Monthly Archives: August 2013

A slight delay

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Some disappointing news, folks: our new ratties’ flight has had to be postponed. Sigh… I was so ready to scoop up four bundles of fluff today! But we’ve been assured that they’ll be on next Saturday’s flight, so Lord willing all will go smoothly and we’ll meet them then 🙂

In the meantime we’ll put the finishing touches on their new home and their cardboard castle, and of course give Flea plenty of attention as usual. And maybe in a way it’s a good thing they didn’t arrive today, coz boy is it freezing in Joburg! And so windy. Tomorrow’s supposed to be Spring Day, but it looks like winter wants to give a last (belated) bite 😕

Anyway, I’ll keep you updated of course… since I’ve strung you all along in suspense about these rats for so long! 😉

 

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Rat cages (part two)

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While we wait for the new rats to arrive (it seems to be taking forever… not that I’m all that patient 😉 ), let’s take a closer look at their new cage.

Top floor

The top floor

I placed the rats’ gardens (one with grass and lettuce, the other with flourishing lentil sprouts) on top of the cage just for the photo. Naturally, these will be placed on the floor when we let the rats roam free. (You can see the small wooden log ladder there too, which we’ll use to connect the gardens.)

At the top of the cage we have a black plastic Sputnik, a plastic ferret tunnel and a makeshift hammock (an old PJ pants leg held up and open by two dowel rods). We’ve also found our best-yet solution to the question of cage levels. This time around we’ve laid thin sheets of white perspex across wooden dowel sticks. These are all removable and should be a cinch to clean each week – much better than either the metal trays or the cloth levels.

The middle levels

The middle levels

Most of the rat toys and accessories are on the two middle levels. This cage setup is an improvement over our previous layouts because we’ve squeezed in an extra level. Here you can see cardboard and plastic boxes lined with shredded unprinted newspaper, a rope walkway, metal ladders, a mini dome (part of a Sputnik) and an egg carton.

It’s so exciting to picture four little ‘scurries’ (as Ninja has dubbed them) exploring this cage!

And finally, the ground floor:

The ground floor

The ground floor

This is where the mealtime action will be. On the left we have two water bottles and a water bowl, strategically placed over the tile so they have to wear down their nails a bit. In the back left corner we’ve left space for their toilet (did you know rats can be toilet trained? Yay!). And on the right is their food bowl under another piece of grey Sputnik (rats like places to hide). Not visible in this pic but hanging from the front right side of the cage is a metal stick used to skewer fruit and veg for the rats. They love the challenge of that kind of treat 🙂

And what about Flea, I hear you ask?

She has her retirement home right below the mansion:

Hello Flea!

Hello Flea!

Since the old lass can’t climb anymore, we’ve limited her quarters to food, water, toilet and sleeping dome. By God’s grace we found the perfect-sized cage for her, which fits on the bottom of the main cage’s stand. This way Flea is kept off the cold floor. All through winter she’s also had her pink blankie to block out draughts and a hot-water bottle under her bed to keep her snug. So though her nose may be out of joint with the newcomers, at least she can’t complain that we love her any less 😉

Rat cages

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I’m sorry peeps. You know, I never intended for this blog to turn into a rat blog!

It’s just that the excitement of getting new pets has been the focus of our lives for the last few weeks, and since I blog about what’s on my heart, lately the ratty love has been overflowing 😛

Anyway, as we wait (two more sleeps!) for Saturday, here’s a post on the rat homes we’ve had in the past and the one we’ve prepared this time around.

The first cage we set up for Scribble and Muesli was this white finch cage:

Our first cage

Our first cage

We used metal baking trays as levels, pull-tied to the cage bars and connected with ladders. It was sparsely decorated, with one dome, one hammock and one swing toy. We were new to fancy rat owning, OK. And besides, it was far superior to the first cage we kept our very first pet-shop rescue ratty (Mizu) in… we never knew better back then, so he lived alone in a fishtank with sawdust 😦 Poor boy 😦

But the upside is that we learn more with each new set of pets. So here’s the cage we set up for Coffee and Flea:

Our second cage

Our second cage

It’s a new black cage, but exactly the same kind and size. The major problem we found with the first cage was that wee, fur and and other interesting deposits got trapped too easily between the pull-ties and metal trays. Also, the trays quickly rusted where the holes had been drilled. So the second cage had cloth levels, as an attempt to have levels that were easy to remove and clean.

As for decor, the dome was still there and they had one main hammock, but we added a terracotta tile to help wear down their nails and often introduced temporary toys such as fruit on a stick or cardboard egg cartons filled with treats. In addition, the girls had more regular runs around our house, which also kept things interesting for them.

Despite that, when we began planning for more rats Ninja and I both wanted to do far more with the cage space and the toys and accessories. As our knowledge has improved, so have our ideas.

For one thing, we’ve had a leap in pet hygiene since I recently purchased F10 SC solution, which is an animal-safe veterinary-quality disinfectant. So the first step was to thoroughly clean the girls’ old cage with F10 and a toothbrush.

The 'new' old cage, freshly disinfected

The ‘new’ old cage, freshly disinfected

Shew. Tedious and time consuming but necessary and satisfying.

And once the cleaning was done, the fun could begin! Here’s the kitted-out version that awaits Moon, Knight, Mishka and Vodka:

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

Looking good eh? More details in my next post 🙂

Rat coats: fading and rusting

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In response to Shiotadesu’s question about fading coat colours… Berkshire rats (like Flea) don’t fade so much as ‘rust’. Here’s a quick pic of Flea (fleeing from her party, as it were!) where you can see this clearly. It almost looks like I’ve photo-edited together pics of an orange rat and a brown rat! 😀

Flea's technicolour dreamcoat

Flea’s technicolour dreamcoat

Flea’s coat has become a great source of amusement to me as she’s aged, because it seems as though every few months she grows a new patch in a different colour. She has pitch black in the places where she was shaved for her op, rusty red on her bum, white on her tummy, dark brown on her head, pinky-grey around her nose and now patches of grey on her shoulders! Funny little furball 🙂

Siamese rats, like our Coffee, always fade over time, so that eventually only their Siamese ‘points’ (ears, nose, ankles and tail) are dark. Coffee was a Siamese hooded, so while her hoodie faded completely, the thick stripe on her back didn’t. These pics show the progression nicely:

Coffee as a teeny bub: dark Siamese markings

Coffee as a teeny bub: dark Siamese markings

Much lighter (but still visible) hoodie markings

Much lighter (but still visible) hoodie markings

The unusual dark back she was left with (plain Siamese don't have this)

The unusual dark back she was left with (plain Siamese don’t have this)

(That last pic makes me smile… she was such a hooligan, haha!)

And finally, a quick look at our previous boys, Scribble and Muesli. They were both agouti badger huskies, and they faded quite slowly.

Shortly after we got them: dark husky markings

Shortly after we got them: dark husky markings

Over a year later: patchy fading

Over a year later: patchy fading

K, that’s that for now 🙂

Paperwork, pedigrees and pics

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So! We’ve signed the contracts for our new boys and received their pedigrees. Only four sleeps left till we fetch our newbies from the airport! :mrgreen:

The contract is a standard one that all proper breeders will require prospective rat owners to sign. I guess it must be similar to contracts from breeders of other pedigreed animals. It’s simply an agreement between Ninja and I and Wheatfields Rattery, to ensure that:

  • we don’t breed with our new bubs
  • the rats can be confiscated if we don’t care for them properly, and
  • the rats must never be sold to a pet shop – if for any reason we can’t keep them anymore, they must go back to the breeder.

The pedigrees are what you would expect: documents showing the ratties’ ancestry as far back as their great-great grandparents. This time on the pedigrees, the breeder used the names we’ve called the rats, which is cool and very official 😉

Today the breeder took the boys to the lady who’ll be the one arranging the flight. Before they left their only known home, though, they had one last photoshoot:

Moon – Black lightning-blazed vari-berk

Moon – Black lightning-blazed vari-berk

Knight – Black Berkshire

Knight – Black Berkshire

Mishka – Russian Blue striped roan dumbo

Mishka – Russian Blue striped roan dumbo

Vodka – Russian Blue striped roan

Vodka – Russian Blue striped roan

The breeder says they’re unstoppably active at this stage, which is going to be a major change for us now that we’re used to the quiet slow pace of lady Flea-Flea 🙂

It’s also interesting to see how my boys are starting to fade already. Some rats are very fast faders, while other coat colours and genes hardly fade at all. I hope they’ll still keep some of their beautiful silvery colouring though!

Anyway, so it’s been a great journey for me taking you through this series of posts on the process of ordering new ratties. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. Little remains for Ninja and I to do other than to thoroughly clean their future home, prepare some welcome-home snacks, and wait to hear what time their flight from Cape Town should arrive in Joburg.

Till then, have a sunny week!

Zest

Cherry on top

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I just had to share this series of shots from a cute moment during Flea’s birthday party. She went for the cherry on top of the biscuit, but didn’t use her hands to grab the biscuit… 🙂

Cherry 1

Cherry 2

Cherry 3

Cherry 4

Cherry 5

Cherry 6

Cherry 7

Cherry 8

Happy birthday Flea!

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Party 8

Our dear fluffy Flea turned 2 years old today – or 60 years old in rat years! She’s our first ratty to live this long (though hopefully not the last), so it’s a special day for us. Wish her adorable sister Coffee could have shared the party too.

In time for her birthday we took Flea to the vet a few days ago, to get her teeth trimmed and to give her a vitamin B complex and multivitamin shot. Her teeth needed trimming because she’s slowly stopped eating hard foods (can’t hold them so well in her hands anymore), and as you may know, rats’ teeth never stop growing.

It made our spines crawl to hear her teeth being clipped down with one loud click (just thinking about it reminds me of the feeling you get when you drag your nails on a chalkboard… ugh!), but the vet was super and it was quick and painless. Flea did squeak when she was jabbed for the vitamin injection, but that too was over in seconds, and she seems to have perked up quite a bit since that dose.

Anyway, here are a few pics from her birthday party 🙂

Breakfast: porridge with Ensure and dried blueberries

Breakfast: porridge with Ensure and dried blueberries

This morning before church I whipped up Flea’s delicious breakfast: baby porridge with vanilla Ensure (a complete nutritional supplement) and dried blueberries (which she carefully ate around, the fusspot!).

Then later this afternoon I set up a sunny spot for her birthday photoshoot. Since she doesn’t eat huge portions anymore I limited the treats to scattered candied sunflower seeds and some coconut biscuits baked by Flea’s granny AKA my mom 😉

The birthday girl arrives

The birthday girl arrives

Party 3Party 4Party 5Party 6Party 7

Flea nommed happily on that biscuit for ages, especially when we moistened it a bit and held it up for her. What a feast! :mrgreen:

Ninja and I spoiling our ratty

Ninja and I spoiling our ratty

Happy birthday sweet furball… you’re a blessing from the Lord and we enjoy your company every day 🙂

Spoilt (b)rats get a castle with a garden and a pool!

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Ninja and I have had lots of fun lately as we prepare to welcome home our new ratties. And if you thought our fussing over them was outrageous before, just wait till you see what we’ve done now! :mrgreen:

Cardboard castle maze

Cardboard castle maze

Firstly, Ninja began building and designing this cardboard castle with a maze of tunnels and multiple levels. It’s quite a labour of love, with each level stacking neatly on top of the previous one. Ninja made it out of strong cardboard and packing tape. I must admit I was greatly tempted to paint it with cute details all over… but first we’ll have to see how long it withstands ratty teeth and piddle puddles, hehehe! 😉 It’s not finished yet so I’ll try post more pics when it is.

Then comes the garden. This is something I’ve wanted to do for each new set of ratties we’ve brought home, but only now did I finally get around to making a little natural scratch patch for our pets.

Ratty Eden

Ratty Eden

After making drainage holes in the bottom of a large shallow plastic container, I filled it with rich potting soil and planted some pet-safe grass and lettuce for the rats. Some pebbles, glass stones and wooden flower signs finished off the effect.

Flea was our guinea pig (no species slur intended, dear ratty!) for the garden. Even with her wobbly old legs and lack of coordination, she showed her enthusiasm by climbing right in.

'A garden for me?'

‘A garden for me?’

Flea seemed very curious about the interesting new smells and textures. In her short/long life she’s never experienced soil or plants, so I was glad to bless her with this little adventure before she leaves us.

A ratty scratch patch

A ratty scratch patch

With her in the pic you can also see that it’s not such a big garden, but I do intend to make another one in which to grow edible sprouts for the ratties to dig up. Nevertheless, since we don’t even have a garden for the humans in this place, I don’t think the rats have a right to complain!

Then, as if all these wonderful spots to explore weren’t enough, we also found the perfect pool for our pets:

Pool for pet rats

Pool for pet rats

I can’t take credit for the idea, since I saw a fellow rat club member do this first, but I’m sooooo glad we also found the right tub for the job 🙂 It’s a cheap and simple plastic washing tub with a washboard moulded into it. But of course when you look at it from a rodent’s perspective, those make ideal steps leading down into the water.

Complete with a rubber ducky

Complete with a rubber ducky

Hope you enjoyed that peek into the fanatical world of pet rat owning 😀

And to think those are just the fun items for the rats’ free-range time… We still have a lot of work to do upgrading their main living quarters in the cage. Will keep you posted!

A bundle of brothers

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Only two weeks to go until we bring our new ratties home! 😀

The breeder has now placed all our boys together, so there won’t be any intros for us to worry about when they arrive. As far as they’re concerned, they’re all brothers now 🙂

Here are a few of the latest pics (all courtesy of Wheatfields Rattery of course, though I didn’t get a chance to watermark them).

From left: Vodka, Moon, Mishka (standing) and Knight.

Vodka, Moon, Mishka and Knight

Some curiosity from Vodka. And you can see Mishka’s widely spaced dumbo ears here as he grooms.

Boys 2

The breeder explained that the ratties are a blur of activity at this age. I love their inquisitive little faces and interest in their world. Here you can see Moon’s almost ‘piebald’ markings.

Boys 3

Knight looks a lot like Flea, but there’s no mistaking that teeny white chin! *melt*

Boys 4

It’s cute how long and stretchy-looking the ratties are at this age. Their colourings and markings are also showing clearly now, and it will be interesting to see whether they fade or change over time.

Boys 5

I can’t wait to meet these cuties!!! We’ve been stocking up on plenty interesting toys and cage treats for them, which I hope to post about soon…

Also, our old Flea is doing fairly well. Her hind leg degeneration (HLD) is more pronounced now, but she’s still up and about each day. I enjoyed a lovely nap with her the other evening; a warm soft ball of elderly pet rat, bruxing with happiness as she fell asleep by me. Ninja and I are giving her loads of affection, knowing that each day is a chance to appreciate our old girl.

She struggles to eat hard foods now, so I cook or mash up most of her food, which she then devours. The other day I made her some peas, but had to shell and soften them for her as her little hands don’t grip things as well as they used to. Next weekend will be her 2nd birthday (the equivalent of her 60th in human years); Lord willing I can throw her a little party with special treats and lots of love 🙂

83 things in 751 days

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1.         Keep a photographic record of this list

2.         Update my blog at least once a week

3.         Read the Bible through in one year

4.         Knit something colourful

5.         Get to my goal weight and maintain

6.         Finish a scrapbook

7.         Volunteer at or donate to an animal shelter

8.         Write a letter to myself to open in 10 years

9.         Go on 3 hikes

10.       Go on 3 motorcycle rides (1: 21.03.13)

11.       Grow my hair to my waist

12.       Dye my hair black

13.       Get a belly button piercing

14.       Work through the Love Dare again

15.       Get a pretty girly camera bag

16.       Paint every nail a different colour and leave them be for a week (09.12.12)

17.       Paint 5 artworks on canvas

18.       Assemble a disaster/emergency kit

19.       Go horseback riding on the beach

20.       Visit a cave

21.       Go for a walk in a forest

22.       Bake 5 different cakes (1: chocolate cake 03.04.13; 2: custard cake 21.04.13; 3: lime, sour cream & coconut cake 09.08.13)

23.       Make a list of 100 things that I am grateful for

24.       Read all the Twilight books (11.03.13)

25.       Design room themes/colour schemes for my future home

26.       Participate in a 5km run/walk

27.       Complete a 1000+ piece puzzle

28.       Go on a road trip

29.       Go on a rollercoaster

30.       Visit a planetarium

31.       Go camping

32.       Go to a concert

33.       Find a personally inspirational quote and work it into a piece of art or home decor

34.       Read 101 books and keep a list of them (16 so far…)

35.       Host a dinner party (16.02.13)

36.       Go vegetarian for a month

37.       Make a custom recipe book

38.       Visit 5 different museums and/or monuments

39.       Have a sleepover party

40.       Go for a bicycle ride

41.       Take 101 different photos of my new pet rats

42.       Eat 5 things I’ve never tried before (1: soya milk, 2: cake pops, 3: curry pizza, 4: shrimp, 5: coconut flour)

43.       Give someone a handmade gift (25.12.12)

44.       Grow a plant from a seed

45.       Invite 20 different friends/couples over for a visit (6 so far…)

46.       Cook 5 new veggies (1: Swiss chard, 2: patty pans, 3: purple carrots, 4: brinjals, 5: pak choi)

47.       Do a punk photoshoot

48.       Try 5 new cocktails (1: mojito, 01.05.13)

49.       Decorate for a holiday

50.       Write a letter to my favourite author

51.       Spend a day without technology

52.       Make a 7-course dinner (13.12.12)

53.       Get some rat-themed merchandise

54.       Apply henna 5 different times (1 = 01.02.13 ninja kanji)

55.       Get 10 more hat badges

56.       Surprise my mom with flowers

57.       Go to Sun City

58.       Buy myself a bottle of expensive perfume (13.12.12)

59.       Stay up for new year countdown with friends (31.12.12)

60.       Go on holiday with friends

61.       Navigate a maze

62.       Use up a sheet of temporary tattoos

63.       Write a list of 101 things I’ve already achieved in this lifetime

64.       Send in a photograph to a contest

65.       Leave an inspirational note inside a book for someone to find

66.       Take part in a colour run

67.       Visit Namaqualand in flower season

68.       List all family and friends’ birthdays and anniversaries

69.       Get more pet rats (Four new boys due 31.08.13)

70.       Eat at 5 new restaurants (1: Catalino’s, 2: Gingko)

71.       Holiday in the Drakensberg

72.       Do a 30×30 Challenge (30 minutes of physical activity for 30 days)

73.       Get a zoom lens for my camera

74.       Go on a boat ride

75.       Take photos of 101 different birds (90 so far…)

76.       Go to Gold Reef City

77.       Make a playlist of 101 of my favourite songs (07.04.13)

78.       Celebrate 5 obscure holidays (1: World Sparrow Day, 2: World Rat Day)

79.       Make a time capsule

80.       Visit Knysna wolf sanctuary

81.       Visit bird of prey centre

82.       Take the tourist bus around Cape Town

83.       Go on holiday by bus

84.       Learn to touch type

85.       Revisit our wedding venue

86.       Publish my best poems

87.       Spend a night in a fancy hotel

88.       Go to a Lipizzaner show (24.02.13)

89.       Go to a movie by myself (29.04.13)

90.       Watch 26 movies I’ve never seen starting with each letter of the alphabet (13 so far…)

91.       Kiss someone at midnight on New Year’s (Ninja, of course: 31.12.12)

92.       Read Pilgrim’s Progress in the old English

93.       Go on a picnic (17.12.12)

94.       Have professional photos taken (27.04.13)

95.       Revamp my lingerie collection

96.       Enjoy another spa day with my best friend

97.       Photograph 10 old buildings in South Africa

98.       Play the lotto with numbers from a fortune cookie

99.       Put away R5 for each completed task – the total to be spent shopping at the end of my 1001 days

100.     Write 5 letters to 5 people who changed my life (1 so far…)

101.     Brainstorm an overseas trip