It was a strange Christmas kiss.
Actually, it was a lick — from a hairless rat in a Santa suit.
He even had a red felt cap with white trim on his wrinkly bald head.
Rufus didn’t seem to mind the Christmas get-up at all.
In fact, he played the part perfectly.
Sitting on 12-year-old Rebecca Dunstan’s knee, he gave a little wink.
And there was a trademark Santa twinkle in his coal-black eyes.
The suit was more of a red felt cloak, with a gold belt that attached under Rufus’s pale, creased belly.
“One of my mom’s clients made it for him,” said Rebecca, whose mom styles hair at Kutters.
“It’ll be his first Christmas,” she added, rubbing his soft cheek.
Sadly, Rufus will only live for two of them, if he’s lucky.
“They die after two years,” said Rebecca.
“Usually from cancer.”
Before Rufus, the Dunstans’ only pets were fish.
“My sister Ellysse is allergic to pet hair and saliva,” said Rebecca.
“We tried all breeds of dogs that were supposed to be non-allergenic, but she reacted to them all.”
Then, one day, Rebecca’s mom was in Duffy’s buying fish food.
“They said, ‘Have you tried one of these?’” said Rebecca.
“And she said, ‘What is it?’”
It was Rufus.
“He has no hair and no saliva,” said Rebecca.
“So he has to drink lots of water.”
Duffy’s originally brought the rats in for a local woman suffering arthritis, said Rebecca.
“Their body temperature is 104 degrees,” she said.
“And the woman keeps them on her shoulders.”
It sounds a little weird — but whatever works.
With a feverish body temperature, Rufus must have been roasting in his cozy suit.
Maybe that’s why he looked so sleepy.
But when Rebecca offered him cheese, he perked right up.
“He runs all over the house,” she said.
“He was potty-trained in four days, and house trained in seven.”
He only goes to the bathroom in his dish, she said.
Is it easy to potty-train a rat?
“He actually pot-trained us,” said Rebecca.
“He refused to go in his cage until we put the dish in there for him.”
Rufus eats veggies, fruit and dog food.
“And he’s crazy about popcorn,” said eight-year-old Ellysse.
“But he can’t eat butter or salt — it gives him a shorter life,” added Rebecca.
That probably means all the cookies and eggnog on Christmas Eve won’t be good for this Santa either.
But then, rats are hardy.
Even when they’re hairless.