Tag Archives: agouti rats

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 🙂

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The waiting list

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After much discussion and debate, Ninja and I have finally decided on a way forward with our rat owning. As I’ve mentioned before, we were concerned that Flea might get lonely being an only rat. It really is preferable to keep rats in pairs or groups, but of course life isn’t always as clean-cut as that…

Flea enjoying some oranges (Please note: never feed oranges to male rats!)

At first we considered getting a neutered male of Flea’s age to join her as a companion. After inquiring with our fellow rat club members and discussing it at length, however, we realised we may as well begin the process of getting the new young male rats we were hoping to get one day when Coffee and Flea had passed away.

And so we’ve taken the first step in purchasing a pedigreed fancy rat (or four!) :mrgreen: We’ve contacted a reputable breeder (the same lady who raised our amazing agouti badger husky rats, Scribble and Muesli) and asked to be placed on the waiting list for four boys from two litters she has planned – two boys each for Ninja and I.

We feel ready, after having owned five rats in total so far (I’m also counting Mizu, our very first rat from years ago; a little petshop rescue who opened my eyes to the joys of rat owning), to now have more than one rat each. No doubt it’ll be quite an adventure! 🙂

The idea is that we’ll get four young boys and keep them separate from Flea at first. Then we hope to have at least two of them neutered as soon as they’re the right age (between 2 and 6 months old, I believe). Neutering has several benefits apart from allowing males to live with females, including avoiding testicular cancer and reducing excesses of aggression. Often it keeps the boys’ fur softer as well, with a chance of a bit less oily ‘buck grease’ forming on their backs.

Once the month-long ‘safety window’ has passed for the neutered males to be rendered infertile, we can begin the process of introducing them to Flea. If all goes well with that and once our budget has recovered, we’ll hopefully get the other two males neutered so we call put all our ratties together. It’s something we’ve never done before, but many other rat owners have done it successfully, so we’re going to give it a try. At least then our old lady Flea will have some toy boys companions to cuddle with 😀

It’s all sooooo exciting! And I thought it might be interesting to blog about it as the process unfolds, for those of you who are curious or who may still be a bit wide eyed at the idea of going to so much trouble for rats! 😉

A tribute to our old furbabies

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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…

Our beautiful boys, Muesli and Scribble

Scribble

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.

Scribble when he was still a small ball

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 😉

Big boy

Big boy

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!

Cute Scribble

Cute Scribble

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.

 

Muesli

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…

Muesli Mousie

My Muesli Mousie

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.)

Muesli looking sneaky, nibbling a rice cake in my desk drawer

Muesli looking sneaky, nibbling a rice cake in my desk drawer

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 🙂

Muesli is the ratty in my Gravatar

Muesli is the ratty in my Gravatar

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.

…oOo…

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.