Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

In Other Words: “My Husband Put Our Pet Rat in the Freezer”

Rat-RemovalThis “Dear Prudence” letter appeared earlier this month in Salon:

I asked my husband to take our ailing rat to the veterinarian to be euthanized last Thursday. The rat was almost 2 years old and had a tumor on its mouth, but it was still a friendly animal that was so gentle. When I came home from work, he said he had “taken care of it.” It turns out he froze the rat in our deep freeze. I have been crying and grieving over this all weekend. We are barely speaking. He loves animals and didn’t think this would hurt the rat. He later apologized to me via text message. I am heartbroken. I am trying to be forgiving, but this is so awful that I don’t even feel like I can reach out to friends to discuss it. How do I get past this?


You can read Prudie’s advice here. And here’s mine:

Oh, hell no. He put your pet in the freezer?!?! When I first read the title of this letter, I thought your husband put your dead rat in the freezer, like, after it was euthanized, to preserve the body for some reason. Like, maybe he wanted to have it taxidermied or something, which is still creepy and pretty freaky, but not necessarily cruel. Except, maybe, to the person — you, I guess — who opens the freezer to get a popsicle or maybe a pint of Haagen Daaz to help ease your grief in losing your pet and then finds it, unexpectedly, wedged between the ice cream and some frozen ground beef. But, your husband put your rat in the freezer while it was still alive?! He thought that was an appropriate way to euthanize the poor guy? Hell, no.

You need to take your husband to get his head checked. Has he ever exhibited signs of losing his mind before? Regardless, putting a living animal in the deep freeze is a big sign that something is off. And then the fact that he apologized over text. Like, he couldn’t even be bothered to dial you up and say sorry for freezing your rat. It’s all so disgraceful!

I say get your husband to a doctor to have his head checked, and then get yourselves to therapy so you can hash this out. Because, truly, if freezing the family pet isn’t grounds for divorce, apologizing for it in a text message certainly could be…


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

38 comments… add one
  • juliecatharine September 28, 2015, 12:43 pm

    The only thing I can possibly think of is that the LW’s husband thought the deep freezer would kill the little guy relatively quickly and painlessly–like in the movies where people freeze to death by falling asleep. But…yeah, there’s really no good spin to put on this. Poor little buddy.

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  • keyblade September 28, 2015, 12:44 pm

    I couldn’t get past the picture. I’m absolutely disgusted by rodents. That looks like a job for Miles the cat.

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  • RedRoverRedRover September 28, 2015, 12:48 pm

    Poor little ratty. 🙁 I don’t even know what to say. I’d be absolutely heartbroken if my husband did this to our pet.

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  • Sunshine Brite September 28, 2015, 12:52 pm

    Stories like these bring out the backwardness of the way I grew up sometimes. Small town, no weekend vet. I wouldn’t have thought this was that weird since my family’s needed to put animals down in questionable ways in the past especially when it would’ve been less humane to wait for the vet and in some cases way too expensive. That doesn’t necessarily sound like the case here but maybe he just grew up a little hick.

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  • SasLinna September 28, 2015, 12:54 pm

    What the what? “Didn’t think this would hurt the rat” – what?

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  • mrmidtwenties September 28, 2015, 12:57 pm

    I did a quick google search and see how your husband could have thought it was a humane way to kill a rat as it is common with mice for snake food and is considered humane for them. For the record, mice freeze very quickly, but rats are a lot slower and is considered inhumane. So I’m gonna bet it was an honest mistake while trying to save the ridiculous amount of money a vet would charge to kill a rat. Frankly I would have just got a BB gun because it’s a rat.

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    • RedRoverRedRover September 28, 2015, 12:59 pm

      Pet rats are so sweet though!!! And smart as hell. People are really down on rats!

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      • keyblade September 28, 2015, 1:07 pm

        These things only live two or three years. This one wasn’t even two, yet. Did they get it right away from a big fat, gnarly mother rat they saw giving birth? How attached can you get? I’d take a quick freezer death to a painful tumor death. Rats die outside all the time.

      • SasLinna September 28, 2015, 1:15 pm

        I think you misread the post, the rat was supposed to be euthanized. So painful tumor death was never an option. Instead it got a freezer death, which was probably not very quick at all.

      • RedRoverRedRover September 28, 2015, 1:32 pm

        Are you serious? You don’t think people get attached to a cat or a dog in two years? Rats are just as friendly and sociable, maybe more so than a lot of cats. I’m pretty sure they’re talking about a domestic, tame rat here, not vermin off the street.

      • keyblade September 28, 2015, 1:52 pm

        Obviously, I’m not being as sensitive as I would be if the letter writer had written in here. I truly don’t like rats. It is very hard for me to see them as cute and pet-like. I know an elderly guy who grew up in Louisiana and laments about he death of his pet crocodile who was killed by a neighbor after a storm. So I guess people can form attachments to all sorts of creatures that I just don’t get. I’m making light of this but I do understand that love takes all forms.

        @SasLinna, the husband definitely should have coughed up the money to euthanize the rat if not for its sake, then for his wife’s sake. It was disrespectful to unilaterally decide to kill it in the freezer.

      • jlyfsh September 28, 2015, 8:57 pm

        I had a pet rar after college. She passed away from cancer and I was devastated. She was so intelligent and she had these little yogurt cookies she would eat with her front paws. It was one of the cutest things ever.

      • keyblade October 1, 2015, 9:43 am

        I should have said this earlier but I’m sorry for the loss of your pet. I’ll bet she was sweet and you clearly really loved her. I’ve had a very different background with rats. But I wouldn’t have written what I did if I knew you had that experience.

      • jlyfsh October 1, 2015, 2:30 pm

        I mean I think if you’ve never had a pet rat it’s hard to know what they’re like as pets. I didn’t take offense at all. They are amazing little animals and she was super smart, she was a former psych lab rat who lived a good life of retirement eating her cookies with a view of the woods!

  • Katy September 28, 2015, 1:41 pm

    Has nobody else seen the Office episode where Dwight does this to Angela’s cat?? That’s all I could think about. That, and how awful it was for the husband to do it.

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  • for_cutie September 28, 2015, 1:41 pm

    This sounds like The Office episode where Dwight froze Angela’s cat. Did he get the idea from there? Eww.

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  • Katy September 28, 2015, 1:41 pm

    Glad I’m not the only one. 🙂

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  • TheOtherOtherMe September 28, 2015, 2:16 pm

    I seem to recall that some commenters on the original column said that in certain cases it is considered humane to freeze small rodents. Maybe the guy Googled it and got confused between rats and mice (as others mentioned here). In which case I don’t think this guy needs to have his head examined – but maybe needs to check his reading comprehension.

    Also Wendy, the column originally appeared in Slate, not Salon.

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  • wobster109 September 28, 2015, 2:28 pm

    Assuming it is an honest mistake, you can’t get over it until you know your husband is really and truly sorry, and understands how wrong he was, and you can believe him. Text apology is not going to cut it. I suggest he makes a painfully large donation to an animal shelter, the entire sum of something he really wanted and was saving up for.

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  • Moneypenny September 28, 2015, 2:29 pm

    I read the Prudence column at the time, and that totally squicked me out. Not about having a rat, but the horrible way he had to die! I really question the husband’s mental state and/or intelligence. How in the world did he think this was a good idea? And to not tell his wife about it?! Geez.

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  • Mylaray September 28, 2015, 5:39 pm

    On one hand, I find this weird as fuck, but on the other hand, I don’t, and maybe it was an honest mistake/ignorance. Now for a weird story, I had gerbils growing up and when they would die, we kept them in the freezer. And then we had a pregnant gerbil who we were told was a male and all the babies were stillborn so we had even more in the freezer. it was pretty common in our culture (one friend had a 5 foot long iguana) but now it creeps me out a lot. Freezing it to kill it is certainly cruel but j guess I don’t find it that weird? Or that they can’t get over it.

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  • bittergaymark September 28, 2015, 5:49 pm

    I had problems taking this letter seriously when I saw it last week. I dunno, we do far, far, FAR worse to rats daily as we have to in our society. Rat poison? Now THAT’s an ugly way to die.
    But since then, I saw Pizza Rat on youtube and now I don’t know what to think.
    That said, I took care of a friend’s rats for two weeks, well, I checked on them regularly and have to say I was skeeved out the whole time… They were VERY aggressive when I would change the water and food and I was constantly terrified that they would escape their cage. I dunno. But then — I laughed my ass off at Pizza Rat… I am a myriad of contradictions when it comes to rats… If only Madonna would sing about them somehow and clear this up for me. A retro 1980s dance track — sample lyrics
    “Being stuck in a Rat Race.
    Gotta get to That Place!
    Outta my way, Fat Face
    I’m a winning this Rat Race!”

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  • L.G.J September 28, 2015, 6:59 pm

    I once kept fancy goldfish and in the goldfish trade euthanasia by freezing is done though its understood that it is likely painful to the fish so generally people sedate the fish (which is actually a thing you can do) first so it doesn’t feel the pain of freezing, I understand vets do something similar with animals when they’re put down, I’ve kept snakes for years and feed them frozen mice I buy from a breeder, the mice are generally killed pre-freezing though, maybe frozen snake food gave the husband the wrong idea? I just can’t get over thinking it’s ok to just let an animal freeze to death, I understand that it is likely extremely painful for the animal.
    to me this shows lack of empathy for small animals on the part of the husband which would make me seriously concerned about my relationship.

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  • Jahaafincher September 28, 2015, 7:50 pm

    Mainly its annoying because if he didnt want to take it to the vet and pay for it to be euthanised he could of told his wife so. Thats whats like the worst thing to me. He said he would take it to be euthanized and didnt. I get if your poor or whatever. But shit man, say something. Say you think its stupid or u dont want to. Then she could of taken it herself. It was important to her and just a vicious thing to do.

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  • HmC September 28, 2015, 8:21 pm

    I hope all you people freaking out over one rat experiencing pain before death are vegetarians (especially if you’re American). You know that a significant number of cows and pigs slaughtered in the US are dismembered/skinned while still alive right? These are intelligent animals with personalities and emotions and families who experience extreme pain and suffering, to the tune of 10 BILLION ANIMALS a year in the US. The way that westerners, removed as they are from the food they eat, lose their minds over animal pain is such a massive case of cognitive dissonance it’s incredible.

    Yes I know pets that you KNOW are different. But come on. Paying 200 bucks to humanely kill a rat and then go home and eat a ham sandwich and then go online and cry about some Chinese villagers eating dogs… it’s all so irrational and massively hypocritical. If you are American and eat meat you are responsible for so much extreme animal suffering.

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    • Ange September 28, 2015, 10:24 pm

      I was waiting for this argument lol. There’s a huge difference between the brutal death of a much loved pet and an animal you’ve never met. Tough but true.

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      • HmC September 28, 2015, 11:00 pm

        In reality there is no difference in what is happening. Actually what we pay others to do to millions of animals every year is often worse than what this rat experienced. There is a difference between how we choose to frame and experience the difference between the two, so we can continue cruelty that results in our own pleasure while judging the cruelty of others.

      • lindsaybob September 29, 2015, 2:33 pm

        But even if you accept the argument that we can’t get up in arms about the rat’s suffering if we are meat eaters, can’t we still be disgusted by the husband’s blatant disregard for his wife’s feelings? Presumably he knew how much she loved the pet rat and that the idea of freezing it to death would distress her, but instead of being up front about it he misled her into thinking he’d had it euthanised as she asked him too and now he can’t summon up a more heartfelt apology than sending her a text. You don’t necessarily have to be an animal lover to see what this guy did as being pretty heartless.

      • HmC September 29, 2015, 3:06 pm

        Yes certainly. As a relationship issue there was bad communication and possibly a value chasm between the couple. But I don’t think that based on what’s described here the husband is a sick f*ck in need of therapy, certainly no more than anyone who eats pigs and cows (especially those slaughtered in the US).

        Also feel free to get up in arms! It makes me sad to think of a rat dying slowly and in pain. But also please appreciate the context and recognize that worse happens to smart, sensitive beings by the billions, simply for human pleasure (if you are in a developed country, you do not need animals to die for your sustenance).

      • SasLinna September 29, 2015, 2:24 am

        It’s a huge difference in how it’s experienced by humans emotionally, but it’s a real challenge to argue that it’s a difference morally speaking, as these animals are on the same level of intelligence and sentience. And I think @HmC was addressing the moral question/ hypocrisy in how animals are treated.

    • SasLinna September 29, 2015, 2:22 am

      I agree with you completely. I don’t eat animal products for this reason. I’m glad that lots of people feel compassion for a rat though. Maybe it can be extended to other animals.

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  • Married by Elvis September 29, 2015, 2:57 pm

    That picture is freaking me the freak out. Rats – eww. The only way it’s worse is if the rat tail was showing. Shudder. Although I agree the husband is awful even though it’s a rat.

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  • Fluffy Flowers September 30, 2015, 10:03 am

    I’m confused, when I first read this I thought he possibly froze the rat after he got it euthanized at the vet. Also did he text her an apology because a direct communication (call or conversation) would be something she would have avoided, since she said they haven’t spoken?

    If he texted her because he thinks she would avoid other forms of communication, I would understand.

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  • Nor Cole October 3, 2019, 12:18 pm

    you’re husband is fucked up for doing that. imagine how the rat felt, freezing, uncomfortable, in pain, alone, scared, in the dark, trapped and unable to get out or even make a sound, just waiting to slowly die an agonizing death. fuck your husband, divorce him. and make him go to therapy–doing something so inhumane to an animal is psychopathic. he is unempathetic and cruel.

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  • Ele4phant October 3, 2019, 1:25 pm

    As someone who grew up in Alaska and in which wilderness survival was an actual part of the curriculum every year, I was taught that by the final stages of hypothermia you actually lose it mentally and it’s actually a pleasant(ish) way to go. You feel warm and at peace (hence why a lot of people that freeze to death are found unclothed – they actually begin to feel hot and strip off their clothes). Of course the initial stages of hypothermia are not pleasant at all. You suffer, just not all the way to the very end.

    If they had been some where rural or with no vet services readily accessible, it still might be the more compassionate choice than allowing a sick animal continue to suffer until the disease kills them. But of course, this was not the case for them, he had access to a vet.

    But given the education I had, I can see how someone may mistakenly believed that this was what a humane and a reasonable choice. Certainly, even if his intentions were good, his wife deserved to be part of this process, and he deprived her of being with her pet during its passing.

    But all I’m saying is, assuming he was a good and compassionate person otherwise, I would write this off as him being an idiot and a bad husband, not a cruel psycho.

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    • Kate October 3, 2019, 3:41 pm

      I know that about hypothermia, but I can’t get behind the sentiment. Imagine dying alone locked in a dark walk-in, vs. getting a quick needle prick with your loved one holding you and lights out.

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      • Kate October 3, 2019, 3:43 pm

        Or think about dying in a hot car someone left you in. I’m sure you get delirious at the end, but no.

  • Louann December 7, 2019, 5:19 am

    Thanks for sharing your ideas! There are, however, some pitfalls in regards to practice.
    When I was a school student, I wondered how one needs to tackle this issue but I’d constantly encounter some funny responses: go google it or even ask for a friend.

    What if my friends do not have sufficient knowledge or expertise to assist me?
    What when I googled it multiple times and could
    not find the answer? That is when posts such as this one can give proper advice on the matter.

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