Playground alterations

Not long now before our annual holiday, which means getting everything set up for our friend L to take care of the youngsters while we’re away. The group she looked after last year have all departed, and though she has met all the current residents she has not had to look after them. Playtimes can be especially difficult, given the talents our lot have for getting into trouble.

We normally have playtime in our room, using the double bed, or occasionally in the living room, using the sofa and coffee table. Both options involve transporting the rats from the rat room to the play area – something which we take for granted but which someone less experienced in rat wrangling can find a challenge. It can be tricky enough even for one of us (J is working away a lot at the moment, leaving me in sole charge during the week) but if you don’t do it every day, it’s daunting.

Last year we were experimenting with using the rat room floor – blocking off places we didn’t want them getting into, and having rugs and cushions on the floor for them to run round. This didn’t last long and I suspect the same will happen with our current efforts, for the same reason. The boys take to the change in routine fairly badly and show little inclination to do much exploring, which makes it much easier to deal with them – with our cages as they are now, the lower storey of the boys’ cage can be left open with boxes for them to climb up and they can come and go as they please. In practice this means that Hawkeye gets in and out of the cage, runs around a bit and thoroughly enjoys himself, and Radar freaks out after four minutes, gets back into the cage and stays there.

The girls take to new surroundings much more readily, and this is where the problem lies. Pinch views the entire world as hers for the exploring, so off she goes, trying to get into corners, behind furniture, and so on, necessitating much more awareness of where she is and what she’s doing than with the boys. If you then get up to go and retrieve her from somewhere, Bitesize will follow you and end up under your feet. The result of all this is that J ends up a nervous wreck, convinced that sooner or later one of the girls is going to come to a sticky end. There’s no reason why they should, as long as we’re careful, but the mental images are horrible of course.

The extra dimension for our first attempt at rat room playground was that once the boys had been out, gone back in and had their dinner and we got the girls out, the boys had a massive, stand-up, screaming fight – probably because they could hear the girls running around chattering, and it set their hormones off. Hopefully that sort of thing will settle down. The boys are now a bit on the old side for neutering (they turned 12 months old last week) and I don’t want them starting to fight again. The last month or so thay had calmed down considerably.

So, we shall see how long this playground lasts. When I’m here on my own I suspect it will be quicker and simpler for me, and I know L prefers to manage playtime this way too.

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