Ana and Devi did not really come into my life by choice. I love rats. But their lives are so short and the heart brake so huge. I also could not give them as much time as I would like, since I have two cats to care for as well. But then there was a situation I could not look away from. I knew that if I did not take these rats, they would die. They were just a month old.
Ana was named after Anatidae, the family order for ducks, which I love to observe in the wild. Ana was much more shy and would assume your finger was a food offering if you offered it through the cage walls. She loved her back massages. I could see the content in her facial expression. She also loved to explore and took really good care of her sister.
Devi was named in honor of Amrita Devi, a woman in 1730 who lead her village to their deaths by hugging trees to protect them. Without the forest, they had no livelihood and in the end the forest was saved. Devi was social and loved people and often greeted them with kisses. She loved playing hide-and-seek where she would hide behind something on the couch, run out, and then I would attack her with my hand. Repeat. Damn she was cute!
Their health problems stated with Devi having respiratory issues at just one year old. We found the best vet with an expertise in rats. A few months ago Devi’s respiratory issues got really bad and I had to take her back to the vet. Ana and Devi traveled together, so when I got to the vet and found blood in the carrier, I discovered Ana had bumblefoot. The vet looked them both over and prescribed medications for them both. The meds helped Devi a lot, but Ana’s bumblefoot was improving but not resolved. I had to take her back to the vet and then discovered she had mammary tumors as well (almost always benign). If it had just been one, we could have done surgery, but there was a lot of them, so we decided to focus on slowly the tumors’ growth. Last week, I went to check on the rats in the morning and found Ana dead. It happened fast and unexpectedly. I was confused and really sad.
Devi was devastated. I held her as much as possible. She would sit in her cage starring off and didn't really nest anymore. She was obviously depressed. Almost instantly her respiratory problem got worse again. I started her on antibiotics, the same ones that helped her before. They did not help. She was hardly eating; only a bite of her favorite banana or avocado. I gave her treats of tofutti and almond ice cream, which she enjoyed.
One night I spent a long time holding her and she didn’t move much and sometimes would move in a way that made me feel she was uncomfortable. She was grinding her teeth more, a sign of possible discomfort. Her breathing was really labored. The next day I made a vet appointment after anguishing over all the possibilities for her comfort. I knew that euthanasia was a real possibility, but also wanted to see if there was any other option. The vet agreed that she seemed in pain and that she was not going to get better since the antibiotics were not helping. Most likely her lungs were too damaged since she had the respiratory illness so long and there was a real threat of her going into respiratory distress, a very torturous way to die. We decided upon humane euthanasia. I knew it was the right decision. She went peacefully and in my arms knowing how much she was loved. Hopefully she is now with her sister. They passed away a week from each other just shy of two years old.
Most people would not understand the loss of a pet rat. They do not realize what amazing characters these little creatures have and the love and understanding that can pass between a rat and a human. Rats are so positive, yet impressive fighters. Study after study has demonstrated their ability to care for others and their remarkable intelligence. They have such individual personalities and an amazing way to win you over with their charm. I miss Ana and Devi with all my heart. Deciding to adopt them was such a great decision. Even though I hurt so much right now and miss their little faces, I am so happy to have had them in my life. The heart break is worth it.