Today, Yummypets would like to introduce you to the woman behind the Shadow the Rat account, Esther Minic-Rosenthal, and her six talented rats. Meet Egg, Olive, Pickle, Sugar, Donut, and Omelet!
To begin with, Esther is an kindhearted and active Yummypets member. She has the patience to teach her rats amazing tricks! In addition, she regularly shares videos of her rats on Yummypets and on her other social media handles. She is always putting smiles on people's faces and has already posted 98 videos and 9 photos! You can find her Yummypets profile here.
When, where, and how did you meet your rats?
I got my first rats 6 years back, when I was a sophomore in high school. I wanted a pet that was very social, trainable, and outgoing, and I knew I wasn’t in a good position to care for a larger pet like a dog or cat. So rats seemed like the perfect choice for me. In April of 2015, I got my first trio of rats (who I named Shadow, Sonic, and Ninja). Sadly, rats are very susceptible to respiratory problems and pet shops like where I got these girls can be big carriers for rodent respiratory viruses. So unfortunately, Ninja passed away just two days after I got her, from what turned out to be viral pneumonia brought in from the store. Two days after that Shadow started to follow her, and I felt like a complete failure. I had gone from what seemed like 3 healthy rats 4 days earlier, to 2 rats with one on the way out. But we weren’t going to let her go without a fight, so we rushed her to the vet and they did everything in their power to help her, including giving her oxygen treatment. Even then, it was so touching and go that I was advised to consider euthanizing her—and I went into the clinic that day fully intending to have her put to sleep, only to find a vet tech cuddling her and telling me that she was going to be such a friendly and cuddly rat.I just couldn’t go through with having her pts after that and so I elected to take her home instead—and after a grueling 2 weeks of recovery and meds, she had fully healed and had indeed become the sweetest, cuddly, and friendly rat imaginable.
Sonic and Shadow.
Once Shadow had fully recovered and was back to living with her remaining sister Sonic, I then started to train them. Shadow in particular proved to be quite the quick learner, and was very forgiving of my mistakes. She was the first animal I really trained with, and I was so lucky to get to work with such an intuitive and confident little rat.
Sadly rats are very short-lived animals, and a little over 2 years later Shadow had passed away from old age. Before she passed, however, I had introduced 2 young rats called Latte and Blackberry to her, in order to help her cope with her remaining sister's death the previous year. So Latte and Blackberry went on to carry Shadows legacy, being very sweet and social and learning dozens of tricks.
And that’s how it's gone for a while, with me adding in new rats when my older rats pass away. I’ve had 23 personal rats at this point, including my current 6. Those current girls (named Omelet, Egg, Olive, Pickle, Donut, and Sugar respectively) continue to carry on the legacy of my past rats, and I feel so lucky to get to care for, play with, train, and just be with so many amazing unique little ratties. It can be hard keeping such short-lived pets, but the amount of fun and energy they pack into their lives makes it all worth it. Many of my rats have come from less than ideal situations as well, so it's nice to be able to give them a good life, one which they would otherwise lack.
Every single one of Esther's rats so far.
Where do their names come from?
My rats mainly have food names, and this really comes down to me liking cute names for cute pets. On top of that I tend to have a fairly large group of rats, so it's nice to have a ready-made pool of ideas to draw from when naming newcomers. My first group of rats was a bit different, with Shadow and Sonic being named for my favorite childhood cartoon (Sonic Adventure), and Ninja being named by my then 9 year old brother. But ever since then I’ve named all my rats after cute foods, and I’ll chose which food name they get either due to their appearance (for example Egg is a white rat), or due to their personality (for example I had a rat named Espresso who I named that because she was constantly jumping around as a baby).
Pickle with her foraging toy.
Do you have any tips for your fellow Yummypals so that they can look great in their photos?
My best tip for photographing rats (or any small pet) is to use a lightbox! It's amazing the difference they can make - not only do they prevent your pets from running off and causing mischief (something rats are great at!), but they also give you a nice solid background that lets your pets really stand out.
Olive jumping with a ball.
What kind of tricks have you trained your rats to do?
I’ve trained my rats quite a lot of tricks, but they all boil down to a few basics. For item tricks I mainly use fetch and basketball, and those can be built up to other tricks like painting with a paint brush, fetching from drawers, fetching a tissue, and so forth. The other basics include things like circling objects, backing up on cue, jumping onto things/over thing, going under things, and similar things in that vein. All of these “basics” can then be combined to make more complex tricks, and the nice thing about working on the basics first is that once a rat has them down you have a nice shortcut to teaching future tricks that use similar props/actions.
Bean with a painting that she made herself.
What is your favorite thing about Yummypets?
My favorite thing about yummypets has been seeing all the adorable pets! I’ve seen some amazing videos as well - for example I saw a fish taught to fetch a ring, which I think is super neat! I also love how positive everyone is, and I’ve gotten nothing but nice comments from fellow users.
Whatʼs your best memory with your rats?
One of my favorite memories of my rats is back when I had my rats Shadow, Latte, and Blackberry. Shadow was around 1.5 years when I introduced the other 2, who were sisters and around 3-4 months old at the time. Shadow had just lost her final sister Sonic, and she wasn’t a fan of the new rats coming into her area. And at first intros went pretty poorly, with Shadow trying to push them away, and even going so far as to hiss and nip at them to try and scare them off. So it was amazing to see that just 3 days after their first meeting, Shadow went and curled up in my lap, and just a few minutes later the 2 younger girls followed her in. I expected her to try and push them out, but she instead pulled both in and started to groom them. From that moment onwards they were the best of friends, and Shadow acted very motherly towards the younger girls. I’ve had a lot of bonded rats since then, but those 3 had an especially special bond, one which I was so happy to see.
Shadow painting with a paintbrush.
Have you got any funny stories to tell us?
Oh man, I have so many! Rats are truly mischievous little creatures, and one of their favorite things to do in life is to stash. And when I say they like to stash, I mean they like to stash EVERYTHING! So many times I’ve lost pen caps, hair ties, tissues, heck even entire treat bags, and they’ll seem to have disappeared into thin air! Then when cage cleaning time comes around I’ll inevitably find the missing items in the rats nest - sometimes I get lucky and the items are intact, but more often than not they’ll have “remodeled” the items and chewed giant holes in them. Thankfully I’ve never had the rats grab anything important, but it's definitely something I keep in mind with anything that’s small enough for them to carry and that’s in their reach during their playtime!
The other funniest thing about rats is just watching them interact. Rats are very physical in how they communicate, so throughout the day you will see them push each other over to sit square on the other rat's chest, or pull each other to a new location by their loose skin, or even do flying kicks at the other rat if they are annoying them! None of this is harmful in any way to their cagemates, and it's never taken too far. But it can be quite surprising for new rat owners to see just how crazy rats get, and it's always fun to explain that this sort of behavior is normal and natural to anyone seeing my rats interact for the first time!
Olive playing basketball.
Tell us something we don't know about you!
I’m a huge fan of being outdoors, and from a young age I have hiked/biked the woods behind my house. Often I’ll take a book to read as well, and there’s nothing quite like walking the woods and taking the occasional break to read or eat a snack.
Bean dressed as a Christmas tree.
Any social media handles?
You can find updates on my rats and their tricks on my Youtube channel Shadow the Rat, along with my Facebook and Instagram pages under the same name. I also have a website where you can find over 70 free trick tutorials, each accompanied by a video tutorial as well. You can find it here.
My rats also all enjoy paw painting and you can find their paintings at their Etsy store.