This page gives information to people interested in either surrendering rats to me, or generally learning about what I do.
I began taking in rescue rats in April of 2006 when Molly came into my life.
I was working at the RSPCA on a voluntary basis, and over-heard that someone had dumped a rat there, and the staff weren't sure what to do with it. The center primarily deals with dogs and cats and doesn't have the facilities for small animals. As this rat was a girl, and I only had boys at the time, I told them I would be unable to take her.
Moments before I was due to leave for the day, I was told that they had made many phone calls but been unable to place the rat with anyone else, and asked me if I'd reconsider having her. I said I would, as she had no-where else to go, and would be put to sleep if I did not give her sanctuary. I have always been someone who cannot walk away from an animal in danger, even as a child, so as soon as I heard that she was on death row, through no fault of her own, I did what I thought was right.
Molly had a large tumour, presumably the reason she was dumped in the first place, but she came home with me and got the vet care she needed. She went on to live a good year more. She was my first rescue rat, and she opened the doors to me taking on needy rats on a larger scale.
The RSPCA now knew I was a ratty person, and I agreed to go onto their resources list as a contact for all things rat related, from advice to taking on the occasional rescue. It soon became clear to me that I was possibly the only person in Norfolk at that time, and certainly the only in Norwich/yarmouth, who would take in unwanted rats. Now, I can't imagine my life without my rescue work. Its the most rewarding thing I've done with my time on earth.
About the sanctuary
I only do rescue on a small scale, which is more due to necessity than desire.
My rescue is run out of my garden shed, which has been modified specifically for this purpose. It is insulated and heated for the winter, and has a screen door for the summer.
I do not recieve any funding, and everything is payed for out of my own pocket. This includes vets bills, which can be staggering when you consider that a lot of rats I get brought to me are not in the best of health and usually require a trip to the vets as soon as I get them. And they often come in unexpectedly; I never know what a new day will bring, or what I will be called about.
Shadowrat is, generally, a 'for life' sanctuary rather than a rescue that moves rats on to new homes. While on very rare occasions I will seek to home rats on to new owners, this generally only happens when I have young, healthy, well adjusted rats come in, or very large groups, so is the exception rather than the rule. I rarely have rats available for re-homing.
One of the reasons I run as a 'for life sanctuary' is because I like to specialise in rats that have 'issues', primarily temperament issues. These are the individuals most often overlooked by bigger rescues, or most at risk of poor treatment, and often they are not ideal candidates for re-homing to the public.
Homes experienced with 'damaged' rats, and accepting that they may need a bit of extra work, are very few and far between. Even re-homing young, outgoing, friendly rats proves very difficult in this part of the country, so the oldies, or the ones who aren't overly sociable, don't tend to have people lining up to adopt them.
While all troubled rats improve to some to degree after a few weeks here, some will still never be the outgoing, cuddly, licky rats most people want for pets. Most have also had stressful, unstable, or even abusive lives, and I prefer them to come to a 'forever' home here where they can finally settle in comfort, rather than being moved on again.
Biters are more than welcome here, and in fact, I encourage people with aggressive or unhandlable rats to contact me before bigger, more 'species specific' rescues who often don't have the knowledge or time to work with problem rats.
At Shadowrat, the aim is to never turn away a rat that is genuinely in need.
I will always find the room for a rat that is otherwise in danger of death, abuse or neglect. This was my aim from the start, and so far I have managed this, and have yet to turn away a rat in dire need, nor would I sleep at night if I did.
But this, of course, means I need to be somewhat picky about which cases I take on.
Much as I would love to, I simply don't have the space or finances to take on every rat I get called about. As such, emergency cases take priority.
But what is classed as an emergency case, and will I be able to take your rat?
An emergency case is classed as any situation in which the rat is in danger or suffering abuse, being killed, or has nowhere safe to live, or rats who are living in solitary confinement.
Classic examples of emergency cases I've taken in in the past included Mickey and Jacob, who were found dumped in a sealed box in a park and taken in temporarily by a member of the public.
Fry, who was released into a garden and was living wild in a shed with no-one who was prepared to try and catch him.
Chloe, who was caught as a stray and was moments away from being killed with a brick.
And, of course, Molly, who was facing possible euthanasia.
Strays, abandoned rats, abused rats, lone rats, and rats on death row are what I place as top priority.
These are the situations in which a rat really needs someone to help it, and these are the kinds of situations I am primarily here for.
But what is not considered an emergency?
Basically any situation where a rat has a roof over its head, food, water and an owner who cares.
We typically get lots of calls like the following:
Im going to uni and can't take my rats.
Im moving house and can't take my rats.
My kids don't bother with them any more.
I don't have the time anymore
People in the above situations will typically work to find homes for their rats no matter what, even if I can't help them, so they are ultimately in safe hands.
While rats in these situations do need some assistance, it is not considered an emergency here, and it would be foolish for me to fill up my cages with these kinds of cases and leave no space for rats in immediate danger.
I can very occasionally take these less dire cases if I have an unusual amount of free space at the time, so it is worth calling me to check.
But please don't be surprised if I have to turn you down. My situation is such that I never know when the next call will come through; we might have none for weeks, then suddenly 3 in one day.
I have to conserve my limited space for the rats for whom I am truly their only hope.
How the rats live
I use Liberta Explorer cages, which I usually block into two seperate ones, as I prefer several smaller groups of rats over a couple of huge ones.
All rats coming into Shadowrat must be able to, eventually, go into an existing group, within the existing set ups of Explorers. We do not have the space for a seperate cage for every pair or trio that come in, so rats are expected to go into half the explorer with one of my existing groups. Of course, there is no issue housing them in their original cages while we go through the intro process or quarantine, but the end aim is to have new arrivals in with a group asap.
Sometimes people request that their rats remain in their regular cage for life once they come here. I hope people will understand that this is impossible; if we take in 30 rats in a year, and each pair was to stay in their original cage, I would have 15 seperate cages to manage, find space for, and clean every week. This would just not be possible.
Rats are matched to groups that best suit their individual temperaments, or ages. Rats that come in as bonded pairs or groups are never split, and will always remain together, though they may be put into a bigger group together.
Groups here typically contain 2-8 rats, though on occasion more.
The rats here do not get daily out of cage time.
I am stating this simply because to some people, this is important. I will make it known clearly that I do not free range all the rats every day; it would be impossible for one person to free range 7 groups of rats for an hour each, every day, unless they had literally no other demands on their time. As I have 2 jobs, a dog and a husband who want some of my attention, and a house to maintain, I do not have this luxury.
Rats here do get out of cage time, but it is as and when it suits me, and when I can fit it in.
Sometimes, people call me up to surrender rats to me for the simple reason of, 'I don't have time to get them out of their cage every day.'
Please be aware that they will not get that here either. If this is very important to you, it is best you home your rats to someone else, though you will be hard pressed to find any rescue or sanctuary that can free range all their rats daily. If you require this, you are better off re-homing privately to a pet owner situation rather than a rescue or sanctuary.
Please respect that Shadowrat is a sanctuary run by one person, run purely to help rats and their owners, and be realistic about things like daily free ranging.
Each rat here does get individual attention on a daily basis, even if it is not always free range. All rats are health checked on an individual basis every day: teeth, eyes, coat, felt for any lumps, cuddled and fussed.
The personality of each individual is known well; take a look through the pages of my past and present rats to find out about each one over the last 16 years. This will give you a good idea of how each rat here lives, is managed, is cared for, and is loved.
Surrendering rats to me
If you wish to surrender a rat to me, please bear in mind that I do not drive, and that I live in Lowestoft, Suffolk. I do not have my own transport, and I have to arrange lifts from friends and family.
Many of my calls are not from the local area, and many people are not willing to drive the rats to me, or even to meet me halfway; they expect me to collect, and usually to pay petrol costs, too.
In the nicest possible way, I want to ask people if they are not local, to please make an effort to get the rat to me yourself, or at least to meet me part way. At the risk of sounding blunt, you are asking me for a favour. I cannot help but find it cheeky when people request I take their rat, and provide for it from my own pocket for the rest of its life, but are not prepared to make any effort themselves to help.
We do not have the money to spend on petrol to go back and forth taking on rats from everyone who doesn't feel like a long drive; that financial burden should not be on the rescuer, and its greatly appreciated when people recognise this and do their bit.
If you absolutely cannot get the rat to me at all, and there is no option but for me to collect, please contribute toward our petrol costs.
I have paid out £40 in petrol before to pick up rats, and not been offered a penny by the previous owner. Im sure people can understand how this gets a little frustrating when that money should be being spent on the rats.
Unfortunately, due to people promising petrol money and not providing it once I arrive, I now have to request a contribution up front via paypal beforehand if we are expected to go on a long journey. I wish it did not have to come to this, but unfortunately my trust has been broken too many times now, and I have been duped into going on long, expensive journeys I would not have taken had I not been assured of the petrol costs beforehand.
The exceptions to the above would come in the event of someone finding a stray, or suddenly becoming responsible for a rat that was not their own. If you are a good samaritan that has taken on care of a rat you've found, or someone has dumped on you, the sanctuary will absorb the costs of getting the rat to safety if necessary.
Please feel free to email me with any questions, queries or comments, or to discuss surrendering a rat to the sanctuary.
I recieve several emails a week from people who are looking for rat advice, and I am happy to help whenever I can. However, please be aware that I do not always respond immediately if it is not an emergency; I may take a few days to get back to you. If you have not heard from me in a week, feel free to email again as there is a chance I may have missed your mail in a sea of facebook alerts and spam.
If emailing for rat advice, please ensure you have read all the relevent articles on the website first, as it could be your question is already answered there.
Another note, as this seems to come up frequently, if you are emailing me to ask if I can take in your rat, please state where you live, as this will be a big deciding factor on whether or not I can help you. Often, I get one or two line emails simply asking me to take their rat off them, but no information about the rat, where they live, how old the rat is, what sex it is, why it needs re-homing etc. I will need to know all these things before I can tell you if I'll be able to take your rat, so please include these details in your email otherwise I'll just email you back asking for them!
I am online daily.
Some of my specifications may seem harsh to some, but they have come about only after many years of learning what works and what doesn't. I love to help rats, and I love to help people who care about rats, and many people do not need to be told any of the above; it would be common sense and common courtesy to many.
But over the years, it has become apparent that there are people out there who seek to take advantage of the good hearts of animal rescuers, using them either as a convinient dumping ground for rats they're bored with, or hoping they can unload a responsibility without having to be remotely inconvinienced in the process. This has forced me to have rules, and to state them here.
Donations always welcome. Also, I will gratefully take in old blankets and fleeces, as they make good bedding and home-made hammocks. If you wish to donate litter, please make it one of the paper based/cardboard squares types, as this is all we use. Similarly, please do not donate Pets At Home rat nuggets; I very much appreciate the thought, but we do not feed these and they go straight in the bin, so I don't want to waste anyone's time or money. Thanks!