The way Jenn Paz sees it, rats need love too.
In fact, the California native is so attached to rodents, she opened a rescue center in Vallejo, Calif., called Ratical Rodent Rescue. The non-profit organization is devoted to fostering, rehoming and giving medical attention to hamsters, mice, guinea pigs and, yes, rats.
By Malcolm Mayhew
But lest you think the 50-year-old zoologist is trolling alleys and sewers for prospective rescue candidates, Paz quickly clarifies she rescues domesticated rats, not what she calls “wild rats.”
“Sometimes it’s difficult for people to understand there is a difference between domesticated rats and wild rats,” she says. “Domesticated rats usually come from places like PetSmart and PetCo, which used to sell them. They’re cute and friendly and full of personality. In some ways, domesticated rats aren’t that much different from hamsters. They’re just bigger.”
Ratical Rodent Rescue is among the many animal charity organizations to receive a $2,500 donation from Virbac as part of its ongoing Every Pet Project (EPP) initiative.
Rat rescues aren’t very common, Paz says, but they’re a necessity in the animal rescue community.
“Most rescues are overwhelmed with dogs and cats,” she says. “They don’t have the time, resources or knowledge to take on rodents.”
Many of Paz’s rat rescues come from people who purchased them at pet stores or individual breeders who eventually run low on the time and patience it takes to care for them. Others come from cosmetic testing laboratories or former snake-owners who purchased the rats for snake food but had second thoughts about using them as such.
“They’re super-easy to take care of,” Paz says. “And the spay and neuter process is relatively quick and easy. It’s just that they require a lot of supervision. They’re not going to run and hide from you, but they love to explore little nooks and crannies in your home.”
Ratical Rodent Rescue also specializes in the care of guinea pigs. “So many people went out and purchased guinea pigs during the pandemic, and now they’re taking them back or bringing them to us,” she says. “But now that we seem to be in the waning days of COVID, and people are going back to work and kids are back in school, families are realizing they can’t care for them anymore.
“We probably have about 150 guinea pigs right now,” she says. “And every day we get requests to take in more. It’s a big, big, big, big problem.”
The group is manned solely by volunteers; and medical service is provided by vet tech students from a nearby college.
“We live and die by our volunteers and donations,” she says. At least $1,200 of the $2,500 funds donated by Virbac went to the everyday care of the organization’s more than 200 animals. “From pet food to rent, my operational costs are usually no less than $3,000 a month,” she says. “And that doesn’t include medicines, such as antibiotics, for special cases.”
The remainder of the funds went to those special cases, she says, which included a guinea pig who had suffered severe burns.
Paz earned her bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Reading in England and has spent the majority of her life working in that industry. In 2003, she began rescuing rodents, one by one, providing them with food and shelter - namely, her home.
Over time, she accumulated more and more - so many, that she ran out of room. Eventually, she merged with another rodent rescue group and moved Ratical into its own building. Today, she shares directing duties of Ratical with another rodent aficionado, Ashley Neph.
Paz’s devotion to rodents stems from her own personal interest in the critters. “Rats are my jam,” she says. “They’re very intelligent and intuitive. I’ve always had a fascination with them. They’re scrappy. They’re survivors. And they’re also really cute.”
Every pet, everywhere, deserves a life of care. To nominate your favorite animal charity - an organization that works hard to make sure pets are cared for and get the protection they need for a happy, healthy life - please visit our Every Pet Project page. For more information about Ratical Rodent Rescue, please visit their website.