Ask Otto

Otto Squeakers
From the November/December 1997 Rat & Mouse Gazette

Yuletide greetings to one and all! As I recline in my festive new red silk dressing gown, it occurs to me that not all of my fellow rat-kind have been blessed with human companions who know how to purchase suitable rodent gifts for the holidays. The approaching holiday season may even have some of the more unimaginative of these poor humans in a slight panic. Fear not, for I, Otto Squeakers, the ultimate humanitarian in rodent form, have chosen to step in to save these muddled creatures from creating Christmas disasters for their rodent pets.

Recommended rodent gifts come in several categories, such as real estate, motor vehicles, apparel, and fine cuisine. Imagine the joy that you, as human companion and caretaker, can provide for your dear rodent friend as he or she wakes up on Christmas morning to discover your gift of a new house or barn! I am breathless with excitement as I picture a multi-level Fisher Price house with working door bell and plenty of rooms with windows and the occasional door to stick oneís nose out of. My toes curl as I imagine a shiny new red plastic Sesame Street barn complete with hayloft compartment for those lazy afternoon siestas. The great news for you humans is that these real estate treasures can be purchased very inexpensively at your nearby Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other miscellaneous thrift store for only a few dollars. Take them home and wash them up, using a non-toxic disinfectant, and, voila, the perfect rodent gift!

Although I prefer a chauffered limosine for my multitudinous trips and personal appearances, most rats would get an enormous kick out of having their own motor vehicle. There are sportscars, convertibles, jeeps, economy models, mustangs, and more, just waiting to take your rats for a spin. These can be found at your local toystore in the Barbie or preschool section. I recently took the red convertible owned by my rat mates for a joy ride and found that it handles quite well, as I narrowly missed the antique china closet and grazed the couch. Donít forget that safety comes first, so never let your rodent pals drive too fast...

While out for a drive, I find that a nice jaunty driving cap perfectly accessorizes my look. My owner definitely gets the biggest kick out of finding rodent appropriate apparel for each member of the family. Even though I personally detest some of her choices and prefer my own birthday suit, I generally humor her. Once she even had the nerve to place me into a pink net tutu, tears streaming down her face as she laughed insanely. My favorite items of clothing are accessories which include my green straw hat and purple plastic guitar. I caution all human gift buyers to make sure the items they purchase for us in no way harm us or cause us discomfort. We have feelings, too!

I save my most favorite for last, believing firmly that, in each ratís heart, nothing can top food. Why not include your rat pals as you dish up your Christmas dinner this year? My human will take a large glass platter and place small piles of each dish being served so that my rat mates and I can go from one type of food to the other. This is the ultimate gastronomical "high" for us rats. Donít forget that chocolate, in moderation, can also be shared. I recommend Seeís or Ghiradelli brands, but just about any kind will do the trick. If you prefer a snack that is a bit healthier, try Squeaker Snaps from RMCA. These little cookies are irresistible to us rodent types.

As I end my column for the year, I encourage all humans who live with and love their rats to care for them responsibly all year round. The best Christmas present of all is proper and adequate nutrition, bedding that wonít harm us, fresh water, and professional medical care as needed. The joy we give in return will prove to be immeasurable.

Peace to all, rodent and human kind, and Iíll see you next year.