Tag Archives: female rats

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 ūüôā 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 ‚Äď 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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā 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 ‚Äď I seem to know how to pick the crazies!), but he clearly loves investigating¬†people too ūüôā 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 ūüôā 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 ūüėź 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 ‚Äď the most we’ve ever owned at once ‚Äď and each one is a blessing in their own unique way ūüôā

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Rats might fly (and often do)

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Flea when we first got her, enjoying a strawberry

Flea when we first got her, enjoying a strawberry

Hello all! I’m braving the exasperating¬†tardiness of our problematic internet connection to bring you a bit of info on the process the rat¬†breeders go through to fly our pedigreed rats across the country to meet us ūüôā

Our rats’ breeder has enlisted the help of another nearby rat breeder in arranging the flight for us, and I asked her to share a bit of what’s involved…

First, we organise a flight date with the breeder (it’ll be¬†Aug 31st for our new boys!)¬†and¬†she¬†buys the travel boxes. The rats are flown in the same¬†boxes that bird breeders use to travel with birds. The size of the boxes will depend on what is available at the suppliers, as well as how many rats will be sharing a box.

Most breeders will¬†never fly a single rat:¬†only pairs or groups are transported in this way ‚Ästand of course¬†the kits sharing a box will always be the¬†same sex. The breeder then¬†furnishes the travel box¬†with shredded paper and tissue to absorb urine and for the ratties to hide under if they feel scared. Aww ūüôā

You might wonder whether it’s necessary to dose¬†the bubs¬†with some calming meds before the flight.¬†I’ve been told that the breeders generally¬†don’t dose them with anything¬†as most of them don’t need it. That’s the reason they’re never flown alone: they take comfort from being with each other.

And their in-flight meals?¬†The breeders¬†put a little bit of dry food in the travel¬†box, such as lab blocks or Reggie Rat, and often¬†a piece of fruit such as apple or grapes to¬†provide them with a bit of moisture and sugar. Our little newcomers won’t lack a thing!

Recently the laws about flying animals have changed, so a week or so before the flight, our boys have to be checked out by a vet. This is a requirement from the flight companies; animals without a health certificate signed by a vet will not be allowed to fly. The vets check the general health of the ratties: eyes, ears, coat, skin, breathing, no diarrhoea, etc.

Then, on the morning of the flight, everyone gets packed into their boxes and¬†off they go¬†to the airport. The bubs will have to be at the airport¬†two hours before their flight.¬†The airline the breeders use has offices with a¬†pet lounge where animals are put while they wait for flights or wait¬†to be collected, so¬†the rats go here too. Then they’ll¬†be put on their flight and¬†fly for approxamately¬†two hours (almost everywhere in SA takes¬†two hours to get to!).¬†And of course Ninja and I will be anxiously and excitedly¬†waiting to collect them after their plane has¬†landed :mrgreen:

Despite all the TLC and preparation to smooth the way, of course¬†some ratties can¬†get a little freaked out by the flight. So (as difficult as it will be) once we’ve collected the boys and driven safely home,¬†the kindest thing to do is to pop them in their new cage and give them time to adjust. But just as we did when we collected our first rats from the airport, Ninja and I will probably pull up our chairs in front of the cage and quietly enjoy the cuteness.

And of course we’ll have to pay special attention to our dear old furry Flea, whose nose may be a tad out of joint that day¬†ūüėČ

Flea now, also enjoying a strawberry

Flea now, also enjoying a strawberry

Meet the parents…

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As you may have guessed, our new rats are not just ‘any old rodents’ :mrgreen:

They’re Wheatfields bubs, sourced from one of the best-loved pedigreed-rat breeders in South Africa. And¬†I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Among the members of our lively¬†South African rat club, Wheatfields Rattery is known for raising beautiful, healthy and exceptionally well-socialised fancy rats. Everyone speaks fondly of their ‘WF kids’.¬†Our first male pet rats, Scribble and Muesli, were Wheatfields boys too.

So it’s with that as a backdrop that I present to you the parents of our new furballs… *drumroll please*

Litter 1

This beautiful boy is¬†Count Fleet, dad to the¬†kittens of Litter 1. He’s a handsome black roan badger husky, with those huge dumbo ears that I’ve been longing to see in in a rat of my own ūüôā

WF Count Fleet

WF Count Fleet

Count Fleet was mated to this gentle-looking Russian Blue striped roan girl, who has standard ears. Her name is¬†Salvia, and isn’t she stunning? I’m a big fan of that soft¬†silvery-blue colouring.

WF Salvia

Litter 2

You’d be forgiven for thinking it, but no, this isn’t our current¬†girl Flea!

Meet¬†Salix, the father of Litter 2. He’s a fine¬†glossy¬†black Berkshire gentleman with standard ears, and apparently a lovely personality to match.

WF Salix

WF Salix

And last but not least, this pretty lass is Juniper. She’s a black striped roan, also with standard ears, and mom to the bubs of Litter 2. That little round tummy of hers is just begging to be kissed! ūüėČ

WF Juniper

WF Juniper

With such a varied lineage¬†it was anyone’s guess as to¬†what would turn up in the litters, but when we saw the resulting boys, we were smitten…

Stay tuned for the next installment: choosing and booking the boys! ūüėÄ

A tog in training

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Tog as in photog. As in photographer. Okay, okay, never mind… ūüôā

Here are some of the practice pics I’ve been snapping lately as I bond with my beastie!

Meringue with strawberries and cream

I can’t take credit for the cooking on this one: my mom treated¬†me to¬†this¬†meringue with strawberries and cream when I visited her the other day. Yum, I love my mom! ūüôā

Aloe

Aloe

Classic South African flora: a flowering aloe plant.

Robin

Robin

This wild Cape robin-chat has ‘trained’ my parents to feed him whenever he¬†sings at their kitchen door… and he does this about seven times a day! Adorable free pet ūüôā

New fur for Flea

New fur for Flea

And speaking of pets, here’s our fuzzbutt Flea. Can you see how her fur has grown back pitch black in that patch under her arm?

The sweetest face

The sweetest face

I also have a bit of amazing news to share: I’ve been asked to extend my current¬†contract of office work until the end of the year, instead of wrapping up in August.

This offer from my boss¬†came as a major blessing and a big relief to Ninja and I, as it means I’ll be getting a few extra salaries this year above what we’d planned for… which of course also means that our budget will quickly recover from the knock it took with my camera. The Lord has been so generous to¬†provide this ‘safety net’ ‚Äď and all that after I’d taken the leap of faith to get my camera!

Anyway, that’s all from me for today. Hope it’s sunny where you are :mrgreen:

Flea

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Flea sitting in her dinner

Flea sitting in her dinner

It’s been a busy few days for us, just tying up loose ends in life, so I just have time for a quick picture post on Flea. She’s healing well and going strong. Not sure if you can see it clearly in the pic above, but patches of fur are growing back where she was shaved for her op. For this pic she amused me by sitting right IN her food bowl, haha! :mrgreen:

Nesting

Nesting

This has been a fairly mild winter for us in Johannesburg so far, but when Flea starts feeling the cold in the evenings and missing the warmth of her sister, she doesn’t waste time in tearing up the paper in her cage to fashion a comfy little nest. I can’t wait until the new¬†boys come and we can introduce some companions for her.

Pimpin' the cage

Pimpin’ the cage

We’ve been collecting items to start pimpin’ out the rat cage, not just in preparation for the new bubs, but for Flea to enjoy right now. The black and grey objects in this pic are very clever plastic ‘Sputniks’, which can be hung from the cage roof or stood on the cage floor. The blue and yellow tube is a ferret tunnel that will comfortably fit plenty ratties squishing together!

An alien has landed

An alien has landed

Flea took to the Sputnik straight away. Sweet girl ūüôā

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 ‚Äď 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! ūüôā

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 ūüėÄ

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! ūüėČ

Brave little warrior

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Our Berkshire ratty Faith (better known as Flea) had two tumours removed from her little body this past week. Because one of our previous boy rats (Scribble) passed away during such an op, Ninja and I were very nervous about sending Flea in.

But¬†she made it through, and now¬†Flea has proven to be quite a fighter! I’m so proud of her :mrgreen:

Been through the wars…

She was understandably grumpy for the first few days.¬†Just like us, she’s been suffering from the loss of her sister Coffee this week. From what I can tell, she’s also been in considerable pain from the op… and on top of it¬†all¬†I’d venture to say that it’s been an affront to her dignity that she was shaved for the op ūüėČ

But she’s recovering well, eating a lot to get her strength back up, and fighting her meds with a big show of squeaking, hiding and resisting. She’s finished her course of painkillers and antibiotics now,¬†so in a few days’ time she’ll go back to the vet to have her stitches removed. (Not that she hasn’t already¬†tried to remove them herself!)

What a determined little ball!

What a determined little ball!

In a way I feel that Flea’s personality was sometimes overshadowed by the exuberant forcefulness¬†of her sister. Now that we’re spending time with her alone, her own¬†sweet nature is really shining through.

We’re in a bit of a pickle now, though, because ratties aren’t meant to live alone. They need the company of other furries to keep them from getting lonely and depressed. Plus it’s winter now, so Flea probably misses the warmth of a shared hammock.

Our options are limited at the moment. We only want male rats from here on in, so we can’t get her another female as a friend. And we’re also not ready to book our hoped-for¬†baby boys until it’s clear that¬†Faith is getting very old. So the only option we really have is to adopt an adult, neutered old¬†boy to live with our¬†single lady.

For now we’ve decided to wait¬†until Flea has completely recovered¬†from this op, and also to see how she’s doing by her 2nd birthday, in August this year. It’s only two months away (still a long time for a rat, I know).

In the meantime we’re taking the best care of her that we can. We’ve¬†upgraded her cage with some interesting new toys and I’m boosting her diet with the healthiest¬†ingredients I can find. Plus we’re giving her daily runs outside the cage (which will last longer once her stitches are out and she’s able to climb and run like before). I’ve also been spending extra time with her napping next to¬†me for warmth and companionship, and in the evenings I position a hot water bottle nearby to keep her snug in her cage.

She sure is a brave little warrior, and her hopeful spirit is encouraging to¬†me ūüôā

Goodbye sweet Coffee

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So my sweet little girl’s condition only deteriorated over the weekend. The meds did little to help, and Ninja and I spent the weekend preparing our hearts to say goodbye ūüė¶ When I took Flea to the vet yesterday for her op (tumour removals; another story for another post), Coffee went¬†along for a checkup.

The vet said we could try a dose of cortisone for Coff, but that would only prolong the inevitable. It was time to say goodbye and let that sweet spirit return to the Lord who made her with such care. She was put to sleep peacefully and I was able to bury her in my parents’ garden, in a sunny spot near the graves of our previous ratties, Scribble and Muesli.

To celebrate the short but lively life of my Coffeebums, here are a few of my favourite pics of her.

Day one

Day one

From the day we brought the sisters home, Coffee showed herself to be top rat and¬†leader of the mischief ‚Äď as you can see, she was quite happy walking all over poor quiet Flea!

USB mouse?

USB mouse?

Coffee was incurably inquisitive. Here she was taking a nibble at my USB flash disk.

Loving licks

Loving licks

One of the best things about Coffee was that she was very affectionate (fairly unusual for a girl ratty) and liked climbing on, grooming and being close to us humans.

Pistachio

Pistachio

But… she always wanted things to go her way. In the pic above she was getting frustrated when she couldn’t gnaw her way through a pistachio nut shell. I love that intense expression!

Beautiful Siamese rat

Beautiful Siamese rat

As a Siamese hooded rat, Coffee’s¬†coat faded into lovely markings. When she was but a pinkie, I chose her for her white-tipped tail (she was the only one like that in the litter), and as you can see in the pic above, that little white tip grew with her ūüôā

Curious Coffee

Curious Coffee

This ratty brought so much laughter to our home with her forceful nature and boundless energy. She was always getting up to something amusing; I wish I’d had a camera at the ready all the time.

I'll miss that cheeky face

I’ll miss that cheeky face

The pic above is my all-time favourite shot of Coffee, frozen for a brief moment amidst her characteristic rushing about investigating the world. This pic just sums up her personality so well.

Towards the end

Towards the end

What a¬†contrast between¬†her normal pace and verve¬†and the sad and listless behaviour of the last few days! I spent much of this past weekend with her cuddled close to me like this. I couldn’t bear to see her in such pain and confusion.

25.08.2011 ~ 04.06.2013

25.08.2011 ~ 04.06.2013

Goodbye my sweet Coffee, we love and miss you. Thank you for bringing so much joy and warmth to our hearts and home!

Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. ~ Eccl. 12:7

World Rat Day 2013

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It’s World Rat Day! Time to¬†spare a thought¬†for these intelligent,¬†adorable and¬†badly misunderstood¬†creatures.

Rat meme courtesy of Ratanooga.co.za

I’m counting¬†celebrating today as part of Goal #78 on my 101 things in 1001 days¬†‚Äď celebrate five obscure holidays. Except that, of course, celebrating pet¬†ratties is hardly¬†unusual for an owner-slave like me ūüôā

Rat owner meme courtesy of Ratanooga.co.za

Rat owner meme courtesy of Ratanooga.co.za

Some fun rat facts you may not have known:

  • Pet rats or fancy rats¬†come¬†with a range of coat types and a wide variety of coat colours.
  • The collective noun for a bunch of rats is a ‘mischief’.
  • Some rats have large, low-set ears called dumbo ears ‚Äď which¬†really adds to their ‘squeeeee!’ factor ūüėČ
  • Rats in general have very bad eyesight,¬†while¬†pink- and ruby-eyed rats¬†can barely see more than a blur.
  • Pet rats are very clean creatures, conscientiously grooming themselves and others (and even their humans!) throughout the day.
  • Ratties can’t burp, but they do get the funniest squeaky hiccups sometimes ūüėÄ
  • These rodents can collapse their ribcages if needed, to squeeze through spaces much smaller than you’d imagine possible!
  • Rats use their long, scaly¬†tails (which for some reason¬†many people¬†seem to find gross) as a cooling system, because they don’t sweat. Makes me wonder how¬†the bred-to-be-tailless¬†rats cope in the heat…
  • Rats use their sweet little hands, which don’t have any thumbs, to¬†grip¬†food and scoop water.¬†And apparently researchers have found that most rats are right handed.

If you haven’t yet acknowledged the cute side of rats, here are some of the¬†most adorable¬†pics of our present and past rat babies (all pics courtesy of their respective breeders)…

Our current girls Flea and Coffee looked like this at eight days old:

Baby Flea

Baby Flea

Coffee as a bub

Coffee as a bub

When their eyes open they become even cuter! Here are the girls with two of their other sisters. Flea is the tiny black one, of course, and Coffee is the girl on the far right.

Tiny girls ready to explore

The breeder of our previous boys, Scribble and Muesli, also sent us a few pre-purchase pics so we could choose our rats:

Two weeks old

Two weeks old

Four-week-old nunus

Four-week-old nunus

From these pics it’s tough to not to fall in love with pet rats and recognise that they can be¬†just as¬†beautiful and lovable as any kitten or puppy.

But if you’re still not convinced, allow me to introduce you to the heroine of rat lovers everywhere: Ellen van Deelen.

Grab a cup of tea, make sure no one is around to hear your inevitable¬†‘Awwww!‘s, and¬†check out her rat photos here.

Ellen’s incredible pictures shoot straight to the heart of what it means to love a rat. She shows them in anthropomorphic but natural¬†poses with a variety of bite-sized props, and captures their expressions and personalities perfectly.

Resistance is futile ūüôā

Catching up is hard to do

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Hellooooo! ūüėĬ†I’m back again, after what feels like a very long weekend!

I haven’t been in hiding (unlike this stray cat in our yard)

I’ve missed sending out some rays of sunshine into the blogosphere, but I’ve really been through the wars over the past few days. No sooner had I recovered from my cold¬†than I contracted a horrid bout of food poisoning from the Easter feast¬†ūüė¶

I’ve slowly been wilting away (not unlike this dying rose)

Over the long weekend¬†I spent¬†most of my waking hours asleep! But I’m on the mend again, I’m pleased to say.

So this is a little catch-up post to mention a few things I’ve been up to…

For one thing, we ate some of my homemade pickled beetroot¬†for the first time¬†two days ago. It was delicious. OK, the vinegar was a teeny bit on the strong side, but I’m sure I could tweak the recipe if needed. Otherwise, I was very impressed with the spicy flavour that came through. I doubt I’ll be buying pickled beetroot very often anymore: it’s far too much fun to make my own ūüôā

The ratties have been extra cute lately; good company for their convalescent mommy…

Coffee: Gimme my banana chippie!

Coffee: Gimme my banana chippie!

I gave the girls some wholewheat couscous for the first time. They really made piggies of themselves! Afterwards Coffee could barely keep her eyes open. All she could do was curl into this adorable AdoraBall ūüôā

Coffee K.O. after an epic ratty dinner

Now that autumn’s cooler weather is here, Flea loves tunneling through our fleece blankets:

Snug Fleabug

Snug Fleabug

But sometimes when she becomes too shy, she needs a push in the right direction from her sister:

C'mon, Flea!

C’mon, Flea! Don’t you see that banana chippie?

I’ve also had the chance to do a wee bit of ‘indoor birding’. I spotted this Southern boubou, a small endemic shrike, through the window this morning:

Southern boubou sneaking through the shrubbery

Southern boubou sneaking through the shrubbery

He may not be as big or striking as his larger relative the grey-headed bushshrike, but his cheery fearlessness makes up for it. He hopped closer to the window a few times to get a better look at the strange human and her camera:

Givin' me the eyeball

Givin’ me the eyeball

And he quite happily ate his breakfast right in front of me while I clicked away:

Southern boubou male

Southern boubou male

So that’s my news.

It’s good to be back ūüôā