City of Winnipeg crew saves 11 pet rats after finding cage abandoned in ditch
Rescue for small animals say pets like rats require a lot of care and people need to do research before buying
A crew from the City of Winnipeg is being credited with saving 11 abandoned pet rats after they were found dirty, sick and cold in a ditch on the outskirts of the city.
Cindy Hildebrand, the director of Popcorns and Binkies Rescue Haven, got a call for help early on Monday morning and drove to Murray Avenue in the North Main area where the workers had found the animals.
In a ditch off the road was a cage covered with a piece of carpet.
"The cage was in really bad condition, like the cage was sitting in water in the ditch. The smell was probably the worst thing I've ever smelled in my entire life, and they were all very scared. They were kind of huddled together in a pile," Hildebrand said.
"They were filthy. Their fur was greasy and oily. They had urine and feces all over them ... It was one of the most horrifying things I've ever seen."
As soon as they were rescued, the rats were bathed and taken to the vet for emergency care.
At least one of the rats was pregnant and has since given birth, while others had ulcers, cysts, missing fur, raw paws and were hungry, Hildebrand says.
She believes the former owner was breeding the rats to be snake food.
Hildebrand is calling the city workers heroes.
"If it wasn't for them, all of these rats would have died. The mom would have had her babies in the ditch and they would have all died. So we are very thankful to those guys," Hildebrand said.
The rats are in foster care for the time being while they're receiving further medical care. The two other females are being watched to see if they're pregnant.
Hildebrand says Popcorns and Binkies Rescue Haven — which takes in small animals like rats, guinea pigs and rabbits — currently has 75 critters in care.
Small pets not easy
Hildebrand says this incident further underscores the need for small pet owners to be aware of the needs of their animals.
"We so often find that people have not done their research prior to adopting these animals or buying them, and they then realize how much work is involved," she said.
"People think these animals are small, so they don't require a lot of care. They actually require more care than dogs and cats."
Rats are considered exotic animals and need specialized veterinary care, which can be expensive, Hildebrand says.
She says the rescue haven is there to support pet owners who are feeling stressed about their commitments.
"We've had a lot, during the pandemic, of people that have said, you know, I've lost my job. I can't afford to feed my rat or my bunny or whatever and we give them food. We have a program where if people are struggling, we will give them stuff they need short term to help care for their animals until they can get back on their feet," she said.
"Dumping them outside shouldn't be like a last resort."
Hildebrand adds that just because there are animals like rabbits and rats outside, people think domesticated ones will be able to survive outside.
"Ninety per cent of the time they don't," she said.