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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I wrote a post a while ago about two baby "rats" I saw at Petsmart that I wanted to "rescue." I made up my mind that the only way I could know if it was the right thing was to play with them for myself. When I went to get some aspen shavings (unrelated odor experiment) I saw them and asked if I could take them out. When I did, I saw that they were extremely small and frightened. They had little to no human contact since being separated from their momma. They were skittish and jumpy like mice. One jumped clean out of my hand back into the cage, which I have not known rats to do. They also bit pretty fiercely. Didn't break any skin, but pooed and peed in my hands (possibly over a scab I have) and bit my brother on the ears, inside of nostril, and lip. They were also wayyyyyy tinier than any rat I've ever seen at the age they were supposed to be.

We decided it was a no-go, went home and washed our clothes and took showers. I made my brother put a q-tip with witch hazel on it where one of them bit him in the nostril, and his lips and mouth. Then I made him put neosporin on it. I did the same where they "went" on my hand. This was about a week ago, maybe a little more or less.

Over the weekend, I came down with a sickness like I haven't had in a long time. I had a fever of 103.4 last night, the night before that 102, and so on and so forth. I went to a walk-in clinic yesterday and was told it was a sinus infection with the beginnings of bronchitis and given antibiotics. I didn't even think to mention the "rats." All my life, I've experienced sinus infections on and off and seldom ever had a fever. I can't even remember one time before this one. The only thing I can compare this to was what we believed to be a severe case of strep I had a couple of days after my grandpa died and I was stay at my grandma's house. I was about 15. I had a fever of like, 104 or something crazy like that, was vomiting everywhere and had a throat swollen practically shut. I had to get a shot of penicillin in a very uncomfortable place with a very long needle.

To be short, this is the sickest I've felt in a long time. The scariest part is, this was the one time I broke my "no handle" rule since getting the girls. And, I have more symptoms of Leptospirosis than I have of a sinus infection. I have aches, as if it's the flu. I can hardly walk. Nauseated. Coughing. I've been practically incapacitated these last few days. I'm not panicking at all, this is just the worst I've felt since that supposed strep battle. I would venture to say it's equivalent to stomach flu, which is actually pretty violent for me, but that's a different kind of pain.

And, without even knowing that I was this sick, my little brother came home from school feeling these same symptoms. (And he almost never, ever, ever, ever gets sick).

I'm on Augmentin now, but I'm really at a loss. I don't want anyone to blame my rats, because if they were the culprits - I think I would have died a long time ago. I've had them for months. Does anyone have any thoughts?
 

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This sounds a lot like the flu I had earlier this year. My ankles and other joints hurt so bad it felt like I had glass in the joints. I have never before had such bad aches in my joints from the flu as I had this year. Is there a bad strain of flu going around in your area? If there isn't a bad flu strain in your area, you might want to go back and mention the "rats" to see what they say.
 

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There is a life threatening condition called rat bite fever and one little boy died of it, supposedly after adopting a pet shop rat.

Not to overly worry you, but do call your doctor and mention the rats you handled just in case it's relevant. It's a pretty rare illness, but someone has to get even the rarest disease or it wouldn't be a disease in the first place.
 

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Is your brother feeling similarly (sorry if you said this in the post but I couldn't find it)? I agree with going to the doctor and mentioning the the "rats". Did they have large ears, small eyes and a smooth coat? That's how mice look even as young. Or did they have large ears, large eyes and a fluffy coat? That's how rats look when they're the size of full grown mice.
 

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They were skittish and jumpy like mice. One jumped clean out of my hand back into the cage, which I have not known rats to do.
I just wanted to say that it is not all that abnormal for rats to behave like that when they have not had much handling. I have seen it lots of times.

Infact one of the girls I rescued was just like that. She literally thought she could fly if it meant getting away from you lol
 

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Maybe, but they had very rat-like markings. They were both hooded, and one was fawn hooded
Mice can 't be hooded. Syrian hamsters can, I think, and can look very rat like (but without a tail), but chances are those were just very jumpy rats.

Sorry, no advice on the sickness other than to look into Rat Bite Fever and hantavirus. Both could be carried by unknown rats.
 

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Augmentin is really good for respiratory infections and about 4 years ago we got it for a sickness that bounced around between both the humans and rats in our family... Yup both humans and rats sick at the same time with the same symptoms one heck of a coincidence... actually it was a lot worse in the humans, but I don't know exactly how the rats felt to be fair... In that case we infected our rats.

I'm usually the one that takes threads off on a tangent, but various illnesses can be carried by more than one species of rodent, I'm not entirely sure Millie & Daisy should be debating the precise identification of the rodents that may have caused the illness until after someone talks to the doctor or maybe even goes to the hospital... If it's really important, the doctor will no doubt tell you, and you might even be able to speak with someone at the store that has experience and can tell you how they know what they had were rats (or not), if they are still there (which might be a good thing) and even where they are from.

Then afterwards, when the crisis (if this is what it is) is over we can beat this topic to death... Augment might be exactly the right treatment or it might not be... but at least the doctor should know where it might have come from.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I just got back from the doctor. My nurse actually had rats herself, lol. The front desk was a little taken aback though, because when they asked me what was wrong and I told them I am sick and was "defecated on by an unknown rodent" they more or less reacted with "don't play with rodents!"

The doctor doesn't think it's RBF or Leptospirosis. He says it's more than likely something that's going around since I'm not the only sick one in my family. Dad is sick, too - he's insisted this entire time that it's "just allergies" but now we know it's not. Doc said I have all of the symptoms of adenoiditis and it's going around my area. Supposedly it makes you have really high fevers for about 3 days, which is pretty much what I've had. My fever broke earlier today, a while after I wrote this post. He said if it gets really high again and stays there for another couple of days we'll do bloodwork. I don't think it will come to that, though. I felt well enough today to do some light cage cleaning since I've been so incapacitated I haven't changed their litter in a while.
 

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I'm glad to hear it's not likely anything worse, or even rat related, but in case something does happen overnight at least your doctor has a heads up as to what to look/test for.

Now that the immediate concern is under control and hopefully behind you... let's get back to the debate at hand... My vote is for small rat pups... I've seen some clueless pet shop employees but so far at least I haven't seen a whole staff that can't identify a rat when they see one, unless it's mislabeled when it came in, then all bets are off. One chain store employee once told me that a pregnant female top ear was male dumbo... because that's what the skew on the box said when they got her (him). But I think at least someone there would have noticed if it wasn't a rat at all....

And yes, we just adopted Misty from a breeder, she was supposed to be 4 weeks old and she was the size of my thumb... ridiculously small, but she was eating solid food and she tippled in size in just over a week and is now a healthy normal size for her age. And I once was looking at a 4-5 week old blue at a pet shop that jumped all over the place and tried to bite me... She was one nervous and nasty little rat and she stayed in the feeder bin we found her in... We gave a friendly normal little pup a good home instead. You can't save every rat, and every day sweet innocent rats get fed to reptiles, I always try to save the best and the brightest... not the one most likely to make my life harder than it already is. Odds are you did the right thing.
 

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One jumped clean out of my hand back into the cage, which I have not known rats to do.
I agree that rats can be pretty mellow compared to other animals, but rats can be skittish too. I've checked out one store which has a pretty respectable reptile area but not much of a small, furry animal area. Their rats and mice were kept in a "pantry." It was actually my first foray into rat shopping. The employee pulled out one of several drawers about 3' by 2' that was swarming with young rats. Other drawers contained larger rats, which grew up without socialization so were even less inclined to become pets.

When the drawer opened, the rats scattered like cockroaches and then clustered in the far back corner. You could pick up some rats, but they weren't keen on being held and usually jumped off to get back into the tray. There was no opportunity to really see a rat's personality in that environment. They were just completely unsocialized. They knew humans brought food, but they also knew that ratties would disappear and never come back.

Still, as skittish as these guys were, I was never in danger of being bitten, especially multiple times. Assuming these were rats, I would guess their aggression was an outlier. The pooing and peeing aren't too surprising. Half the time I handle new rats at a store, I get some poo. Not so much peeing, though I wouldn't be surprised if a terrified rat lost control.
 

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I agree that rats can be pretty mellow compared to other animals, but rats can be skittish too. I've checked out one store which has a pretty respectable reptile area but not much of a small, furry animal area. Their rats and mice were kept in a "pantry." It was actually my first foray into rat shopping. The employee pulled out one of several drawers about 3' by 2' that was swarming with young rats. Other drawers contained larger rats, which grew up without socialization so were even less inclined to become pets.

When the drawer opened, the rats scattered like cockroaches and then clustered in the far back corner. You could pick up some rats, but they weren't keen on being held and usually jumped off to get back into the tray. There was no opportunity to really see a rat's personality in that environment. They were just completely unsocialized. They knew humans brought food, but they also knew that ratties would disappear and never come back.

Still, as skittish as these guys were, I was never in danger of being bitten, especially multiple times. Assuming these were rats, I would guess their aggression was an outlier. The pooing and peeing aren't too surprising. Half the time I handle new rats at a store, I get some poo. Not so much peeing, though I wouldn't be surprised if a terrified rat lost control.
Yep, rats can be extremely jumpy and skittish when either 1) not socialized or 2) not socialized AND not bred for temperament. I have two would-be feeder rats from Petco and while they were the least jumpy in the bin, they are still scared of everything that moved. I mean, they love me to bits (they always rush to my lap or shoulder when scared) but it's clear temperament was not a consideration when they were bred. Rats bred for temperament tend to be friendly (or at least not jumpy) even without socialization. I tend to think in pet store rats, dumbos are bred more for temperament than top ears because they're more "desirable" as pets rather than feeders... which makes me angry since both ears are gorgeous. <3 90% of the top ears I've met at pet stores are a LOT more jumpy than the dumbos and I doubt it has to do with the ear type as much as the breeding, since judging from the colors and markings, the dumbos are unrelated to the top ears at my local petcos and petsmarts. /two cents
 

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I also think that breeders who breed dumbos as well as top eared rats tend to think of dumbos more as pets and less as snake food surplus before they send them to pet shops. Chances are that dumbos might get better care. They also usually sell for more money and that extra few bucks might buy them a slightly better start in life. It costs about the same to breed dumbo's as top eared rats, but with a higher profit margin on the dumbos, they might be more concerned with repeat business.

Personally, when rats get the same amount of attention as pups, you always get some more skittish than others, but I couldn't say for sure that one strain is going to be less skittish than another. Calmer rats tend to come from breeders that give them more care and attention. Genetics, no doubt plays an important part, but proper care as pups makes all the difference. Some breeders like to say they have a propitiatory strain that's got a better personality, but I honestly think it's a matter of salesmanship and creating brand value over hard genetic evidence.

Great rats are where ever you find them, problem rats turn up most often anywhere rats are mistreated or neglected.
 

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eh well honestly most petstores are going to get their rats from a mill. Which is not going to give any rat special treatment. Even if they are being supplied by a breeder, IMO it is doubtful that they are much into giving special treatment to the rats either.

While I have heard of dumbos selling for more, no stores by me do that. And no breeders I know do that either.

I guess in my point of view, either the breeder is going to just be after $ and not give any special treatment to any of the rats or they will be responsible and then give loving treatment to all of them. I just can not possibly see them giving more favorable care to dumbos, while it is a possibility, I would say it is a very tiny one.

A good breeder is going to look not only at health but also temperament. While I do agree it has alot to do with how they are handled/raised I wouldn't dismiss genetics playing a heavy role in it as well.
 

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I don't think any mill gives dumbos or any of their rats special treatment... but for some reason, dumbos seem to have a better temperament and that is 100% due to breeding in my opinion. Whether intentional or not, the dumbos the mills my local petsmart/petcos gets rats from are bred with very chill, friendly temperaments while the standard ears tend to be on the skittish side. That was demonstrated to me when I got Monkey. There were two bins at Petsmart,each with five rats, one bin was dumbo and and one was top ear... I "played" with the top eared ones first and most hid from me and the ones that came up to me only did so to bite. These were young, about eight weeks. Then when I played with the dumbos, all but one of the dumbos came up to me. No biting. Just friendliness. Neither were socialized by the mill or pet store and they'd all been there the same amount of time and were the same age.

I found the same thing happen at various petsmarts. When searching for a male to add to my mischief, I searched every pet store possible... Every single rat was top ear and all were skittish/jump/unfriendly. Even the two that HAD been socialized had skittish tendencies. It wasn't until I found a Petsmart that had three dumbo males, adults no less, that I found rats that would gladly approach me. These unsocialized adult male dumbos had a better temperament than three month old top ears that the store employee worked with every day she was there.

I got my Daisy and Mu at Petco when there were at most seven weeks old. I've given them nothing but love and good experiences, but things still scare them. Socialization can do a lot, yes, but breeding can do just as much. That's why the Russian Fox project worked. That's how ASFs are in the process of being domesticated by some breeders. That's why some dogs/cats/animals are just born with behavioral issues that no amount of good treatment can prevent.

I hope no one takes all this to mean that I think top ears are inferior. I LOVE top ears and I know when they are bred well, they can have amazing temperaments. My Pooka is an example. He's from a breeder and fears nothing. Not to mention, there are exceptions. My first rats, Silver, Peaches, and Cream were top ears from Petsmart and weren't skittish at all. Silver definitely wasn't socialized (Peaches and Cream kinda were), but had none of the traits I see in top ears at Petsmarts nowadays. Maybe they've gotten worse in the past two years or she was from a different mill... but either way, I'm not saying people shouldn't buy top ears. Just commenting on poor breeding.
 

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We've raised both dumbos and top eared rats from as little as two weeks old. No difference as far as I can tell. In fact our dumbos have been more shy and skittish than most of our top eared rats at that age. And I just spent a week hiding under a blanket with a 4 week old baby dumbo so my memory is pretty fresh.

Individual rats can be very different at any age, but ear shape isn't necessarily the determining factor.

But as a shoulder rat trainer and handler, how the pup is nurtured is critical from our experience. If you take a pup away from it's mom too young and you don't properly hand raise it with around the clock attention, it will always be skittish and it will never be truly confident.

The best rats have good genetics, but also need proper nurture. I would much rather adopt another part wild or wild rat as a tiny pup and socialize the heck out of it, than adopt another older domestic rat with excellent genetics that someone else has neglected, abused or tortured, and I've done both successfully.
 

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As I said, that is the trend with the rats at my local petsmarts and petcos. I highly doubt the stores in your area get rats from the same mill mine and the OP does (we live fairly close, I think). I never said ear shape alone was a determining factor. Just that certain breeders may take more care to breed good tempered dumbos than top ears. I don't think ear type inherently had anything to do with temperament overall. In cases where there is a litter of dumbos and top ears, I have no doubt ear type alone would make no difference. I just know from what I've seen my local dumbos are completely unrelated to top ears from the same store and tend to be a lot less skittish, despite being raised the exact same way, which leads be to believe they are from unrelated lines with different inherent temperaments.
 
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