Musings while cleaning the cages

Sunday is cage cleaning day. Unless there’s a very good reason to do things differently, for some years now we have had the same basic routine – cage cleaning starts at around 2pm, takes a little over an hour, and is followed by a cup of tea, cake, and the Guardian cryptic crossword (if we haven’t already done it).

What started me thinking about this post was the trouble we had this afternoon getting Domino out of her cage. Currently we have two rats who will complain about being picked up – Domino will squeal but usually lacks the strength to struggle, while Luther will just be A Complete Nuisance in every way imaginable. The little girls with whom Domino shares a cage are always keen to get out and about, though Clarice can be a bit difficult about being picked up. Today, with the little ones out and Domino a little drowsy in her nest, I approached her carefully – not wishing to startle her, as she is blind – and once I felt that she knew my hand was there I stroked her to reassure her, only for her to bite me. Not hard enough to break the skin, but hard enough to make me think twice about how to get hold of her. After several minutes of her pottering around, during which time she bit me again, we tried putting Cora back in to reassure her – and she bit me again. Finally we tried one of the fluffy pouches we sometimes use when they’re out at playtime, and she got straight in it. Fifteen minutes of faff, just to get a rat out of a cage.

We frequently play this game with Luther, as I mentioned last time. Last night it took about fifteen minutes to get him out for his run. The stupid thing is, he loves it once he’s out – I think he just has an excess amount of suspicion, and regards any attempt to extract him from the cage as preceding a trip to the vet’s.

Taking the cages apart to clean them can give you an insight into what the little darlings get up to when you’re not watching. As per usual on cleaning day, the boys hid in their igloo so we had to take the cage to bits to get at them. When I took the lid off the igloo, they were sitting in the lid space – the top half – as the bottom half was crammed solid with shredded paper bedding. Now, I can understand building a nest to line the igloo, but that wasn’t what they had done – they had simply filled the bottom half with paper. There was no nice rounded hollow to sleep in. Just a solid mass.

The girls, meanwhile, had started building a nest in their hammock – I spotted this during the week, and as the weather is getting colder I wasn’t too surprised. I assume it’s the little girls who did it, though Domino has been making her way upstairs recently despite her failing legs. Perhaps she gave them the instructions. Anyway, when we took the hammock down and turned it inside out, several days’ worth of the best bits from their dry food fell out too. So someone is hoarding the little red biscuits and the wholewheat pasta.

We had decided to put an extra shelf in the boys’ cage. There are three shelves for it but for some time we’ve only used two. We added it in, then when they went back they ignored it. Eventually Arkwright sniffed it, and carefully put one paw on the edge, before deciding it was alien and running away. Luther wouldn’t even get that close. So I put four yoghurt drops on it – at the far side, so they would have to cross the shelf if they wanted them. That was just over an hour ago, and three of the yoghurt drops are still there.

Project Cage-Painting is still at the planning stage. J has to get some more Plasti-Kote tomorrow, and then we can put the boys in one of the spare cages for a couple of days while we sand the cage down and repaint it. It’s in a very sorry state, I’m ashamed to say. It needs repainting every 2-3 years and should really have been done a while ago. I just hope they don’t hate us too much for making them live in a smaller cage for a couple of days. They should be fine with each other – there is no aggression now, and at this very moment they are snuggled up together, asleep. Luther’s back has pretty much healed, and he just has a small bald patch but that should fill in again.

I have a day off work on Tuesday and plan to phone the potential publisher, to try and find out a bit more before committing myself to anything. It’s basically vanity publishing – i.e. I have to pay them initially – but beyond that I need to know what their role is as regards marketing and so on. Fingers crossed.

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