Full of regret and miss you so much

by Rita

I am thinking it would help to talk about what happened, the mistakes I made, to try to heal, and help another first time owner of a pet rat.
My name is Rita and I am a mother of three children. I am 39 years old. We have been living with my parents since my divorce. 3 years ago our pet dog passed away, and my parents would not allow a new dog. I adopted a pet rat, 6 months later for my daughter’s 9th birthday. With intentions of adopting a hamster, and at the advice of a consultant at Pet Smart, was intrigued by a pet rat. Most wonderful pet I have ever had. Shortly After that my best friend of 20 years passed away from Cancer. This little pet made huge impact on my 9 year old daughter. She started having panick attacks, realizing the permanency of death. She would go in my room, sit with Cotton Ball and confide in him. This was about a year ago.
About a month ago, Cotton Ball sadly passed away. I feel like a part of my best friend died all over again. I am full of shame and guilt and should have, could have, would haves.
Cotton Ball was scratching quite a bit and developed little wounds. I started clipping his nails so he wouldn’t hurt himself. My ex husband said he would look it up and follow up with me. To my surprise he did: said too much protein and he is itchy because of it. For several months he was “kind of” itchy, and fed him less protein. Also wrote it off that he’s just skiddish and finicky. I didn’t clean his cage often enough, and needed a companion, as I have found. Also did not know that 1 in 4 bags of bedding and food, no matter where you get it from, has mites. Had I googled any of this I would have saved his life. He had fur mites as any rat owner would know. AND I should have, being a rat owner.
One day while looking through an all about rats book – there it was – a picture of a rat that hand wounds from scratching and diagnosis was fur mites. Went to pet smart and followed directions to treat with small animal flea and tick. Consultant told me Ivermectin from vet is over rated, and flea and tick should do the trick. A week later I left for 2 weeks to CA for training in a new job. I had never left the kids, not even for a day, in my life. I was consumed with getting things ready and the stress and worry abut my children was overwhelming. Should have monitored Cotton more carefully.
A week later, my daughter said Cotton was scratching again. I begged my father to bring Cotton to a vet to get treated. He kept blowing me off about it. I did not become too demanding because of the gracious favor of he and my mother taking care of 3 small children. Another should have.
When I returned Cotton had a cold and no energy. His breathing was labored. I brought him into the vet hospital. Stayed over night, in oxgen, injections and other treatments. Brought him home, forced water with a med syringe and cheerios with syrup to get him to eat. 4 days later he was so much better. After two weeks of antibiotics he was brand new. 3 days later he was right back to worse again. Kept him on antibiotics until the end – 3 times a day. Did not use bedding – fleece blankets, washed and replaced blankets every two days, and used dawn dish soap and tea trea oil wash to prevent any existing fur mites to get to his cage. Froze his food for 24 hours before giving it to him. Sprayed the entire house,, room by room, in order to protect the family and Cotton. It was just too late.
A little over a month later – Woke up early on a Tuesday morning to get kids ready and off to school. Peeked at Cotton – he was gasping for air, his nose was inflamed etc. He looked desperate for help. He was acted like if he could get out of cage he could breathe. I brought him the bathroom and turned on the shower immediately in hopes the steam would help. Sat with him panicked, as the shower was not even helping. Closed the door and got kids ready while (escaping to make calls) begging for help from parents and friends to get him to vet asap and put to sleep. Did not tell the kids and hiding it from them. No one could help. My father had a “meeting” and yelled it was more important to kids ready for school and off, mom had the flu, and my friend had to go to work. I was beside myself that these things were more important than our pet who is suffering so greatly. Understand the flu – not the others.
Cotton suffered for hour and half before I could get him to vet. There was blood and he was so frightened. I pet him and kissed him, said I love you so much, once last time while here on earth. And after he passed away, I cried so desperately telling him how sorry I was. Cried for 2 weeks straight. It is frustrating when try to explain to someone you are mourning over a pet rat. Dog or cat passing away- people understand, and couldn’t share with co-workers or good customers what happened and why I wasn’t myself.
I am consumed with guilt and feel I will never forgive myself. I am an intelligent adult, and how dare I be so careless. Cotton was ill and suffered because I dropped the ball.
I dream of seeing Cotton in heaven and telling him how sorry I am and how much I love him. He was not “just” a pet, he was part of our family, a friend, and brought nothing but joy to the family. He never complained.
I did end up talking to 2 people at work. Both of them had tears in their eyes when they saw my pain and explained. So maybe not so crazy:)
Telling my story because I made some some very huge mistakes, and would have loved to know that so many people cared about rats, and that I had these resources. Thank you for providing me with an outlet to share and maybe get through this somewhat better.


*I love you Cotton Ball, Sorry is not good enough, and hope to help someone because of the mistakes I made with you*

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