Russi and her baby rats.

Rewind to early March. Our daughter desired a pet rat.

We’ve had good and bad fortune with pets in the past. Our dog, Jocie, will be 12 in August. The Yorkie, who my wife and I purchased at a sweet lady’s house in Gallipolis, was born on the same day we got married. Meant to be, right?

However, our fish haven’t enjoyed long, fruitful lives. And the ducks that were an Easter present in 2019? As soon as they could truly quack, they croaked — thanks to a sly, ruthless unknown predator who we suspect dug under the mostly secured area in which the ducks dwelled.

For the last year or so, our daughter has been yearning for a rodent of some sort. First, it was a guinea pig. We would go to pet stores and peruse periodically. Then, she thought, maybe she wanted a hamster instead. OK, so one Sunday afternoon we went to a local pet store after church and lunch, and we tried to pinpoint the perfect hamster. No, though, that wasn’t going to happen because now she had another furry critter in mind — a rat.

A rat? What?! In your house?

Yep, a rat. In our house.

Why on God’s green earth did she choose a rat? Well, her fourth-grade teacher possesses a pet rat in her classroom, and many of the students grew quite fond of the creature.

My wife, daughter and son embarked on a pet-store expedition while I was at work one day. By the time I arrived at the house, it was time to assemble the cage, which came with a wheel. 

My daughter had conducted some research and decided a boy rat was best because males tended to be more friendly and playful. 

The pet store assured them this African Soft Fur was a male. We named it Russell.

A couple weeks later, we noticed the rat getting a little plump. We chalked it up to its eating habits. It gobbled up all the regular food and treats we supplied.

Another week went by, and my wife and I noticed nipples on the underside of the rat. OK, that’s odd for a male.

One memorable Saturday morning, I had started on a project in the garage when my wife and daughter rushed through the door wearing puzzled, surprised looks. Our daughter had just blurted to my wife, “The rat had babies!”

That rat was no male rat. And indeed it just became a mother of … 11!

“Russell” became “Russi.”

Shocked and amazed, we phoned our daughter’s teacher for a quick tutorial on raising rats. She has proven to be an expert. Only one of the 11 met its demise — we had left the top part of the cage slightly ajar, creating an enticing gap between metal and plastic, but that sliver of space wasn’t enough for the poor, curious animal to squeeze through. It got caught, and couldn’t wiggle free. By the time we discovered it, it was too late. The body is placed in our Pet Cemetery (not Stephen King’s) under a commemorative rock and brick.

We’ve now separated the males from the females. Our son is keeping a boy. Our daughter is keeping a girl along with Russi. 

Since I’ve been fine-tuning my second-grade math skills, I know that leaves eight rats. One is accounted for, but we’ve got seven available cute African Short Furs — four females and three males … we think. And they seriously are great pets.

And, just like that, I’ve turned this into a sales pitch. One can be yours for a low, low price!


Reach AARON SNYDER at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664. Follow @DIndependentQB or @ashlandkydaily on Twitter.

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