Humane Society's Rat Babies Steal Hearts Across the Web | 802 Much | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Humane Society's Rat Babies Steal Hearts Across the Web

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Polly and her babies - COURTESY OF MOUNTAIN DOG PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Courtesy Of Mountain Dog Photography
  • Polly and her babies

It's a tale as old as time: Polly shared a cage with Tony because their previous owner thought Polly was a boy. Eleven babies later, it became clear this was a mistake.

Polly, a rat, gave birth earlier this month at the Humane Society of Chittenden County, where her unexpected journey to motherhood has made her Vermont's latest — and most unlikely — online sensation.

The photo that earned her viral fame shows an ultrasound wand pressing up against her swollen belly. Her eyes are wide, as if her pregnancy were as much news to her as everyone else. The photo was posted to the humane society's Facebook page and quickly scurried around the internet. One tweet from @flyrainbowcorn, captioned "RAT ULTRASOUND," got more than 100,000 likes.

Erin Alamed, the humane society's director of volunteer and community outreach, said staff performed the exam after confirming Polly's sex and noting that she "was looking quite large." She gave birth the following day and spent the next couple of weeks in quasi-isolation. Members of the order Rodentia undergo much stress during birth, Alamed said, and are therefore best left alone.

When Polly was finally ready for visitors, staff members were thrilled to discover all 11 bundles of joy had survived. "We were definitely preparing to lose a couple," Alamed said.

To celebrate these tiny lives — and Polly's newfound fame — the humane society's longtime volunteer photographers staged a maternity shoot, placing the rats inside a wicker basket. The image, which has been shared hundreds of times since the nonprofit posted it on Monday, shows Polly seated squarely in the basket while her litter crawls every which way. One particularly daring ball of fur is using a sibling's tail to rappel from the top of the basket.

The humane society will eventually split the rats up by sex to avoid further mistakes, then put them up for adoption in pairs. There appears to be no shortage of takers; numerous people have inquired after seeing the photos.

"There definitely is a need," Alamed said. "People love their rats."

The original print version of this article was headlined "Rats! A Love Story"

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