Who’d wear a fur coat?

Especially in this weather. Rats don’t like hot weather, and have been shown to have a form of Seasonal Affective Disorder making them depressed in summer, because of the longer days.

Our rat room is one of the coolest rooms in the house but even so it’s been warm in there for the last week or so. The rats have big bowls of water, regular top-ups of ice cubes (often with frozen fruit or veg) and frozen granite blocks, as well as a cool air blower. They seem to be coping ok.

They also now have their 16″ Tic Tac wheel, and the Snork Maiden decided yesterday was the perfect day to start using it. One of the hottest days of the year so far, and she decides to start running!

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An apology

I have been rubbish about keeping you all updated on the new girls and I apologise. The thing is there are not enough hours in the day (that’s not just me, is it?). Anyway, I’ve been trying to get pictures without using flash till they all get a bit more relaxed but that’s not going so well, so I have a load of blurry grainy pictures that are no help whatsoever.

I did manage to tweet this one on Thursday:

rats on election day

A lot of people were taking their rats to polling stations but I didn’t trust this mob to behave.

The week before last we realised Coffee Girl’s tail had gone wonky, she can’t move it very well apart from the very base so we think she’s fallen on it or something like that. She doesn’t seem overly bothered but obviously it’s going to have implications for her balance, and if she hasn’t got much feeling in it then injuries could be a problem.

Around the same time she and Leggy had a massive fight and Leggy ended up with an injury to one lower eyelid which at this point isn’t healing very well, poor girl. So lots of antibiotics for her at the moment. So basically we went from hardly being near the vets since January to two visits on consecutive days. But it goes with the territory and I would still rather have them than not.

The babies are growing well and shaping up to be cheeky little madams which is good. And this is literally the best photo I got this evening – Snufkin, looking suspicious:

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Starting again

Hello, it’s been a while. Things have moved on. We have had a break of about four months from having rats and are just getting going again.

So on Sunday we took on three youngsters and two adults from a breeder in Cambridgeshire. Photos so far are not great quality as I’ve been using my phone, so please excuse the out-of-focus stuff.

The adults are called Coffee Girl (because she’s coffee-coloured):coffee girl 22 may 2017

And Leggy McLegface (because she’s got a scar on her leg from a lump removal):

leggy 22 may 2017

(They came to us named, by the way.)

The babies are Snufkin (black Berkshire dumbo):

snufkin 22 may 2017

Little My (black, top-eared):

little my 22 may 2017

And The Snork Maiden (mink, top-eared):

snork maiden 22 may 2017

Currently I am trying to get all five into one group so they’re in a rather empty cage in the living room. It’s better than yesterday when they were all in a hamster cage, but they’re still squabbling a bit so they have to stay as they are for now. When I went out to work earlier, the adults and Snufkin were curled up in one corner:

25 may progress (2)

and Little My and the Snork Maiden were in another:

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(How cute is the Snork Maiden?)

When I got back from work, the Snork Maiden was by herself and the other four were all snuggled up:

25 may progress (5)

and it looks as though Coffee Girl is throwing her weight around a bit. The babies seem to be submitting to her but she’s in a bit of a strop at the moment. I think she and Leggy are trying to sort out who’s boss.

Once they can settle down they’ll go in the top half of the big cage, and what they don’t know yet is I’ve bought the biggest rat wheel I could find for them:

25 may progress (6)

Can’t wait to see them running around in that!

 

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News of Lias

You may remember that Lias returned to his breeder in January. Since then, he’s been doing his best to ensure he’s never forgotten – so far he’s fathered three litters. I went over today to see how he’s doing and meet my “grandkids” – the babies are adorable, of course, but Lias couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed and say hello. In fairness he was cuddled up with Ingrid, his favourite lady, and he seems very happy indeed.

The oldest of his litters is nearly four weeks old now, growing fast and very friendly.

some of litter 1

Just a few of the little bundles of adorableness

These two boys already have a home to go to:

cat's boyscat's boys again

(And it’s not us, before you ask!)

This litter is a few days old – two boys, four girls:

litter 2

And this is the most recent:

litter 3

Our aim is to have some of Lias’s offspring at some point – possibly from the two most recent litters, but we’ll have to see!

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Past rats: D.R. and Quinch

On our Memory Lane trip we’ve reached the point where we first had boys. These two probably made about the biggest impression on us, even though we only had them for just over a year and they both died young.

They weren’t brothers – D.R. was from Symphony Rats and Quinch from Comis Rats – but they were together from about seven or eight weeks old and bonded very easily. The names are from the Alan Moore comic written for 2000AD and just seemed to suit them ridiculously well – D.R. (Diminished Responsibility) was a cheeky little troublemaker and Quinch was definite sidekick material.

When they first arrived they were tiny and a bit shy, but that didn’t last long.

pair1

D.R. was always fairly relaxed about being handled:

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Quinch could be a bit less co-operative:

rats-28jan09-040

But they were lovely lads with bags of character. During playtime, D.R. would be the active one, running around exploring and wanting to play with you, while Quinch as often as not could be found under a cushion, bruxing happily. At one point we realised D.R. had invented a new game and completely suckered me into playing it. They would be on our bed, and I’d be lying on my side with my head propped on one hand. He started running the length of the bed and jumping through the gap created by my head, neck and arm. The first few times it was pretty straightforward, he’d just run up as fast as he could, but then he started to vary it. He’d try to sneak up on me, using the cushions as hiding places. Or he’d sit next to me looking casual, then suddenly run for the gap. If he was trying to hide he’d always give his position away, because he’d be so excited he’d be bruxing loudly. Of course I had to pretend not to be watching him, or he wouldn’t play at all.

24 May 004

D.R.

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Quinch

For all his swagger and his attempts to boss us around, D.R. was a sensitive little soul really. Once I gave him a good telling off for chewing the cage bars, and he sulked and refused to come near me for two days. But he got over it and was soon back to his normal cheeky self.

He became ill about a year after we’d got them and despite initially rallying, he eventually succumbed to internal tumours. While he was ill, I saw a truly lovely example of rat altruism from Quinch. D.R. was in some pain and had been given a steroid injection to help with it, but it hadn’t started to work yet. I’d put him in the cage and he’d crawled about half-way into their little house then flaked out. I filled the food bowl up – Quinch’s favourite time of day, that boy could eat for Britain – and Quinch went straight over, picked out some of his favourite bits of the mix, then put them carefully next to D.R. before going back to get something for himself. It was almost like he was saying “I know you feel rough now, but you’ll be hungry when you wake up so I saved something for you.”

Losing D.R. was rough for us but much harder on Quinch. Before the tumours started we had acquired two rescue boys, Luther and Arkwright, and started trying to intro them to the big lads. All that stopped when D.R. became ill, but after his death we tried again so Quinch didn’t have to be alone. Bless him, he was very tolerant of them but he didn’t want to know. Soon he became ill and we realised he had congestive heart failure; he died about a month after D.R.

Our next boys would be much more of a handful, but despite their short lives D.R. and Quinch were about as good as rats get in terms of personality and temperament. I still miss them, even after all this time.

 

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Ends and beginnings

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks, and that’s putting it mildly. If you thought there hadn’t been much news about the new girls, well, there’s a reason for that. And along with everything else that’s happened recently, it’s made for a lot of upset, but as you’ll see by the end of this post, we are coming out the other side of it all now. I’ll go chronologically, because it helps me keep it all straight in my mind.

So, the girls. They are rather nervous, and as it had been a while since we’d had youngsters, mistakes were made. Two weeks ago, after a month of trying and failing to get any kind of bond with them, I had a chat with the breeder and we agreed to ask a mutual friend who has a lot of experience with less tractable rats to assess them and see if she could help. The friend, C, agreed to visit on Sunday 15th. So that was on the 7th.

Also on the 7th, it looked as though Drumknott’s tumour was growing back.

Sunday the 8th, we decided that Cosmo was getting very poorly and might need a little help for that final journey. And Drumknott’s tumour was now visible, after not even being there four days previously.

So Monday the 9th, I took Cosmo to the vet to be put to sleep, and Drumknott to have his lump prodded and discuss options. At that point the sore patch left by the previous op was still visible, though healing now thanks to steroid ointment. We decided to let it continue to heal, then see what the lump was doing. Cosmo’s ladies, Dimity and Keepsake, were upset after his passing but at first they seemed to be ok.

By Sunday 15th, when C came to visit, Dimity was much weaker and Keepsake was starting to get frail too. She was eating, but struggling to hold food and often looked unhappy and in pain. C assessed the three little girls and then we decided it was best if she took them to work with them in her home, as I was now not able to put my hands anywhere near them.

So within a week, we were four down.

Monday 16th, Dimity and Keepsake were not coping. Vet trip. Both put to sleep. Just the boys left.

Wednesday 18th, Drumknott had an appointment to check his wound. As it had now healed but the lump was still growing, we had another chat about options and felt that he was otherwise healthy, chest clear, no indication of internal tumours, so we would have another lump removal and send it away for testing to see if there was anything we could do to slow its growth. We booked him in for the following day.

Thursday 19th. Took Drumknott in for surgery, went to work. Rang as instructed at about 1pm, he was coming round but still a little groggy, and I arranged to pick him up at 5. Just after 3.30 the vets rang to say he had started to struggle and they didn’t think he was going to make it. I rushed up there but he had passed by the time I got to him. Our vets are wonderful, by the way, and were amazing throughout the whole business.

So I brought him home and showed Lias (he checked him out, came to me for a cuddle, then decided Drumknott wasn’t going to need the food in his hospital cage so there was no sense in wasting it. That’s my boy). And I rang the breeder, S, who had given them to us in 2015 to be friends for Cosmo. We agreed she would take Lias back and find him some company. So we did that today. He has gone in a nice cage with a pretty little girl and we hope he’s going to make some lovely babies, and maybe we can have some of them. S had said before that she might want to borrow the boys for breeding from so I guess it was always at the back of her mind. Once he’s done his duty he’ll go in with some other boys and live out his days. He’s not too far away so we can go and see him.

Also today we buried the four who passed. Cosmo has a nice spiky thing I can’t remember the name of, the girls are sharing a big terracotta pot with a dwarf rhododendron, and Drumknott has a blue pot with a dwarf azalea.

rat-burials-21-jan-2017

Eight to zero in two weeks. What happens with the little girls remains to be seen and depends on how they do in “finishing school”. In the meantime we are taking the positive view that it gives us breathing space – especially in the last two years we have been reacting a lot to losses, trying to provide company for lone rats, rather than getting rats we want to be part of healthy groups. We can take stock now and think about what we actually want. On a more practical level, with the cages empty we can clear out the clutter and accumulated stuff that we’ll never use, deep clean everything, and redecorate the rat room, so when we do start again it’s a fresh start in every sense.

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Season’s Greetings

Whatever you celebrate, assuming that you do, I hope you have an enjoyable festive season. Or as Drumknott says:

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