Tomorrow, I bake.

Several times a year I like to take advantage of holidays to do a lot of baking and raise money for good causes. This Valentine’s Day I’m raising funds for the Georgia Rat Rescue, a small foster-based rescue that does great work in my home state. One day I would like to have a bake sale at a bookstore, cafe, or other high-traffic spot, but for now I have good luck dropping off trays of treats at Nate’s office downtown for his colleagues to enjoy/destroy. The Oatmeal Cream Pies are notorious.

Proceeds from the sale will allow me to purchase food and supplies for the little ones, like sweet BB:

Click here to donate to BB and others at the Rat Rescue via Paypal

BB is the smallest of the four “Hokusai Girls” sisters and is a Russian Blue Berkshire Dumbo female. Her bio says she loves being held and licks a lot, sometimes giving gentle love nips on your fingers. A sweetie! I would adopt her in a minute if I thought the cats would be okay with it.

One day I hope I’m in a place where I can adopt some rat friends. Rats are very easy to care for and not all that expensive as companion animals go. They need to live in pairs (at least pairs – they suffer immeasurably without companions) and need a cage large enough to run, jump, and play comfortably. They like to be taken out a few times a day to explore and interact with “their human”. Rats are highly intelligent and are noted for their empathy. In a study, researchers found that rats release their fellow rats from an unpleasantly restrictive cage when possible.

“The free rat, occasionally hearing distress calls from its compatriot, learned to open the cage and did so with greater efficiency over time. It would release the other animal even if there wasn’t the payoff of a reunion with it. Astonishingly, if given access to a small hoard of chocolate chips, the free rat would usually save at least one treat for the captive — which is a lot to expect of a rat.” Source; Washington Post write-up

We don’t need to do (painful, contrived) tests to “learn” what we should already know about non-human animals. Normal observation under typical circumstances is enough to see them demonstrate familiar attitudes: pain, longing, playfulness, sweetness, the satisfaction of yummy food or a warm bed. No more “evidence” for treating our fellow creatures with dignity and respect is needed. I’m only hope the researchers were changed by this experience, as so many readers of this study have been.

But let’s be honest: I used to be a tad skittish around ratties. Two of my favorite folks at Earlham had rats – Willa and Bartelby – and though I found them a little cute, I worried about getting bitten or peed on! (Neither of these things happened, by the way.) It wasn’t til Nate and I successfully rehomed a family of wild rats at our current residence that I got to know how wonderful they are. We didn’t use traps or poison (of course) for moral reasons, but caught and relocated them with Hav-A-Hart traps. In the process of capturing the family we got to observe their behavior towards one another. When one rat became trapped, I saw the oldest, wisest rat willingly become trapped a day later so she could be reunited with her friend. It was so touching.

Then, of course, I met my pal Stephanie’s late rat Stella. She was sweet and gentle and adorable when munching on a Georgia pecan. I’ve gushed about her on the blog here before, and I miss her very much. So much, in fact, that Nate and I are considering becoming fosters for the Georgia Rat Rescue in the future. We’re not sure we can commit full time to rat parenting – after all, we have three cats! – but we’re interested in helping out on a short-term basis.

In the meanwhile, I’ll keep gathering materials and funds for those who are already doing good work with the little ones. All proceeds from this Wednesday’s sale will go to the Rat Rescue’s current fosters. They need fleece blankets, food, toys, and habitat items. After shopping for items, any money leftover will go their vet. Wish me luck!