You might call this rat, nuts

You might call this rat, nuts

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Tanya Durante-Rider was painting a house being remodeled in Woodland when she heard a thump, thump, thump from a shop vacuum.

The homeowner pulled out some baby squirrels just a couple of inches long.

Tanya took the three baby squirrels home and first tried bottle feeding them every two hours.

"I came home, and I fed 'em and would go back to work, then come and feed them. My husband said, 'Why don't we put them with the momma rat – she just had babies a week before.'"

She and her husband also have some big snakes as pets and raise their own rodents to feed them. Momma Rat, that's her name, took the squirrels into her cave and has been nursing them ever since.

"I was so scared she was going to kill them," Tanya said. "I didn't even want to try this. I'm glad my husband talked me into it. ... It's like she just did it naturally. There was really no thinking about it. Maternal instinct, I guess you could say."

Don't know if it's squirrel instinct or not, but the threesome fit right in with their step-rat relatives.

They work out on the exercise wheel, drink bottled water that hangs in the cage and were cute enough to convert Tanya and her family from snake lovers to squirrel lovers.

"And the snakes were kind of our entertainment before, but they sleep all the time," said Tanya.

She said she's going to keep the squirrels.

"I don't think letting them go free is a good idea," Tanya said. "We're gonna keep them here and make the room bigger just for them. And keep them with their mom and their sister."

It's not quite as perfect as it sounds. The squirrels went to a different mother rat first, and she rejected them. Another problem is the rats are nocturnal – so they run around at night – but squirrels are active during the day. So they have to wake "mom" up to eat.