Ella Wright and Caleb Godden of Launceston are due to be married in April, but their big day may be pushed back due to rats.
The couple share their living room with 38 rodents thanks to a rat rescue project they began.
“We saw that there were some [pet rats] needing homes and rescue and it just blew up,” Ms Wright said.
Starting a rat rescue
The decision to get two pet rats last year was one Ms Wright and Mr Godden took seriously.
“I did months of research before even looking at buying them, so I knew what to expect,” Ms Wright said.
But not long after acquiring Loki and Klaus, Ms Wright realised through her continued online research that relatively few other rat owners were as thorough as she had been.
“People get rats thinking they are small animals with small needs,” she said.
But rats, Ms Wright explains, have “complex needs” which, along with the cost of keeping them, result in many rat owners not caring for their animals adequately, and not wanting to keep them for long.
This situation, which Ms Wright said was exacerbated by pet owners returning to work and school after COVID restrictions ended, was one she felt she must address.
Rehoming rehabilitated rats
Most of the rats in the rescue project arrived after having been deemed “too old, ugly, unruly or disabled” to be kept by their previous owners, and rehabilitation was the primary purpose of the project.
Beyond addressing the rats’ physical needs, Ms Wright and Mr Godden also tend to their mental and emotional health.
Rats that go on to meet health and behavioural requirements set by Ms Wright then become candidates for rehoming.
Potential owners must complete a “lengthy questionnaire” and an interview with Ms Wright to establish their ability to provide a “healthy, happy” rat home.
“[Among other things], we try to ensure that people are not going to live-feed our rats [to reptiles],” she said.
“If that happened, I would be devastated.”
Ms Wright creates a detailed “surrender profile” for each adopted rat, which she gives to its new owners, along with the promise of around-the-clock availability for consultation.
“[Running the rescue project] is 24-7 … but I do plan on taking a little bit of time off … for my wedding,” Ms Wright said.
Rats are top priority
Even the wedding, Ms Wright admits, may take a backseat to the rats, just as many other things in her life with Mr Godden have.
Money that would otherwise be saved for the wedding was currently set aside for rat surgeries, including an operation to remove a tumour from a grey male rat named Pumbaa.
“We are saving up for that … so that he can live a longer life,” Ms Wright said.
Extra funds will also be required to double the size of the rat rescue project, which Ms Wright and Mr Godden plan to do down the track.
“Obviously, that will come when we can afford a bigger house to put them all in,” Ms Wright said.
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