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Moose Jaw Times-Harold, Monday, March 18,2002



Jordi's one hour of Fame


GEOFF HOWE/Times-Herald
Sandra Beasley and her pet rat Jordi entertain seniors at Capilano Court during a pet therapy session Thursday
Local "rat lady" helps Humane Society with its pet therapy program

By Mandy Higgins

Sandra Beasley of Moose jaw is gently holding one of her pets, stroking his fur and then letting him climb up and perch on her shoulder.

The pet is Jordi, a one-and-a-half-year-old male rat.

"Rats make extremely wonderful pets," said Beasley, who owns several. "They're personable. They greet you in the morning."

Beasley, a volunteer with the Moose Jaw Humane Society, brought Jordi to Capilano Court Thursday, along with two dogs and a cat, to show residents as part of the society's pet therapy and education program.

Jordi is a registered rat, bred by a recognized breeder from Leader, Sask. Beasley purchased him from the breeder at an exotic pet show.

Jordi's color is officially called "pearl merle berkshire," meaning he has a white belly and wisps of grey on his white fur.

Beasley also buys rats from pet stores. She recommends that people who may be thinking of purchasing a rat from a store make sure they look closely before they do.

"Make sure the rats aren't over-crowded. Look for an animal that doesn't have scabs, or red rings around the eyes. If they do, that's the sign of a stressed out rat. If there is any sign of illness, leave them alone."

A prospective owner should expect to shell out more during the course of a rat's life then they would for a gerbil, hamster, or mouse, said Beasley.

"Rats are not cheap pets. There may be a lot to pay in vet bills. It's just like it would be with a dog or cat; whenever there is the sign of a problem, you head to the vet."

Beasley also recommends prospective owners buy the Rat Health Care Book, written by Debbie Ducommun of California, known worldwide as the "rat lady".

"All the information you need to care for a rat is in that book." said Beasley.

People can also join a rat mailing list, called the Ratlist, on the internet, where more then 800 owners from around the world trade stories and tips about their pets.

Rats aren't fussy eaters, and can be fed food for humans, dogs, rodents, cats, or birds, although they can't eat anything with meat fat or spices. They need to be fed constantly because they have a high metabolism. said Beasley.

In Beasley's experience, rats' favorite foods are yogurt chips and avocado. "You have to count your fingers afterward if you feed them avocado," she said.

The average lifespan of a pet rat is three years. Often respiratory diseases and tumours set in and cause their death.

"At the point where your rat is too sick to live, it will be time to make a choice. The only humane thing will be to bring them to the vet and have them put to sleep."

Beasley also owns four cats and one dog in addition to her rats, and she finds that they get along (????). Devin, one of her cats, will even play with a couple of the rats.

In general, Beasley finds that rats don't bite. "They can, but only if they've become very aggressive for some reason."






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