The following is a series of posts by a Ratlister whose beloved rat has managed to escape through a hole in the wall:

Subject: Ratty lost in wall... can't find him or help him... I'm in bad torment
Date: Mon, 08 Mar 1999 22:32:05 -0800

I don't know if anyone on the list remembers me.  I have been a list member
for several years now, and I used to be quite active on the list, but I
have been lurking for about a year now.

This is not the best way to come back, but I'm using the list to vent some
desperate emotions.  I'm sorry about the long message, but I am in bad
anguish and there's really nobody else to turn to just now.  This has to be
one of the worst nights of my life.

My adorable Golden Boy, my favourite ratty, seems to have escaped from the
apartment.  I have had rats for 15 years, most of that time in apartments,
and this has never happened before.  But I just got careless, and that was

I have looked everywhere, he's been missing for over 24 hours now. I was
getting more and more worried, then came the dreadful moment about four
hours ago, when I found an "escape dig" through the drywall under the
counter, that he must have been working on for quite a while, but I

I can't think of even one more place to look for him in my apartment.  I am
forced to the heart-tearing conclusion that my curious little sweetheart
made a fatal exploratory trip into the wall.

I adopted him from the SPCA about eight months ago and he is... WAS... one
of the biggest love bundles I've ever known. Many times a day we had our
lovin' sessions and I'd scritch his beautiful, deep golden fur and he'd
respond with bliss and ratty kisses, for minutes at a time.  He is, WAS!!!
so responsive.  He WAS a gorgeous animal too - thick champagne fur, dark
merry eyes, a very handsome specimen.  Every day when I came home, I was
thankful that he'd come into my life.

The past few months have been rather hard.  I had six beloved rats as
recently as last December.  Three have since had to be euthanized (of
cancer or respiratory failure).  For them I felt a lot of sadness, but not
anguish.  I loved them, especially my adorable Honeybee, but they were old
and had had a good life with me, and the time had come.  Now, another of my
old rats is soon going to die of breast cancer, so - I THOUGHT UNTIL TODAY
- I was going to have just two rats left but they were young, healthy boys
who would live a long time yet.  Yes, I have another male, an albino lab
rat, but I have to say he's not nearly as sweet as Golden Boy.  This
evening I have to look at him sitting alone in his cage, where he was
always cuddled up with Golden Boy until TODAY, and I can't stand it!!!!!!

I had taken the best care of my Golden Boy, given him love and good
sensations at every possible occasion, and, as with my other rats, making
sure nothing would EVER hurt him in any way.  Now he's lost in the
apartment walls and he is even now dying a SLOW HORRIBLE DEATH OF THIRST
somewhere, and there is really nothing I can do and it is MY
FAULT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  :*-(   :*-(    :*-(

I have torn the drywall apart looking for him behind the cupboard, but
found nothing except a gap around the pipes in the floor where, in
desperation, he must have crawled down to the floor below.  He must have
crawled in there, but then was unable to get back, so after he sat
despondently in the small space for hours, he finally must have squeezed
down looking for an alternative way out.  I am on the top floor of a 3
story low rise apartment building.

The tragic thing is that he would be able to travel down, but not up, so he
could not retrace his steps.

He may be trapped on the floor below, behind the wall.  I went down to talk
to the tenants and they were polite enough, but it was evident they were
(a) disgusted at the whole idea of a rodent loose in their wall (I didn't
tell them it was a rat, I said a hamster, I had to lie!) - the husband
kills rodents on sight - "You shouldn't have those!" he said sternly.  And
(b), they were not in the least inclined to let me check their cupboard and
listen at the wall.  So what could I do?

There was no way I could get across to them how much this "vermin" means to
me, so I didn't try, just said I loved him and was worried about him, amid
my thousand apologies for inconveniencing them.

They did say they would let me know if they saw my "hamster".  But the
agonizing thing is that I'm more inclined to think he is trapped inside the

The only faint hope for a DIFFERENT DEATH for my gentle darling is that he
will somehow squeeze his way all the way to ground level, find a way out,
and maybe get quickly killed by a predator or hit by a car, instead of
dying a hideous death of thirst trapped in the wall.

If he were a cat or dog who might be trapped like that, people would be
willing to break the wall open to look for him.   But nobody gives a damn
about a rodent.  Not that I really expected my neighbours to be concerned,
but I was faintly hoping the people downstairs would be rodent friendly, by
some miracle.  It didn't happen!!!!

The dreadful thing is to think of his slow death.  I wish with all my heart
that my sweet, gentle, affectionate boy could somehow be killed quickly.

I can't bear it.  The worst thing is the guilt: I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS
AWFUL DEATH, DUE TO NEGLECT of something I should have KNOWN to check for,
after all these years.  The pain is beyond belief. I feel like my mind is
going to explode.  When I think I can't cry any more, from somewhere inside
me come even more tears and sobs.

This can't be happening!  He can't be dying in pain, in the prime of life,
somewhere where I can't help him.  I was playing with him just last night.
We had a lovely game.  Then he went off to do ratty things "somewhere".
Little did I know.  If only he could die quickly!!!

Thanks for listening.

- Susan

Subject: Looks like my beloved Golden Boy is gone forever
Date: Tue, 09 Mar 1999 14:23:01 -0800

Sad update on Golden Boy's escape:

My remaining male Earnest and my old female, Grasshopper, are locked in
their cages till I decide what to do about the gaping holes that I hammered
in the drywall under my counter.  I have got to fix those holes soon, the
ratties can't stay locked up forever... but it will be like nailing the lid
on Golden Boy's coffin.

I dropped some pieces of fruit down there last night, and ran some water
down with a siphon.  I felt truly dreadful while I did it, insofar as I was
probably just prolonging my and/or his suffering.  Following several
people's suggestion, I also tried hanging a rope down there - which was
difficult since I can barely reach the hole behind the broken drywall with
my outstretched arm, and the hole is very small - just over rat-sized.
It's the hole in the floor through which the water pipes pass.  Naturally
he could not climb back up the smooth copper pipes, even if he wanted to
(which I imagine he did). :*-(  (This hateful little hole to nowhere is
just the kind of cranny we rat-owners have nightmares about, right? Well,
the nightmare came true.)

Suddenly the rope started to descend quickly and I had a moment of wild
hope that he was down there tugging on it, but I soon realized it was just
falling under its own weight.  It seemed to go down freely about four feet,
then it stopped falling and presumably, just piled up down there.

I can't even see the hole, let alone see into it, so there is really no way
I can thread it through the little hole in the next level down.  For all I
know he is three floors down by now.  I listened intently for a long time
but there was not a sound.  (I have not heard the slightest sign of his
presence since I realized he was genuinely missing.)

When I checked in the morning (after just about the worst nightmare-filled,
broken sleep of my life) I hoped against hope that the food I'd left would
have been taken... but no.  I am trying to accept that my gentle, loving
boy is really gone into the cold unknown.  I fervently hope that he isn't
stuck somewhere, but has found a way to explore, get something to drink and
is amusing himself a bit, though I don't imagine he will last long under
the best of circumstances.

-- Susan

Subject: Update on the Golden Boy story: The Rollercoaster Of Hope!
Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 16:20:23 -0800

It's like this.

As you know by now if you've read my recent posts, I had been trying to
accept the heartbreaking idea that Golden Boy had vanished into the wall
forever, since I hadn't seen him in 40 hours or so.

About half an hour ago, I was going out on an errand and half-heartedly
glanced under the kitchen counter, in the area where he escaped. I'd left
an overripe nectarine there, and a little dish of water.  They had never
been touched... previously.

To my amazement I saw that quite a large chunk (maybe one rat-stomach-full)
had been gnawed out of the nectarine, and "somebody" had drunk ALL the
water from the dish (which I had half-filled last night). It was bone dry.

And I feel pretty sure (not 100% sure) that I didn't remove the "bait" dog
food chunks from the kitchen floor last night... but they are gone today.

I started to tremble all over (no joke; I thought "Oh, this is what people
mean when they say 'I was shaking all over'!").  I poked around in the
cupboard and the walls, gently calling him.  Of course my little buddy did
NOT pop right out and say "Hi, mom, what's the matter?" -- that would have
been too good.

I am trying to restrain my hope - it could have just been a mouse, after
all.  With all the holes I've bashed in the wall, it is an invitation to
mice.  And I think the guy downstairs said there "was" a mouse, so I can't
rule out mice.

But i have to say, that was an awfully big piece chewed out of the
nectarine -- and could a mouse drink THAT much water in one night?

There is another possible rodent visitor.  We have squirrels in the roof -
could they get down into the walls and visit my cupboard?  But I don't
think I've ever heard squirrels inside the wall - just in the roof.

Now I'm on Super Ratty Listening Alert - set up some food (hint: smelly
sardines are a good bait), in the middle of a crinkly plastic bag so I will
hear if anything approaches it.

If, *IF*, it really was Golden Boy, for all I know he may be snoozing
somewhere in my apartment right now.  (it's 4 p.m., sleepy time.)  Although
I have checked all his usual hiding places, and all the unusal ones, and to
my great disappointment (needless to say), I didn't find him.

I dearly hope that this isn't a false hope (can one have hopes about a hope?).

If I do find him, you will all hear a scream of joy that goes around the

Now I'm being a worried mom in a different way, and hoping that IF it was
Golden Boy, he didn't get food poisoning from that VERY overripe fruit that
I'd left out a bit too long...  :-)  ??????

-- Susan

Subject: No more sign of Golden Boy / New baby boy!!!
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 18:24:14 -0800

I have received so much supportive mail from so many nice people, regarding
my vanished Golden Boy, that I have lost count.  I am going to compose a
reply to you all soon.  It's just a bit much for me to deal with at this
point, because of the uncertainty and emotions involved.

After noticing the nibbled fruit yesterday, of course last night I was
desperately hoping my Boy would return. I arranged the cupboard elaborately
with food and water, AND a live trap.  A proper live trap for squirrels.
(A strong metal mesh box trap - animal walks in, steps on a plate and the
door shuts behind it.  The length of the box is such that it would be next
to impossible for a rat's tail to get caught in the falling door.)

The building superintendent lent me the live trap.  I felt I had to break
the news to him about my missing rat.  (I had already told the tenants
downstairs and they were none too pleased about it, and proclaimed they
were going to tell the super.  I thought he had better get the news from me
rather than them.)  Officially, this is a "NO PETS" building, like most
apartment buildings in this animal-unfriendly city.  But there are a few
animals in the building anyway - including the super's parrot.  The super's
an easy-going guy who just looks the other way if nobody else makes an
issue of things.  (Naturally, I confirmed this before I moved in with my
rats, 2 1/2 years ago.)

He's always known that I have rats, but has never said anything.  However,
under the current circumstances, he would have been within his rights to
say, "Sorry, either get rid of your rats or move out."  Instead, he
listened patiently when I explained what had happened.  Then the next day
he showed up with a live trap to help me catch my rat if it came back.

So far, so good... no eviction notice... seems like the guy's on my side!

Ernest tested the live trap for me, and it worked fine (he jumped with
fright when the door clashed shut behind him, but no harm done).

I was afraid G. Boy might injure himself gnawing on the bars, if he was
left in the trap too long.  What also concerned me is that the mesh
openings are 15/16 of an inch wide - and I wondered whether a desperate rat
might try to force his head through.  (Golden Boy is on the small side, for
a male; he's quite lightly built.)

So I slept ON THE KITCHEN FLOOR, so that if the trap was sprung, the sound
would wake me up.  This is how you tell a true rataholic from a casual rat
owner, I guess.  :-P  I had a pretty restless night on the hard floor.
Alas, it seems like nobody visited at all. (trap unsprung, food and water
untouched.)  Needless to say I was badly disappointed.

I decided the uncertainty was doing me no good.  I needed something to fill
the void.  So... I just got back from Abbotsford, BC where I adopted an
adorable 4 1/2 week old home-bred baby ratboy from Craig and Shawna (sorry
if I spelled your name wrong, Shawna).  They have done a great job
hand-taming him from birth.  This tiny creature seems bomb-proof.  After a
very long bus ride to his new home, he's quite unfazed and ready to
reconnoitre. Of course he's not allowed to roam free -- not for a while yet.

He's a black hooded and technically he is "mismarked".  At first, I only
noticed he had a small nondescript curvy line and spot on his back.  But
when I got him home and took a good look at him, I started to laugh.  When
you look at the markings on his back from the right angle (with his head
"at the bottom of the picture"), you suddenly realize that he has a very
distinct black QUESTION MARK on his white back.  It's too funny for words.

This little guy needs a name.  Suggestions?

-- Susan

Subject: The perplexing invisible rat (re: the inconclusive Golden Boy saga)
Date: Sat, 13 Mar 1999 00:56:32 -0800

SOMEBODY came and had an enormous meal last night from the sweet potato I
had left in the "escape cupboard".  IT also polished off the other food I'd
left.  It's definitely not a mouse (no mouse could move half a sweet potato
across the floor), and I don't think it's a squirrel because I saw what
looked like a rat's toe prints on the dish. (Also, squirrels are not
nocturnal, AFAIK)

But I still have not laid eyes on IT.  Though I was sure at first the
visitor must be Golden Boy, I'm not so sure now.  This animal has never
left the cupboard (though that would be a totally normal action for Golden
Boy).  It only seems to come when I've been long asleep and everything is
still.  These are the behaviour patterns of a wild rat.  That doesn't mean
it's not Golden Boy, but if it is, he's sure gone wild quickly.

Tonight, shortly after I came home late in the evening, I suddenly heard
gnawing sounds from behind the cupboard.  The characteristic sound of a rat
gnawing wood, but LOUD and penetrating, because it was in a hollow space
and chewing (I guess) on the framework of the building.

I excitedly tiptoed over there, lay on the floor and looked inside the
cupboard. The gnawing sound was so close, yet The Creature - let's call it
a rat - was invisible under the floor.  I called gently, put a piece of
warm all-dressed pizza next to the hole in the wall, and added some smelly
cage litter which I got from a cage of strange rats.  This mixture
certainly got its attention, because suddenly the rope (which I'd hung down
there a few days ago) tightened and twitched before my eyes, and I was sure
Golden Boy would climb out of the hole any second.

Well I waited there for at least an hour, hardly breathing. That rat never
showed a whisker.  It remained just out of sight. Occasionally I would see
the rope tighten and hear tugging sounds as if the rat was climbing up, to
climb up, but it never actually showed itself.  Then it would start that
loud gnawing again under the floor, as if it was looking for a different
route through the floor, or trying to enlarge the original hole.

You can imagine that I was dying to see just a glimpse of its nose, even
its whiskers, then I would know from the coloration whether it was Golden
Boy or a wild rat.  But no such luck.  It remained completely invisible.  I
certainly got the impression this rat was put off by my presence, and/or by
the half-light I was shining into the area.  Not like Golden Boy at all.

Finally I decided it was no good waiting any longer, so I set the box trap
(with pizza and "strange-rat-smelling" wood chips as bait), shut the
cupboard and went away.

What disturbed me greatly was that the gnawing was so loud that the people
downstairs (the avowed rodent-haters) would be able to hear it very
clearly.  It was loud enough to keep a person awake at night, if they were
bothered by it.  This is the first time I've heard such gnawing, and I
don't know why its behaviour has changed like this.  I just hope the
neighbours don't rush to the landlord to complain.  I'm afraid of the
measures the management might take.  Thank goodness it's Friday evening.
I have at least the whole weekend to try to catch "IT".

You can see now why I say the suspense is killing me!!!  AAAAUGGGH!!! On
top of being terribly frustrating and disturbing, it's all very perplexing.

I've now prepared myself to find a wild rattie in my trap, if I catch

The saga continues......

-- Susan

Date: Sat, 13 Mar 1999 18:30:05 -0800

I am very very tired after my vigil in the wee hours of this morning, but
before I fall into bed, I want to let you all know what has happened.

I went to my computer class this afternoon, and when I got home about an
hour ago, I looked at the live trap, with no expectations.  The trap had
been sprung (again).

At first I could not see inside, because a cardboard box surrounds most of
the trap. "Oh, have I caught someone?" I said softly.

Then the tip of a rat's nose came into view.  It was a light-coloured nose.
 Unbelievingly, with fumbling hands I pushed the cardboard aside.

You know the mysterious definitely-wild rat I've been talking about?  There
he was, sitting in the trap.  He was MY GOLDEN BOY.  Filthy, thin, but it

You know that figure of speech "I thought I must be dreaming"?  There must
be very few times in a human lifetime when it is literally true.  But when
I saw Golden Boy sitting in there, I genuinely could not believe my eyes.
I had a dreamlike feeling -- I can't even say it was pleasurable.  I looked
long and hard, trying to assure myself it was really him.  Though his
blonde coat was gray with dirt and his formerly pink tail was pitch black,
as soon as I studied the face I could have no doubt it was him -- yet still
I doubted!

"Oh, little guy, is it really you?" I said tremulously.  I probably
repeated myself several times like an idiot. He strolled to the front of
the trap.  I hardly dared to open it and touch him.  I had a half-conscious
fear that he would simply flow away like water, back into the wall, if I
opened the trap door. I still did not believe what I was seeing.   I opened
the door, I hesitatingly scratched his back and he accepted it.  I picked
him up and he lay relaxed in my arms.

I started wandering around the apartment in a daze, like a complete
lunatic, holding the rat and  wondering where on earth I could put him so
he would not vanish like a dream.  I didn't dare take my hands off him.  I
felt no emotion - only the surreal sensation that I was going to wake up at
any moment and he would disappear.

I didn't put him straight back with Ernest.  He is so filthy, and besides
Ernest would probably attack him because (in rat terms) he has changed so
much.  After several minutes I finally spotted a disused cage in a corner,
popped him in there and latched the door behind him.  I want to triple
padlock it!!!  I'm sure I will dream tonight of him sliding through the
cage bars like smoke, and flowing silently back down The Black Hole.

I just told someone that I'm the happiest woman on earth right now. But on
reflection, I can't say I feel "happy" in the usual sense.  The dreamlike
sensation is still with me.  I don't know what this emotion is -- it's a
lack of emotion, a complete stillness and relaxation, after the tension and
pain of the past six days.

Apart from everything else, this has been a rat behaviour revelation for
me.  Even though I have had rats for 14 years (or is it 15), I still have
so much to learn.  You all know how convinced I was that Golden Boy would
not behave in such an ultra-cautious way, therefore it must be a wild
ratty.  But.... analysis can come later.  Right now, it's only 6:30 pm but
I'm going to bed pretty soon to sleep this off!!!!  Tomorrow I will deal
with the holes in the wall, with Golden Boy's bath, and with future housing
arrangements.  He was obviously not happy being caged with Ernest.
Something was motivating him very strongly to leave and find a new
territory.  It may have been Ernest's roughness and domineering nature.
.....But I will make those decisions TOMORROW.

:-)    :-)    :-)     :-)     :-)     :-)

-- Susan and the prodigal rat

    Epilogue:  Golden Boy was shaken by his experience, but soon recovered, and lived happily for a long time afterwards.  Here is a post by Anna K., who had the honor of ratsitting the famous Golden Boy more than a year after his adventures:

   Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 10:13:59 -0000
   From: "Anna k." <>
Subject: relief from ratlessness

Hi all -- I'm babysitting some rats for a few days here.  Nice to get
a bit of ratification.  Golden Boy is the eldest of the crew -- such
a funny old gentleman these days.  He trundles seriously along on the
carpet and stops a couple of times to have a radar and a good sniff.
Seems like he can't survey and walk at the same time anymore, but
nevertheless he takes his responsibilities seriously.  Keeping track
of those younger rats who may be nearby.
  I put him down near the green peas and saw one of his hind legs go
shakey.  I guess it's the old Geriatric Rear End Syndrome.
  How nice to sit on a couch and be constantly visited by curious rats.
  Anna k.

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