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Worried about keeping my pet rats

Baywasp

I want wind to blow
#1
(Not really sure where to post this. Was originally intended for the "How Are You Feeling Right Now?" thread, but it turned into its own rant, so I decided to post it here.)
Am looking for input.

I'm upset and worried. I'm still thinking that my rats would have a better life living with someone else or even back at the rescue. I can't shake it. They're in their cage most of the time because I don't necessarily trust them running around in my room, and rats are supposed to have plenty of time outside their cage and more intellectual enrichment than I've been giving them. And I don't really have space in my room to set up a playpen for them even just at times. I can't really take them out of my room much because my roommate and his girlfriend smoke all over the house and they have delicate respiratory systems.

I have been feeding them fine, but a lot of people like to give them supplementary fruits and vegetables on top of their pellet diet, and I've only been feeding them their main food, so their diet is boring. Like their lives I guess.

I've had them for over a month now and I don't feel like I've bonded with them as much as I'd like. It's totally on me (besides Hugo being so bashful which makes it a little hard to bond with him) because I haven't really felt able to spend as much time with them as I need.

I love them, which is why I want the best for them, even if it's not with me. I know there are no guarantees that if I gave them back to the rescue their next family would be better. But it's causing me a lot of feelings of anxiety and guilt. I feel very sad at the thought of giving them up, but also kind of calm in a concerning way.

When it comes down to it, I can't see myself being a good owner for any pet right now. I think maybe I am too self-centered, or somehow broken deep down. I've always wanted to have a lot of animals, but I can't see myself handling any sort of illness in them well. I am limited in budget as well as transportation to vet's offices. And even the upkeep of the cage and my room has been hard to motivate myself to do. I don't even think I've been changing the bedding often enough

I had my doubts even before I got them. I should have listened to the thoughts. It's possible that I've had an uptick in suicidal thoughts since adopting the rats because this just makes me feel so trapped. I don't want to have to tell anybody that I had to get rid of them, and I don't want to say goodbye. But it might be better for them and me if I talk to the rescue.

It's kind of damned if you do and damned if you don't because I feel guilty about the way I've been keeping them but equally guilty about the thought of sending them back. I'm really not sure how to figure out what I'm thinking. I should probably at least bring up my concerns with the rescue and see if they have any suggestions on how to deal with them. But I feel bad even thinking this. They're so amazing and they deserve the world, but I don't know if I can give them that.
 

Sunspots

Pffffeckn amazin
Safety & Support
SF Supporter
#2
I'm so sorry Bay, I know how much you've been longing for your rats for so long.

I used to have a chinchilla and he was really skittish. I daren't late him out to run around the room as I just couldn't catch him when it was time to go back in his cage. I started taking him into the bathroom as it was smaller, no furniture to hide under. He became much more friendly after a while and eventually I could trust him to run around the living room and trust myself to be able to catch him.

Do you think maybe that your anxiety over them is clouding the positives that you provide? It's very easy to get caught up in a spiral of self doubt when your self esteem is already low and you're in a new situation where someone/something is relying you.

Maybe talk to the rescue about your routine with them and ask for their opinion and advice. You could be worrying unnecessarily.
 

Baywasp

I want wind to blow
#3
I'm so sorry Bay, I know how much you've been longing for your rats for so long.

I used to have a chinchilla and he was really skittish. I daren't late him out to run around the room as I just couldn't catch him when it was time to go back in his cage. I started taking him into the bathroom as it was smaller, no furniture to hide under. He became much more friendly after a while and eventually I could trust him to run around the living room and trust myself to be able to catch him.

Do you think maybe that your anxiety over them is clouding the positives that you provide? It's very easy to get caught up in a spiral of self doubt when your self esteem is already low and you're in a new situation where someone/something is relying you.

Maybe talk to the rescue about your routine with them and ask for their opinion and advice. You could be worrying unnecessarily.
Thanks. My worries may be a little overblown, but I'm not sure. I should definitely talk to the rescue about it. I'm just scared to even broach the subject.
 

Sunspots

Pffffeckn amazin
Safety & Support
SF Supporter
#4
I should definitely talk to the rescue about it. I'm just scared to even broach the subject.
I'm sure the rescue would be really happy to give you some advice. It shows that you are trying to do what's best for them. I didn't realize that they are rescues - it will probably take them a lot longer to socialize as they may well not have been handled before.
 

Lady Wolfshead

"Don't fear mistakes. There are none." Miles Davis
#5
I don't think you should feel guilty, whatever you decide to do. Your life and mental health are important. That said, it can take time to bond with animals especially rescues. There are some great YouTube videos on bonding with your rats and teaching them tricks (rats are very good at doing tricks because they are so intelligent). Also on how to equip their cages so they have an enriching environment - it's not expensive. And the kind of treats to feed them. I've seen lots of people giving rats Cheerios as a treat, or yogurt on a spoon. Or baby food. You can put dabs of yogurt or baby food on your hand so the shy one must lick your hand to get the food.

Once you get them used to having treats, it shouldn't be an issue letting them out in your room because they will always respond to you clicking your tongue (or whatever noise you make) to signal a treat.

I really think you may just have the new-pet-owner anxieties. But some of the concerns you raise are valid. Rats don't live long - 2-3 years usually.

Possibly the most serious concern may be vet bills. Those will definitely be an issue eventually. You can see if there are free or low-cost vets in your area (your local Humane society may recommend them). Some vets will let you make payments but I've only ever asked for 2-3 payments. Do you have parents who may be able to help in a pinch? Space on a credit card? If you have no resources at all, you may want to re-think pet ownership. A vet visit can run $100-$500 or more. I would recommend saving up each month to have the money for an emergency.
I really hope you can keep your ratties. I have cats so I can't have rats, but my best friend had rats and loved them, but it did take him a while to bond with them.
 

Baywasp

I want wind to blow
#6
I'm sure the rescue would be really happy to give you some advice. It shows that you are trying to do what's best for them. I didn't realize that they are rescues - it will probably take them a lot longer to socialize as they may well not have been handled before.
They were actually born at the rescue, because the rescue had taken in their mother when she was pregnant. So they got socialized from birth. They all seemed friendly when I went to pick them up and in the video I was sent. I have no idea why Hugo is so shy now.
 

Baywasp

I want wind to blow
#7
Possibly the most serious concern may be vet bills. Those will definitely be an issue eventually. You can see if there are free or low-cost vets in your area (your local Humane society may recommend them). Some vets will let you make payments but I've only ever asked for 2-3 payments. Do you have parents who may be able to help in a pinch? Space on a credit card? If you have no resources at all, you may want to re-think pet ownership. A vet visit can run $100-$500 or more. I would recommend saving up each month to have the money for an emergency.
I really hope you can keep your ratties. I have cats so I can't have rats, but my best friend had rats and loved them, but it did take him a while to bond with them.
Thank you.
I have a few hundred saved for possible vet bills, but I know they can add up quickly if one or more of the rats actually get sick. I don't know if my mom would help me out. I don't ask her for help really. Even when I was living out of a motel and ran out of money and ended up homeless I didn't ask her for anything. I should be independent since I moved out in 2014 on rather bad terms. My relationship with her is better now (not so much with my dad though), but it would feel wrong to ask for help. I don't have a credit card. Maybe I should get one to help me build my credit but I haven't done it yet. Saving is really hard for me because I'm on a fixed income.

The rat I had when I was living with my parents (before I knew that you were supposed to have more than one rat) didn't get sick until she was very old, and she quickly passed without me having to make a vet appointment to have her put down. So I've never actually taken a rat to the vet.
 

Baywasp

I want wind to blow
#8
I am so anxious about this. I feel so sweaty and sick and just can't stop thinking about it. And it's even making me hesitant to interact with the rats because I just want to avoid the problem as much as possible.
I also might have to buy myself a new laptop, which will eat into my savings, especially because I wanna get one that's at least a little less of a piece of garbage than my current one. I'm planning on getting a little extra in student loans that I can use for educational expenses, but I just don't know if I can do this. But I also don't feel like I could tell people that I failed at being a rat parent.
 

Nick

☆☆Still Ducking Fantastic ☆☆
Safety & Support
SF Supporter
#9
Hey A, sounds like you're having a little anxiety about it this. I'd definitely recommend talking to the shelter, and seeing if they have suggestions. I also think, maybe you're overthinking a little here. I do this constantly, so no judgement from me. I wasn't sure about my Cat when I got her, pets are a lot of responsibility. In time we got into a routine and now it's just life. Give yourself some time for the bonding to happen, animals eventually adjust.

As for time outside their cage, playpen, toys, ect all that comes with time too. You'll slowly start to get the things you need as money allows. You'll start to be more comfortable with time outside the cage. The fact you are so concerned about their quality of life tells me that you'll give them everything they need. Try to relax a little bit if you can. They can feel your anxiety, too which also makes it harder.
 

Baywasp

I want wind to blow
#10
Hey A, sounds like you're having a little anxiety about it this. I'd definitely recommend talking to the shelter, and seeing if they have suggestions. I also think, maybe you're overthinking a little here. I do this constantly, so no judgement from me. I wasn't sure about my Cat when I got her, pets are a lot of responsibility. In time we got into a routine and now it's just life. Give yourself some time for the bonding to happen, animals eventually adjust.

As for time outside their cage, playpen, toys, ect all that comes with time too. You'll slowly start to get the things you need as money allows. You'll start to be more comfortable with time outside the cage. The fact you are so concerned about their quality of life tells me that you'll give them everything they need. Try to relax a little bit if you can. They can feel your anxiety, too which also makes it harder.
Thanks, that's comforting. I'll try and see if I can contact the rescue soon. I still have the lady's cell phone number that I was texting when I was getting ready to adopt them. I just feel nervous about reaching out to her and feel like she'll be upset at me for not doing a good enough job.
 

Baywasp

I want wind to blow
#11
I have posted a thread on a Facebook rat group and the general consensus seems to be that I should give it some time. I also texted the woman from the rescue to ask for advice on bonding
 

Baywasp

I want wind to blow
#12
I don't know if I can do this. I'm just psyching myself out way too much which is leading to more avoidant behavior, which makes my anxiety worse and makes me want to interact with the rats even less. I'm so fucked up.
 

Sunspots

Pffffeckn amazin
Safety & Support
SF Supporter
#13
Bay, they're okay, you're okay. Take a step back and breathe. They're not coming to any harm.
I think @Lady Wolfshead had a great idea with the treats. That's what we did with our chinchilla. He absolutely adored raisins. So we'd feed him raisins through the bars, sometimes high up so he'd have to work to get them. Every time we fed him a raisin we'd click our tongues. Eventually he'd come over to the bars when we made the sound. Even without coming out of his cage at that point, it made things more interesting for him and it gave me time to interact with him. Maybe try that?

You really aren't being a bad rat dad. Not at all. Just try to relax around them and give it time. It will work out *hug
 

DrownedFishOnFire

Back into the wild where I belong. Out of your way
Staff Alumni
SF Supporter
#14
Relax. They are rats they do not live long if you are worried about long term commitment. They pick up on your emotions. Overthinking it a bit when you are nervous they will be nervous but when you are confident they will be confident. I fostered a rescue feeder rat for a short time very friendly and intelligent hence it being diverted from being a live feed. Fun yet not my cup of tea lol. Ferrets are more of my forte if i had to do small animal fostercare. They love exploring. Obstacle courses. Talking to them. If you ingore them the bond is not going to happen. You are just a human that brings food and water to them. When doing your schoolwork in your room. Talk to them. Share them a bite of what you are eating. Fruits/vegs etc it doesnt take much to give up a morsel of what you are eating that day for your fresh fruits/vegs.

Being chained down to another living being is scary but its an adventure if you want to try to change your POV but if it gets worse just return them to the rescue. I was down when i took in a stray cat.... now almost a year into it we are very bonded. She is a velcro cat and is a huge part in my cat pride here. Not giving her up. It took weeks of bonding /time to click that she was home the entire time when owners didnt reclaim her. Now shes mine. Now hope that it helps ❤
 

Lady Wolfshead

"Don't fear mistakes. There are none." Miles Davis
#16
I just wanted to add that I don't think you should feel guilty if you decide to return them for any reason, including financial. Lots of animals have short-term foster care, so it would really be no different from the animal's perspective. People abandon their animals on the street (I believe we had one person on SF who just let her pet rat out in the forest when she couldn't care for it) so it is MUCH better to bring them back to the shelter/rescue where they will be cared for. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks.
 

Baywasp

I want wind to blow
#17
The more I think about it, the more I feel I'm just not able to take proper care of them. I'm getting behind on my cage cleaning now too. I really don't feel able to handle this, but I don't know how to tell anyone. And I'm also worried this is indicative of my abilities to handle other things (e.g. a job) because some of it is I really have no energy. IDK. I feel awful.
 

KM76710

KM stands for Kangaroo Manager
SF Supporter
#18
It is sad to hear the situation , but at least you are thinking about and caring about the little critters in your care while many may just say, it is a bunch of rats. That shows a good side caring about another living creature. I have no doubt that you will make the proper and correct decision both for youself and them. Wishing you luck not just with your pets but the other things you mention such as jobs.
 

Lady Wolfshead

"Don't fear mistakes. There are none." Miles Davis
#19
If it makes you feel any better, my roommate at university used to clean rats' cages for the Biology department, and there were compartments of several rats all jammed together into a space the size of a large shoebox and that was their entire living space. I also recently visited a big-box pet store and saw 4 rats in a small cage with one kind of suspended bar that they were all compulsively walking on (I probably would have bought them just to save them, but I already have pets and can't afford more). I'm just saying that I'm sure your rats' cage is luxury by comparison.

But if you can't deal right now, it is okay to return them. Really. As for energy, I usually find that my energy expands when I have a job because it forces me onto a normal schedule and it can actually help with mild/moderate depression. But everyone is different and some people have severe mental illness and can't work. But it's a bit of a mixed blessing - I've been on disability and felt more depressed than when I was working although less anxious.
 

Baywasp

I want wind to blow
#20
Now I’ve realized I spent a lot more money than I thought and I don’t really have savings set aside for possible vet bills. I guess basically I’m more economically precarious than I thought I was. I’ll be fine personally but I probably need to talk to the rescue soon.
 

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