From left to right: Ruby, Isabelle and Rosemary on my bookshelf
I once unknowingly ran an experiment using rats and green tea. I didn’t realize that I had run an experiment until after I had some results. It wasn’t a very “scientific” experiment by any stretch of the imagination, but it meant something to me.
When I was about 20 years old my brother’s girlfriend at the time, Amber, had a pet snake. Amber bought a live rat to feed her snake and the snake never ate the rat. After about a week Amber decided to keep the rat in a separate cage. The rat had babies. Amber, my brother, and I all liked them and we loved to play with them all. They were all really cute. The babies were all very playful and they were very friendly. They had a wheel to run on and they seemed to love it. Also, for entertainment they jumped and ran all over the cage. They would jump all over their mother and use her a launching board to jump through the air. It looked like it was a great time for the babies, although no one was sure how much the mother rat liked it; she didn’t seem happy about it, but didn’t seem unhappy either. She seemed to tolerate the babies‘ game. The babies actually jumped on her so much that she lost hair over her back.
One of the baby rats
Amber wasn’t able to keep all of the rats and needed to find homes for them. She decided that it would be more fun to keep a baby than keeping the mother and I agreed to take the mother and also one of the female baby rats. Other friends took other babies and Amber kept one female baby and named her Isabelle.
I named the mother rat Rosemary. Her baby that I kept and took with her I named Ruby. They were so much fun. I played with them every day and found them to be very intelligent, gentle and playful creatures with loads of personality. They would come when I called them and ate food from my hands. They ran around my room when I was home and would actually go back in their cage to use a particular corner in their cage as their “bathroom,” and didn’t poop around the house.
Ruby and Rosemary explore a drawer in my desk
I had a lot of fun with them. I’d hold them and pet them and sing them songs. I liked to watch them run around the house. Every day I would drink some green tea and quickly discovered that Rosemary and Ruby liked it too. I would let them drink the left over tea from my cup every day.
After about a year, Amber needed to find a new home for her rat, Isabelle, because she couldn’t keep her anymore. I eagerly agreed to take her. I wasn’t sure how the rats would get along and I was a little nervous about introducing them to each other. Even though Isabelle was Rosemary’s daughter and Ruby’s sister, I didn’t expect them to remember that fact and I didn’t really know if rats that were strangers would fight, or what would happen.
I took Isabelle home and was very surprised indeed by what happened when I introduced them. I put Isabelle directly in the cage and stood back to watch. Isabelle and Rosemary approached each other and Ruby stood in the corner and observed. Isabelle and Rosemary sniffed each other for about 30 seconds. Suddenly Isabelle started sniffing in a more excited manner, she started sniffing Rosemary all over her body. Isabelle then started jumping in the air and spreading out her little legs when she jumped, as though she were jumping for joy and was happy. She stopped for a moment to sniff Rosemary and touched her with her front legs and climbed on her. The again Isabelle jumped up and down. She then used Rosemary as a launching pad and jumped off of her back and through the air. It was almost as though you could read Isabelle’s thoughts during the re-introduction to her mother. “Hey it’s another rat, I haven’t seen one in a year. I think I’ll go sniff her. Wait just a minute, this rat seems familiar. I think I’ve seen this rat before, I better sniff some more to be sure. Could it be? Yes! Yes! It is! This rat is my mother! I’m so happy! I feel like jumping for joy! I am so happy to see my mother again!”
The reunion of mother and daughter appeared so touching that it made me cry. It truly appeared as though the rats remembered each other. After joyous celebration (mostly on Isabelle’s part,) all three rats settled into comfortable life with each other. They seemed to enjoy each other’s company when awake and later would sleep happily together in a pile in a little rat house in their cage.
Isabelle fit easily into life at my apartment. She had just as much personality and charm as the other two and I enjoyed her very much as well. She also would come when called and seemed to know her name. She also became potty trained. She also loved to eat food from me and would join in the daily drinking of green tea.
Having rats was so fun. I enjoyed them every day that they shared their lives with me. The saddest part about having rats is that they do not live very long. Usually a rat doesn’t survive much longer than the age of three or so.
Isabelle was the first rat I lost. She got big tumors on her body which grew very large. One day she died in her sleep. Ruby and Rosemary never got any visible tumors. They lived about 6 months and a year longer than Isabelle, respectively.
It’s been over 10 years since I had them, but still fondly remember them as some of the most fun and cherished pets I’ve ever had. I still miss them.
They say that green tea is supposed to help prevent cancer. My experiment of three beloved animals seems to suggest that may have been true for them. Isabelle went without green tea for a whole year while Ruby and Rosemary had it every day. Both Ruby and Rosemary never got visible tumors while Isabelle grew large tumors all over her body and died much sooner than they did.
As someone who was educated in science, I am fully aware that my little experiment is complete bullshit. It has no scientific basis or significance. However, it’s enough to make me continue to want to drink green tea. Besides, drinking green tea makes me remember the three beautiful souls that once shared my life and brought me joy.