The problem was that no set procedure had been put into place for the cleaning and disposing of the pet rat poop. I guess Scott and I forgot to discuss that…to walk Charlie through a cage cleaning lesson. Amazingly, the idea of “Rat Poop Clean-up Training” never entered my mind because after finally agreeing to the purchase of the rats for Charlie, the nine-year-old, I assumed my part in “Project Rat” was done. It was clear in my mind that the Rat Care fell within the realm of Scott Duties. I just assumed…..
So, it came as quite a shock when I lifted the plastic bag lining out of the waste basket in the kids’ bathroom and watched as mounds of rat poop and old wet soggy rat food pellets spilled to the bathroom floor near my bare feet. I recoiled, I yelped, I may have gagged. And then, I started yelling, “What is this?!” “Oh my God! Is this rat poop in here?” “What is that smell?!” “What the…” “Charlie….get in here!” And with that, all four children came rushing up the stairs and out of their bedrooms, to witness this particular maternal breakdown, probably the largest to be seen in a month or so. Charlie’s eyes were wide with worry.
Cassie: Charlie, what is this? What did you do here? There’s tissue upon tissue of…of….goop. Is this rat poop, rat food? What the Hell is this?
Max: Does it really matter?! Whatever it is, it smells awful.
Cassie: Button it. I’m not talking to you.
Chloe: When the rat food pellets get wet, they stink. I don’t think that’s poop. That’s rat food that got wet.
Cassie: How do you know? Were you a part of this?
Charlie: She was helping me, Mom. When we take the rats out for their playtime (they have to have play time or they get depressed and can do destructive behavior), they poop a little. We used the wet ones to pick up the poop from the floor in my room and then we threw them out here in the bathroom.
Cassie: I see. Did you notice that this trash can here was overflowing with these wipes…that your clean-up efforts are, um, spilling over? And now the plastic bag has torn and this CRAP IS EVERYWHERE. Why does it smell so bad?! Are you sure that’s not poop?
Charlie: No. The rat poop is in small little pieces…it’s not all smeary like this stuff here. Chloe’s right, that’s wet food.
Chloe: Some of the rats’ food pellets got wiped up too, I guess. The food pellets are really gross when they get wet.
Cassie: Yea, no kidding. Where’s your father? I’m not doing this one. No way am I doing rat clean-up! No way, no how. Your pets….your problem! Charlie, get a new trash bag and start picking this…this…this …disgusting rat mess up. Then, you’re going to have to wash the floor in here. I mean it. Clean it from top to bottom. I’ll get the mop and pail. Stupid rats.
Genevieve: Is she going to kill the rats?
Max: No. Mom’s just having one of her fits. Go back to your room and read a book. Stay out of the way.
Cassie: What the Hell with this mess, Scott? Up in the bathroom. You’ve got to go help Charlie clean up the disaster in that bathroom. I’m not doing it. I flatly refuse. Didn’t you come up with a procedure? Didn’t you clean the cage with him…the first time? He can’t do all that on his own. You have to guide him. I told you when you got these things, that I would have nothing to do with them. I am certainly not cleaning up after them. Sooooo disgusting….something about the food smells so bad when it gets wet. The wicker wastebasket in the bathroom will have to be thrown out.
Scott: Calm down…What are you talking about?! Jesus, take a breath! Anger management.
Cassie: Shut up about anger management.
Scott: What is the problem?! The rats?! They pooped all over his room?
Cassie: No. There’s poop, or some sort of rat business, that spilled from the trash ALL OVER THE BATHROOM! Charlie and Chloe tried to clean up after a play session with the rats and the plastic bag in the wastebasket was overflowing and the bag broke and this awful smelling rat mess spilled everywhere.
(I’ve been filling up a bucket with sudsy water. I lift the pail out of the sink, gingerly, so as not to slop water over the sides. I set it down on the floor in front of Scott where he and I stand in the kitchen. I stomp over to the laundry closet and pull out the floor mop and hand it over brusquely to my husband.
Cassie: Here. Go clean the bathroom. I’m not doing it.
Scott (rolling his eyes, then squinting): Nice. Barking out orders. Blowing this way out of proportion, as usual, Cass. Rats are very hygienic animals.
Cassie: Oh yeah? Go take a look at the bathroom.
After I had calmed down (it took a good amount of time) and the bathroom floor had been scrubbed, the wastebasket – as well as all the wipes, tissues and old rat food from within – had been disposed of, Scott dug out a plastic wastepaper bin from his wood workshop and carried it up to Charlie’s bedroom. Scott had lined the borrowed bin with many layers of plastic bags and he set it beside the rats’ cage. I followed him up the stairs, subdued, feeling embarrassed about my outburst. I went down the hallway to survey the bathroom. The floor still had patches of wet. The venting fan was blowing and even though the smell of wet rat food lingered, it wasn’t as strong, somewhat masked now by a scent of all natural evergreen cleanser. I could hear Max talking to Charlie in his bedroom.
Max: She’ll get over it soon, Charlie. Don’t worry. She just doesn’t like mess. You know that.
Charlie: She changed all our diapers like a million times when we were babies. She cleans up the dog’s poops every day. How bad can these little rat poops be?
Max: It’s rats, little man. It’s because it’s rats.