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.

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Just a few of the little bundles of adorableness

These two boys already have a home to go to:

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(And it’s not us, before you ask!)

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

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And this is the most recent:

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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.

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

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Quinch could be a bit less co-operative:

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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.

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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.

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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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Rat-ivity

We have just put up our Christmas decorations – it takes about five minutes, three of which are needed for polishing the mantelpiece, so it’s hardly taxing.

This year we have acquired a banner and a little rat ornament from our friend N, so they’ve been up for a couple of days already:

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While the rest of the over-the-top decorations look like this:

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The sharp-eyed amongst you may notice a small nativity scene on the right. This year we decided we had enough Solstice Minis figures to make a not-very-serious nativity, starring Quinch, Cromarty and Hawkeye as the Three Wise Men, Scarecrow, Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet as Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus, Arkwright as the Angel Gabriel and in what may be the worst casting ever, the Death of Rats as a shepherd.

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Cromarty hasn’t even brought a gift, and I don’t know what the baby is going to do with a pumpkin and a Judge Dredd comic. The crib is fairly rickety and may not last the week. Still, at least the minis are happy 😉

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New little ones!

Yesterday was the NFRS Christmas show – we weren’t showing anyone but had planned to go anyway as it was only a short way away. We’d also arranged to have three girls from a friend who breeds nice silver fawns, and it turned out that the show was the best chance we would have of all being in the same room at the same time, so it was New Rats Day!

The three girls were all born around 27th Aug (actually two (or one) on the 25th and one (or two) on the 29th so we are splitting the difference). They’re pretty much identical so when we get chance we will put coloured marks on their tails so we can tell them apart. They will be called Foible, Mymble and Toffle and names will be assigned when we put the marks on.

Yesterday they were quite shy so we didn’t bother them too much. This morning I went to see how they were getting on and they had hoovered up all the food (we are scatter-feeding them, as it’s what they are used to) which is reassuring. They were not keen on coming out the igloo to have their pictures taken, though:

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This evening they were all out and about and seem to be gaining confidence and exploring their new home:

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You can refer back to this picture to prove that there’s actually three rats.

And I got some nice close-ups too.

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I promise there’s three. This is all going to be lots of fun…

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An entertaining month

Despite my optimism last time, Hallowe’en pretty much bypassed our household! Maybe someone will wear the batwings again next year. October proved to be a month of challenges – at the end of September my mum had a fall and was then in hospital for a few days, followed by care homes until she was ready to go home. This meant her dog stayed with us, which changed our routines completely of course.

Mum went home on the 31st and I stayed the first night at her house to make sure she was ok (she is fine, but not as mobile as usual quite yet). On the 30th, at cage cleaning time, I realised that Drumknott had sprouted an enormous lump on his backside – it had come up quickly and was very hard so I could only hope it was an abscess, and get him to the vet as quickly as possible to get it checked and dealt with. This meant fitting appointments around getting my mum home and settled on the Monday. Unfortunately when the vet had a look he was pretty sure it was a tumour, so then it had to be removed the next day – more fitting appointments around other commitments, but we managed it, and the lump was successfully removed, though I will have to keep an eye on it in case it recurs. He is now recovering well, thankfully.

In amongst all that last week, Dimity became ill too, with a head tilt. This is normally a symptom of an ear infection or stroke and in either case the treatment initially is a basic antibiotic plus an anti-inflammatory. If it’s an ear infection there’s usually fairly rapid improvement, but either can leave the rat with a permanent head tilt. She has improved a little, but I suspect that it may be due to her adapting as much as anything. It’s a little hard to be sure but I did think at one point that one eye was bulging a little, which together with the head tilt could indicate a brain tumour, but I’m not so sure now. She is soldiering on, anyway, but tomorrow will be the last day I can give her the anti-inflammatory drug so after that I think we will be asking the vet for a steroid to see if that helps. (My vets don’t like giving steroids straight away in case there is underlying infection, as the steroid can suppress the immune system and cause the infection to worsen.)

In happier news, we will be getting three new girls soon from a friend who breeds nice silver fawns (ginger, like my beloved Cromarty). I think we’ll be getting them next month at the NFRS Christmas show, unless we can arrange to meet before then, but it’s such a busy time of year. And then we’ll have to think of some suitable names…

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