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My little brother used to watch me care for my rats every day. He'd help me mix food, watch me clean and refill the water dish, and he'd see me carry out my cages to clean them out every other day. He started talking about how he wanted a rat, so I started explaining to him why the food is mixed, why the water dish is refilled several times a day, and why the cage is to be cleaned regularly. Then I finally got him a dark brown male who he named Mordecai. He was a Petco rat and rather young, but quickly grew to impressive size and his belly was always round and full.

Things started to change and I spent less time at home, more work and more play. My family of rats either came with me or were given extra to keep them while I was gone. I didn't realize it yet, but my little brother stopped caring for his own rat around this time; His water dish always got knocked over and soaked into the aspen bedding, but the dish wouldn't get refilled until that night or the next morning and the bedding wouldn't get changed for two weeks. He stopped taking the time to mix healthy food and just had mom buy him rat pellets, and I only seen him out of the cage on occasion on his shoulder. I thought nothing of it, just assumed that he still let Mordecai out to exercise and I just was never home to see it.

I was sitting on the couch with my babies this morning, feeding them the thanksgiving dinner they had to miss out on last night due to new company, and my little brother decided to bring Mordecai out and sit on the couch with me. He was quick to snatch up some turkey and eat it viciously, but I thought he was just really enjoying the new taste. He stayed on my lap and ate for ten minutes straight until I needed to get up. When I scooped him up I turned him over to scratch his belly which I expected to be bursting with all the turkey he had just eaten; there was nothing there but a strangely vacuumed look instead. I held him gently under his arms and let his body dangle, shockingly thin. I didn't notice before because he was crouched on my lap, long dark fur making him appear bigger. His protruding backbone, ribs, and hip bone were all invisible under the fur, but devastating under my fingers. His skin was slightly moldable and his fur was dull, he walked stiffly.

I asked my brother if he had been feeding Mordecai or filling his water dish, and he said yes. I asked if there was any point in the last month that he had forgotten, even for one night, and he said no. At this point my parents were getting their word in, telling me that Mordecai was fine and I was just being daft. I felt Mordecai's body again and then the bodies of my own; of all of my rats the only spine that could be slightly felt belonged to Max, the youngest and the smallest. I handed Mordecai back to my brother, telling him that somehow he fell ill and instructed him to keep a close eye and give him a little extra food. Awhile later I thought to ask him what he feeds his rat, to which he replied only with "raisins."

Mordecai had been fed nothing but raisins for what my brother says has been three weeks. I'm not sure how accurate that estimation of time is, but his rat has still been without appropriate food for too long. I gave him more turkey, and placed a dish full of tuna, oatmeal, bran flakes, and raisins in his cage; it was all I could find. I also gave him a whole dish of dog food, since I keep some to mix for my babies. I keep cat food too because some of my rats prefer it, but I figured the dog food was the best choice. I noticed his cage still hasn't been cleaned for awhile, and asked my brother to clean it. If he doesn't have a change of heart soon, I may just have to take the rat and let him live with Rudi.

Recently, my brother has been complaining that Mordecai started gnawing his cage bars at night and keeping him up so he puts the cage in the hallway. Suddenly, that all makes sense; he was slowly starving to death. I shouldn't have assumed that a twelve year old could responsibly care for such an animal, or any animal at all. I should have watched over Mordecai to make sure he was being treated properly.

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