How To End Up with Pet Kangaroo Rats

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The Pair In The Pit

Having a kangaroo rat as a pet, let alone two of them, was not a goal. Truthfully, I was only interested in how to dig a small pit in which to bury a 55 gallon drum . When properly installed with plenty of surrounding gravel, lots of quarter inch drain holes, and a small pipeline from the camp trailer, the drum would handle our gray water perfectly while we’re building our full sized, permanent home nearby.

My wife and I live in Cochise County, Arizona, off grid and just a mile or so from the Mexican border. Economic difficulties came down on us in early summer, and the pit was all I got done. You don’t go buying loads of gravel or 55 gallon drums for gray water disposal when you don’t have enough money left to eat properly. Thus the mini-pit sat “open” through most of the summer, with one accidental result being a short term swimming pool for a diving lizard. We have the money now to begin building…but the pit has provided an education.

Judging by the characteristic openings to burrows dug under various mesquite trees and other local flora, our acreage has lots and lots and lots of kangaroo rats in residence. Since they’re nocturnal and we’re mostly diurnal, however, we’ve seldom seen them. An exception has been late at night when I leave the camper (after shutting off the computer) to finally head for bed–I sleep in a separate storage shed to give Pam “her own bedroom”, and my line of travel takes me directly past the little pit. Several times I’d seen kangaroo rats under the trailer, and for a little while, one adolescent seemed quite content to dive under the “sleeping shed” as a quick and easy alternative to digging all those burrows.

Pam and I both see the kangaroo rat as the cutest of all rodents, surpassing even the cottontail rabbit. Their long, black-tufted tails are much prettier than the bald pointy thing trailing around behind a Norway rat, for instance, and their humongous feet (in proportion to their little bodies) are…well…darling.

When I head for bed, it’s my habit to shine my flashlight down into the mini-pit. Critters fall in there every so often. They never seem to suffer injury from the fall down the steep (but not quite vertical) sides, but neither do they seem to be able to get back out by themselves. Our desert grassland whiptail lizards do; they run up the sides like they were on level ground. But frogs and field mice and even young jackrabbits are just stuck there until I help them back out in one way or another. Last night, there was a baby kangaroo rat huddled down there, plus a little green frog. Pam and I decided to wait for daylight to get them out, and I called it a night.

Shortly after daylight, Pam looked out of her bathroom window to see a roadrunner eyeing the contents of the pit, obviously thinking it was nice of us to have provided it with a Breakfast Bowl. She snapped at the roadrunner, telling it not to even think about it, and the killer bird took off in a hurry.

Killer bird? Oh, yeah. This is not the roadrunner you see outwitting Wile E. Coyote. These birds are true and deadly predators to the max.

When I got up a bit later, I discovered we now had not one baby kangaroo rat in residence in the pit but two–two–two for the price of one.

The Babies In The Pit

The Babies In The Pit

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We Become Parents Once Again

It didn’t take long to realize the babies in the pit were truly just that–they were much smaller than adult kangaroo rats, their fur was still shiny, and they simply acted like…babies. The scenario seemed obvious: Mommy Kanga had become some predator’s midnight snack, the predator had missed the deep-burrow nest, and hunger had in turn driven these unwilling little adventurers into the open to seek food. They had no chance of surviving on their own.

Okay. What to use for a safety cage? One of our storage trailers yielded a five gallon platic bucket. Since this species burrows, I grabbed a shovel and filled the bottom of the bucket to a depth of several inches with good red Arizona clay. Then, after donning a pair of cowhide gloves “just in case”, I eased down into the pit and eased the two into their new home.

One went right in. The other wasn’t sure that was a good idea. But soon enough the orphans were running around inside the container, now and then digging next to the plastic “prison wall”, clearly wondering what this whole Alcatraz thing was all about.

Ah man! We're in Rat Prison, Dude!

Ah man! We’re in Rat Prison, Dude!

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Settling Right In

Before heading to town on a number of errands, I picked a few mesquite (and other) leaves. The little guys (or gals) started munching right away. While in town, a visit to the local pet store yielded two small plastic containers and a bag of parakeet seed–the smallest seed available in the store. Kangaroo rats have such effficient kidneys that they do not normally need to drink any water at all, but they do depend on fairly high humidity in their deep burrows in the wild. Since we’re not sure just how humid we can keep their “bucket burrow”, one container now holds a little water “just in case”.

The parakeet seed was an immediate hit, at least with one of the pair–he/she climbed right into the feeding dish and sat there happily munching away. The other seems to think a bit differently, preferring a piece of lettuce from Pam’s salad and munching dirt more often than not. Admittedly, it might not be actually eating the dirt. My eyes aren’t that good. At any rate, it noses into the dirt like it’s eating, so….

A couple of notes about the bucket cage: The screen we found to cover the top would be more than enough to keep the little folks from leaving…but maybe not enough to keep Kitten Precious from getting in. So I quick-like-a-bunny made a custom fitted “topper” from scrap 2 x 4 lumber that allows the babies to have a bit of air and light and also allows our extremely curious cat to perch on top…but not to reach our tiny Protected Species living in the bottom of the bucket. She seems to think she’s their Mommy in a way, but we’re not sure she’s taken the proper parenting classes for mothering itsy bitsy rodents.

As to the little kangaroo rats themselves, they’ve already figured out Pam and I are not their enemies. I can stroke them lightly with a finger while they’re eating, and they don’t even bother to stop chewing. The first time I did this, their bodies felt cool to the touch, but after they’d had time to feed on the seeds for a while, they felt warmer. Very good indeed.

We really enjoy our new “children”, but a few questions do seem rather obvious: They’re becoming rather “tame” already; as adults, will they lack the terror of predators required to survive in the wild? Have we just become the Rat House of the West? What if one is a boy and one is a girl? Are we going to end up with a home full of ten thousand cute little ratlets?

The answers will come in time. For now, Cute Rules.

The screen top. Our babies can't really be seen clearly in this shot, but they're sleeping side by side, just to the upper left of the yellow dish.

The screen top. Our babies can’t really be seen clearly in this shot, but they’re sleeping side by side, just to the upper left of the yellow dish.

The screen top. Our babies can't really be seen clearly in this shot, but they're sleeping side by side, just to the upper left of the yellow dish.

The screen top. Our babies can’t really be seen clearly in this shot, but they’re sleeping side by side, just to the upper left of the yellow dish.

Complete cage setup with catproof grate/perch in place. Kitten Precious seems to be listening to the kangaroo rats through the bucket wall at the moment, but she does spend a lot of time on the perch.

Complete cage setup with catproof grate/perch in place. Kitten Precious seems to be listening to the kangaroo rats through the bucket wall at the moment, but she does spend a lot of time on the perch.

Day Two: Moe Key Man

The bucket cage with 2 x 4 anti-cat guard proved highly effective…for about a day. By the end of that time, our big fat male Garfield type kitty, name of Moe Key Man, decided he was interested in our little Rodents In A Pail. Unlike Kitten Precious, who sees them as babies, Moe Key clearly sees them as…snacks. His “other” name, in addition to Moe Key, is Mo’ Food!

At first, it looked like the wooden barrier would be enough, but the gluttonous lust for food can be overpowering whether you’re a human contestant on The Biggest Loser or a furry feast lover of Specialty Rodent. Moe Key kept trying to figure it out, and he almost did. Pam saw him get under the outside corner of the square plastic screen housing and lift the whole thing up a bit. Left to his own devices, he could well have eventually boosted it high enough to slide completely off the bucket’s top….

Since we didn’t like that idea much, it was time to reinforce the Rat Protector. Note the concrete block in the photo below. An extra forty pounds should be enough to keep even Fat Boy’s oversized appetite at bay. But for a few days, we’ll be watching.

Moe Key Man studies the new security arrangement, figuring there has to be a way to break

Moe Key Man studies the new security arrangement, figuring there has to be a way to break

Handy Dandy

Day Three. When I brought our little troopers a fresh fistful of green leaves this morning, they began eating without hesitation. With an equal lack of hesitation and no apparent fear whatsoever, one of them sat on my hand for a good fifteen to twenty seconds, nibbling away at a mesquite leaf. The other one was willing to sniff at my fingers, but climb onto the hand? No thanks. Not today. Don’t call me; I’ll call you. Just leave the leaves.

And just like that, the rats named themselves: The hand-sitter is quite obviously Handy, the other one Dandy. So far, that’s the only way any of us can tell the siblings apart: If one climbs on your hand, the other one must be Dandy.

Moe Key Man cat, likewise sees them as Handy and Dandy…lunch. He’s even gone to resting atop the Rat Protective anti-cat concrete block as shown in the two photos below.

I don’t care how long it takes, he seems to be saying, I’ll be waiting right here when they come out!

You know I'm not leaving my post, right, Dad?

You know I’m not leaving my post, right, Dad?

Come out, Snackers, come on out....

Come out, Snackers, come on out….

Day 8: The New Cage

Since I had to go to Bisbee anyway, it seemed logical to spend a few minutes checking out the discount stores for cage possibilities. Handy and Dandy still aren’t large–in fact, kangaroo rats don’t get all that large no matter what–but pretty soon that bucket just wasn’t going to be large enough to do the job. Adults can jump up to nine feet in a single leap. While there’s no way we could manage to get them nine feet of jumping room prior to moving into the house that has yet to be built, maybe we could get them two feet.

And so it happened.

The Family Dollar store had just the ticket, an 88 quart plastic Sterilite tote, one of those you can “sort of” see through. Translucent but not transparent. For nine bucks. When I got the tote home, out came the power drill. After punching half a dozen holes through each end of the plastic for air and removing the heavy anti-cat covers from the bucket cage, it was time to transfer our babies to their new home:

1. Taking each little critter from the bucket and carrying it cupped in my two hands to the tote, I noticed with pleased amazement that neither one of them evinced the slightest alarm….until being released in the new quarters.

2. After riding in familiar human hands in perfect confidence, suddenly being in unfamiliar surroundings (the new cage) produced obvious distress. They immediately began running the perimeter of the cage, looking for cover, scurrying, worrying.

3. It didn’t take long for them to settle down, however. A matter of maybe ten minutes or so–which may be a couple of years in kangaroo rat time; who knows?

This did make us cautious, though. Our little critters do not like change. It will hopefully be a long time before we need to change cages on them again….

The cage in position.

The cage in position.

"Go! Go! Go! Gotta be a way outa here! Go! Go!"

“Go! Go! Go! Gotta be a way outa here! Go! Go!”

Why'd you stop so quick? I nearly rear ended you!"

Why’d you stop so quick? I nearly rear ended you!”

"All right, let's be scientific about this. You go that direction, I'll go this way."

“All right, let’s be scientific about this. You go that direction, I’ll go this way.”

"Well...I guess this place might not be so bad. You go ahead and eat; I'm just going to make sure things are okay up here...."

“Well…I guess this place might not be so bad. You go ahead and eat; I’m just going to make sure things are okay up here….”

Tunnel Booster

Our little critters kept trying and trying to dig burrows, but the soil inside the cage is just too loose to hold together well enough. As a result, they ended up sleeping huddled up in shallow foxhole type depressions, doing the best they could but clearly not exactly in their element. So I decided to experiment, see if I could give them a bit of help by introducing artificial tunnels.

The first attempt was one of those cardboard tubes you have left after the toilet paper is gone. Big hit! They were both in and out of the tiny, artificial tunnel constantly, although pretty soon it became obvious that one was taking over.

Try number two was a chunk of black two inch PVC pipe. We had several ten foot pieces, so a quick whack with a hacksaw, file off the edges, and bingo! Super Tunnel! The kangaroo rat not already hogging the toilet paper roll tube immediately appropriated the new, expanded condo. Happy rats! Separate bedrooms! Online articles had stated these rodents are solitary as adults, and they were clearly ready to grow up.

It’ll be best if I can locate another tote like the one they’re in, give them each their own entire cage. Unfortunately, the Family Dollar in Bisbee–where I bought that one–was out of that model today. Shucks. Well, in the meantime, no reason they couldn’t have two chunks of PVC pipe, especially since the cardboard tube soon disappeared entirely, buried completely under the dirt. These diggers are serious about what they do. So a second piece of PVC was added…

…and this morning provided yet another surprise. We haven’t seen them all day, because by the time we took off the lid to check on them this morning, they’d already gone to bed, being essentially nocturnal by nature. The surprise part was that they’d closed and locked their doors for the day! One end of each tube was completely buried and even the higher end was thoroughly blocked with dirt. Which explains how they’re able to sleep safely without being constantly swallowed by predators during their naptime: They literally bury themselves! Having never read about this aspect of their behavior in any other textbook or article, it makes one wonder if perhaps we’ve just made a scientific discovery?

Our reclusive little roomies are still very much alive even though we’re not likely to see them that often any more. How do we know they’re still alive? This evening, the lettuce had been moved–some of it no doubt eaten, and quite a bit of it buried.

So I poured out a fresh batch of parakeet seed for them to discover after it’s dark enough for them. Bet that’s buried by morning, too.

Tucked in for the day, lights out inside the pipes!

Tucked in for the day, lights out inside the pipes!

Not even the lettuce could tempt them this time....

Not even the lettuce could tempt them this time….

The Kangaroo Rats Come Of Age

How long have Handy and Dandy been living with us? Hm. They came to our attention on September third, and today is September twenty-fourth, so…yup. Three weeks to the day. And on this day, there is news about the two cuties, which comes in two parts.

Part One involves our decision to separate them. They’d settled in nicely, but the fact that they tended to occupy separate tube-tunnels as if they were members of the same apartment building but seldom spoke to their next door neighbors…that tended to make us think they were ready for a little “solo time”. Not to mention the fact that like all rodents, kangaroo rats are early and prolific breeders. What if we had one boy and one girl? The only way to avoid having to murder baby ratlets on a contiinuous basis was to get them separate cages, and lo and behold, it was done ten days or so ago. Hopefully, we thought, it had been done in time.

As the days passed, Handy (the friendlier rat of the two) became Pam’s special baby. While Dandy spent much more time denning in his PVC tube-tunnel, Handy would come out regularly. Every morning Pam would give her (we figured out she was a she as you will see) fresh lettuce, which she would promptly begin eating. The bonding was both powerful and beneficial.

At first, my wife decided Handy was female because Dandy’s cage developed a stronger odor. Boys and their body stinks, right? So by default, Handy had to be a not-bad-smelling girl rat. Which she proved last night by jumping endlessly in her cage, bumping her little head against the top. Apparently she’d been doing this for about three days–according to Pam, though I hand’t realized–but last night things came to a head.

“I think she’s in heat,” I told my lady. “We’re going to have to release her, let her fulfill her biological imperative.” Or words to that effect.

Neither of us dared release her during the night, however. That’s when the predators, including rat eating snakes of all sorts, are most active. No way. So after I went to bed in my shed, Pam cried for four or five hours until dawn arrived, heartbroken at the prospect of losing her favorite ratlet. Knowing it was the right, the only thing to do…didn’t help much.

After Pam called me at daybreak, we lugged the tote full of red hot amorous kangaroo rat and about 120 pounds of dirt out to the…uh..dirt. It didn’t take our girl long to say thanks, grab one last nibble of lettuce and scoot scoot scoot to her native habitat.

You go, girl.

Which leaves my Pammie with her slightly stinky boy rat. Story of her life, if I’m not mistaken.

This looks different. Think I'll stick my head out of the far end of the tube-tunnel and see what's up.

This looks different. Think I’ll stick my head out of the far end of the tube-tunnel and see what’s up.

I'll be there in a minute, Mom.

I’ll be there in a minute, Mom.

Or maybe not. I need to hide in the tube and think about this.

Or maybe not. I need to hide in the tube and think about this.

Hey, Dad put me out on the ground, right in my tube! I'm still hiding, but I think I'm impressed.

Hey, Dad put me out on the ground, right in my tube! I’m still hiding, but I think I’m impressed.

One last nibble of Mom's lettuce....

One last nibble of Mom’s lettuce….

...and I'm OFF!!

…and I’m OFF!!

(scoot) under the camp trailer ...(scoot) under the Subaru ...and finally (scoot) under the big mesquite tree in our front yard, perfect kangaroo rat turf. Happy times!

(scoot) under the camp trailer …(scoot) under the Subaru …and finally (scoot) under the big mesquite tree in our front yard, perfect kangaroo rat turf. Happy times!

Final Update: October 18, 2009

We returned our remaining little kangaroo rat to the wild today. Sorry, no photos of the release. The camera was full up at the time, we needed to get it done, and…. I will say, after reviewing the photos of the female’s release, that Dandy (the boy rat) had grown magnificently larger and was a stunningly beautiful, mature specimen as he hit the street. Er, land.

We took him out by the mesquite tree shown in the above photo, carrying him in his PVC “sleeping tube”. Since he didn’t know what was going on, he of course didn’t want to leave the safety of his plastic “burrow”. When I finally spilled him out, gently and tail first, he huddled close to our hands for a time and then took cover between my legs to figure out his next move. We’d decided it was time for him to go just minutes earlier after Pam reported he’d no longer let her touch him, and it turned out we were right.

His first big move was to take off away from the mesquite, out over the open terrain, vulnerable to a raptor that way–but of course we were both keeping a sharp watch. He moved in long, low, patented kangaroo rat leaps, some zippety-hops as long as six feet each. Couldn’t do that in his two foot cage! Then he reversed, came about halfway back toward us, and you could see him deciding,

“No, I can’t go back to Mom and Dad now; it’s time for me to strike out on my own.”

Which he did. Cutting off at a thirty degree angle, he headed for the tall timber. Well, tall timber to a little kanga: Plenty of mesquite and other bushes, but also a total ground cover of many, many square feet of bunchgrass. I could see his progress by the waving grass tops for a good thirty feet “inland”, and then we lost contact.

Pam cried a lot.

22 thoughts on “How To End Up with Pet Kangaroo Rats

  1. Thanks for the article. I’m stuck with a baby kangaroo rat brought in by one of my cats and your article should be a big help. It’s August and 115 degrees out, so I plan to keep it until the weather cools off in October. Hopefully it will be grown up by then and hopefully my cats won’t get it. Am keeping it in a 18″ deep desk drawer full of office supplies that provide a lot of hiding spaces. Have given it a variety of food which it eats but it does not seem happy after the ordeal. I have no interest in handling it. My cats caught an adult last night while I slept and I was awakened by the sounds of torture. I hate that, and am sure the baby rat heard it all. Worst part was that the cats did not eat their victim and left it here–a waste. The whole affair makes me quite sad. Needless to say, I am pissed off at my cats for bringing vermin in and they know it. They are supposed to take vermin OUT.

    These things do tend to bring some rewards however. I saved two baby grackles that were found on the ground a couple years ago and raised them. When I let them go, their mother was waiting happily. They made it up into the tree and survived but one apparently was caught out on the ground a few days later. The other one was a successful rescue. I also fed a hive of bees all one winter and they did very well until their hive a couple blocks away was raided by bee people. The refugees came over here and tried but could not manage to establish a colony. Hopefully the bee people took good care of the rest of them.

  2. Thanks for checking in, Tom. Comments from readers make a writer’s day.

    I do know what you mean about pets bringing their catches in instead of out. In this harsh desert environment, fortunately, we don’t have that problem–because our two cats are strictly indoor cats. (Except for one month-long period when Gato slipped through a loose window screen and survived exploring in coyote country all by himself, which is amazing.) And I’m glad to hear this post may help you with your baby kanga.

    The grackle success story is really something. Good for you.

    We couldn’t do the bee feeding thing, though. My wife is one of those people who are deathly allergic to bee stings.

  3. I remember reading this story in 2012 and thought it got taken down. I’m glad to see its back up, its one if my favorites.

  4. Thanks for checking in. This story is one of my favorites, too. I DID take it down from HubPages, but only because I got this site of my own running smoothly enough in September of 2013 to migrate everything over here.

  5. Hi all, I’m so pleased to find your posts on these winsome little creatures. Unfortunately, I am what I hope is going to be a temporary ( if charmed!) Caretaker of a young one that my pup Barnaby was discovered tossing about! Poor little thing was stunned, of course, but I brought it in and put it into a small safe pet carrier with some rain sprinkled Creosote. Thru the night she dried out and completely ate the fairly large sprig! The sad thing is, though she/he is active, there is a definite damage to one side. The right back leg seems damaged, thus when frightened by light or me looking down at her, she scuttles in a circle! Obviously, I can not just put her back out into the desert wild. Poor baby. So…what now, I’m asking myself. I just thought of something though. The Living Desert is near PalmSprings, not far from here (Joshua Tree). Maybe they have a Kangaroo Rat “display” and would take her in? If not, I guess I have another little “guest” here at Fat Quail Farm.

  6. Ah, Kate, I’m sorry to hear of the little one’s damage, but happy to hear of the care being provided. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the Living Desert display, for sure.

  7. I just caught one of these about 3 weeks ago and I tried letting him go but he just runs/jumps a few feet and then comes right back haha I have him in a regular hamster cage and he loves it. Running on the wheel and sqweezing threw the tunnels

  8. Aw-w-w! That is just outstanding. My wife can sometimes go out in the early evening and call out to them (in the wild) in a particular area near one of our storage sheds, and they’ll come out to “perform” for her, but your little one beats that by a bunch. We never thought of trying a hamster cage, but if we ever end up with another on inside, we’ll surely give it a try.

  9. Yesterday I found a baby kangaroo rat climbed up the brick facing under a window on the front of the office where I work — in Michigan. After an hour it was still hanging about in the same general square footage, sometimes up the brick but most of the time on the pavement against the building. By then the sun was getting high, and the little thing had its eyes pinched shut, so I got it to climb on a stick and hang on while I took it around to the shady alley, where I checked on it several times during the day. A few times it was curled up on tufts of poplar seeds that accumulate between the air conditioning units standing back there, apparently snoozing.

    The AC units gave good refuge when we had a sudden violent 30-second cloudburst!

    At the end of the day, with no success in locating a knowledgeable facility that could care for it, I brought it inside in a box that had been emptied of its ten reams of copy paper. It had a run of brown paper towel to give better traction, and an empty tube from the kitchen paper towels. I was unable to attend to it for several hours, because my mother was coming home from hospital that evening, but when I returned for the night shift at work I brought some hamster nesting material, some mixed tiny bird seed, and a packet of the goat milk formula for syringe feeding.

    We made it through night one, with a heater on in the room and status checks every few hours or less. Although I initially handled little “Skeezix” wearing latex gloves, I decided that maybe the warmth and feel of another living being would be of some benefit, and “it” seems to readily sniff me out when I approach the temporary mouse house, and when one of my fingers gets nearby it readily grasps for it and begins climbing up. It wanders around the hands, exploring and tasting. The little mus-mus spent several hours of the night burrowed in the hamster bedding, but it seems infinitely content to curl up in my cupped hands (which is highly impractical for me when I’m supposed to be on the clock and working!).

    I am not at all confident in my ability to take care of this infant, and I realize that the prognosis is probably not very favorable, but we at least have some positive news: Skeezix is up exploring the box this morning, eyes wide open, and with a full set of snout whiskers — where there was not a single one visible yesterday!

    Well, time to go warm up the formula, clean a couple of micropoopies out of the box, and see if Skeezix will try a little breakfast.

  10. Wow! Any chance you could take a few photos of Skeezix? (And yes, I’m definitely old enough to recognize the Skeezix name! Gasoline Alley lives on!) I’d be plumb tickled to post a pic or two on this page, maybe move your comment text up to the body of the post to tell “The story of Rexie and Skeezix”…or something like that.

    The little guy/gal certainly isn’t native to Michigan. I’m guessing somebody snagged a pair (or more) of kangaroo rats in the southwest, took them back to your state, and eventually turned them loose to live or die on their own…in a totally alien (to them) environment. Skeezix must have come to you at a REALLY young age; even our Handy and Dandy came to us with full sets of whiskers.

  11. Thank you for your interest in the further adventures of little Skeezix, but I’m afraid I must share the sad news that Skeeze did not make it. The rest of the story would only concern how an overly easy-to-weep human copes with the emotional devastation of failing the wee whiskered one that suddenly depended entirely on her for its survival.

    As I mentioned, the prognosis did not seem favorable. There were several substantial reasons I came to that conclusion, not the least of which was my complete bafflement at what to do, but the fates were not going to wrest that little one away from me without the best fight I could muster.

    Skeeze was quite active for a while yesterday morning, exploring his temporary lodging (and, I suspect, mostly looking for a way to escape), and “he” still consistently reacted with apparent recognition and excitement when my fingers came near, and always climbed up and found some kind of little happy spot in my hands that he did NOT want to be set down from. He never tried to run up the arm to make a break for freedom — he just explored, tasting as he went, and then cuddled up with my fingers.

    If I were not so burdened with a job that for so long has required at least 75 hours a week from me so I don’t fall further behind, and if I were not still so unexplainably exhausted from the flu I caught visiting my mother in the hospital in March, and from the nearly double amount of driving I have to do ever since then, I would have liked to just keep Skeeze cupped in my hands for as long as he wanted. But I feared dropping off to sleep sitting in an uncomfortable office chair, then waking up a few hours later and having to figure out where he took off to!

    With all that activity, I thought maybe I would be able to release Skeezix by Sunday, except that he still did not seem to recognize seeds as food. He took only a little taste of the 9am formula feeding, however, and ate nothing of note after that.

    I packed up all the animal care gear and took it, along with a box of work, to attend to me mum, as well as Skeezix, for the mid-day and afternoon. The mouse house was placed on a chair on the back patio, out of the usual paths the neighborhood cats follow through the yard, and I checked on little Skeeze every 15 to 30 minutes. At noonish he was under his burrowing material, apparently snoozing as usual; by 12:30 his wee mortal coil was lying under a rumpled paper towel (his original temporary “bedding”), but little Skeeze’s self was gone to Kangaroo Rat Heaven.

    Your site here helped me to identify what the little being was that I found in front of the office Friday morning. I, too, was surprised to find such an out-of-range varmint. But when I mentioned to our receptionist what I apparently had found, she said, oh yeah, they had one of those at her house as a pet several years ago, but it had become so nasty that they had to give it up. (How? When? I did not ask.) Since this office building is merely the width of a one-lane tarmac alley from the down-slope to a very biologically active pond connected to swamps and woods, I’m not surprised we would at some point find people’s released pets, or their offspring.

    I’m sorry I took no pictures of the little mus-mus during his brief stay here. My 35mm camera has never done well with extreme close-ups — in fact, it is pretty notoriously BAD at close-ups, despite the beautiful work it does on, well, EVERYTHING else — and I have never had time to read how to work the digital camera I got for my birthday a couple of years ago after I could no longer buy Kodak film. (Fuji film? Bleh.)

    Now back to the night shift. Wishing you all well, on behalf of my little sidekick-for-a-day …

    Rexie sans Skeezix

    P.S. Oh — I have never seen a “Gasoline Alley” comic strip, but on the top shelf of the bookcase at the end of the hall in my parents’s house, right under the ceiling, where it has been ever since I was a young child, is a “Nina & Skeezix” book. Which I never read.

  12. Thanks for the Final Update on Skeezix. Point to ponder, for what it’s worth: Although the little guy did not make it, he DID spend his last bit of time on this plane knowing he was loved and cared for. There are worse ways to go than curled up asleep in the bedding you’ve been given by your benefactor, your sensitive nostrils filled with the beloved scent of her comforting hands.

  13. Thank you for the little one’s possible point of view. I just will always wonder if Skeezix crawled the direction he did as his light was fading because it was toward the side of the box my hands appeared from ever since we set up camp on the patio … only this time the hoped-for hands didn’t appear to lift him to love, safety, and one last belly rub.

    Little Skeeze got to see a lot of the world for a nearly newborn kangarat, even though quite a bit of the tour was viewed looking up out of his temporary box shelter. He got to hang out at a law office and meet patent attorneys. He got to go for a ride in a 1995 Mazda MX3 to go visit “grandma and grandpa”. And he spent his last few hours in their back yard, blanketed in the fragrances of flowers and trees he may have never experienced before.

    My sweet little mus-mus, my little pal. Bless his tiny, infinitely trusting heart.

  14. Anonymous, are you referring to Skeezix? If so, Rexie was simply explaining that she didn’t “let him go”. Rather, she cared for him the best she could, but he died. At peace, protected, and loved at the time of his passing, but there was nothing to be done about his leaving this life; it was his time.

  15. Hi, there. I was cleaning out my potting bench, and found a mom and four babies inside. What should I do with them? They are so dad-gum cute cute!

  16. We agree; there’s nothing cuter than a kangaroo rat.

    I’m guessing the Mom and babies are still inside your potting bench. If it were Pam and me, we’d probably retask that item as our new Kangaroo Rat Den and make or purchase another potting bench entirely, but that approach is far too radical for most practical people. (I usually drive our green 1996 GMC Sierra pickup truck but today took the white 2002 GMC to town–because two of the desert cottontail rabbits were enjoying the shade under the green truck and I didn’t want to disturb them.)

    I don’t actually have the experience to know what would happen if you gathered your “kangra family” up and transplanted them. Theoretically, Mom COULD dig a burrow outside, in any likely spot (especially in near the roots of a protective bush or tree)…but the stress of being handled and moved might also cause her to panic, flee, and abandon her babies. The simplest and safest (for the kangras) solution would be to simply leave them there until the babies are old enough to fend for themselves, THEN clean everything out and let any remaining critters know they’ve got to find new homes. Once they’re grown to the ages illustrated in this post, their instincts for survival give them a real chance.

    Another example of our “critter tolerance”: Out back of the house, I once lifted up a piece of leftover steel roofing–which had been resting on dunnage boards to lift it an inch or two off the ground–only to discover obvious kangaroo rat tunnels. The kangras were obviously using the overhead metal as a super-safe exit area from their homes. So instead of moving the metal sheet, I set it back down, staked it down tight, and left a few more leftover bits of building supplies on top. That was several years ago. So maybe I’m not the best source to provide you with practical solutions! 🙂

  17. Hi, We found a baby kangaroo rat on Sunday, set up a cage for him and gave him food and water. He was doing great. But today, Tuesday, he died. Any suggestions on finding another one?

  18. No, Carmen, I don’t have any good ideas about finding another one. If they’re not already in trouble, of course, its by far the best thing to leave them alone with family. Our Handy and Dandy, we believe, had been forced from their nest when their mother didn’t return in a timely basis–in other words, she probably got eaten by a coyote or some other predator. So they had no choice when hunger decreed. You could always find a kangaroo rat burrow entrance and dig out the entire family, but that would be downright cruel and thoughtless, which I’m sure is not what you had in mind.

    Sorry to hear about your baby kangra dying. That always hurts. Our pair was, we think, just old enough to survive without Mama, and it probably also helped that they were siblings who could hang together for comfort until they got older.

  19. No, Roland, we don’t. We only had the baby pair described in this post, and then only until they were old enough to have a real chance a survival when we released them back into the wild.

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