Coffee and Flea weren’t our first ratties, although they are the only females we’ve had. Before the girls, we had the amazing pleasure of living with Scribble and Muesli, our squishy agouti husky rats. This is a little tribute to them…
Scribble was Ninja’s rat, named after a beatboxing technique. As he grew we came to call him ScribblyBall, BallyBall and Mr Grumpy 🙂 He became an enormous rat, weighing 700 g at the end of his life!
Like most husky rats, Scribbly started out with dark markings and faded over time. Here’s a picture of him taken in the first week he came to us. He was little enough to balance on the plastic food bowl without tipping it over.
We flew Scribble and Muesli up to Johannesburg from their breeder in Cape Town. To this day when we tell people that, they can’t believe their ears. ‘You would fly a rat across the country?!’ But people do it all the time for bigger pedigreed animals, so why not for our bubs, who were just as pedigreed? Jo’burg has a conspicuous lack of official breeders.
Anyway, one of the strangest things we’ve noticed while owning rats is the way they seem to reflect some of our personality quirks. For example, both Scribble and Ninja’s current rat, Flea, are similar to him: they’re both peaceful, quiet homebodies who love their food and make relatively few ripples in the pond 😉
Scribbly was a sweet boy, but he was known as grumpy because he preferred being in his cage to exploring. When he was out on a run, he’d always make it very clear when he wanted to go home. And sometimes he had a look in his eye that seemed to say he was just tolerating our fussing until he could go back to eating and sleeping!
But he was also an affectionate ratty, and loved to nibble our hands gently when we stroked and scritched him 🙂 He outlived his brother Muesli by a few months, and was still with us when we brought Coffee and Flea home. Scribble developed a growth of some sort on his shoulder, but he didn’t make it through the op when the vet wanted to remove it 😦 We buried our big boy next to his brother in my parents’ garden, and we still miss his solid presence in our lives.
There’s no doubt about it: Muesli was my ‘heart rat’. I absolutely adored that ball of trouble, and yet in the end I learnt that I should have loved him even more…
I called this little guy many nicknames, including Muesli Mouse, Silver Surfer and Kamikaze Rat. In the pic above, you can see his size relative to a cornflake he’s eating. He stayed a bit smaller than Scribble all along, weighing 600 g when full grown. Like Scribbly, he was an agouti badger husky rat, and his coat also faded over time.
Muesli was action, trouble, mischief. He had a gleam in his eye that made him seem like he was always up for adventure. Of the two, he was by far the most affectionate rat – both towards his human family and his big brother. He was forever leaping before he looked, squeezing into spots he couldn’t get out of, squeaking his opinion and living life to the full. At one point he went blind in one eye, but it didn’t affect him at all. (That’s where he earned the nickname Silver Surfer, because the blind eye looked like it had a silver disc in it.)
Oddly enough, Muesli and any my current girl Coffee seem to reflect certain characteristics of my personality too, just as Ninja’s do for him. Muesli and Coffee have a lot in common: they’re both very affectionate, very noisy, cheeky and ‘opinionated’, slightly cooked in the head (falling off things, not looking where they’re going, and generally being ridiculously uncoordinated), beautiful and utterly lovable 🙂
But remembering Muesli always brings me pain as well as joy. The pain comes from the fact that I’m sure if I had known better at the time, I could have saved him from his horrible death. With each set of rats, we learn more and more about their proper care. And if I’d known more about mycoplasmosis at the time, I might have reacted quicker to the sudden deterioration in my boy’s health. If only I’d read up more; if only I’d rushed to the vet sooner; if only I’d known about the many preventative measures we could have taken; if, if, if…
It broke my heart to have my precious boy put to sleep, but I vowed then that I’d learn as much as I can for each new set of ratties, and that I’d never again dither so long before going to the vet. We buried our beautiful Kamikaze Rat in my parents’ garden, and will never forget him.
Loving ratties is not always easy. They’re considered exotic pets, so there’s a greater responsibility to understand them before owning them. It’s been a learning process for us. Sometimes funny, sometimes painful. Not always easy. But definitely worth it.