being a mom

As A New Rat Mom, This News Report About A Boy Dying From ‘Rat Bite Fever’ Is So Upsetting

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shutterstock_118785409All animals can carry diseases. Dogs, cats, those totally disposable and creepy little hermit crabs parents buy for their kids when they don’t want to get them a real pet, but this report about this poor little boy dying after his parents got him a new rat is totally freaking me out, because you may remember, I also have a new rat. I feel so sad for the family of Aidan Pankey, and the news report from The Denver Channel says that Aidan loved his pet rat Oreo and would take it for rides on his shoulder just like my own kids do. The little boy purchased a new rat at Petco because he wanted Oreo to have babies and it was the new rat that had the rare but infectious disease. Aidan was just ten-years-old, and:

Aidan became sick on a Monday, two weeks after the family bought Alex, and died the next day.

“We didn’t know why for a couple of months,” Sharon said.

She said the medical examiner sent the male rat to the CDC and it came back positive for Rat-bite fever.


According to the news report, a vet can test a rat for the disease (which I will totally be doing with our rat) but to be totally honest I never even considered getting our rat tested for something like this because I think I sort of blindly assumed all rats raised for domestic pets would be disease free. Heartbreaking.

The Pankey family is filing a lawsuit again Petco claiming various causes of action for strict liability and negligence.

“Clearly there were not sufficient safety procedures in place at Petco when they sold this rat,” the family’s attorney, Hamilton Arendsen of Gomez Trial Attorneys, said.

Researchers from one of the largest labs in the country said a breeder would have to test eight rats to be 95 percent certain a colony of 100 rats or more did not have the disease.

They said it would cost around $40 per rat to run a test just for Rat-bite fever, though other tests could be performed at the same time for an additional cost. A rat costs between $6 and $11 at Petco.

I’m feeling like such a bad mom because I didn’t even consider this, truly. I’m not sure if all of you who have rats or who previously owned rats as pets had them tested for this disease, or if you were like me and just assumed that your seemingly healthy rat was disease free. I know the disease is rare and I can’t even recall ever reading about a child dying from a rat bite or scratch before, but it still makes me worry. For me I just sort of assumed I would wait a few months until mine was older until we brought him in for a checkup.

This is one of those circumstances where reading things on the Internet or looking up facts about the disease won’t help me at all, because I won’t sleep well until our little guy has been cleared by the vet. I take lots of precautions with my own family handling him and I always make sure people wash their hands before and after, but considering our own rat is very fond of licking everyone, I’m sure if he has any diseases they can be transferred from saliva. This poor family:

Aidan’s death has destroyed the family. The boy’s father, Andrew Pankey, said he can’t eat, sleep and was forced to take a leave of absence from work.

“He was my family,” he said. “I’m probably down 30 to 35 pounds since then. I don’t even get hungry. I just go until I pass out.”

The family wants Petco to make sure no rats with Rat-bite fever end up in their stores and ultimately in family’s homes.

“It sounds bad but I just want him back,” Andrew said.


Now I get to spend the next few days until I can get our baby in being all worried, and there is never not a time when someone in my house isn’t holding the little rat. I really should have had him checked out by a vet before bringing him home.

(Image:Roman Prokhorov/shutterstock)