By Debra Benn

It is little known that rats make great companion animals. They have a curious, fun-loving nature; friendly social behavior; and a quiet demeanor. The Seattle Animal Shelter regularly receives rat companions, both as individuals and in pairs. One such couple stole the hearts of the Shelter’s staff, volunteers and a special adopter.

Two young female rats, Elizabeth and Iris, were surrendered to SAS when their original owner was unable to afford treatment for their tumors and medical issues. Elizabeth had a mammary tumor, which is very common in unspayed female rats. Iris had a cataract in one eye and had lost most of her vision, and had a neck mass as well. The rats received regular medical treatment under the direction of a veterinarian along with the loving care of Critter Team volunteers.

SAS strongly believes that every animal should be given a chance for a happy, healthy life. This is true even of special-needs animals, no matter how big or small, feathered, furry or scaly. Despite the rats’ issues, their health was stable, and a long-term plan was devised for the pair. Elizabeth and Iris became available for adoption during this time with the hope of finding a forever home.

Elizabeth and IrisA second chance in the form of a caring vet

Veterinarian Melinda Surrency, D.V.M., who practices at Southwest Animal Hospital in Beaverton, Oregon, and specializes in medical and surgical care for all varieties of exotic pet species, learned about Elizabeth and Iris through a friend who regularly viewed adoptable critters on the SAS website, and she drove to Seattle to meet the pair. She understood that Elizabeth and Iris would have a difficult time finding a new home because their tumors needed to be surgically removed, and she knew it would take a dedicated rat lover to adopt them and take on that expense. “I have always believed that every animal deserves a chance to live and find a forever home,” Dr. Surrency explains, “and I just wanted to make sure these girls got that chance despite the circumstances.”

After assessing the tumors and talking to Shelter and veterinary staff and Shelter volunteers, Dr. Surrency decided to adopt the pair. She eagerly traveled back to Oregon, happy to be able to provide the opportunity these rats very much needed. She soon excised Elizabeth’s mammary tumor, which was one of the largest she had ever removed, and she removed Iris’s neck mass as well. Approximately two to three weeks after the surgeries, she performed spay procedures on both girls.

Dr. Surrency reports, “They really are doing so well. And once Elizabeth’s tumor was removed she became a new rat. She lit up and became so outgoing and lovely. She already was, but I think that tumor was slowing her down and really affecting her.  It’s so rewarding to see them flourish with the right care.” She adds, “Both of them are just the love of my life.”

As the Seattle Animal Shelter continues to care for animals great and small, it will also keep providing special treatment and opportunities for every animal. And as any pet owner would agree, animals aren’t just animals; they’re our friends and family too.

To help even more critters like Elizabeth and Iris find forever homes, please consider donating to SASF.

Photos courtesy of Melinda Surrency D.V.M.