more aggressive animals will sometimes hassle the less aggressive ones, but that’s part of any group dynamic, said Scott.

“A few have always been skittish, but most are fat, happy and friendly,” said Scott.

Rats are omnivores and can eat almost anything humans can eat. Most of the time, the pack is fed pre-rendered rodent food, but Ashley and Scott also include small portions of cooked hamburger, fresh vegetables and even noodles in their diet. The one food the rats prefer above all the rest is Gerber’s carrots and applesauce.

“With the baby food, it’s every rat for himself,” said Ashley.

At other times, the rats are all about teamwork. For instance, Scott woke one morning to find one of their female rats lounging on the living room floor. As it turned out, four females had spent an evening chewing through the corner of their plastic cage. Following a short scramble, the remaining rats were found tucked in various nooks around the apartment.

After that, the cage was reinforced and things went back to normal.

Of course, can life alongside 17 rats ever be considered “normal?” For many, perhaps not, but Ashley and Scott love their little pals—so much so that they even considered including them in their wedding next month.

They nixed the idea after protests from Ashley’s grandmother.

Rats.

• Ashley and Scott will bring a few of their rats to Normal Memorial Library next week for the after-school program, scheduled at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. The special library program is planned for children of all ages.

    - Nov. 1, 2006
  • Front.pokemon
    LATEST CRAZE—David Cortes (left) and Ty Kruse, along with Jerred Heselschwerdt (standing), consult their smartphones while engaging in the game of Pokémon Go. The virtual scavenger hunt comes to life when players are in the vicinity of gyms, such as Stair District Library, and PokéStops such as the fire station across the street. The boys had spent time Monday morning searching for Pokémon at Wakefield Park.
  • Front.drum
    on your mark, get set, drum!—Drew Joughin (black shirt), Maddox Joughin and Kaleea Braun took the front row last week when Angela Rettle and assistants led the Stair District Library Summer Reading Program kids in a session of cardio drumming. The sports and healthy living theme continued yesterday with a Mini Jamboree at Lake Hudson State Park arranged by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Next week’s program features the Flying Aces Frisbee show.
  • Girls.on.ride
    NADIYA YORK and Aniston Valentine take a spin on the Casino, one of the rides offered at Wakefield Park during Morenci’s Town and Country Festival. This year’s festival remained dry but with plenty of heat during the three-day run. Additional photographs are inside this week’s Observer.
  • Front.softball
    Angela Davis (2) and teammate Allison VanBrandt break into a jig after Morenci's softball team won its third consecutive regional title.
  • Front.art.park
    ART PARK—A design created by Poggemeyer Design Group shows a “pocket art park” in the green space south of the State Line Observer building. The proposal includes a 12-foot sculpture based on a design created by Morenci sixth grade student Klara Wesley through a school and library collaboration. A wooden band shell is located at the back of the lot. The Observer wall would be covered with a synthetic stucco material. City council members are considering ways to fund the estimated $125,000 project and perhaps tackling construction one step at a time.
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.soccer.balls
    BEVY OF BALLS—Stair District Library Summer Reading Program VolunTeens, including Libby Rorick, back left and Ty Kruse, back right, threw a dozen inflatable soccer balls into the crowd during a reading of “Sergio Saves the Game.” The sports-themed program continues on Wednesdays through July 27.
  • Front.art.park
  • Front.drum
  • Shadow.salon

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016