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Oh Rats! Look what’s living under our back deck!

By Gary Bogue
Tuesday, June 7th, 2011 at 5:57 am in Domestic rat.

Yin-Yang, a domestic hooded rat at backyard dog feeder. Photo by Reinhard, Pleasant Hill, CA
1domestic rat reinhard ph

I have been a follower of your blog/column for many years, but have never before made contact with you. Even though I don’t own a pet rat I am very curious about what the life expectancy of a pet rat is. Here is my story:

For over 2-1/2 years now we have had a visitor in our backyard.  Even though neither my wife nor I are at all fond of rodents, we kind of got attached to what appears to be either an escaped/let loose pet or lab rat which made its home under our deck. Since it is black & white we named it Yin-Yang. Yin-Yang does not appear to be very shy and seems to be very active during broad daylight hours (see above pic). He/she (?) sometimes even appears from underneath the deck when we are out in back in close proximity.

Yin-Yang, a domestic hooded rat at backyard dog feeder. Photo by Reinhard, Pleasant Hill, CA
1domestic rat2 reinhard ph

Yin-Yan is also not afraid of Bruno, our 12+ years old golden retriever, and steals dog food (kibbles) out of the dog dish on a daily basis. In fact, the dog can rest within only a few feet of the dish while Yin-Yang is busy doing his grocery run.

This rat is definitely special. When my wife and I went on vacation a year ago and our next door neighbors volunteered to take care of Bruno in their own yard, Yin-Yang followed. We thought our neighbors were joking when we rec’d an email to that effect while traveling overseas. Upon our return approx. a month later, Yin-Yang went back again to his/her routine in our backyard. It seems that our dog has been very helpful in keeping other predators (cats, hawks, etc.) away from the rat. Assuming no predators prey on Yin -Yang, how long can he/she continue to entertain us?  My wife and I would be interested in your response.
Reinhard, Pleasant Hill, California

It’s definitely a domestic lab rat (a “hooded rat”). It appears to be a male (see large bulge at the base of its tail in above rear-view photo of the rat). What an amazing story. Lab rats can live anywhere from 2-4 years (on rare occasions they may make it to 5 years), so you may still be in for a few more years of fun. I hope so. Neat! /Gary

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