Rat’s Magic!

Ellen’s furry friends changed her son’s life

Pick Me Up! - - OUR PICK ME UPS! - Ellen France, 32, Hat­field, Herts

Iknow what you’re think­ing – rats are ver­min. They live in sew­ers, spread dis­eases… Not ex­actly house pets. Well, I’ve had 10! I bought my first rat So­phie six years ago, when I was preg­nant with my se­cond child Ron­nie, now 5.

Rats are so gen­tle and tame, and make great pets. So, I got more – be­fore long, I had Doris, Emily and Rosie. Sadly, they died af­ter 2 years. So I got Betty and Milly in March 2015.

My first son Haiden, now 11, was never re­ally in­ter­ested.

And Ron­nie hardly looked up from his books. By 18 months, he could count to 20 and was al­ready learn­ing shapes and colours.

‘We’ve got a lit­tle Ein­stein here!’ I laughed to my hubby Michael, 33.

But then, at his two-year checkup, the health vis­i­tor men­tioned autism. ‘Don’t be silly,’ I said.

But, weeks af­ter he turned 3, Ron­nie was di­ag­nosed. Melt­downs were com­mon, and he’d lash out, get over-ex­citable.

When he was 4, he started go­ing to a school for chil­dren with autism. But, though Ron­nie was re­ally bright, he wouldn’t in­ter­act with oth­ers.

Then in Fe­bru­ary this year, my poor rats died within a few weeks of each other.

Was it worth get­ting more? ‘Can we get a dog, Mum?’ Haiden huffed.

But with Ron­nie’s autism, it’d be too much. And I had my third child Lorelei, now 3, too.

The next month, I vis­ited Rain­drops Rat Res­cue. There were four gor­geous lit­tle rat girls – al­bino, brown-and-white, Si­amese, one with half a tail…

‘One for each of us,’ I told the kids.

They hadn’t been in­ter­ested be­fore, but now they fell in love! I kept Lulu, a Si­amese. Haiden took brown-and­white Pearl, Lorelei had the half-tailed Gypsy.

Ron­nie was given the al­bino. He called her Di­a­mond and re­ally loved her.

The rats were hand-reared, so were even gen­tler – con­fi­dent and tame. They loved Ron­nie pick­ing them up.

‘Pick up with two hands,’ I warned. ‘And don’t squeeze!’

Ron­nie was thrilled to take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for Di­a­mond.

And, if he was ever hav­ing a melt­down, I took him to feed the rats. He’d calm down at once.

We have a pen set up in the liv­ing room and Ron­nie climbs in with the rats!

Lorelei even lets him put them in her dolls’ pram!

‘Pick up with two hands and don’t squeeze too tight,’ he re­peats to him­self.

Since then, I’ve joined Face­book groups for other rat own­ers.

When I told them our story, so many peo­ple mes­saged me, shar­ing their ex­pe­ri­ences.

They said they found rats quite ther­a­peu­tic, too.

Some peo­ple think I’m dis­gust­ing for let­ting rats near my kids.

But pet rats are cleaner than guinea pigs – and you can teach them tricks!

Our lit­tle band of rat­ties have re­ally helped Ron­nie. He’s start­ing to come out of his shell. He talks more to folk, too. There’s still a long way to go, but his Di­a­mond in the rough has helped change his life.

ron­nie and di­a­mond – she’s a gem! They’re cleaner than guinea pigs – and can do tricks!

My boy’s com­ing out of his shell

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