Tag Archives: animals

Happy 1st birthday my boys!

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On Friday our beautiful boys turned one year old. Hard to believe they’ve gone from tiny, hairless bubs to fat, fluffy adult rats so quickly. To celebrate I decided to act like the crazy rat lady I am and throw them a little party!

Curious? Read more…

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Mouse about the house

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Hello sun-seekers 🙂

You might recall me introducing you to a cute fieldmouse that shares our new garden with us. Yes?

Well that same little bundle is almost entirely tame now! He’s grown a bit bigger (but not much) and he sports a beautiful golden coat with smart stripes.

Handsome striped fieldmouse

Handsome striped fieldmouse

Continue reading…

Creative creatures Part 2

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This isn’t going to be the post you thought it would be.

Platypus

Platypus – Wikipedia

Because while I was ferretting out a few crazy critters to yak about, a little bird told me something fishy: instead of being an eager beaver I’d have to chicken out, since my post would just be a copycat version of something done much better elsewhere. My readers would quickly smell a rat and bug me for a better post. Besides, since my previous post‘s views were nothing to crow about and, not wanting to flog a dead horse, I decided I couldn’t bear to doggedly pursue this monkey business any longer.

And so, I present to you two links that will lead you to the Bored Panda site, which definitely does the topic of strange and unusual creatures much better justice than I ever could:

http://www.boredpanda.com/strange-animals/

http://www.boredpanda.com/unusual-animals/

Have a sunny day! 🙂

Zest

Free at last: rats on the loose

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After more than a month of living with us, it was time for our ratties to experience their first free-range run. We’ve let them run on the furniture so far, but last night we braved it to set them loose on the bedroom floor for the first time. And really, it wasn’t that bad. My vague fears of being unable to retrieve them from some tight spot melted away as I watched them bounding around with glee :mrgreen:

Moon and Knight were naturals, Vodka was the first to leave the castle, and Mishka took a very l-o-n-g time to warm up to the idea of roaming…

Rat free ranging 1

Rat free ranging 2

Rat free ranging 3

Rat free ranging 4

Rat free ranging 5

Rat free ranging 6

Rat free ranging 7

Rat free ranging 8

Rat free ranging 9

Creative creatures Part 1

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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are a couple of really weird creatures on this planet. And I don’t mean the human kind 😛 Some are cool-weird and others creepy-weird. Some are endangered and others are flourishing. But all of them have this in common: they never fail to bring a smile to my face.

Here are a few of my favourite strange birds and fish for now; next time I’ll tackle some land animals.

(Pics and facts courtesy of good ol’ Wiki.)

Birds

Kakapo

Now here’s a bird I’d love to meet one day! The lime-green, owl-faced, parrot-like Kakapo, native to New Zealand. It’s a big birdie, and it can’t fly – in fact, it’s the only known parrot that can’t. Its funny expression just makes me want to cuddle it 🙂

Kakapo

Kakapo

Birds of paradise

I never thought of adding Papua New Guinea to my dream list of travel destinations… until I started researching birds of paradise. The beauty and variety of these feathered creations leaves me speechless. These guys are definitely awesome-weird! I find myself wondering how well they can see, and whether all those beautiful rainbows and embellishments are more for our viewing pleasure than theirs 🙂

Wilson’s bird of paradise

Stinkbird

Its proper name is the Hoatzin, but any bird with a nickname like Stinkbird has got to make this list! (Apparently Hoatzin smell like dung.) This South American bird is full of suprises. Starting with its outward appearance, it has striking colours and a fancy crest – but did you know that its young have claws on their wings to help them climb? If that wasn’t enough, Hoatzin chicks can also swim underwater to escape predators. It’s no wonder scientists have had trouble classifying this species properly!

Hoatzin

Hoatzin

Fish

Flying fish

Alright, maybe it’s not so weird. Or it’s just cool-weird. But the flying fish still deserves mention here. With sheer wings that lift them from the waves and up into the air, this is not your average seafood! Nowadays when I hear of them I instantly think of that scene in the movie Life of Pi…

Flying fish

Flying fish

Blobfish

But if that wasn’t weird enough for you, the blobfish may be just the kind of creepy-ugly-weird you’re looking for. The pic below doesn’t do its sad blobby face justice, so I suggest you google a few images of this poor creature to get the full effect. Another resident of the world Down Under, the blobfish was recently voted the world’s ugliest creature 😦

Blobfish

Blobfish

Pufferfish

Here’s just one more sea creature that deserves mention. The pufferfish is just the cutest thing – maybe one of the only fish that has the same ‘awww!’ factor for me as a kitten or a puppy. They come in a variety of designs, but the basic idea is a funny ball of spines, attitude and (hot?) air :mrgreen:

Pufferfish

Unfortunately that’s as much as I have time for today, but sometime soon I hope to post Part 2 about weird creatures of the land-dwelling kind.

Until then, keep smiling! 🙂

Neutering pet rats

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Mishka and Vodka are first up for The Snip tomorrow! My poor rat-mommy heart feels kinda bad for them, but I’m hoping the advantages of neutering will outweigh the stress of an op.

My boys

Just quickly then, here are the apparent advantages (which I’ve briefly mentioned before):

  • Neutered males tend to be less aggressive and dominant (yesss, Mishka – that one’s for you!)
  • Neutering can sometimes help to keep their coats softer for longer
  • It is also said to reduce ‘buck grease’, the oily coating that male rats produce on their backs as they get older
  • It can apparently help to reduce the risk of some cancers
  • And, as with dogs and other sterilised animals, it can lead to fatter and more laid-back pets – which in the case of ratties is of course exactly what we want 😀

We chose for my two boys to get fixed first because they’re the biggest, acting the most dominant and, well, someone had to go first! It’s also a relatively pricey procedure, so we’re splitting the cost over two months. Hopefully the month’s gap will give Moon and Knight a chance to catch up in size a bit as well before their turn comes around.

But speaking of Teddy and Voddy, check out the photo above. You can clearly see here how Vodka (left) is fading very quickly, with a lot more white hairs flecking his Russian blue back. Mishka (right) on the other hand currently seems to be a slow fader, though his coat is definitely lightening up a bit too. For more on rat coat changes, see this post.

So these guys will be off to the vet bright and early tomorrow morning, and then I’ll spend my whole working day thinking about them until I can fetch them in the afternoon 😛 Will let you know how it goes…

Quick pics

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Hello there! It feels like an age since I last posted here… life’s been getting in the way a bit lately 😉 Summer has hit Johannesburg at last and the heatwave has been surprisingly draining. Ninja and I have been very busy with everything from work to trying to get fit for my first 5km run. My to-do list is overflowing, and often that’s meant that blogging drops down a rung or two. Sigh. I do miss my days at home when I was a full-time blogger, baker and bookworm!

Anyway, for now I have a moment to share a few recent pics of our ratties. They’ve been here for almost a month now and they’ve taken over the home :mrgreen:

Open that cage door and a mass exodus ensues

Open that cage door and a mass escape is inevitable

I’ve tried taking a few nice photos of them and have entered a few into a competition hosted by our rat club – which means I can cross off Goal #64: Send in a photograph to a contest 🙂 Would be so great if one of my shots got picked! But for the most part I have dozens of not-quite-awesome-yet-still-quite-cute pics…

Knight greeting Robert the Rat

Knight greeting Robert the Rat

It’s not easy getting good pictures when the rats are on the go all the time, so I also try to catch them unawares for sweet sleeping shots. Here are some of my favourites:

Moon and Knight: heads hanging over the edge of the cage level

Moon and Knight: heads hanging over the edge of the cage level

Moon: rolled into a ball

Moon: rolled into a ball

Knight: absolute innocence

Knight: absolute innocence

So far it seems our first impressions of the boys were pretty accurate. Their personalities are quite distinct and a joy to discover.

Moon (nicknamed Rover) is still the curious adventurer, who’s often awake when the other three are asleep and vice versa. He’s gentle and fast but in some cases still a little unsure of his place. You know how in big families you often find the one quiet kid who’s easily overlooked in the mayhem? Sometimes I think Moon is that kid, though his odd circadian rhythms do make it easier for us to give him special attention 🙂

Knight (nicknamed Tiny) is still very sweet; he’s bold with his brothers but gentle and trusting with humans. He only has one fault: he is sooooo squeaky!! He squeaks for anything and everything, be it a thorough grooming from his brothers or an unexpected poke from a playful human. It’s definitely not pain related – it’s all attitude and noisy protest from the baby of the bunch 😛

Mishka and Vodka with rawhide shoes

Mishka and Vodka with rawhide shoes

Vodka (nicknamed Voddy – I know, it’s lame, but sometimes the good nicks only come after a while) is the bright spark: I’ve been teaching the rats to leap from the open cage onto my shoulders when I ask them to, and Vodka was the first to catch on and make the jump. All the boys know two commands already: ‘Up’ for standing on their hind legs to receive a treat, and ‘Jump’ for leaping onto me or whichever surface I tap.

Mishka with a banana chippie

Mishka with a banana chippie

Of all our lovely rats, Mishka consistently steals the show. Not only is he the biggest and boldest; he’s also the only dumbo so he keeps catching our eye with expressions we’re not used to after our succession of standard-eared ratties. My friends go all mushy when meeting him and even Ninja admits there’s no denying Mishka’s charisma.

As for me, well… this boy is rapidly achieving ‘heart rat’ status. I always said Muesli was my heart rat, as he was my first, but I’m learning that the heart is big enough to hold more than one special furry object of affection 😀

I think what gets me about Mishka is that he has different sides to his personality. Ninety percent of the time he’s the big forceful alpha rat who ‘power grooms’ his cagemates and shoves human hands aside to get to what he wants. But then there are those odd moments when he suddenly turns sensitive. He’s really earned his nickname of Teddy Bear.

Mishka's heart-melting look

Mishka’s heart-melting look

The pic above was taken after I’d disciplined Mishka for nipping my fingers instead of taking the food from them. From the look on his face you’d swear I’d whipped him with a cane or something! All I did was squeak at him and tap him on the nose (trying to mimic a ratty way of saying ‘That’s enough!’)

Well, it crushed him. He backed up immediately and shot me this devastated look. Flattening his ears against his head, he dashed upstairs and leapt into his Sputnik. And there he stayed, refusing to be comforted or bribed with treats; just giving me the ‘Mommy how could you?’ look for over an hour. Oh my goodness! How to make a rat mommy feel like rubbish! LOL

So that’s the kind of thing that’s been keeping me busy… but I do hope to have more opportunities to blog more regularly. I’m itching to bake something new or take a day trip or do something creative again. As soon as I do, you can be sure I’ll share it here 🙂

Look what I got!

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Yesterday I was given a truly thoughtful gift. If you want to know anything about me, know that I love gifts. Big or small, free or fancy, I love them all 😀 I love giving them and I love getting them, and nothing beats a gift that’s both personalised and handmade!

A very thoughtful gift

A very thoughtful gift

A colleague of mine, Elise, does pottery and has recently discovered the cuteness of ratties (through wild rats invading her kitchen and all my blog posts of pet rats). Look at this beautiful ratty teapot she made for me!

'Robert the Rat' teapot

‘Robert the Rat’ teapot

It’s named ‘Robert the Rat’ after her nickname for one of the cheeky wild rats that moved into her kitchen. Elise has a real heart for animals and it took weeks before Robert and his family were kindly and humanely removed to their rightful place outside the house. During that time Elise came to appreciate the lively little vermin for their better side 😉

Rat detail on the teapot

Rat detail on the teapot

This has to be one of the coolest gifts ever. Not only is it a cheerful sunshine yellow; it’s also only the second time a friend has acknowledged my love for these critters with a gift (the other was a pink mouse-and-bunny-themed receiver blanket given to me by my best friend when we got our girl rats; she searched everywhere to find a baby blanket that didn’t have predators on it!)

Rat-themed teapot

Rat-themed teapot

I think this counts towards Goal #53 on my new list, don’t you? :mrgreen:

Thank you Elise!

Rest in peace faithful Flea

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Yesterday we had our old Flea put to sleep 😦 Ninja and I couldn’t bear it anymore to see her struggling so much; the smallest movement became a flailing effort to our arthritic old ratty. We felt we’d done everything we could, and there comes a point where treatment becomes more stressful for a pet than a peaceful passing would be.

Baby Flea in Ninja's pocket

Baby Flea in Ninja’s pocket

Afterwards we took her to my parents’ garden, to bury her near the spots where Muesli, Scribble and Coffee were laid to rest. Of all the options available to pet owners for saying goodbye to their furry friends – be it cremation, burial or leaving the body with the vet – I’ve always felt that burial provides the most honour and closure.

Young Flea in a basket

Young Flea in a basket

Looking back on her 60-odd rat years, I can see how this fancy rat lived up to her proper name, Faith. First, when she was tiny, Ninja named her because she seemed to need a good dose of faith to venture out into the world. Later when she became comfortable roaming around our home we called her Leap of Faith, because she was never afraid to cover great distances in one bound… just like a small black flea, of course 🙂

Old Flea in the same basket

Old Flea in the same basket

Much later, after her tumour removal and the loss of her sister, she continued to live up to her real name, fighting bravely to heal after such an invasive op. And finally, just before her second birthday as she began ageing rapidly, her faithful little personality still led her to wake us up every morning for breakfast, even if she could only just drag her tired legs around.

Flea enjoying sweet papaya

Flea enjoying sweet papaya

Another thing that I loved about Flea was that she always seemed – if one can say this of a rat – grateful for the smallest thing. Towards the end when I had to pre-chew all her meals and wipe her face with a cloth because she could no longer groom herself, she would always brux and boggle happily in thanks afterwards. Ninja and I got to have many very sweet moments with the old lady as she cuddled with and slept by us for long periods.

Faith ~ 25 Aug 2011 to 11 Sept 2013

Faith ~ 25 Aug 2011 to 11 Sept 2013

Rest in peace our sweet old Flea. You were the softest ratty I’ve ever kissed and I loved your beautiful fluffy and colourful coat. You showed us the very best side of girl ratties and left us with so many funny and heartwarming memories.

I’d like to share with you a poem that was given to us by the vet yesterday (it’s marked as anonymous so I don’t know who to attribute it to). It was a blessing to me and I hope it’ll bring comfort to you if you’ve also had to make that tough decision to say goodbye to a furbaby. (But I warn you, keep the tissues handy!)

If it should be…

If it should be that I grow frail and weak

And pain should keep me from my sleep

Then you must do what must be done

For me, the last battle can’t be won

You will be sad – I understand

Don’t let your grief then stay

For this day, more than all the rest

Your love and friendship stands the test

We’ve had so many happy years

What is to come can hold no fears

You’d not want me to suffer, so

When the time comes, please let me go

We’ve been so close, we two

Through these years

Don’t let your heart

Hold any tears

Take me where my needs they’ll tend

Only stay with me until the end

Hold me firm and speak to me

Until my eyes no longer see

I know in time you too will see

It is a kindness you do to me

Although my tail its last has waved

From pain and suffering I’ve been saved

Don’t grieve that it should be you

Who has to decide this thing to do

New pets: first impressions

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We’ve had our new pet rats for less than a day, and they’ve spent more time in the cage than with us (so we can give them a chance to settle in), but we’ve already formed a few first impressions of their distinct personalities 🙂 No doubt these will change and change again as they outgrow their insanely fast young energy, but for now you can meet them as they seemed to us on day one:

Moon

Cute, small and as lightning-fast as his lightning blaze would suggest, Moon immediately struck us as the most playful of the bunch. We gently poke his side with one finger and he blitzes around the cage, only to return in seconds for more fun. I’ll have to work hard to get some in-focus shots of this little blur! His body clock also seems out of synch with his brothers’, as when they’re asleep, he’s bouncing off the walls…

Newbies 13

Newbies 14

Vodka

The slightly leaner and smaller of my boys, Vodka has the ‘rattiest’ face of them all. His long nose and beady eyes just spell ‘vermin’ to us (in the cutest sense, of course!), and we love it. So far he’s seemed to be a smart little guy – the first to discover the treats stashed in the cardboard egg carton, for example. And last night he nestled in my layers of clothes and sat quietly looking out at the world. Ahhh 🙂

Newbies 16

Newbies 15

Knight

The teeniest of them all, Moon’s adorable brother Knight was quickly redubbed Saint Knight. He really seems like a sweetie! He may still be little for now (since he and his brother came from a larger litter, whereas my boys were from a very small litter so there was less competition for their mommy’s milk), but I can already see him growing into a handsome prince like his dad, Salix. He even has the same white chin-spot, which melts my heart 🙂 Knight seems gentle and quietly confident, and seems to love people!

Newbies 12

Newbies 11

Cute Knight with his brothers scuffling in the background

Cute Knight with his brothers scuffling in the background

Mishka

My first dumbo ratty is the biggest boy of all, with a huge head and ears that remind me of a hammerhead shark, lol! I think he thinks he’s the boss because of his size, but the smaller rats aren’t afraid to take him on in a playfight. Like Vodka, he might also have a naughty streak (my previous rats Muesli and Coffee were the same, so it wouldn’t surprise me – I seem to know how to pick the crazies!), but he clearly loves investigating people too 🙂 He was the first to find and start stashing food yesterday, but also the first to want to leave the cage to meet us.

Newbies 9

Newbies 8

Thanks for journeying with me through the process of getting these boys 🙂 It’s going to be great fun watching these guys grow up. Right now they move so fast they make my head spin (it seems like their enormous cage is only just big enough for all that energy), but as they get used to their new home and new family, I’m sure I’ll have many more pics and stories to share.

And as for Flea? Our poor oldie is not impressed by the sounds and smells of the new arrivals. We’ve let her sniff our hands after handling the boys, but she just stiffens up, backs away and crawls back into her bed 😐 Poor old girlie… her age and frailty form a stark contrast to the hyperactivity of the newbies. We’ll make sure to feed and cuddle her first and keep giving her the attention and care she needs, until the Lord takes her little spirit or Ninja decides it’s time to say goodbye.

But for now, we have five ratties – the most we’ve ever owned at once – and each one is a blessing in their own unique way 🙂