Sorensen isn’t just a verbal defender of the maligned beast. The downtown resident has also become a low-cost-housing provider for the scurrying, furry four-leggers.
Sorensen saves domestic rats from death by arranging new loving foster parents who offer shelter, food, attention, care and just about everything short of a university education.
So how did Sorensen become a benevolent Pied Piper? Was it a result of growing up on a farm in Newmarket, Ontario? Or perhaps some genetic predisposition of her Danish ancestry?
“I got a rat when I was in university,” she says. “I was a little punk girl and thought it’d fit my image. She was a great little pet and died in an unfortunate accident with the neighbour’s dog. I didn’t replace her. Which was okay, because back then we didn’t have the information of how to look after them. I was doing everything wrong. I was providing it with seed mix, which is like eating McDonald’s every day.”
Nowadays Sorensen’s downtown apartment is home to 10 rats, which her live-in boyfriend has deemed the limit. She describes one favourite as “a dentist – he’ll run up your chest, pull your lips apart and look into your mouth to see what you are eating.”
And she heartily recommends that normal civilians consider getting rats as pets, assuming they take some time to educate themselves on how to treat the beasts, with four being a manageable gang. “It’s not fair to have only one, and four isn’t much more work than two,” she says.
On a good week she’ll find homes for five or so rats that need new shelter through the www.openmediagroup.com/smallvictories Web site, where about 30 rat and mouse enthusiasts regularly participate and occasionally meet, with the chick-to-guy ratio being high, according to her observations. “Guys are more into mice, it seems.”
Sorensen has frequently paid for tumorectomies and other operations that can cost up to $300 to help a rodent to live out its normal three-year life span. And yet she holds no grudge against exterminators.
“They don’t want to eradicate the rats. They recognize them as urban wildlife, and I understand that people don’t want an infestation of rats in their homes,” she says.
She’s also no radical agitating against animal testing. “I’ve seen the Canadian rules on animal handling, and I think they’re fair and ethical,” she says. She only wishes that the standard tests didn’t require duplication in every experiment. “I’d prefer scientists go towards using fewer animals.”
Pet rats are balls of fun, she notes, with some playful ones even getting into her pants. “They’ll scale my leg to the waistband, like they’re climbing a telephone pole.”
Even grumps like Sorensen’s boyfriend who repress their inner rat lover can be seduced. “I was cleaning out the cages and I caught him playing with one rat and telling it over and over, ‘Oh you’re so cute and pretty!'”