Meet Dot and Smudge!

About five years ago, when my children were little (literally, they are now rivalling me for height), my oldest daughter set out to the pet shop to buy some pet mice. “Why mice?” asked the pet shop owner, “Have you considered rats?” (Little did we know that we had chosen to purchase mice from the foremost local breeder of domestic rats – Animal World in Boronia.) “Rats??” shrieked my wife – but as soon as she saw them, she was convinced. 

That day we bought Twitchy home, and he was a constant companion, for me as much as for my children. He would sit on my shoulder as we were watching television, and, if I fell asleep, he would still be there when I woke up. When he died two years later (rats have a short life span – if you buy them for your children, they will be introduced to death and grieving on a regular basis), we missed him so much we went out and bought two new rats, Tiffany and Minerva – both females, because unless you want lots of rats, don’t buy two of the same sex! They in their own turn expired, and by then the girls were sick of having the rats in their rooms (they make a bit of noise at night) and having to clean out the cage every couple of days. 

So we didn’t replace them, but I missed having the little rodents quite dreadfully. In fact, I have become so “rat friendly” that in order to remove a small infestation of ratus ratus (as opposed to ratus domesticus) from my ceiling, I decided to use a live catch trap and to release them “in the wild” rather than kill them (there must be a bit of Buddhist in me). 

But then the other day I came across this great bird cage on the hard rubbish collection in our neighbourhood, and I thought – that would fit nicely in my outdoor retreat (aka to my family members as “The Cave”), and I could put rats in it! So I brought it home, cleaned it up, adapted it as necessary so that it would provide a sheltered environment for small rodents, and then rang the Pet Shop to see when their next little would be available. “End of October”, they said.

Yesterday then was the day of the arrival of the new family members. And here they are. The one with the dot on her head is “Dot”, and so the other one had to be “Smudge”. 

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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6 Responses to Meet Dot and Smudge!

  1. Dear David,
    Since the Rattus rattus species is an alien rodent in Australia I can’t help but suggest that your releasing them in the bush rather than killing them was misguided. We have two cats and as it happens this morning I had to remove a near headless juvenile Rattus from the house which one of the cats probably caught outside and helpfully brought in via the cat door, as if to say, “Look, I’m earning my keep!”

  2. Pr Mark Henderson says:

    …and yes, cats are introduced too, but I’ve yet to see a properly cared for domestic cat catch a native bird (of which there are plentiful numbers where I live, which perhaps confirms my point) and I don’t let them roam or release them in bushland habitat :0)

    • Schütz says:

      Have cats too. They don’t come near rattus domesticus. I may have to find a new way of trapping the rattus ratti. After successfully removing the adult rat, I have since found the trap closed every morning and the bait gone. I think those left are small enough to squeeze thru the gaps in the mesh of the trap. Either that or we have a new breed called rattus houdinus…

    • Schütz says:

      And “in the wild” just means over at the bit of scrub at the oval. I imagine the find somewhere else to call home. Perhaps they might even find their way home. Have you ever watched the film Ratatouille?

  3. John Nolan says:

    Rattus Rattus? I think Australia escaped the Black Death, but better late than never …

    • Schütz says:

      Actually, after a bit more research, I think the rat I trapped was a Rattus norvegicus, or brown rat, even though it was grey in colour. It was very like our domestic rats, but had a more defined neck and a larger head. I should have taken a picture of it for accurate identification.

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