Photo by Elizabeth Anderson
Sophomore Trinity Legill walks into the reptile show late February, in hopes of purchasing her first snake. But as soon as she started playing with the rats, her intent deserted her, and she bought the seventh and eighth rats of her life, Pam and Juliet.
Neither of her parents find the pet rats in any way unsettling, due to the family history. Legill’s grandmother owned a pet store that her mother grew up working in. This allows Legill to be unashamed of her rodent relationships since she got her first pair of rats when she was 10 years old.
Legill walks her two dogs daily, but not without the rats. She slips Pam and Juliet into her sweatpants pockets, and while she plays fetch with the dogs, they play in her lap. She began carrying them in pockets when they wouldn’t cooperate with rat leashes, often slipping out and falling behind. The park is not only place the rats accompany Legill–they also tag along to swim practice and even school.
Half of the swimmers don’t accept the rats, only because of stereotypes Legill says. The others will get in a line to hold the pets. They never bite, so she never worries about people holding Pam and Juliet. She brings them in a travel cage so they can “chill out” while the she and the rest of the swimmers complete their sets. Last year her rat, Lasser, was the team mascot. He attended practice regularly. Lasser passed last year due to bad lungs. She hopes to bring Pam and Juliet as much as Lasser.
Along with park visits and swim practices, the rats will accompany Legill on errands to the grocery store, and sometimes even school. She slips the rodents into her pockets for the comfort of being able to pet their heads during a chemistry test or a boring lecture.
“I probably take them more places than I should,” Legill laughed. “At school, they’re really just a great stress reliever.”
Pet stores are typically a no-go for buying rats because they’re less cared for, usually spreading illnesses which cause tumors, according to Legill. She had purchased rats from PetStop in the past, but they only lived for about two years, when her previous ones from breeders had lived for four.
When it’s time for Legill to adopt new pets, she revisits the Craigslist search bar only to have “Baby rats” auto-suggested. This is how she finds the best local breeders. She then finds the contact information to find the breeder’s house address, where she can pick out the rats from their homes.
“Breeders know what they’re doing,” Legill said. “They actually care for the rats and feed them the right food.”
Proud of their intelligence, she enjoys training her rats in her free time. Through trial and error, a training tactic she developed is scooping peanut butter onto a finger, and calling their names. When one responds to their name, they get the peanut butter.
Three of her best friends share the love for her rats and are comfortable with Legill taking them everywhere. But three of them will absolutely not touch them — they think they’re disgusting — period.
“They creep me out in a way — when they crawl everywhere and how their tails move,” Legill’s friend sophomore Carly Hendrickson said.
But Legill is fine with it. More time for her.
“Sometimes I think, ‘Oh gosh, people are going to think of me as that weird rat girl’, but I don’t really care, they make me happy,” Legill said.