We Love Our Small Friends

Diane Carson
From the May/June 1996 Rat & Mouse Gazette

After many weeks of trying to decide whether my daughters and I should breed our Siamese rat, Willow, we finally made the decision to go ahead. We chose fellow AFRMA member Gina Hendrick's Black rat, Onyx. Gina took Willow for two weeks while we waited and waited. Two weeks later we knew she was pregnant. She looked like she swallowed a football. By her due date she was huge. Her favorite place was under my daughter, Kady's, dresser, but she could no longer fit between it and the wall so we had to move it out a little to accommodate her.

Willow was right on schedule and she was so kind as to wait until we were all awake the morning of June 8, 1995. At 6:30 am she started delivering, and at 8:30 she finally had her sixteenth baby. We were stunned, to say the least. After cleaning them all up and feeding them, poor Willow was exhausted--she was able to take a nap.

That afternoon I called Nichole Royer - the person from whom we got Willow. I told her how many babies she had delivered. She told me that Willow came from a line of females that have large litters. She said I should wait three days to see which babies had good color and then cull the litter down to no more than twelve, if not eight to ten babies, as that is what she would do. For those of you who do not know what culling is, it means you take away some of the babies and dispose of them (i.e., kill them). It is supposed to help the rest of the litter grow up healthier. She went on to say that if I really didn't want to do this I should call Mary Ann Isaksen, because she doesn't cull and has successfully raised large litters. That decision was not hard - I immediately called Mary Ann and she reassured me that large litters can survive and thrive with a little extra love and attention. We were all determined to do this.

For the next five weeks Willow was the most spoiled (loved) rat there was. I was always thinking of foods she would like to eat. Her favorite food is avocado and she ate plenty of it. We checked twice daily to see if all the babies had been fed. We made sure she got out regularly and had her romp time with her sisters. I could tell both rats missed each other, but she was always eager to get back to her babies. She was a good mom and my kids and I had so much fun playing with the babies. There is nothing like having fifteen baby rats crawling on you all at once!

We did, unfortunately, lose one baby at two days old, but all of the others thrived. We kept five of them and found good homes for the rest. Some turned out to be good "show quality" Siamese, with a male winning the Shaded class at the Los Angeles County Fair and his sister coming in second. The Black ones (there were six) have too much silvering to be considered "show quality," but have all turned out to be the best pets. Our three Black boys have won several "Most Laid Back" classes, along with some "Biggest Rat" and "Best Pairs" classes. Our Black female, Minnie, came in "runner-up" in a "Sweetest Rat" class in our last show.

Willow has recovered quite well from her pregnancy and kid-rearing. I will admit it was tough on her, but she was great. I am so glad that we made the right choice. I defy anyone to look into these wonderful rats' eyes and tell them they should not be here just because they had too many siblings or their color is not perfect. My kids and I have since changed clubs from one whose motto is "Only The Best," to one whose motto is "If you love 'em, that's good enough for us." The Pet Owner's creed written by Craig Schumacher is a good one. We did breed with care and spent countless hours to achieve the best pets, and WE LOVE OUR SMALL FRIENDS!