“Well, you could always try killing her with a rock.”
Jon’s jaw dropped. Sensing his clear discomfort, the pet store associate quickly rephrased. “Or, you know, you can have someone else throw the rock.”
Jon wasn’t budging.
“A lot of people put them in the freezer and wait 24 hours for them to freeze to death, which is relatively painless,” she suggested. “But don’t open the freezer door before that time; otherwise you’ll have a very angry rat.”
At this point, Jon realised he was talking to a sadist. “If you feel bad, you can always put in a little blanket,” she offered, despite the counter-productivity of the idea.
For those interested, Jon did not take the pet store lady’s advice. But her lack of alternatives did leave us wondering just how we would euthanize our pet rat, Penelope.
Penelope was a good egg. I got her about two years ago as a present for my husband. He’s an animal lover who was disappointed to learn the landlord wouldn’t allow a dog (which we ended up getting anyway).
Yes, it is an unusual pet for an adult, but she was intelligent enough to provide meaningful companionship, and small enough to be extremely low maintenance. Also, my stepdaughter got a real kick out of her.
I like to think Penelope had a good life, at least she did right up until the end. It is highly common for rats to develop tumours, which is what Penny got. It was a benign tumour, but it was starting to inhibit her breathing and movement. That’s when we decided it was time to end it.
As a $10 purchase, it’s hard to justify spending $100 on euthanizing a rat. Even if you do spend the money, many vets inject them with needles, which is no good because their veins are small and hard to find. The poor things get stabbed to death before receiving the euthanizing chemical. Ideally, the rat is gassed and not all vets offer this service.
We knew we didn’t want her to experience a violent, traumatic death, which ruled out rat poison, leaving her to be killed by another animal, oh and crushing her with a rock (either by us or a friend). We chose carbon monoxide poisoning, figuring that if humans would do it to themselves as an easy way out, certainly it was good enough for our rodent. With that, Jon built our little Penny an airtight box, kissed her head, put her in it (along with a piece of cheese) and sealed it, leaving only a hole to attach to the car exhaust.
I stayed in the house. This was Jon’s job (sort of like the man who takes his dog out back and shoots it).
Eight minutes later, Jon had a drowsy but living pet. The carbon monoxide wasn’t really working. He said he couldn’t stand to stick around the exhaust pipe any longer (Jon, himself was feeling woozy), but he couldn’t bring her back in the house as she was already half-poisoned.
I came out when the shovel was on its way down. She was dead instantly. Jon looked up, teary eyed, and said “you weren’t supposed to see that.”
And that’s it. That’s the story. Our rat, now buried under a rock in the backyard, died in the exact opposite way she was supposed to.
Irony is a cold, hard shovel.