American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Jan.–Mar. 2023 AFRMA Pitter Patter e-news.

Healthy Foundations To The Hobby

By Nicole Housel

I’ve been involved in the rat community for over 20 years. In that time, I’ve seen people and clubs come and go. Any animal requires a lot of work, especially when breeding. Many people learn as they go, but unfortunately other people don’t have a tolerance for this learning style or an aptitude for education. Consequently, disagreements result in an onslaught of verbal attacks against the victim. Whether the offender’s reasons for attack warrant correction or not, the method of correction is inappropriate. This becomes even more true when the victim of this verbal assault is not present to answer back. Such behind-the-scenes attacks are cruel attempts to ruin the victim’s reputation within the hobby. Venting in private groups when the victim isn’t present to defend themselves is an act of cowardice.

My belief is we, as a hobby, need to work together and build each other up, instead of tearing each other down. A house divided will always fall. That’s exactly how the hobby is now, and has been for a while. My original article on this topic was written more than 5 years ago. Unfortunately, it appears nothing has changed other than the players. With people becoming more connected through social media, these divides will continue to cut deep for as long as we allow them to.

I believe we should actively stand against bullying. This doesn’t mean engaging—it can be accomplished through means similar to Amish shunning. If a bully gets no response, they often stop or otherwise change their methods, hopefully for the better. Instead of participating in bullying behavior, even if against another bully, we should kill them with kindness so to speak. Provide a kind, supportive, understanding, and helpful environment. Allow people to ask questions, and provide helpful answers. Recognize there are different ways of doing things, and that’s okay as long as a person doesn’t choose a wrong way. If a person does choose a wrong way, provide the correct suggestions. Then recognize where your control ends. This is not unlike the job of veterinary professionals—we can only provide options, but the owner must then choose the option. If someone were to choose the wrong options, even after given correct suggestions, bullying them will not change their ways. All we can do is accept what we cannot change and choose to move on without further interaction.

These qualities and abilities come naturally to some, but anyone can choose to be kind, supportive, understanding, helpful, and transparent. It really is a matter of choice! Why is it so important to build each other up? Because if we don’t, we will all fail. If you openly and purposefully try to tear another down, you will quickly lose support. Eventually when you need help, you’ll find difficulty getting it. However, being open, understanding, easy to talk to, easy to approach, and kind, you are showing yourself to be trustworthy, honest even. These are quality and character traits that most people see as positive, and people are often drawn to the positive. Of course intelligence, charisma, and empathy also help in this regard. I’ve noticed these traits often go hand in hand with the other traits I’ve mentioned, though not necessarily all together. By being a positive person, you’ll have supporters, which means you’ll have help when you need it. Furthermore, you’ll also be helping other people. As a result, we all succeed.

These positive traits should not be applied only to people, but also to organizations. There seems to be a desire for competition. New clubs are created to compete with older clubs. I don’t understand why. We can all offer something, but that doesn’t mean we should compete. Join the club you feel most closely represents your needs and goals. That doesn’t make other clubs bad, just means they are not the right club for you. No single club will ever meet the needs of all people everywhere. Rather than creating conflict among ourselves, therefore destroying the very foundations of the hobby, we should work together. Clubs should support each other, as people should support each other. Rat breeders should support pet keepers, and pet keepers should support rat breeders. Then we all succeed.

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love. —Saint Basil *

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January 23, 2023