In memory of Gryphon.

A few weeks ago, I saw a post going around on Tumblr featuring all this cute pet portrait art done in sort of a classic tattoo style, and as the portrait prices were extremely reasonable, I decided to ask the artist for a portrait of my sweet departed rattie boy, Gryphon.

Pictures from 2009-2011.

I've had lots of various small pets of the rodent variety in the past. I've had dwarf hamsters and mice as well -- but once I'd had rats, I never went back.

I love rats. I loved having rats. My dad commented about how much this surprised him, and how he couldn't believe I didn't mind them crawling all over me, but I really don't/didn't. Many people are creeped out by them -- especially by their tails, it seems, because of the "segmented" sort of look they have going on. But rat tails are very soft and warm. Gryphon had a kink at the end of his tail because a cage door shut on it when he was a wee babe.

Rats have very distinct personalities and the ability to recognize you as their human; they don't just see you as a hand that feeds them. I have had rats who were very affectionate and loved being scritched, some who were skittish and preferred not to be held, and also a rat who went blind later in life and was like weird comedy act!

One of my most beloved rats was a girl who loved to be taken into the bathroom while I showered. She would sniff around the bathroom for a while, then get bored and climb into into the shower with me, where she would stand under the flow of water and scrub! The idea of this may weird you out -- I have no idea -- but she very much seemed to realize it was bathtime. Rats are extremely fastidiously clean. She also bruxed at me frequently. Bruxing is when rats are rubbing their teeth together, sort of chattery. It's a bit like purring; it's making noises of contentment. It's very, very rewarding when a rat bruxes at you!

All the rats at the pet store I frequented were girls, so I had seven girl rats over the years. I always had them in pairs, and in one case, three shared space. Rats are social creatures and like lots of interaction, so they do best with a cage mate.

Gryphon came to me unexpectedly in 2009, already eight months old (an adult rat). He belonged to my second cousin's wife's online friend, if I remember correctly. I had not had a rat for about nine months at that point, since my last girl had died. There was a mild conspiracy afoot amongst my second cousin's family to get him to me, which is very sweet in retrospect, although at the time, I had to "interview" with the original owner to adopt him, and the whole situation was very abrupt and stressful, haha!

Gryphon's personality was such that he was very aggressive with his cage mate, so much so that the friend wanted to introduce him to my cousin's rat to see if they would get along; if so, my cousin was going to adopt him. But Gryphon attacked the potential cage mate upon meeting and it seemed very alarming to all involved parties, so Gryphon became mine right then and there, fresh from that scrape for domination. He was placed by his previous owner in my hands and climbed desperately up onto my shoulder. There he stayed for at least two hours, petrified and unmoving. He was absolutely terrified of everything that was going on!

For those two hours, poor Gryphon remained a little stone rat on my shoulder, hardly daring to breathe, as I talked with his owners about... well, it's all a blur now. His personality and diet and my previous rat ownership and the vet they used, I think; really, they were checking me out to see if they felt comfortable leaving him with me.

Gryphon's previous owners had named him, and his poor bullied cagemate had another fantasy-ish sort of name that I don't remember anymore. Originally I didn't care much for the name, but I met him as Gryphon, had him on my shoulder for a long time as Gryphon, and I could not conceive of renaming him after that. In the years since, I love his name as much as I loved him.

Gryphon was very well-socialized. Despite the fact that he couldn't have a cage mate due to his crazy aggression, with people he was extremely sweet. He liked meeting people and was very curious about others. Usually boy rats are more chill than girl rats, and while he was noticably more chill than my busy girls tended to be, he was also more alert and energetic than your typical lazy boy rat. In his youth I thought of him as a frat boy, very excited. He would throw unwanted things out of his cage. He would relax in his hammock with his feet up in the air. (So bizarre!!!) He was excited and curious into his old age, too. However, if I set him on the floor, he would come back up to me and jump up my leg and either into my lap, or up onto my shoulder. He knew he was safe with me.

It's unusual to keep only one rat, so Gryphon was dependent on me for all his entertainment and interaction. In the pictures above, you can see how much time I spent in my bed with Gryphon, letting him run around in blanket tents I made with my pillows and various stuffed animals. I would often find him peeking out at me from under the blanket waiting for me to tickle him so he could play-attack my hand, and to this day, looking at the picture where he is doing so makes my heart swell and seize and makes me miss him so much.

He never once bit, he never once chewed through anything, and when he got older, he boggled at me a few times. Boggling is intensely weird! It's essentially when a rat is bruxing so hard their eyes vibrate, so it's a sign of extreme comfort and happiness. Look at this video and you'll see how funny it looks. My girl rats would brux at me, but Gryphon was the only rat who ever boggled at me.

Gryphon was my last rat, and died of old age in 2011. I would like to have another rat or two someday, although they are commitments like any other pet, and can take up time, space, and money. But I bonded with Gryphon particularly strongly and that is why I wanted to get a portrait of him.

Thank you, Dobby Doodles! The artist is wonderful and ever since receiving this art I have been thinking of Gryphon so much.


  1. That was a lovely post. I have always wanted a pair of pet dumbo rats - they are a lot smarter than people realize.

    1. Thank you, Olive! I absolutely recommend dumbo rats! I'm very fond of them! Their ears are so cute.