She Smells A Rat

, , , , | Right | August 17, 2020

My dad and I shop at a local, independent pet shop that specializes in rabbits and other small rodents. They also put them up for adoption and many of them are rescues. The woman who owns it is a bit intimidating if you don’t know her; she’s surly, she’s not very good with conversation, and she is suspicious of almost anyone who comes into the shop, but she is also very invested in the good welfare of the animals there. She has extremely high standards, and if she doesn’t approve of a potential adopter, they aren’t getting the animal, period.

One day, I stop in to buy food for my rabbit; there’s a young couple when I get there who are looking at rats.

Things seem to be going well, as the owner is smiling — this is rare — and allowing the woman to meet-and-greet with a female rat. The customer is chatting about already being a rat owner and the enclosure they already have, how much they love their rat, all with the owner starting to nod and bring up the adoption papers.

I grab the food I need and walk to the counter just in time to hear the young female customer let this slip.

Female Customer: “…and so we’re just so excited to have a friend for [Definitely Not Female Rat Name]!”

The owner’s smile DROPS.

Owner: “I’m sorry, is your rat male?”

Female Customer: “Yes?”

Owner: *Pained expression* “I just… I was under the impression that you had another female rat. Do you have another cage set up?”

Female Customer: *Happily* “Oh, no! They’ll be living together. We specifically want a female because we’re planning on them having babies!”

I wince; this is the worst thing you could say to the owner. Meanwhile, the owner silently takes the rat back from the confused customer and puts her back in her cage. She’s wide-eyed with disbelief. 

Owner: “I can’t believe it got this far.”

Female Customer: “Um, sorry?”

Owner: “I can’t sell you this rat. I can’t sell you any animal here now that you’ve said you intend to breed them.”

Female Customer: “Huh? We’re not breeding them.”

Owner: “You want a female specifically to have babies. You’re not an accredited breeder. I can’t sell you this animal.”

Female Customer: *Upset* “But… why not? I don’t understand. We just want them to have cute babies. I’m not planning on selling them.”

Owner: “It’s not just about selling. You don’t know anything about this rat’s history or about the rat you have now. There could be problems, and the babies could be born with defects…”

The female customer gives the owner a blank, glassy stare.

Owner: “Here. This card has a website with all the info; in general, it’s a bad idea to breed your own rats and this organization is very good with the details about it.”

The male customer speaks up for the first time.

Male Customer: “But why?”

Owner: “I’m sorry?”

Male Customer: “Why is it a bad idea for our rat to have babies?”

Owner: “Again, it’s about the health of the rats. You don’t know if the parents will pass down bad traits. This organization—” *offers the card* “—explains it.”

Female Customer: “But I don’t understand. Why can’t you tell us why it’s a bad idea?”

The owner’s starting to lose patience as the customers just do not get it. Somehow, she manages to ring me up in the middle of it all.

Owner: “That’s what I’m trying to say. It’s not healthy. Go visit that site for the details.”

Female Customer: “But why can’t you tell us why it’s bad?”

Owner: “I’m not sure how much clearer I can get! It’s bad ownership, and it’s bad for the rats!”

Male Customer: “But why?”

Female Customer: “I just don’t understand why you can’t tell us yourself why we can’t have this rat?”

I ducked out at this point, as the owner started vibrating in anger. I’m still baffled why the customers didn’t seem to get it, and I’m even more baffled why they thought it was a good idea to go to a RAT RESCUE and be upfront about their intentions, cute babies or not. Please, be mindful and responsible rodent and small mammal owners! Pet rats have a hard enough time being rescued and adopted as it is.

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