Usually this time of the year we are worrying about the number of kittens flowing through our doors. So far this year it’s been manageable (dare we say that our free cat spay/neuter program is paying off?) but in the last couple weeks we’ve been inundated with baby rodents! This is a first for us and just shows how things come in waves.
It started with the surrender of 15 rats – best we can figure there are two moms, a couple older babies (previous litter?) and 11 very young babies. The problem is, without knowing exactly when they were born, it was hard to age the babies. And they can begin breeding at just 5-6 weeks of age! So you have to be quick to determine sex (not easy on these tiny beans!) and separate them before more damage can be done! They also need a lot of gentle handling so they grow up social with people and having 15 to deal with is really taxing our small staff.
Then, while we are monitoring and socializing these little rats, five guinea pigs arrive, (from various sources). One bonded pair and three singles. No babies which is fortunate, although guinea pigs have only one or two offspring since they have a longer gestation period and their young are born precocial (meaning fully furred and mobile – like horses). So there are four more cages that need daily cleaning and five more furry friends needing handling and socializing. Note too that with school ending most of our SSU volunteers have left town. We also received a stray parakeet and a bonded pair of birds – a parakeet with a cockatiel – talk about odd couples! Two more cages – our hallway is filling up!
Last, but not least, in came 10 dwarf hamsters!! Again, rodents are known for large litters so I guess only getting in 10 is a relief. Looks like there is one mom, possibly one female from a previous litter and eight babies. So tiny and cute! They are too young to take away from mom at this point but again, we have to stay on top of that since they can begin breeding at 4-5 weeks old as well and there is surely at least one male among them.
Remember the rat man in Petaluma several years ago? They found over 1,000 rats in his home! You can see how easy it would be to quickly get overwhelmed with rodents. All it takes is one giving birth and not having the young separated quickly enough and bingo! You have 8 – 10 more pregnant animals! Hamsters and rats average 8-10 young in a litter but there have been litters recorded with 20+ newborns! Scary, huh? And mom is extra fertile right after giving birth for some insane reason. So often if the male is still in the cage when she gives birth, she is pregnant again while nursing the first litter! And you wouldn’t know until she surprises you yet again. Spaying and neutering of these little guys is possible, but expensive and a delicate surgery. Most people won’t invest in that with a $5 pet.
So, anyone interested in adopting a small pet? Now is the perfect time! We have a lot to choose from! The advantage to adopting young animals is that you can super socialize them so they become very tame. Come check out these cuties and help us clear our hallway!
Kidz ‘n Critters Summer Camp – registration is now open for our camp program. four sessions for different age levels from second grade to seventh grade. Educational and interactive – perfect for all young animal lovers! For details and registration forms go to www.rpanimalshelter.org or stop by the shelter.
“Get Them Back Home” Campaign – Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. FREE pet ID tag and a back-up microchip are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wed. 1-6:30; Thurs.-Fri.-Sat. 1-5:30; Sun. 1-4:30.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.