March 28, 2006

rat trouble

as my parents picked me up from the airport, my mother warned me, "at home, don't eat food that has fallen on the floor." which seemed a stragne warning. but she went on to inform me that the house, as well as the houses on either side of us, are infested with rats. last time we had rats, my parents went a little crazy, setting traps all over the kiten and garage, and doing strange dances of glee whenever one of the traps snapped. not my most exciting adventure with rats, however.

two thursdays ago, i was coming out of a rather difficult test - identify various dead and stuffed birds and mammals that have been laid out on tables for me - and found a white rat snuffling around the sidewalk just beside campus. i stopped to stare at it in surprise and it came up to me and sniffed my shoe. so i took it home.

walked from campus to my apartment with the little guy nestled on my chest. it was very sweet and docile. no, it did not bite me. when i got back to my apartment, it climbed up to my shoulder and burrowed into my hair. please, make jokes about my fuzzy hair being a rat's nest. i woke kat up from her nap to warn her i had brought home an animal. practically the first thing she said in her groggy state was, "does it have fleas?" oh. i hadn't thought about that. i worked the thing out of the tangle that was my ponytail and put it in a bag with some lettuce and a carrot. then i went and scrubbed every inch of exposed skin and resolved to shower. great, paranoia. when kat wakes up and makes disbelieving noises at me. suggests i move the rat somewhere bigger. we empty the drawer in our "media cabinet" and line it with newspaper (finally a use for the piles of newspaper we've been accumulating for months) and place the rat in it's temprary enclosure. we both camp out in the living room for the evening, every so often our eyes sliding to the rat box. i obsessed over my rash deed all evening, in the process bitching to just about everyone online. fortunately, gloria knew someone with an empty cage. she gave me his number and moments laater, i was out on the street walking past clusters of partygoers to procure a place to put my new critter. i had to walk back to my apartment carrying the large neon cage through the revellers, as well. i hoped desperately i wouldn't run into anyone i knew, it was one thing that my friends abstractly knew the story, quite another for someone to see me carrying that thing - don't wanna put a visual to that sort of insanity. the cage was a crazy thing that used to hold mice. had two levels and the entire thing turned like a running wheel. we put the rat on top with the food dish and water bottle, but it was too timid to use the tiny tunnel. kat tried to make the rat more comfortable by disassembling the cage and reconstructing it in various, roomier configurations. the wheel on it's side atop a pad of newspaper. the wheel, open and in a larger box. the platform in the box with a homemade bed of cardboard and cloth. finally, she gave up and put the rat back in the reconstructed cage. it slept hunched on the platform inside the food dish.

the next morning i woke up with a rat in my apartment and a sense of dread obligation. every morning it was in my apartment was a day i began stressed out. she thought i ought to release it, let it live a free and ratty life, no matter how short, but i couldn't consciounably do it. it was a snow white rat, bred in captivity, probably raised in a lab, and there are hawks on campus - i've seen them. it's basically the least cryptic animal ever. i half-hid the cage in the big box and put it on the balcony during the day and let it inside at night, with the large box upended over the cage to block the light from our late night revelries. the third day, i put the rat in the bottom half of the cage that she could get some exercise, and she finally learned to use the tiny, narrow tunnel. we got some amusement watching the critter awkwardly crawl through the tiny passage.

that sunday, kat drove me and the rat to an animal shelter. two, actually, as we discovered the first did not service our particular district of westwood. in both places after i had put the box containing the animal on the counter, the attendant asked me whether the rat was dead. i found that a bit peculiar. do i look like someone particularly prone to dropping off dead rats at shelters? or perhaps it's simply policy to ascertain vivacity when the animal is not in plain view. at the second place, the woman asked me to place the box containing the rat on the ground after she discovered it held a rat (ewwwwww!). unreasonably prejudiced broad. not too hard to believe. during its visit, kat was too cautious to touch the rat directly for fear of disease. i was as well, but mostly out of paranoia, as i was certain, irrationally certain the rat was perfectly healthy. still am. good thing the apartment came with a box of latex gloves. i have to say, kat was great about it, though. we left the rat with the shelter. that night, i cleaned and returned the cage. not to its owner, but his neighbor, who was home. so now, there is a good-sized contingent of people out there - the friends i've told, the strangers who have heard, and the people kat complained about her wacky roommate to - who think i'm irrational and strange. great, i'm the weird chick with the rat. but, i just have a soft spot in my heart for things that scurry. so think me strange and crazy, but at least i chocked up a great big hunk'a karma.

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