Tag Archives: ratties

A Christmas tail

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A furry merry Christmas to you!

A furry merry Christmas to you!

Greetings, sunshine lovers!

I hope you all had a blessed Christmas ūüôā

At the tail end of the Christmas celebrations, I wanted to share with you the poem I wrote for my friends at the South African rat club this year.

A Christmas tail

 

Imagine with me

if you will

that on that starry night

 

as shepherds praised

and wise men bowed

to meet the Child of light

 

between the cattle

through the hay

ran tiny gel-pink feet

 

and whiskers twitched

and black eyes glowed

to see the Child so sweet

 

With yellow teeth

and scaly tail

and fur as soft as fleece

 

a humble rodent

scurried in

to greet the Child of peace

 

Of course a rat

of all things made

could find its way in there

 

It scampered close

and sat quite still

to watch the Child so fair

 

Then bursting into

happy bruxing

to witness Christmas morn

 

a simple ratty

sang its joy-song

to the King there born.

(Please note: As with¬†all the other content¬†on this site, this poem is copyrighted to me. You may not use it without permission. Please contact me for any re-use requests. Thank you. ‚Äď Zest)

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Rats at play

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A few pics from our rats’ first week with us…

Moon: 'Argh, my brothers are so noisy!'

Moon: ‘Argh, my brothers are so noisy!’

Moon is still the little loner we first thought him to be. He has a very sweet personality but he’s always doing the opposite of what the other three are getting up to. He likes this corner of the cage where he can groom in relative peace.

Garden games

Garden games

While cleaning the cage (again!) this week, I decided to entertain the rats with their Ratty Eden. They had a blast tasting the¬†soil and munching the pet grass. Here you can see Moon, Vodka and Knight. The perspective of this pic doesn’t show it, but Knight is still the smallest guy. What a sweetie though ūüôā

Mishka: 'MY glass pebble!'

Mishka: ‘MY glass pebble!’

Mishka was fascinated by the blue glass pebbles I’d dotted around the garden. As you can see, this rat tests everything with his teeth. He’s the first chewing¬†rat we’ve had ‚Ästin¬†one short week he’s chewed bits of metal, perspex and wood from the cage fittings, as well as several rawhide treats, cardboard boxes, his water bowl and anything else he can find ūüôĄ

Moon nomming soil with one hand

Moon nomming soil with one hand

Ninja’s boys are very cute with their hands, often drinking and eating with only one hand. It’s adorable to watch them scoop water from their water bowl and lick it off their fingers or wash their faces with it!

Vodka: 'Ahh, rawhide FTW!'

Vodka: ‘Ahh, rawhide FTW!’

If you ever doubted that pet rats are like small pet dogs, just throw a couple of rawhide chew toys into the cage and sit back to watch. The rats leap on these tough treats and each drag theirs off a safe distance away, angling their bodies away from potential thieves.

Vodka, Knight and Mishka

Then they settle down with determination to gnaw those treats to shreds. They make short work of the hard rawhide and the first to finish will usually venture around to those who are still busy, looking for leftovers and¬†trouble ūüėõ

Moon with his munchies

Moon with his munchies

Little Knight is quite a vocal ratty, at first seeming like the victim most¬†picked on. We thought it might be because he’s so small… but after a few days of observation we realised that he’s often the one to start the scuffles, sidling up to one of his bigger brothers and snatching away the food they’re eating! All of which prompted us to sing him this rhyme:

Tiny tot, tiny tot

Looks so innocent

But he’s not!

Mishka and Moon: ‘This gap ain’t big enough for the both of us!’

For me, the cutest moments with the rats are not just¬†when they seem almost human in their antics, but also when they’re¬†being so very thoroughly ratty. Take the pic above: give them one night with a cardboard box and they’ll chew a stereotypical round hole in the side… and then all try to squeeze through the gap at the same time! :mrgreen:

Vinyl car window decals

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Has the ‘My Family’ car-window-sticker craze hit your country too? In South Africa it’s become very popular to¬†represent your family members on the back of your car with vinyl decals. The cute little line drawings can show off your human and animal family members, and it’s always fun to see what other drivers have when you’re stuck behind them in traffic!

Anyway, so here are ours:

"My Family" window stickers

“My Family” window stickers

There’s Ninja with his biking helmet, me with my books, and four ratties to represent all our rats, past, present and future.

I think this is just¬†such a¬†fun trend ūüôā

Goal #69: Get more pet rats ‚Äď Done!

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I can happily cross off the 69th goal on my 101 things in 1001 days list now, because yesterday our new ratties came home ūüėÄ

After last weekend’s delay and the long road we’ve travelled on this blog through each stage of their growth, it’s wonderful to welcome them home at last.

The airline that flies live animals has a special collection point called the Pet Lounge. It’s a simple building near the cargo bays, with a reception area and couches and a coffee table. Ninja and I got there an hour early so we could have a relaxed wait.

The collection point

The collection point

Soon¬†one of South Africa’s other pedigree rat breeders (the lady who bred our sweet Coffee and Flea) joined us, as she also had bubs to collect from this Wheatfields bunch. We got chatting about all things ratty until a crate arrived bustling with boys!

A box of boys

A box of boys

There were about 8 or 9 boys that flew together in that crate, while a separate crate arrived holding 1 or 2 girls. I snapped a quick pic before we opened the box and began figuring out whose rat was whose. We didn’t have much trouble picking out our bubs ‚Äď after months of staring longingly at their photos, their markings were pretty much emblazoned on our brains!

Our boys

Our boys

We quickly¬†separated our four out into their travel cage. Doing so¬†it¬†just¬†hit me once again how beautifully these babies have been raised. You might normally¬†think twice about sticking your arm into a crate of wriggling rodents, but these animals already know and¬†love people. No nipping at all¬†‚Äď only¬†the flashing of dozens of curious whiskers¬†everywhere at once!¬†There wasn’t a squeak or scuffle to be heard as we plucked them out one at a time to check their markings.

Finally, after chatting a bit more with the other people who’d arrived to fetch ratties, Ninja and I packed up our kittens and headed home. It’s a fair distance from the airport to our place, and it was a very hot day. So as Ninja drove I sprinkled the rats with drops of water as they flailed around in the cage at my feet, clearly tired out by their hectic day but still curious about everything happening around them.

We got them home as fast as we could and once inside their new mansion, they went straight for the water.

Cool relief at the water bowl

Cool relief at the water bowl

Knight and Moon scooped up water with their little hands, to drink and to wipe all over their heads as a cool face wash!

Knight and Moon

Knight and Moon

We’ve placed two water bottles and one water bowl in the corner of their cage, which they figured out instantly.

Mishka

Mishka

Once they were cooled down, the investigating began! Ninja’s nickname for them ‚Äď scurries ‚Äď couldn’t be more accurate ūüôā

Scurries!

Scurries!

Cardboard rat castle

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Our new ratties arrived today! Whoop whoop! I’ll share all about that in a moment, but first I want to brag about the super rat castle that my creative husband made ūüôā

It’s finally done,¬†so here are all the levels and how they fit together:

Level 1

Level 1

The rats enter through a classic ‘mouse-hole’-shaped doorway and have to navigate a maze (it even has a wrong turn with a dead end built in).

Level 2

Level 2

The second storey has a viewing window (covered with clear plastic) and a fenced-in area that can be filled with stones through which the rats can snuffle for treats ūüôā

Levels 1 and 2 set up

Levels 1 and 2 set up

The whole contraption is made from nothing but strong cardboard and plastic packaging tape.

Level 3

Level 3

The third level can also be filled with interesting items for the rats to crawl through ‚ÄstI’m thinking of using¬†scraps of old material. As you can see, each level is covered with tape so that any pee spots or food messes can be wiped up with ease.

Levels 1, 2 and 3 set up

Levels 1, 2 and 3 set up

Levels 2 and 3 both have cute viewing windows and staircases with steps for easy grip when the rats ascend or descend.

Level 4

Level 4

Finally, the rats will emerge into the open space on Level 4. It has a small shaded area on the one side though, because we know how much ratties like scurrying straight to dark, safe places :mrgreen:

The complete castle

The complete castle

What a labour of love! I’m so impressed with my husband’s ideas and hard work. In my mind’s eye I picture this as the ratty version of a gorgeous fancy hotel, and if I had time I’d paint it Mediterranean white with palm trees and cute details all over… but I know the ratties don’t need that ‚Äď they’ll love it exactly as is ūüôā

A slight delay

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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 ūüôā

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 ūüėē

Anyway, I’ll keep you updated of course… since I’ve strung you all along in suspense about these rats¬†for so long! ūüėČ

 

Rat cages

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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 ūüėõ

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 ūüė¶ Poor boy ūüė¶

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 ūüôā

Paperwork, pedigrees and pics

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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 ‚Äď 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¬†ūüėČ

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 ‚Äď Black lightning-blazed vari-berk

Moon ‚Äď Black lightning-blazed vari-berk

Knight ‚Äď Black Berkshire

Knight ‚Äď Black Berkshire

Mishka ‚Äď Russian Blue striped roan dumbo

Mishka ‚Äď Russian Blue striped roan dumbo

Vodka ‚Äď Russian Blue striped roan

Vodka ‚Äď 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 ūüôā

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!

Zest

Spoilt (b)rats get a castle with a garden and a pool!

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Ninja and I have had lots of fun lately as we prepare to welcome home our new ratties. And if you thought our fussing over them was outrageous before, just¬†wait till you see what we’ve done now! :mrgreen:

Cardboard castle maze

Cardboard castle maze

Firstly, Ninja began building and designing this cardboard castle with a maze of tunnels and multiple levels. It’s quite a labour of love, with each level stacking neatly on top of the previous one. Ninja made it out of strong cardboard and packing tape. I must admit I was greatly tempted to paint it with cute details all over… but first we’ll have to see how long it withstands ratty teeth and piddle puddles, hehehe! ūüėČ It’s not finished yet¬†so I’ll try post more pics when it is.

Then comes the garden. This is something I’ve wanted to do for each new set of ratties we’ve brought home, but only now did¬†I finally get around to making a little natural scratch patch for our pets.

Ratty Eden

Ratty Eden

After making drainage holes in the bottom of a large shallow plastic container, I filled it with rich potting soil and planted some pet-safe grass and lettuce for the rats. Some pebbles, glass stones and wooden flower signs finished off the effect.

Flea was our guinea pig (no species slur intended, dear ratty!) for the garden. Even with her wobbly old legs and lack of coordination, she showed her enthusiasm by climbing right in.

'A garden for me?'

‘A garden for me?’

Flea seemed very curious about the interesting new smells and textures. In her short/long life she’s never experienced soil or plants, so I was glad to bless her with this little adventure before she leaves us.

A ratty scratch patch

A ratty scratch patch

With her in the pic you can also see that it’s not such a big garden, but I do intend to make another one in which to grow edible sprouts for the ratties to dig up.¬†Nevertheless, since we don’t even have a garden for the humans in this place, I don’t think the rats¬†have a right to¬†complain!

Then, as if all these wonderful spots to explore weren’t enough, we also found the perfect pool for our pets:

Pool for pet rats

Pool for pet rats

I can’t take credit for the idea, since I saw a fellow rat club member do this first, but I’m sooooo glad we¬†also¬†found the right tub for the job ūüôā It’s a cheap and simple plastic washing tub with a washboard moulded into it. But of course when you look at it from a rodent’s perspective, those¬†make ideal¬†steps leading down into the water.

Complete with a rubber ducky

Complete with a rubber ducky

Hope you enjoyed that peek into the fanatical world of¬†pet rat owning ūüėÄ

And to think¬†those are just the fun items for the rats’ free-range time… We still have a lot of work to do upgrading their main living quarters in the cage. Will keep you posted!

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