This is what happens when I try to parent and blog at the same time. Parenting always takes priority. But, an awful lot has happened in these past few months. The biggest thing that happened would be that we lost Lucy. So, if you’re interested, I’m going to tell the story of how I got her, as well as how we had to help our two little ones through that mourning period.
I got Lucy in the May of 2015. I adopted her from the PetSmart down the road from my apartment (shut up, I know) and immediately fell in love with her. She was so sweet and wanted so much attention from me I couldn’t bear it. A few days later, I went back and adopted another little girl (Ethel) to keep her company. But Lucy was always my girl.
She was a full blown adult when I got her and I knew it wouldn’t have as long with her as I wanted. When she turned 2 (ish, I have no idea how old she really was), her health declined rapidly. She lost so much weight, she didn’t want to eat or drink, she slept a lot, and started having trouble moving about the cage. In the end, we had to feed her from an infant medication syringe multiple times a day and give her bathes more often when she stopped grooming.
Then, the worst thing happened. She had a stroke. I woke up to find her laying in a puddle of water/urine with her back legs spread like a corgi laying down. She was struggling to breathe and started crying when she felt me put my hands around her body. I dried her off and held her all day. She couldn’t blink, could barely swallow when I tried to feed her, and could barely move. She passed later that night. I died a little bit. All I wanted was her to stop being in pain. We called three vets offices to discuss putting her to sleep. All that mattered was my little girl getting away from the pain.
The pain I felt was nothing compared to the look in Stormy’s eyes when she realized that Lucy, her adopted mother, was gone. When a rat dies, especially when it’s the alpha of the group, it has a big impact. The best way to let them know that their friend is gone is to leave the body in the cage. Yep, you read that right. You need to leave the body in the cage. Not for forever (the others will try to eat them) but for an hour or so to give the others a chance to understand what happened. They’ll realize that their friend is no longer with them and can begin to mourn and move past it.
Yes, rats will mourn. They feel grief. I had to help Lucy get through Ethel’s death and my babies through Lucy’s death. Yes, they feel grief and no one can convince me otherwise. With Lucy, it was different. She was suddenly all alone and the only way to help was to bring in someone new for her to befriend. With the babies, it was more along the lines of helping them get over the hump.
We found the best way to help them was to leave a blanket in the cage that smelled like Lucy. It seemed to calm them down. And after a week or so, we removed it and cleaned the whole cage. And all was well. We showered them with love and attention (and treats) and that seemed to help them get over that hump. I’m not going to lie, this isn’t meant so much as a helpful advice type of post. It’s more me getting this off my chest. There is only so much crying can do.