The Things Our Pets Can Teach Us About Self-Care

A light brown rat sitting on someone

CN: General discussion of food and healthy eating habits, mental health, and the emotional impact of the pandemic, brief mention of bodily functions, and white supremacy. Extensive discussion of rats including photos!

Everything happening in the world at the moment is a lot and it can be easy to default to just disconnecting from current events, or pushing through without taking care of yourself which can result in burnout. Neither of these extremes is ideal. As a change of pace, I’m offering you this lovely, silly self-care article, with the hopes that it both gives you good reminders for healthy habits to practice during the pandemic, and also gives you a laugh. Rats got a pretty bad rap in previous pandemics, and apparently, they’d like to make it up to us. I’ll let Oreo and Pumpkin explain the rest.


Hello world, this is Oreo, here to give important self-care tips, which I learned by exploring the couch, reading over human mama’s shoulder, and being a very smart ratto! (My brother Pumpkin helped, but he can’t type right now. He’s standing guard so humans don’t notice me using a computer. It might confuse them.)

Mama doesn’t giggle-squeak as much since something called a pan-dam-ick happened. I understand. Icky pans must make it harder to cook the noms and treats. But we want her to smile and happy squeak more, so we collected data. She has anxiety, so she can’t search through all the human self-care tips without an overwhelm, but lucky for her, we are very observant and resourceful, and we figured it out for her! Hopefully, she will read this after we send it to Auntie Kella, and then she’ll know what to do. I apologize if I’m a bit discombobulated; mama keeps cleaning up all the poo we use to write our notes.

1. Wash regularly

A gif of a light brown wrap happily licking a human's hand.

Seriously, why don’t you humans wash more? Rattos know to wash all the time: before every meal, during every meal, after every meal, between naps, and whenever we’re bored. Maybe your pans wouldn’t ick if you washed more in the first place. Sing a song for about two good, long sniffs at the window (about 20 seconds) to entertain your pets while you wash. We like singing.

2. Get plenty of exercise

Make sure to show off your speedy tricks every day! Mama makes a giggle-squeak and tries to get a picture every time we dash back and forth across the couch, but we’re too fast for that!

I am a very curious rat, so I ate a health book; I can tell you that exercise will help your lungs be strong in case you get sick, and it will make you less stressed and anxious so you can focus on important things like grooming and digging. Of course, not all of you have couches of the appropriate size for human dashing. Maybe you can do a little walk? Or sometimes mama lifts heavy things and puts them down again? Or do a yoga? Oh, yoga sounds like yogi-berry, which reminds me of another important tip, but first… be right back. It’s treat time!

A black and white rat uses the wooden windowsill to stretch into what looks like the yoga pose upward facing dog. There are books, a decorative candle, and a plant on the windowsill and the window is covered in rain drops.

3. Enjoy every little treat

Two rats nibbling on small pieces of pancake. One is sitting in a human's lap, the other has its nose and paws sticking out of the human's sweatshirt sleeve.

This is Pumpkin, keeping up the work while Oreo noms. We wiggle and make happy hiccoughs for every treat, no matter how many we’ve already had! It’s a TREAT, what are you doing if you’re not focusing on your TREAT TIME?? Ratto treat time is a yogi-berry. Mama treat time is usually pancakes that she shares with us.

Sometimes we can do different treats that don’t require noms: Oreo likes to go splashing in the bathtub (I don’t get it! Water is BIG ICK and gets you WET, but I guess he likes it??) and mama likes to paint colors on her front claws, which we are not allowed to chew. Maybe other humans have different treat times? Anyway, make sure you enjoy it!

4. Take lots of naps

If you have more tiredness from dealing with pan-dam-ick, have more sleeps too. Mama gives us little kisses when we’re sleepy, so we know it’s a good plan. And Oreo said something about lowering cortisol after he ate that health book. I don’t know what cortisol is, but I accidentally licked some cortisone cream off mama once when she had a bug bite, and it was biiiiiiig ick! So you probably don’t want a lot of that in you.

A black and white rat curls up in a ball to sleep, surrounded by a blue blanket with yellow stars.

5. When you are hungry, eat

A black and white rat sits next to his bowl filled with food but is distracted by the camera. He sticks his pink nose through the metal bars of his cage.

Okay, I’m Oreo, back again. Food breaks are important. Speaking of which, keep the food dish full, so you can get a bit whenever you’re hungry before you get cranky. Don’t let the icky pans distract you from having good noms so your body can be strong. This is the best part of staying home! Food all the time!

5a. When you’re full, stop eating

If the food dish is always full, then you don’t have to eat it all now. You know you can have more later! Eat while you’re enjoying it, and then move on to a nice nap.

6. Snuggle with soft things

Two rats are mostly hidden under a plaid blue, white, pink, and green blanket with pink fuzzy trim. Only their heads and noses are visible from under the blanket.

The book I ate also said that humans need touch, and it’s hard being alone or separated from some of your favorite touching buddies. We know you can’t all live in an enclosure where you can sit on your brother whenever you want (have you tried it though? It’s very nice) but you can find a soft thing! When brother is grumpy, I have the fuzzy hammock, or the less-fuzzy hammock, or the towel bed, or mama’s shoulder, or the couch pillows to snuggle. I guess humans can’t sit on mama’s shoulder, but maybe you can grab a pillow?

7. Go ahead and watch the Netflix

Introduce your pets to Uncle Iroh. We love him. And we love it when the humans decide to snuggle us instead of being productive all the time. Everyone needs breaks!

At the edge of a bed with a colorful bedspread, there are pair of feet, painted with green polish, crossed in relaxation, and the body of a brown rat. They are both facing a television playing an animated show.

8. When you need attention, squeak!

Sometimes we need brother rat to not groom so hard, or mama to come save us from Dark Lord Vacuum, and a good loud SQUEAK is the fastest way to get help! Brother lets go, mama comes to check we’re okay, and everyone gives kisses. If you need help with your ick pans or your mental health, squeak at someone you love!

9. End every fight with vigorous snuggles and grooming

Humans get all cranky when they are stuck in the same place all the time. I get it! I get sick of the little hammock sometimes, and if my brother is in the way of getting to the big hammock I get very grumpy. So we have a little fight by standing up on our back legs and smacking each other with front paws. But we always make sure to do some extra grooming and snuggles after so we know it was just for play!

An animated gif where one rat nuzzles and grooms a second rat, while the second rat tolerates it.

Humans shouldn’t smack each other because you are all so big that you will get hurt. But if you smack at the other humans with your words, make sure you snuggle after! Lick their faces and chew on their hair to make sure they know you love them. (This is obviously not about stinky white supremacists or COVID-doubters. You should pee on them from a safe distance.) Always snuggle your chosen family to promise you’ll work through the little fights. Maybe just lick the phone if you’re stuck far away?

10. Come back to the right now times

Two rats pile on top of a smart phone, as if they are preventing you from using it.

When mama stares at her phone too long, reading about the pan-dam-ick or the mean cap-eat-lism, and she starts to crinkle her face and sigh a lot, we jump on her. Then she smiles and kisses our bellies, and tells us what good boys we are. We give her cheeks little kisses, so she remembers to take care of herself first, so she can keep fighting to save the world. Can’t fight as well if you’re not doing the mental health things.

I ate another book about mindfulness, and it’s good for humans to bring brains back to the present moment. Then you can focus better when it’s time to solve problems, like whether to bite a new toy or pee on it.

Okay, Pumpkin tells me he hears the humans on the stairs, so we need to fwoosh away before they learn we can type! I hope you all remember how important it is to do self-care when the world is scary. If you don’t have yourself all cared for, how can you take care of your pets and give them treats? How can you fix the icky pans or the cap-eat-lisms?


A young woman with dark pulled back hair, a red t-shirt, and a purple sweatshirt, smiles sweetly at the camera. She has two rats climbing around her shoulders and has shelves full of books behind her.

About the guest blogger: Phoebe Gildea is a performer, educator, and devoted rat mom currently based in Portland, OR. She loves occasionally writing for Yopp! and Modern Singer Magazine, but her usual creative joys are on the stage in opera and theater, where she has been praised for her vibrant voice, honest acting, and engaging stage presence. A passionate singing actor, she only discovered her full voice and started unleashing her potential half way through college, after being told she didn’t “have what it takes” by her first drama teacher. Phoebe delights in teaching music lessons as a way to help young performers find their voices and confidence more efficiently than she herself did.

Recently, she has branched out into helping folks of all ages and all walks of life find their confidence (and metaphorical voices) with life coaching. She uses comprehensive mindset tools in combination with concrete action steps to help clients slay their goals and reach their own definitions of success, and she brings the rats on video calls to help with self-care and morale. You can find more information about her performances, teaching, and coaching (and how all of that looks in the fully online age of COVID) at www.phoebegildea.com. All profits from literally everything she does go to the Pumpkin and Oreo Toys and Treats fund

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