So, this is what it’s like having a blog – that is apart from the one I used to have on MySpace (yes, I know – no-one reads MySpace anymore). It’s been something I have thought about for a while, mainly as an outlet for a little harmless contemplation on the life of someone who keeps, or is kept by, fancy rats. There is some ambiguity about who’s in charge in that particular relationship.
We’re starting up at a rather complicated time, rat-wise. The two boys have both just been neutered, so any men of a nervous disposition should probably move along. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, particulary for Arkwright who has always been the less aggressive of the two, but even for Luther. Although he’s always been Angry Rat we kept thinking and hoping that things were getting better. Sadly, they got worse. He had his op nearly two weeks ago, and the vet chose to glue rather than stitch, which means he has a big line of nasty-looking grey dried glue on his belly, instead of the nice neat stitched wound Arkwright has. Luther has also suffered a bad attack of mites since his op so is thoroughly miserable, and I’m feeling bad because I hadn’t spotted the mites earlier. Having said that, he has been barely handleable the last few weeks so it would have been tricky.
That kind of makes it sound like I don’t really try to handle difficult rats. I do. But like a lot of animals they sense your nervousness, and don’t react well if you are at all tentative with them. With most rats I can build a rapport, and they learn quickly that I can be trusted not to hurt them. Luther has never really learned this. Domino was similar when we first got her, but she benefitted from having a cagemate who had been with us for nearly two years and trusted us completely. More of her another time.
The baby girls, on the other hand, have no fear of us at all, and are only tricky to handle because of their lightning speed – like trying to pick up a wet bar of soap. At this stage it’s all a game to them anyway, and they will play chase with us endlessly. They were purpose-bred, which can make a huge difference – after all, we know nothing about Luther and Arkwright’s parentage, and their parents could have had all sorts of behavioural problems. Even so, they were born in a rescue where they were well looked after, so at least some of that should have been ironed out. Arkwright has grown into a friendly little chap, and is becoming quite affectionate, so there is something about Luther that makes him resistant to our attempts to reach him.
At the moment, then, we have three cages on the go. One contains the little ‘uns, Cora and Clarice, and the increasingly frail Domino. One (which should contain both boys) is home to Arkwright and a teddy bear, which we put in for him to groom and cuddle up to, so he might feel less alone, but which he has dumped face-down in the litter tray. On top of Arkwright’s cage is Luther’s, into which he moved after it became clear there would be bloodshed if they stayed together. The plan, such as it is at present, is that once the boys have settled down from their operations we start re-introducing them to each other. If they get on, fine. If not, we think in terms of a girlfriend or small harem for each of them, possibly to include Cora and Clarice depending on how old they are by then. First attempts at a proper intro have gone fairly well, so far, so I am starting to feel more optimistic.
So, why decide to blog about it? As much as anything, it’s a record for me – I forget things, and lose track of when x happened or we did y, so that’s a big part of it. It’s also a place to write about some of our past rats, and share some of the stories, photos and memories. At the same time, I’m trying to get my first book out there, a little book of tales of rat-ness, mine and other people’s, illustrated by a talented friend of mine. So there may be the odd reference to the trials of attempted publication. The manuscript is now 99.9% there, and I may have found a publisher (for a price, of course, but if a few people buy it I will get some of my money back at least).
What I would never attempt to do is tell people how to look after rats. I am happy to share ‘this worked for me’ information but do not believe in trying to lay down the law, with two exceptions:
1. Don’t keep them alone.
2. Don’t feed them junk food.
It may look as though I have already broken my own first rule, but the boys have spent time together since moving into separate cages, and they will have company again before long.