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Rat Raised by Love Birds

Katrien Smit Johannesburg - Rottie the rat thinks he is a bird... But it comes as no surprise when one realises that Madam and Tokkelos, two lovebirds, are raising this rodent.

Owner of the lovebirds, Connie Viljoen, from Florida, said Rottie moved in with Madam and Tokkelos about four months ago. At that stage he was still very young and helpless - but the two lovebirds took over.

"One day we realised the birds were carrying on as if they were breeding but there were no eggs. That's when we discovered the small pink rat in a nest." Viljoen said Madam initially fed Rottie bird food but they soon realised his favourite food was spinach. "When Rottie got bigger, Madam and Tokkelos taught him to eat from the bowls at the bottom of the cage." But Rottie doesn't do this often. "He spends most of his time in the nest and the birds feed him," said Viljoen.

Madam and Tokkelos are so taken with the newcomer that they clean his nest every day. "They literally take everything out and then pack everything back neatly."

Rottie meanwhile believes he is all bird. When he does leave his nest, he sits on a narrow wooden perch - imitating Madam and Tokkelos. Viljoen meanwhile set up a video camera in the nest so she can keep an eye on what's happening.

Once Rottie is all grown up, she hopes to find another baby rat for the lovebirds to raise. "I would really like to see exactly how the birds raise such an animal," she said. But Rottie is assured of a home with Madam and Tokkelos, as Viljoen has no plans to get rid of her "rat bird".

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