Making a Difference For Homer

Diane Newburg
From the RMCA web site, August 2003

Homer came to me in July 2003 from Diane Weikal of Rattieratz in northern California. He had been removed from the home of an animal hoarder in 2000, along with other rats. With the hundred or so rats that Diane has rescued, he had a decent life but, because he did not get along with other rats and most people, he had to live alone. When someone rescues on the large scale as this woman (bless her heart), it is impossible to give all the rats individual attention and a rat that isn't friendly gets pushed aside. Cooking for a large number of rats is impractical so his diet was lab blocks. Diane told me he was cage-bound and temperamental.

Homer was first set up in a cage with three levels and an open top. He quickly learned that I was a good thing. He would stand up to be scratched and given a yogie. He got a tent and toys and lots of new foods, including pasta, organic greens, oatmeal with dates and raisins, and my homemade soymilk blueberry drink. He loved every bite and every slurp. At the end of a couple weeks, I could reach into his tent and pet him. Clearly, this rat was realizing how absolutely fantastic it was to be scratched and loved.

Homer I found him on the floor in the morning a couple of times. He would come right to me to be picked up. One night as I was getting ready to go to bed, he headed down the side of the table so I restrained him. He was NOT happy and gave me one of my worst-ever bites which hurt for at least three weeks. I had to set up a cage for him where he could be locked up. Each night, however, the minute I get home from work he is released from "jail." He doesn't even want dinner - he just wants OUT!

For at least three hours each night and all day on weekends Homer roams the house. He goes up and down the stairs more than I do - a minimum of five times each evening. He follows me around. He stands on his hind legs to be picked up and petted. He nuzzles and nuzzles, then nuzzles some more. While I am preparing my dinner, I give him some sort of tidbit and he sits in the middle of the kitchen floor to eat. He climbs up on the couch with me while I'm watching television and tries to determine if I've eaten anything interesting recently. He is intrigued by Whitman, the new bunny, and delights in exploring Whitman's cage and stealing his toys. To my surprise, he is also learning to play "chase" with Whitman.

I have a huge setup in the kitchen for six young rats and the other rat that came with Homer (another story). Homer loves to get in the cart below their cage. The boys get on the top shelf of the cart and they sniff each other. Homer no longer gets puffy and after I handle other rats he eagerly power sniffs my fingers.

I am again reminded of how a rat with issues can turn into such a love-bug when simply given some time and attention. Homer has been an incredibly wonderful addition to my family of 30 rats. At over two, he is looking "mature," but is quite spry for his age. It makes my heart feel so good to know that his golden years will be spent in a stimulating environment where his personality can blossom. Thank you, Diane, for giving me this wonderful boy!