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!
This is how I start every day: with a view of four furry backsides radiating happiness around the breakfast platter.
Before I’ve rubbed the sleep from my eyes, usually before I’ve greeted my still-dozing Ninja, and long before I’ve started cooking my own breakfast, I – dutiful rat-slave that I am – obey the following silent-but-deafening hints:
So I blow them a sleepy kiss and slop off to the kitchen to mix up baby porridge with their flavour of the day. The flavour may be Ensure (a healthy meal-replacement powder), a dash of cinnamon, a tiny sprinkling of cocoa powder, a squeeze of honey or if they’re really lucky, a spoon of coconut milk.
Then I make the ‘click’ sound for my little Pavlov’s ratties and they leap into action, arranging themselves around the plate with their backs to me: ‘Thanks Mom, we’ll take it from here.”
If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know that in January my one male rat Vodka suddenly seemed to have broken his right front paw. With some TLC and time it healed suprisingly well. Then, to my dismay, his left front paw started showing the same symptoms.
No sooner had Voddy healed from that (which I thought was just really bad luck and maybe just a sprain), than his right back foot suddenly flared up too! It was far more pronounced than with the other feet and I managed to get a few pics of it (to prove I’m not making this up, lol!)
When it happened this third time I got the poor boy to the vet asap, as I’d realised that I might have been wrong about that ‘broken’ paw the first time. Three times on three different feet was just too weird…
At first, after some initial research, I thought it might be cardiomyopathy or another heart problem, which can sometimes manifest as recurring swelling on the limbs. That worried me! Heart problems in such a young buck? 😦
When the vet checked out the foot, however, he said it was too strange to only have signs of heart issues in one paw at a time. Also, he listened to Voddy’s heart and took an X-ray, both of which told him that Vodka’s heart is perfectly normal (praise God!).
But the X-rays did give the vet another clue: Voddy seems to have signs of arthritis in his swollen paw. The vet mentioned that dogs and cats can get a condition called polyarthritis, which often shows up in random joints and then disappears after a while. The vet didn’t know that it could happen to ratties too, but said that’s the most likely problem here.
Armed with a cocktail of Prednisone and Baytril to give to Voddy once daily, I left the vet’s feeling much better. Of course such strong meds are not a long-term solution, so I’ll have to research some dietary and other changes I could make to help a young rat with arthritis. But I’m hoping the initial treatment will reduce the pain and swelling on that poor precious pink paw!
One thing that really made me smile through all this was how Moon, Vodka’s best friend, made sure he was as close as possible to Voddy’s hospital cage so he could watch over him:
Can you see why these little animals have taken over my heart so completely? 🙂
Our rats are on a see-food diet: if they see food, they eat it! On occasion, that diet includes actual seafood too 🙂
I’ve mentioned before how much they enjoy salmon, and the other day we treated them to something even more decadent: prawns! Or, to be more accurate, the leftovers of Ninja’s prawn dinner. We washed off most of the lemon butter sauce, but Ninja left a little meat in the shells for the boys.
We started by waving the bowl of prawns in front of the cage to tantalise our pets (who looked ready to leap into the bowl!):
Of course they each grabbed a piece as soon as they could…
… and scurried off to their separate corners to chow down 🙂
It was an absolute feast, and so quiet in the cage except for the sounds of contented nibbling. Afterwards I collected a handful of squeaky-clean, transparent shells.
Here are the before and after shots:
You know, if you’d told me a few years ago that I would one day be happy to wash a pile of cold, half-eaten prawns and feed them to a mischief of ravenous rats, I would have thought you mad.
Now you can be the ones to think me mad, how’s that?! 🙂
Remember when two of our little lads won first place in categories in our rat club’s online show?
Well, their prizes and ribbons have arrived:
So proud of our cuties! I hope we’ll be able to enter them (and Voddy and Teddy) in many other rat club shows during their time with us 🙂
Remember these little guys?
Well, six months later they’ve grown into four very handsome young adults:
‘Moonymoonymoonbeam…!’ I call out, and there comes a blazing streak of black and white dashing towards me 😀 Moon is the littlest boy in our bunch, but weighing 440 g is still decent for a male rat. In the four months he’s been with us he’s earned lots of random nicknames, including ‘Opposite Rat’ (for always being awake when the others are sleeping) and ‘Pliable’ (for accepting pretty much whatever cuddling you subject him to). He’s my second favourite ratty 🙂
Oh dear, poor Voddy! We have a bit of a tumultuous relationship, he and I, because I get fed up with his senseless biting of my Mishka’s ears He still picks on Mishka daily (his favourite time to strike is when the helpless dumbo is sleeping), but when he’s not being divisive he’s a really cute rat. He’s also very smart and the quickest to learn the few tricks we’ve tried teaching him. Ninja has a special place in his heart for this rat; we often joke that we should swap so I can call Moon mine and he can have Vodka! But of course they all belong to both of us 🙂 Vodka is our second biggest rat, weighing 500 g.
Ah Knight, the little gentleman 🙂 The pose in the pic above is typical of Knight’s polite, if-you-don’t-mind-I’ll-have-that-tidbit-now kind of attitude. He weighs 480 g at the moment, and feels so solid and well muscled in our hands. If you think you can resist the cuteness of a black rat, it all changes when those adorable white socks are clinging on the cage bars and begging for a run! Sometimes we still call him Tiny Tot even though he isn’t anymore, and I also call him our little Black Roof Rat 🙂
Awww Meeeeeshka! He weighs 520 g now and has carved out a cosy nest for himself in the middle of my heart 😀 He seems to slowly be outgrowing his reticence during free runs, but occasionally we do still see him peering cautiously around a corner as in the pic above 🙂 His attitude in the cage with his brothers is gentle, though he enjoys a good scuffle like the rest of them – and his policy for dealing with upstarts is simply to sit on them!
I’m very pleased with the progress our boys have made. They’ve all been neutered and Vodka and Knight recovered from the infections they got from the ops. They’ve all gained weight at a good rate and so far they’ve had no respiratory issues. At six months they’re officially mature, and it’s hard to believe they’ve already experienced about one quarter to one fifth of their expected lifetime.
Looking ahead, I hope that we can start taking one or two of them on short trips with us, as I’ve heard many rat owners do successfully. I also plan to add vitamins to their diet this year, and to keep up the regular clipping of their nails (that’s always fun!). As you know, Moon and Knight won prizes in our rat club’s first online rat show last year. In 2014 the club is hoping to host their first live show, and I’d really love to enter our boys in that competition if possible 🙂
And now enough blogging about the bubs… time for me to go clean their cage and give them that free run they’re begging for!
It’s been a week of lows and highs for our ratties Moon and Knight. The lows, firstly, come from the fact that yesterday was their turn to be neutered. Poor wee critters! Little Moonbeam doesn’t seem to be doing too badly but our Sir Tiny is visibly upset by the trauma…
Luckily there was a high to their week too (not that they know it though!): both of these boys won first place in different categories in our rat club’s first online rat show 😀
Moon was picked out for his beautiful colouring, and won first prize in the Prettiest Markings category:
Ninja’s other boy, Knight, took first place in the mixed category of ‘Best Wannabe’ – and was dubbed ‘Super Ratty’ for his flying leap and determination to get to that salmon:
We’re suitably chuffed with these achievements, I have to say 🙂 Now we can tell people we have award-winning pet rats, hehe. We’re expecting their ribbons and prizes to arrive in the post soon, so watch this space!
The exciting thing is that next year there’s every chance of not only more online competitions like this, but also live rat shows hosted at the annual pet expos around the country. Hopefully we can take part in those too 🙂
So proud of all our gorgeous boys!
It’s offishal: rats love salmon!
Recently our boys got a taste of smoked trout ribbons and salmon fish spread. (I know, they eat better than some people do. I feel bad about that sometimes. For a second or two. It’s not as though withholding a treat from my bubs will magically feed someone somewhere – it wouldn’t feed anyone at all, considering the tiny amounts it takes to please these guys…)
Anyway, they went crazy for the fishy treats, and I managed to snap a few pics of the fun 🙂
Those smoked trout ribbons were their best treat so far, but on a separate occasion I mixed some salmon fish spread with brown rice and veggies for their supper. That was gulped down just as quickly:
Footnote: Just so you know, rats are only allowed high-protein treats once in a while, and even then only in small samplings. Too much protein can cause their skin to become very itchy and scabby, almost like an allergic reaction. Under normal circumstances a pet rat only needs about 10% of its diet to consist of protein, and definitely no more than 18%. Our rats have almost no protein in their staple diet, so treats such as these once in a while are fine. And as with human diets, variation and moderation are vital 🙂
It’s almost inevitable.
Somehow, one day, you
(or your better half) will accidentally leave the rat cage open, lock up the house and drive away…
It’s so easy to do, especially when you just stuck your hand in the cage for a quick goodbye to sleepy ratties:
But of course they always sleep with one eye open, just waiting for the sound of your car engine to drone away. And then!
So when Ninja and I got home yesterday, the first thing we saw was the empty rat cage and the door standing wide open.
I immediately closed the main house door and checked and closed the bathroom, while Ninja stepped carefully into the bedroom calling out for our furbabies.
But a minute later it was over.
Moon and Knight came running to Ninja within seconds, and I scooped up Voddy and Teddy as soon as they appeared. I was actually quite chuffed that the boys happily came running to us as soon as we called them 🙂
Phew! That’s the first time we’ve given them a run despite ourselves, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. The boys were pooped but clearly happy to have had an adventure. They’d only been out for two hours; thankfully they didn’t destroy anything during that time…
What we really need is a cage door locking mechanism that will show us at a glance whether the cage is secure or not: sort of like those door indicators you see in public toilets!
Our pet rats are heading for 4 months of age soon, which is about the equivalent of 25 human years. I thought it was time for an update on how they’ve grown in the almost two months they’ve been with us.
Firstly, they’ve all pretty much doubled in weight. Since rats reach maturity at 6 months, these guys are only halfway there – but already they all weigh much more than an average adult female. They’re gonna be beeeg squeeeshes 😀
If you look back at when we got them, you can compare their weights then with what they weigh now:
Mishka – 400 g (gained 150 g) – still the chunkiest hunk 😉
Vodka – 380 g (gained 160 g) – the fastest-growing boy
Knight – 380 g (gained 190 g) – doubled his weight; no longer the tiniest!
Moon – 340 g (gained 140 g) – the slowest grower
So they’re all healthy and doing well, and I’m sure the Russian Blues would weigh even more if it wasn’t for their op!
Their coats have also changed in the time we’ve had them. Moon, the sweet variberk, hasn’t showed too much fading or colour change apart from some extra white hairs on his back.
Knight, the black Berkshire rat, is showing his mother’s colours through his dad’s black coat. He’s getting lots of white flecks on his back and his sides are a bit lighter than before.
Mishka the dumbo’s Russian Blue coat isn’t fading too fast; there’s some white flecking on his bum and around his sides, but so far he seems to be hanging onto his lovely colours 🙂 Which is more than can be said for his brother…
Vodka’s Russian Blue colours are fading daily. He has a dark spot above his tail and a dark ‘mullet’ behind his head, but the rest of the grey is going white very quickly. He’s clearly on hyperdrive, this boy: the biggest weight gain, the fastest-fading coat, the first to learn new tricks and the first to explore.
Personality wise, they’ve settled into our original expectations rather well 🙂
Moony Moonbeam has a ‘body clock’ that’s the exact opposite of his cagemates’. He’s always the one up and about in the middle of the day when the other three are fast asleep. And at night he settles down in his hammock all drowsy-like while the others gambol about him. He loves exploring and quietly slips away undetected, and he has a sweet nature with his humans and doesn’t mind cuddles.
Sir Tiny Knight is hardly tiny anymore. He’s big enough to put everyone else in their place and topples even Mishka if needs be. He’s still a bit squeaky when he gets groomed, but on the whole he’s laid back, neat and gentle. We’ve got another nickname for him too: Tiny Stark. It’s a play on Tony Stark (Iron Man) because Tony never likes to have anything handed to him, and the same is true of Knight. Bring treats to the cage and the other boys will snatch them up with no manners, but not this little dumpling! He just won’t take anything (except lettuce and fresh veggies) from you with his mouth. You have to put the treat on the floor in front of him before he takes it away 😛
Voddy Vodka is, as mentioned above, the rat on hyperdrive. He’s been on meds this week because he got an infection from his op, but we never would have known about it because he just carried on as normal. It looked very sore when the vet removed the stitches, but now our crazy ‘Rat of Rats’ is back in good health. I’m glad I have Vodka who’s so outgoing and friendly, because if both my rats turned out like Mishka I would feel a bit discouraged!
My lovable teddy bear Mishka is not just the biggest and cutest bub; he’s also the most fearful and nervous. As you can see from his first free run, it took him way too long to realise that freedom can be fun. When he’s out of his cage, he freezes with fear and struggles to relax. Ninja and I have to sit very still when Mishka’s on the loose; no loud noises or sudden movements allowed. Still, he has his days. Sometimes he bounds around just like the others. I’ll need to put in a bit of work with this one to help him learn to trust… but with a face like this, who can resist? 🙂