Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

That Rat Has the Run of the House

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

That Rat Has the Run of the House

Article excerpt

I have a rat problem.

There's one loose in the house. The catch is that it's a pet, my daughter's, and she's coming back this weekend from a two-week trip to her grandparents'.

Let me explain how I got into this mess.

My 13-year-old had been a lobbying for a small rodent for some time. I resisted because we have a dog and she has fish. Still I couldn't get her off her rodent fixation.

Buying her the white rat last month was a victory of sorts, as I'd talked her down from a chinchilla. (Ever price one of those little Andean squirrels? Ay, caramba!)

So, a few weeks ago, we took a ride down to Vermin R Us on McKnight Road. That's not the store's actual name, of course, but it's one of those big places that moves pets like canned goods.

Anyway, we went straight to the rodent aisle. There were little rats and medium-sized rats. The smaller the rat the better -- that's one of my core beliefs. The little ones also cost less, and if you can't save on rats, what's left?

I asked a clerk a few questions, trying to find out the difference. She delicately explained that most of these rats aren't sold as pets, and thus the smaller ones are cheaper.

Ah, yes. I flashed back to my college days. A guy in my fraternity house had a boa constrictor, Larry Boa, if I recall correctly. This snake swallowed maybe a mouse a week, and I once ran an errand to the pet store to get my buddy's cuddly reptile his little furry nosh.

I discovered that day that if you wanted a mouse for a pet, it was a buck, but if you wanted one as snake food, it was 50 cents. Either way, your mouse was lifted from the same cage and, either way, it was placed in a little cardboard box with a side photo of two cute little kids and their mouse with this caption: "I finally found a home ... Somebody really loves me."

Larry Boa loved those mice all right. I felt good that our rat would have a better life.

Cage, wheel, water bottle -- I thought we covered everything. I drove the whole shebang home and my girl set the rat up in her room. …

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