DISHONEST ABOUT BREEDER SOURCES, and probably everything else
So I've never had rats before, but not only am I fascinated with them, I absolutely adore them as small pets, as far as I'm concerned, even before getting Pymander and Rai Chu, I read for weeks about fancy rats when I realized I found them so sweet (I've had family and friends with rats, and now that my pup is getting more senior he doesn't get interested in small animals or anything much anymore, he's a bit of a lazy boy in his old age, so they aren't in a stressful environment, as a curious dog just coming and sniffing around would be pretty scary if I were that small), and wanted to get two rats to have as pets, as we had an extra room being taken up by an unused guest bed, and funny enough has a variety of odd furniture that happens to be mostly rat friendly (except my dresser which is their one no play area) that they love to run around and hide in, I can set up pillow forts and mazes for them, and plenty of other high furniture around the house that they enjoy hangin' out around from time to time as well.
So I decided to go online to check out any local rat breeders and what they had going, and essentially I found that most of the breeders had just finished selling their last births and the ones that were still being updated and doing business had their waiting lists already full for their next births as well.
This is where I made my mistake. So I thought, well, Petsmart of all places might have them, but maybe I should check out their record on breeding (as I've heard too many horrible things about animal mills, and have always been against such practices in regards to any animal, in fact, generally I rescue, but for a first rat I figured maybe it might be good to start from the beginning and learn to understand them better, as a lot of sources have stated that rescue rats are not at all like rescuing dogs, and require a great deal of effort and know-how), so I get online, find some old information about a campaign staged against them (by PETA and others) about the breeder/(s?) they used. So I went and checked out more recent information and such, and didn't seem to see anything to indicate that they had done anything less than stop using that breeder like they said they were doing.
So, I go in to the store, and I'm looking through all the small pets and, lo and behold, two little rats come up to sniff at me (I'm such a sucker for that kind of thing), and then proceeded to follow me across their lil cage as I walk up and down the aisle. So I go to an employee and ask them questions about the breeder, they can't answer but forward me to a different employee who can. This employee tells me, "Oh no, we stopped getting animals from them years ago before I even started working here, we only use local breeders now".....
***. Within the first day I notice the bigger of the two (Rai Chu) has some problems with his porphoryn (*** I can't remember how to spell it), but he has red around his nose, and is sneezing a lot, but once I got them home, replaced their cage bedding three times until I found one that was ACTUALLY dustless, and then let them get comfortable in their new home, while having some time with us regularly over the next two weeks, but not so much that they felt they were getting too much going on at a time, he seemed to get much better, and with a little fresh garlic (super small thin slices I give him twice a day) it seemed like maybe the porphoryn problem could at the very least be a lot better than it was when we got him. Well, now here I am, my rat is no more than a year and 3 months old (probably about half the life span of a healthy, short-lived rat), and has a serious tumor on his face and is sneezing like crazy, and his porphoryn is out of control. He's never been happier, he's had the same regular cleaning and maintenance schedule (twice daily) for the last year, he cuddles with us happily and is always trying to get closer, and all I can think of, is "Now we only use local breeders", which is interesting because most of the local breeders I've seen here in the four corners (I'm in CO) specifically keep their rats bred very well, the biggest thing they pay attention to breeding out is hereditary problems like serious porphorin production and hereditary predispositions to cancer....
SO, I go back in to the Petsmart, talk to the vet who tells me, "Yea, we've been using (I think it was "rainbow exotics"?) for a long time now, but this is normal, bla bla bla, he'll be fine, bla bla bla bla (and sorry to hop around in the story this was after the first initial week of trying to do my best to help his hereditary problems, and feeling a little frustrated I ended up going in to their vet to see if I was being told the truth by the employee), and of course, everything I'VE read says that porphoryn over-production is DEFINITELY not good, and that hereditary problems like it lead to very young deaths with rats.
So now not only am I pissed as *** that I was just lied to by the employee (although I get the feeling that that's what their higher-ups probably told them to tell a previous customer and most likely at $9/hr that's probably all they cared to find out), but also that the vet is obviously a *** *** when it comes to rats, and yet he's the vet of a pet store that sells exotic/small animals? WTF?
IN ESSENCE, these guys are awful, and on top of it I've been mostly making my rats' toys and food because probably 90% or so of their products that say they are meant for rats are actually KNOWN TO BE HARMFUL TO THEM (although I found a ferret sling that was actually okay for them...).
In the end, DON'T USE THESE GUYS FOR ANYTHING, I'VE HAD BETTER LUCK AT OTHER STORES OR GOING ONLINE, and DEFINITELY don't buy your small or exotic pets from them. AS FAR AS I CAN SEE EVERYTHING ABOUT THEIR SMALL/EXOTIC PETS AREA OF THE STORE IS A SCAM AND A TRUE SADNESS FOR THE ANIMALS.