Are you sure that’s the Easter Bunny?

Last weekend we went to a rat show with our friend N – she who makes hats for rats. This time she had made some little Easter Bunny ears, and this was really inevitable:








Of the three, Cromarty was the least bothered. Biscay hated them and Susan would only sit still and pose if given a treat.

In other news, we have had Biscay living with the little girls for three weeks with mixed results. To begin with they mostly ignored him or squeaked whenever he went near. After a week we transferred them into the top half of the big cage and all seemed to be ok, more or less. Then Sirocco decided to be difficult and start fights, so she has had to be separated. They have seen each other at playtimes and she is now taking balance drops, a herbal remedy for hormone troubles, in the hope it might settle her down a little. We will try to get her back in with the group after cage cleaning today. In the meantime it has given Biscay the chance to bond a bit better with Boots and Misty, and he has started snuggling up with them to sleep from time to time instead of being on his own. If Sirocco carries on being aggressive she might have to be spayed, but I am hoping it won’t come to that.


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Another go at getting it right

We keep tweaking the layout of the rat room (and the house in general, really) and with having four cages on the go it’s important to make sure the space is used as effectively as possible. Biscay spent a lot of last week in the back bedroom because there wasn’t really anywhere satisfactory to keep his cage in the rat room. Then, during cage cleaning this afternoon, J suggested some alterations which would make everything a lot easier and more logical. He did all the moving of furniture in between washing cage contents, while I dealt as usual with emptying and cleaning the cages themselves.

So now, when you open the rat room door, instead of a load of boxes of comics with a throw over them, you see this:

No, I haven't put the decals up yet. Why do you ask?

No, I haven’t put the decals up yet. Why do you ask?

The big group of girls is still in the same place, in the right hand corner by the window:

SONY DSCThe two loners are now doubled up on the cabinet, and the big lads are in the corner, on top of the weird built-in shelf bit that used to have a rickety wardrobe on it:

SONY DSCSo the single level cage with the blue tray is Pinch’s and the one standing on top of it is the borrowed cage which Biscay has to live in, until we’re sure he’s safe to go with the girls.

There was a lot of scrambling around and working out who the new neighbours are but it all seems to have calmed down again now. Though Biscay is doing his best to persuade me that he shouldn’t be alone:


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Ready for your close-up?

Last night we took some pictures of our two loners during their out-time. Biscay did see the other boys for a few minutes but it wasn’t a very happy experience. Before that, I took some pictures of him:SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

Then J took some of Pinch when she came out for her little run. She is still perfectly happy by herself, as long as she gets banana pudding and a run on the bed every evening:



Though she is starting to look her age a little. She’s 29 months old now, which is pretty good, but the rexy bald patches are spreading. No signs of slowing down though.

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So Biscay had his little operation on Wednesday. This was made more fun for us because we had tickets for a special exhibition at the Natural History Museum, and train tickets to London, all booked for Wednesday, but we managed to fit everything in. Phoning the vet while we had lunch in the pop-up cafe on the first floor gallery of the NHM and asking how my rat’s castration had gone added to the generally surreal air of the place.

He has recovered well and is eating, drinking, weeing everywhere and pooping for Britain. For the first couple of days we had his convalescent cage downstairs so we could keep an eye on him more easily. He did a fair amount of sleeping and was obviously feeling a bit sorry for himself. On Thursday evening we got him out to stretch his legs a bit and also to see Cromarty and Fitzroy, very briefly. There was a certain amount of tension, and I’m not sure whether we’ll be repeating the experiment very often – there isn’t much love lost between him and Cromarty.

Last night I got him out to sit with me on the sofa for a while. He is an extremely wriggly boy, and though he climbs all over us and is clearly not afraid of us, he will do almost anything to avoid being touched or held. So initially I got him out using a bonding pouch, but he didn’t want to sit in that for long. I did manage to hold him and give him some gentle scritchings and fussings and after a few attempts he sat still quite well, didn’t struggle, and seemed to be trying to stop himself relaxing into it. When he wanted to get free and go wandering I let him for a moment or two, then picked him up again for more fussings – and this time he did relax. He actually started bruxing and boggling – I’ve heard him brux before while out at playtime but for him to do it while being held was a definite first.

This morning we moved his cage upstairs into the rat room so he can hear and smell the others, and though he’s on his own at the moment I expect he’ll have company before long. In about three weeks’ time he’ll be safe to go with the girls, so we will look at introing him to them – or some of them, at least.

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The (ratty) Social Network

When we first had rats I had very few ratty friends. We relied on books, guesswork and common sense and for the first few years it got us through. Then we started to get to know breeders and societies, and eventually websites with discussion groups, and then Facebook happened, and now if we have a problem or a question we know that friends are just a keystroke away.

Today has been a good day for showing why I’m so grateful for all this interaction. Last night at playtime a huge row kicked off between Biscay and Cromarty. At first we thought Cromarty started it but it became clear that Biscay was the aggressor. They calmed down after a few moments and went back in the cage but this morning it all started again. I managed to get Biscay out of the cage and it was amazing how quickly Fitzroy and Cromarty relaxed. Another thing to be grateful for – we are on leave this week, pottering around the house. Had we been at work, we might have come home to injured rats.

So we began to think about options. It was becoming clear that Biscay was hormonal and probably needed to be neutered, but in the meantime he couldn’t share a cage with the others without starting a fight. All our cages are occupied. He was in the hospital carrier this morning, which is far too small for any rat to be in for more than a few hours. I posted on a couple of Facebook rat groups and in no time had two offers of loan cages, one from the lovely breeder & rescue where we got Pinch & Bitesize, and Misty, Sirocco & Boots.

After booking the young man in at the vet’s for a pre-op check, I drove over to collect the cage. The pre-op check went about as well as I expected – he screamed the whole time, even when no-one was touching him. At least the vet saw his bad behaviour for herself. And we booked him in for the op tomorrow, so fingers crossed that it all goes well.

Without Facebook, we might have managed something. But it’s safe to say that right now I’m very glad it’s there.


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Gone but not forgotten

Except I did, sort of, forget to show you Bitesize’s resting place. The day before she died we had been to the garden centre and bought a hellebore which was in full flower and half price – not bad. So here she is, next to her boyfriend Hawkeye and his skimmia:



And a close-up of one of her flowers:



Pretty, isn’t it?

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What’s the frequency, Cromarty?

Pets are a bit like children. If you can hear them crashing around creating havoc then all is probably well – it’s when they go quiet you should worry.

Anyway, a month or so ago I bought one of these little gizmos - they were in the January sale with about £10 off so it seemed worth a try. A lot of rat communication is ultrasonic and we thought it would be fun to see if we could hear our lot talking to each other. I tested it out on various things – rustling fabric, jingling coins – before pointing it at the rats.


Not a peep.

Girls are meant to be chatty, but ours were either detector-shy or the only mute rats on the planet. When we tried the boys, though, we found Cromarty was quite vocal. Then, what with one thing and another, we didn’t use the detector for a few weeks.

Tonight I thought I’d give it another go. The boys again were fairly noisy, especially Cromarty – quite a lot of reaction to being scritched, but also a bit of general chatter as they were running around. The girls were the real surprise. Whether we just didn’t have the right frequency last time I don’t know, though we did try a range. Perhaps they just weren’t feeling like talking. Tonight, pretty much everyone had a go. Sam was the noisiest, either because of alpha status or because she was in heat, but the others did well too.

The frequency on the detector covers a wide range for various things, and generally a happy rat will be chatting away at about 60kh or thereabouts. Tonight ours were spot on, which is pleasing. Next time I may try to record some of them.

In other news, Pinch is still quite happy by herself. She had a bit of a chest infection but a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories saw that off. She was very good about taking her meds mixed in some pureed banana and apple, so now she still gets the fruit puree when she comes out of the cage, just because.

Sam has recovered really well from her op. The wound has healed completely and the fur is growing back. Fingers crossed for no more lumps.

The boys have continued to settle well. Biscay is still nervous but they are all much better than they were. Cromarty actually licked my hand this evening while I was scritching him. If they behave, I may take one of them to the next rat show we go to, which will be in April. Plenty of time for him to disgrace himself!

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