Tag Archives: Flea

Can you name these rats?


This may not be true to the Chinese zodiac, but 2013 has certainly been ‘the year of the rat’ for me! I laid to rest two beautiful girls (Coffee and Flea) and got four handsome new boys to fill our home.

My understanding of these sweet fancy rat pets has deepened over the last year, and my love for them has grown. And you, my dear readers, have borne the brunt of my strange obsession!

I’m sure you didn’t expect the Sunshine Scrapbook to turn into such a rodentcentric blog; neither did I. But this small spot on the web is where I share all the bright, beautiful, sweet and fluffy things that bring joy to my life – and rats just happen to tick all of those boxes 🙂

For a bit of fun as 2013 comes to an end, here are 13 famous rats you may or may not know… How many of them can you name?

Rat #13

Rat #12

Rat #11

Rat #10

Rat #9

Rat #8

Rat #7

Rat #6

Rat #5

Rat #4

Rat #3

Rat #2

Rat #1

Did you get them all? Check your answers below:

#13 – This is a Banksy rat, one of many clever rodents painted by British graffiti artist Banksy. (Photo credit: Unknown/Banksy)

#12 – I don’t know its name, but that’s an Ellen van Deelen rat, of course! If you want an overload of ratty cuteness that can’t be matched, google the excellent photography of Ellen van Deelen. I bet every rat owner wishes they could take such amazing pics of their bubs… (Photo credit: Ellen van Deelen)

#11 – The 11th rat on my list is Hector, a dapper little astronaut sent into space by the French in 1961. (Photo credit: RedScharlach.tumblr/Original unknown)

#10 – This guy won’t make much sense unless you’ve watched the kiddies’ TV show Bananas in Pyjamas. That’s Rat-In-A-Hat. (Photo credit: Bananas in Pyjamas wikia)

#9 – Now this face you must know! Arguably one of the most famous fictional rats around: Templeton from Charlotte’s Web. (Photo credit: Paramount Pictures)

#8 – Yup, that’s a gathering of rats at the Karni Mata temple in India, where tens of thousands of so-called kabbas rats are fed and venerated and allowed to run rampant. Gross, gross, gross. And that’s coming from a rat lover! (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

#7 – The artwork is so distinctive, I’m sure you knew that that fat rat is Beatrix Potter’s Samuel Whiskers 🙂 (Photo credit: Beatrix Potter)

#6 – Booger the dog and Kitty the cat wouldn’t have been the hit they were if they hadn’t been topped by Mousie the rat (admittedly, there were several different Mousies over time). This famous trio or animal pyramid was the brilliant idea of a man named Greg Pike. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

#5 – It’s Ratbert, of course. Ratbert the Consultant, co-worker with Dilbert, Catbert and Dogbert. Hehehe 🙂 (Photo credit: Dilbert wikia)

#4 – His jacket probably gave it away if you didn’t know which rat this was: it’s Rizzo from the Muppets. OK, so I learnt that from Google myself… I’ve never watched a Muppets show in my life! (Photo credit: Muppet wikia)

#3 – The only wise and feisty rat sensei out there: Splinter from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#2 – If you think a rat can’t change the world, think again. HeroRATs are trained to do life-saving work such as landmine detection and tubercolosis detection. (Photo credit: APOPO/Wikimedia Commons)

#1 – Oops, I cheated: #1 is actually four rats – my very own fantastic four 😉

Have a happy New Year everyone! See you in 2014!


Rest in peace faithful Flea


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


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:


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


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


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


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 🙂

A slight delay


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! 😉


Rat cages (part two)


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


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


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


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!


Cherry on top


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!


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 🙂