Some people are scared of rats, thinking they're mean and dirty animals, however, those who keep them as pets would definitely say that they are, in fact, very intelligent and lovely creatures that make great companions. Turns out, rats have been observed to show empathy as well as enjoy playing games with each other, like hide and seek. They might not have the best reputation since the Black Plague PR disaster, but with movies like Ratatouille becoming a success, rats' image has become more and more sympathetic in recent years.
Rachie's Ratirement Home takes care of rats of various sizes and ages. Located in Sunnybank Hills, Brisbane, the rat rescue specializes in caring for rats who need a new place to live, or permanent care. They have a Facebook page where they share photos of the rats in their care, as well as other events. However, they also have a pretty unique album where they post weekly entries to "Best and Worst Rat of the Week", an album that celebrates certain rats for their good behavior as well as shames others for being naughty.
Bored Panda reached out to the RRH representatives and they offered some insight on why and what they do. "We started two years ago, when I (Rachie), started helping out rats as a hobby while I was studying," Rachie explained. "Demand grew exponentially and we're now a team of 20+ volunteers, foster carers and admins, and a management team of three," the representative elaborated. Despite the rescue having Rachie's name on it, Rachel says that taking care of the rats is absolutely a team effort: "We're a real team, even though my name is on the box it absolutely takes a community to keep the lights on and the animals safe".
"The rat community is a lot bigger than people think, but because of stigma around rats, there isn't much support for them," Rachie told us. "Our city alone had several huge, established guinea pig rescues, but not a single specialist rat rescue active in the whole state. So when people found out I was helping here and there (despite being a broke uni student), the demand was overwhelming," the representative elaborated on the situation. "We've grown constantly since then just to meet demand, we assisted over 300 rats the first year, over 700 in the second, and this year we're not even through February yet and have helped nearly 200! I've put my career in genetic engineering aside for now to focus on this, the volunteers laugh because I'm allergic to rats, but someone's gotta do it!"
"We help anyone who asks, we've never turned away a domestic rat or mouse yet, thanks to our volunteer team, although we're under the crunch with numbers at the moment," Rachel Greenfield told us. "We take in a lot of surrendered or rescued rats, from both fantastic homes and terrible neglect cases, rehabilitate them, find loving forever families for any rats that are healthy and happy and ready, and keep those that aren't so they can live their lives out here," the RRH Inc. president explained what they do.
"Because rats get depressed when kept alone, we do a lot of palliative care for "last man standing" rats for those who don't intend on getting more rats, or foster out companions to keep them company in their last days," she also said. Rachie also said that they have another mission in mind: "Our other main goal is education, we're really passionate about making good rat care accessible - I'm a biologist by trade, and rats are the most researched animal in the world because of lab testing". "We know so much about them and that information needs to be translated to the wider community so we can improve welfare," Greenfield explained.
When asked about the rats in their care, Rachel had a lot to say:
"We mostly care for domestic rats, but we also have domestic mice, some hybrid wild mice and hand-reared wild R. rattus since any pest rodent species raised by humans can't be re-released. Most are at the main rescue site, but we have a foster team who takes rats out to help with medication and trust training. Many aren't fit to be rehomed due to health or temperament issues, and much of that comes from poor backyard breeding. Those rats live here for the rest of their days in families of 10 or so, we're a 'no kill' shelter that only euthanizes for quality of life issues or endangerment. We have everything from mums on litters to grumpy old males who need regular help with grooming, we've got rats with disabilities both physical and cognitive, and so many gorgeous things just waiting for a home. They're incredible creatures, nothing like what people 'expect' a rat to be. I call them my little "sewer puppies" because they really are so much like dogs, except cleaner! They're inquisitive, loyal, and get so excited just to lick your hand or sniff your face."
"Rescue can be hard sometimes, it has some incredibly rewarding and beautiful moments, but also some sad and frustrating ones, you often can't speak up publicly about the worst of what you see, because it would prevent people from seeking help for fear of being shamed," Rachie told us. "So anything that brings a little humour and levity to the community is so welcome! Besides, I've never been much for social media and in the beginning we didn't have people like #AdminAlly, so I needed a way to share these little guys without my usual wordy posts," the representative explained how the social media page was created. And as for the rat of the week? " I saw a photoset from a zoo that had done the same thing with their penguins and it was such a good fit for a regular piece, to make people laugh and show them how unique and hilarious rats can be!"
When asked how they pick the rats for the segment, Rachel has this to say:
"Usually it's someone who's made us laugh, pulled some silly stunt or really touched our hearts. Often it's our one-eyed brat Button causing some kind of chaos. Sometimes we add in a rat who's passed away as a tribute for the team to have a smile about. And sometimes you've just gotta have a picture of Spoon!"
Rachie also told us that people's reactions were very positive: "People follow us on facebook from all over, we've had people doing everything from making memes about the rats to drawing art of them, and so much love from the wider rat community". "We're really grateful for all the love, and to be able to show our ratties and what we do to the world! Rats really do deserve so much more than they get, and we're hoping to reach more and more people who feel the same way and want to lend support," Greenfield concluded.