Here are some of the questions I get asked most frequently concerning my sanctuary and how it is run.
Will you pay me for my rat?
It is my policy never to pay anyone any money for a rat. Most rescue centers and sanctuaries have the same policy. There are several reasons for this:
1. By giving anyone money to take on a rat, you're giving them the impression that there is money to be made in rats, so what is to stop them going straight out and replacing the rat I've just rescued with another one? The idea of rescue is to take rats out of unsuitable situations, and ensure no more rats end up there. By paying someone, you're encouraging them to keep on getting more rats, because they know some sucker will hand over money for them! I rescue, I do not purchase.
2. I am a sanctuary that recieves no funding from anyone else. Every single thing I need in order to keep Shadowrat going comes out of my own pocket. I do not earn a huge amount of money each week, and can confidently say that I am worse off financially than 99% of the people that I take rats from. If I were to hand over £10 for every rat I took into the sanctuary, it would add up to an enormous amount each year, and that money is far better spent on vet's bills and food!
3. To be blunt, Im doing you a favour, not the other way around.
I am offering to take on the animal you desperately want rid of and care for it for the rest of it's life. I am cleaning up after the mistakes other people make when they get animals. Why should I have to pay money to do that? It isn't my fault people don't think before they get animals, Im just the one who sorts it out when it all goes wrong!
I do not owe anyone anything, I rescue due to a love of rats and a desire to help them and their owners out. I do not take on rats because I desperately want another mouth to feed or another week's wage packet to go on vet's bills.
Think of it like this: you need to rehome your dog because you don't have time for him any more. The RSPCA agree to take your dog for you. Do you then try to charge them money to do so? Of course not!
4. There are plenty of rats waiting to come into a safe home who do not have a price tag hanging over them!
I live 300 miles from you. Will you take on my rat?
Yes. Shadowrat takes on rats from all over the country.
However, if you live this kind of distance from me, you must be willing to bring the rat to me yourself. Or at the very least, arrange to meet me half way.
Similarly to the above, it is you that needs my help, not the other way around. There are plenty of rats local to me that need homes. I cannot be expected to pay petrol costs to travel huge distances while the owner of the animal doesn't lift a finger to help. I expect the owner to pull their weight if they are wanting me to help them. I appreciate some people do not drive; I am one of them!
I have never driven, so me getting to you is just as awkward as you getting to me! I have to rely on lifts or public transport, too.
While I've had some lovely people who actually did drive a long way to bring the rat to me, most people that live far from me expect me to be the one to fork out the money and time and travel to them.
Some big rescue centers or sanctuaries probably can arrange to pick up your animal for you. But I am not a big sanctuary.
I am one person.
I do not have a network of employees I can send to pick animals up for me. I wish I did!
So if you live far away and you really want me to have your rat, please be aware that I am unlikely to drive up to you to get it. While I have driven as far as London in the past to get rats, these were emergency situations where the rat was in immediate danger. It is not something I can afford to make a habit of. Bring the rat to me yourself, meet me halfway, or offer to pay my petrol costs!
What is this about a donation?
I ask for a small donation whenever I take on rats, to help cover de-miting them and any vet care they might need upon arrival.
9 times out of 10, I do not get given this donation.
All rats that come in to me will be treated for mites straight away, and a box of mite treatment alone costs £5. Then, when you consider that a lot of the rats I take in are not in great health, I'd say over 50% of them need to see a vet in the first few weeks of their arrival. This means I have often spent somewhere in the region of £20 - £30 in the first few weeks of a new rat coming in.
I ask for a minimum donation of £5 per rat.
This is far less than I will end up spending on them.
I would not say this donation is compulsory, as I mentioned above, most people don't bother giving it to me and I still take on their rats, but it really does help me a lot, and I feel it is not much to ask considering I will be caring for your animal for the rest of it's life.
My rat bites, hard, would you take him?
This is primarily what Shadowrat does. I specialise in rats with behavioural problems, or special needs that are often turned away by bigger rescue centers. Bigger rescue centers have to worry about rehoming the animal on to a new owner, and they know bitey animals are rarely adopted so they are reluctant to take them.
But as I keep most of my rats here with me, I don't have to worry about whether an individual rat can ever be rehomed to a family, because he'll have a family here! Bitey rats, or those with other behavioural issues or special needs, are often the ones who need the most help and get the most hardship in life. I welcome them with open arms.
I need to rehome my rat, but I don't want her to go to a sanctuary! I want her to be a family pet.
All the rats at Shadowrat are family members.
I do not take in rats, stuff them in cages and forget about them. Every single one is an individual and recieves individual care and attention. As I am just one person, and not a big organisation, I am able to be much more personal with my animals.
My rats are like children to me, and as soon as they come through the door, they are my babies.
Nothing is more important to me than their welfare.
Without tooting my own horn, you would be hard pressed to find somewhere better to send your rat if you want them to be loved and cherished.
I decided to breed a litter of rats, and now I can't find homes for them! Will you take them?/My girl escaped and got in with the boys and now I have a litter! Will you take them?
This is a particularly thorny issue for me.
The decision about whether to take on deliberately bred rats/accidental litters is one that most rescuers struggle with.
The problem is that by taking the litter in, you are sending the clear message to the owner that it doesn't matter if you screw up, someone will always clean up after your mess! And this increases the chance of them breeding again in the future, or making the same mistakes because they know someone will bail them out.
But the issue still remains that there are potentially up to 20 unwanted rats in the world with each unwanted litter, and it isn't their fault.
Part of rescuing is educating people to not make the same mistakes twice. If someone can guarantee me that it was a one off mistake, and they will never breed again, then, assuming I have space, I might be able to take on some of the babies.
But generally, I do believe that it is the owner's responsibility to look after the animals that they brought into the world, and sometimes we do them no favours by bailing them out.
With regards to girls escaping and getting in with boys, I consider this to be as much down to irresponsibility as deliberately breeding a litter. I've owned rats for 14 years and never had a female get in with my males. I've never had an 'oops' litter. It is really not difficult to keep the two genders seperate.
My rat has health problems, would you take him in?
In all likelyhood, yes.
We would need to talk about the nature of the health problem, and I would most likely need to insist on a donation to help cover vet's bills.
A respiratory infection, for example, is not hugely difficult or expensive to treat.
A tumour removal, on the other hand, can cost hundreds of pounds.
We would also need to discuss whether the rat is so ill that putting him to sleep might not be the better option. I am always willing to try with any rat and give them the best possible chance, but I've had several rats brought to me over the years that needed to be euthanised that same day.
This sort of situation really does depend on specifics and details, but by all means enquire and we'll see what situation we're in.
There is a man on my street who is keeping loads of rats in horrible conditions and does not look after them. Can you do anything about it?
Unfortunately, I do not have the authority to do anything more about this than you do. I have no special authority just because I rescue, and in this event, I would need to go down the same routes as anyone else: calling the RSPCA.
Unfortunately, the RSPCA are generally pretty weak when it comes to rats. They either don't care enough to even check it out, or the standards they consider acceptable for rats to live in are low enough that a lot of people get away with their abuse of them. The RSPCA generally can not do anything about cruelty to rats as long as the animals have food, water and space to move about.
Unfortunately, these are the minimum requirements that people have to meet, and many neglectful owners will still meet these minimum standards, meaning nothing can be done. The rats could be knee deep in their own filth but as long as they have food, water and space, the RSPCA won't do much.
Part of my job as a rescuer is to educate. I am always happy to get in contact with people that appear to be neglecting their animals, and see if I can't educate them on a better way to care for them, or work something out with them. So if you know of this kind of abuse going on, by all means let me know and I will see what I can do. But unfortunately, I don't have any power above anyone else to stop this kind of abuse.
Do you deal with wild rats?
I've had a few calls over the years regarding wild rats. It really depends on the situation. They are wild animals, not pets, so I will only assist in situations where this will be respected. If you've found an injured wild rat, for example, I can possibly come out and capture it and take it to a vet for treatment with an aim to release it. I own a humane rat trap also, so can leave it overnight to catch wild rats if necessary then re-locate them.
I will not assist in any way that negatively affects the welfare of the rat. I view wild rats as I view any other british wild animal: they may need assistance if they become injured, but the aim should always be to treat them with respect and ultimately release them back into the wild.
One potential exemption from this would be hand rearing baby wild rats. If you've found a nest of baby rats where mother has been killed or chased away, or a single baby rat that has gotten seperated from the nest, Im happy to take in and hand rear these babies.
An adult wild rat should never be caged or made into a 'pet', but babies often find themselves in danger and are too young look after themselves. In this situation, I would take them and attempt to hand rear them rather than see them starve to death.
Any rat that does not have its eyes open yet is too young to fend for itself and needs help. Hand-rearing is difficult, and often fails, but some people have had success at it.