Now, 140 of those “very social [and] smart” pet rodents are up for adoption.
The San Diego Humane Society said it received a call on Oct. 8 from a woman living in her van near a convenience store in Del Mar, saying that the number of pet rats under her care had gotten out of control and she needed help.
When officials arrived, they immediately noticed that “the situation was significant,” Capt. Danee Cook with the Humane Society’s law enforcement department told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
“They could tell immediately that it was huge amount [of rats],” Cook added. “They were living out of the van, coming and going.”
Videos show the rodents gnawing on the van’s upholstery and engine wire while others hid in door panels and burrowed into the seats.
Cook said the woman was not hoarding the animals and that it was not a case of cruelty, just an owner asking for help after the number got too large.
“She was feeding them well, had water for all of them,” Cook said. “This didn’t meet the standards of hoarding.”
Rats can have a lot of babies quite easily as a healthy litter usually consists of 10 to 12 rats, and they multiple quickly thanks to a four-week gestation period, according to the Union-Tribune.
It was not immediately clear when the owner first obtained her first two rats.
Cook told the newspaper that the owner agreed to turn the pets over. Officials spent several days plucking as many rats as they could from “every crevice” of the vehicle.
In total, they collected 320 animals – the majority of them were juvenile and many of them pregnant, Cook said.
A GoFundMe page set up to help the owner raised more than $5,000 (it is no longer accepting donations). The page said the woman became homeless and lived in her van with her two pet rats, which quickly multiplied.
“She is an amazing person who has had a string of bad luck,” the page said, adding that she worked at the convenience store near where she was parked.
Cook said the woman has found a place to stay since the van was confiscated.
The Humane Society said it was looking for homes for 140 of the pet rats, which they said were “healthy, happy, and ready for adoption.”
They will be adopted for $5 per same-gender pair – the Humane Society said rats are social animals and are usually adopted out in pairs. More will become available as the pregnant rats give birth.
They are available for adoption at the Humane Society’s campuses in Escondido, Oceanside and San Diego.