A new type of playtime

Rather experimental for us! In recent years a particular method for allowing ratty playtime or free ranging has become very popular – it involves using the plastic panels you can clip together to make storage racks, but instead of making a set of boxes people use them either to make playpens or to block off areas they don’t want the rats to get to. We held off on this for some time because we didn’t really have the setup for it but when we moved the cage back into the larger spare room we started to think about it. Then some of the panels came our way, so sooner or later it was going to happen!

Today I had a bit of a tidy up and decided to see how easy it would be to make a playpen – the answer was “very”. So we put some of their usual bits and bobs in it and put all twelve in to see what they made of it. The answer, arrived at fairly swiftly, was that all twelve at once is a terrible mistake because half of them distract you while the other half are trying to tunnel out/jump over/chew holes in the panels. Anyway.

I took a couple of not-very-good photos on my mobile and also shot a bit of video, though I can’t upload that without upgrading the blog. Maybe one day.

playtime 15 sept (1)playtime 15 sept (2)

You can see how the panels clip together – they’re not the most stable things in the world and on balance I’d redo the whole thing with the clips round the other way because our lot just use them to climb up. Boys would probably be less bothered but girls just have to get around, behind or over whatever you put in front of them.

Next time we’ll try again with two groups of six and it might be a bit less frantic!

 

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Hidden talents

Today was the National Fancy Rat Society AGM and pet show. I wasn’t expecting to repeat my triumph from last year (just as well as I would have been very disappointed) but it’s always fun to find out that your rat has a talent they’ve been keeping quiet about.

I took Teacake and Penguin for the experience – they were well-behaved and the judge said nice things about them both, but the standard was very high so I don’t mind that we didn’t get placed at all. But there are also the judge’s special awards – there’s usually four, one is often “kidnapped” and then there might be curliest whiskers, best eyes, anything that the judge notices really.

At one point today the judge looked up just as Penguin managed to grab a fly out of the air! Apparently she caught it, contemplated eating it then seemed to decide it was gross and dropped it. So she came home with a judge’s special rosette for being a “spider rat”.

penguin with rosette

Well done, Penguin – a career in pest control awaits. Which would be ironic for a rat, of course.

 

 

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Full house

This morning we cleaned the cage out and swapped the metal trays round to allow everyone access to the whole cage. This means we’re pretty well done with intros now – it’s been three weeks and they’ve coped well with each new stage. For the moment the cage is fairly minimally furnished but I’ll add more as they settle down. We’ve always got lots more hammocks and ropes, plus there are things like sputniks and various “houses” which can be added.

For the moment the cage looks like this:

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The rope is a heavy duty dog rope from B&M – I bought two yesterday. They also have some very classy boxes which once held bottles of Beck’s beer – the only reason we drink beer in this house is to give our rats somewhere to sleep!

A few pictures of them exploring – Helvetica and Leelawadee both have rather a lot of porphyrin around their eyes at the moment which I am hoping is just because of being a lot of rats in a small space and will start to clear up soon. They should all be happier now that they have more space, and a wheel to run in.

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It’s been over four years since we had the cage fully accessible for one group, so it’s exciting to be able to do so again.

Finally, Mrs Spacey now has a resting place under a Torbay palm in the garden. Sleep well, lovely girl.

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Mix ‘n’ match

A week into intros and we are getting there. The girls spent a day in the small hamster cage then moved up into the bigger single level cage, with just food, water and substrate. During the day they have been peaceful, starting to sleep in mixed groups, pottering about fairly happily, but in the evening they have been breaking into squabbles. Nothing major (and no injuries) – these kinds of fights usually sound worse than they are. It did get bad enough at about 2.15am on Tuesday that I got up and moved them back into the hamster cage, and they stayed there until Wednesday afternoon.

By last night I was starting to think that a lot of the problem was boredom, really, so this morning I cleaned the cage out and added in a litter tray, a hammock and several wood chews. Then I had to go out for an hour and a half. I came back to this:

mixed group

Not the best photo in the world, but that’s two Moomins and three WingDings sharing the hammock.

Getting there. This evening will be the test, we’ll see how they are when they get to the usual “squabbling hour”, but I’m starting to feel hopeful.

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Ready for your close-up?

This is the first of five Saturdays on which I am unsupervised and left to my own devices, as J is working Tuesday to Saturday for five weeks. I’ve tried to make Plans so my days are not entirely squandered but we all know what they say about the best-laid plans (and mine weren’t that well-laid if I’m honest).

One of my Plans is to do some proper rat portraits, and as I had the light box and tripod out to photograph some bits and pieces I want to sell on Ebay, I thought it was a good opportunity. Unfortunately, only Helvetica and Bodoni were up and about, so it was a rather short photo session, and I didn’t do a very good job of setting up the scenery, but I got some good pictures nonetheless.

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To reward them for their hard work, I put the two of them and everyone else in a tiny hamster cage because another of my Plans was to start intros. During the week I was having doubts because of the hot weather – they were already grumpy enough without me adding to their misery! But we had some rain overnight and today has been a few degrees cooler so I decided to go for it.

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They’ve been in there for about four hours, there’s been a few scuffles, and for quite a while the group of seven were squished into one end of the cage, as far from the WingDings as possible. They’ve spread out a bit now and are snoozing, but still keeping to their groups and not mingling.

This may take a while!

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Returnees

The WingDings came back yesterday. When I say “came back”, they didn’t wander the 40-odd miles by themselves with little packs on their backs – cute though that would be:

rat with backpack

(It’s a Banksy, of course)

No, I went and fetched them, on a blazing hot day when the A14 was basically a car park, because I’m a genius.

Anyway, they seem to be settling in well and might even have grown out of some of their wild ways, time will tell. They could just be being a bit reserved because they’re not sure what’s happened. Next weekend we’ll start intros with the others and see how everyone gets on. I’d been worried about intros because I was still imagining the WingDings as the teeny little things they were when they first came here, but they’re 11 months old now and acting like grown-ups.

We had a play session last night, keeping the two groups separate for the moment, but both groups got prawn crackers in their digging boxes. The seven first:

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Snufkin

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The Snork Maiden

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Teacake

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Snork Maiden and Snufkin

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Daughter of Kong

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Little My

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Little My

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Daughter of Kong

Failed to get any good pics of Penguin and Nygma, unfortunately, but they were happily tucking in with everyone else.

And the WingDings:

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Mistral

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Leelawadee

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Helvetica

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Bodoni

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Group shot!

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Helvetica and Bodoni

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Verdana and Leelawadee

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Mistral

It’s lovely to have them back. Fingers crossed for smooth intros.

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What goes around

Remember the WingDings? Of course you do. Those cute, innocent-looking and utterly mad foster girls went back to the breeder a couple of months ago and we acquired the Biscuit Girls.

The breeder’s intention was to breed Helvetica and Verdana. But the best laid plans and all that – some further research into the long term effects of parvo exposure in utero has made it clear that breeding from these girls would be a bad idea. So she asked if we would like them back.

Well, YES! Of course! The plan is to get them next Saturday and start intros with our lot straight away. If all goes well, it’ll give us the big group of girls we wanted and we can open up the big cage so they have the run of the whole thing. If not, well, two groups in that cage is perfectly fine too.

In other news, the weather is still too hot, but the kids are mostly coping, with the addition of a cold air blower, frozen granite blocks, ice cubes and frozen fruit and veg. Mrs Spacey is still with us and still very keen on her soya pud. In the big group, there have been some squabbles which is probably due to fraying tempers in the heat. One resulted in a sore and swollen foot for Dolores and a small abscess on the face for Nygma. She was most unimpressed with the routine of warm compresses to bring it to a head but was a lot happier once it popped. (I hate dealing with abscesses!)

The last lot of photos of the WingDings before they went home:

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I wonder if they’ll remember us?

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