Twitch the rat passed away yesterday and I cried buckets.
I cried because my child was so devastated. I cried because Twitch was actually quite nice for a rat. I cried because I’m menopausal. I cried because it happened during this damn, never-ending lockdown and I’m over it.
Aside from my own fragile emotional state; I’m really worried about all the young people locked inside their houses for months on end. It must be taking an incredible toll on their mental health.
The last thing the eldest needed was to lose his furry friend.
Twitch joined the family – unbeknownst to me – in March 2019 and had a lovely secret holiday with us in Lennox Head before his existence was revealed in May 2019.
It’s remarkable that Twitch lived as long as he did, as he’d developed a rattle in his chest by August 2019. The eldest kept holding him up to me and saying: “Can’t you hear he’s breathing funny?”
Er, no. I had bugger all idea what abnormal rat breathing sounded like, but I got very familiar with it over the past two years.
And I’m sorry if I make you smile over the next few paragraphs, but I figure laughter is better than me shedding more tears.
Soon after Twitch started having breathing difficulties, I had the first of many weird conversations with the receptionist at the local exotic pet hospital. It went like this …
Receptionist: Have you been here before?
Me: Yes, you neutered my bunny.
Me: Yep, that’s the one!
Receptionist: And what can we help you with this time?
Me: I have a rat with respiratory issues.
Receptionist: What’s the rat’s name?
Receptionist: What type of rat is Twitch?
Me: No … Rex … I think … [I was tempted to ask “Is ‘domestic’ code for ‘I found it in my sewer pipe’?”]
Receptionist: Male or female?
Me: Male …
Me: Brown … possum coloured … [what the hell does it matter?]
Anyways, Twitch was diagnosed with chronic respiratory disease, which turns out to be very common in rodents. While they breed prolifically, they live fast and die young.
Let me quote from the fact sheet the exotic pet vet gave us …
“Chronic respiratory disease causes sneezing, wheezing and general malaise. If an acute episode of respiratory disease occurs it is advisable to take your rat to the vet to be examined – he/she may need to be hospitalised for supportive care.”
The vet informed us – after examining Twitch’s chest with a stethoscope – that antibiotics might help, but if they didn’t improve her lung function she may need to be put on a nebuliser.
Okey dokey …
I walked out of the examination room with a massive cache of medications and apprehensively approached the receptionist’s desk to pay the bill.
What would you expect the vet bill to be for a rat? $60? $120?
Nah, not even close.
And the medication has been costing me a fortune ever since. About 2cm worth of one paste in a tiny syringe costs $50 alone.
I kept paying the bills because the eldest loved that rat so damn much. Actually, I’ve just remembered that I gave the eldest veterinary care for Twitch as a birthday present last year. Happy birthday!
Twitch was having trouble breathing and was admitted to hospital. I was called a few hours later and told the bill had hit $200 – did I want it to continue treatment?
Er, no, but what would that further treatment involve?
I knocked back the offer of $500 X-rays, but agreed to the rat going on a nebulizer and oxygen.
Twitch rallied, but we knew he was on borrowed time. It was his final vet visit, as the eldest knew there was nothing more they could do.
Over the years, I got used to having pet rats in my house – there were three at one point – especially after I moved them (and the eldest) into the garage and the pee smell wasn’t quite so pervasive.
They are actually very sweet, affectionate creatures.
I even bought them a huge cage so they would have lots of space to run around, because I have a marshmallow heart when it comes to living creatures.
We lost one of the rats, Remy, a while back and the remaining two became more and more frail in recent months. They were having trouble climbing the ramps in their Taj Mahal cage, so the eldest’s DT teacher donated a single-level cage he’d built himself (for his dearly departed mice) to give them a little more comfortable during their palliative years.
And now Twitch is gone. Baby, the last remaining rat, isn’t looking too good either. His balance is off and he can only manage to eat Heinz baby food these days, so I imagine I’ll be crying over a dead rat all over again soon.
Vail Twitch. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I will miss you. You were such a sweet, furry thing. Rest in peace beneath your lovingly decorated tombstone.
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