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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Rats weasel their way into hearts of students

What would you do if you walked back into your dorm room, and you saw a rat or two scampering about? If you’re John Yang ’14 or Dana Lindenberg ’16, you’d walk up to your cute little pets and say ‘hi,’ and perhaps hand them a treat or two.

In fact, when you own a rat, returning to your dorm can often feel like returning home to the most excitable roommate ever.

John Yang '14 and one of his three pet rats. Photo by Aaron Juarez.
John Yang ’14 and one of his three pet rats.
Photo by Aaron Juarez.

“It is nice to have someone super excited to see me when I walk in the door (especially because I live in a single this year),” Lindenberg wrote in an email to the S&B. “Even if it’s only because I feed her.”

For both Yang and Lindenberg, the main inspiration for keeping rats as pets has been the feeling of taking care of a living being and creating a more homey feel for their respective dorm rooms.

Lindenberg got her rat after having spent the summer working as a nanny.

“I missed my kids … I missed taking care of something,” Lindenberg wrote. “So, I thought about it for a little while and decided I might want to look into getting a pet.”

As the caretaker of three rats named Pook, Mookie and Bane, which he acquired this October, Yang finds it somewhat comparable to one day being a father.

“Having a pet when you’re living by yourself is like parenthood,” Yang said. “It reassures me that I won’t be a terrible person when I grow older.”

That’s not to say that raising pet rats doesn’t have its attractive qualities as a method of stress relief and relaxation, as well.

“It’s a mental health type of thing,” Yang said. “It’s nice to be able to take care of something, and it makes you feel more confident about yourself. Seeing three little rats scamper about cheers you up.”

Initially, both Lindenberg and Yang were nervous about getting rats, especially given the rodent’s somewhat dubious reputation as being diseased or villainous.

“Someone last year in my residence hall had a bunch of rats and the first time I saw them I totally freaked,” Lindenberg wrote. “A friend of mine told me that they were actually really sweet and smart and affectionate.”

After doing her own research, Lindenberg adopted a rat named Lucille, whose name pays homage to the show “I Love Lucy.”

On the other hand, Yang knew from the start that he wanted either a guinea pig or a similar small pet, but he didn’t know which one until he got the chance to interact with them in person and saw how intelligent they were.

Yang had persuaded himself, but he found it important to convince those around him to love his pets as much as he does, and to dispel some misconceptions about rats before he brought them home.

Dana Lindenberg '16 and her rat, Lucille. Photo by John Brady.
Dana Lindenberg ’16 and her rat, Lucille.
Photo by John Brady.

“There were people on my floor who were kind of creeped out by the rats, but then they realized they’re cute, although their tails are still kind of weird to people,” Yang said. “People always ask me, ‘Why rats?’ But I’m always posting cute videos, so they understand.”

For Lindenberg, her rat is a great source of not only companionship but also of conversation and memorable stories.

“There was this one time we tried to build a maze out of recycled cardboard … We spent an hour or more building a maze … and another half an hour, at least, trying to get her to stay in it,” Lindenberg wrote. “After a while [Lucille] just decided to go in the maze and finished it in the first try. It was really anticlimactic.”

And perhaps best of all for any future rat lovers? Rats are relatively low maintenance, extremely clean and easy enough to take care of on long breaks and vacations, given their inherent portability.

“If it’s a long break, I’ll take them with me,” Yang said. “Otherwise I just ask people to give them a few food pellets in the morning.”

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