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?! 🙂
You probably won’t believe this. I barely do myself.
But just when I thought Vodka’s right paw had healed beautifully from last week, we noticed last night that he’s now limping with the left paw held up!
At first I thought Ninja was playing a prank when he told me. Then, when the paw didn’t look swollen or sore this morning before work, I even thought Vodka might just be asking for some attention. But now that the left paw is all swollen and purple just like his right one was last week, I’m just… baffled.
I have no idea how this happened, or what it is, or why it would happen twice in a row. It doesn’t seem to be bumblefoot (a painful sore rats can get on their feet when kept in the wrong cages). It just seems to be the way my life is going this year so far. Sigh.
So the little guy is back in the hospital cage under observation, and I’m back on love-him-back-to-health duty with extra treats and healing meals 😉
In other words: if you don’t hear terribly much from me for a while, at least you know why!
Sorry I’ve been so quiet, friends.
Each week of this new year has brought a new distressing event in our lives. I’ve already mentioned the retrenchment we’re facing; then add to that some upsetting family news over the past few days and now my poor Vodka ratty has a broken paw 😦
Sigh… they do say these things happen in threes 😦 (Though I far prefer the German version: ‘aller guten Dinge sind drei‘!)
Anyway, the accident must have happened sometime during his free run last night… Vodka did seem uncharacteristically skittish afterwards, and just before bed I noticed he was holding up his right front paw. At that stage it wasn’t swollen or discoloured, and he still let me touch it gently without squeaking.
But this morning the poor little pink foot had developed purple stripes over the toes and was clearly swollen. He couldn’t put any weight on it and held it very close to his body, walking with a pronounced limp. Turns out it’s a simple closed fracture on his little leg. My poor bub!
After doing some internet research and chatting to the vet, I’ve now isolated him in a cage without levels, switched his meals to easy-to-eat-with-one-paw foods and given him a tiny drop of the painkiller and anti-inflammatory, Metacam. I’m making sure he stays hydrated, too: squeezing fresh grape juice and mixing it with honey or vitamins before feeding it to him with a syringe.
We’re going to keep an eye on him over the next few days, but from all I’ve read online there’s not much more we can do – or even need to do. Thankfully ratties usually heal fairly quickly, and we’re boosting his diet with extra protein, carbs and vitamins to help him recover. I did put his best friend Moon in the cage with him, but Moony was not impressed with having to play nurse! So for now Voddy’s alone and it’s more peaceful that way.
It’s ironic that it would be Vodka – the rat I usually get most frustrated with – who goes through this horrible experience and needs my help. It’s changed my view of him completely. Sometimes when he’d senselessly attack Mishka I’d see him as a mean little critter, but today seeing him so slow, cautious and in pain has melted my heart. He’s an innocent animal in my care, just like each of our other sweet boys, and I’ve been wrong to love him less. Well I sure plan to make it up to him from here on in! 🙂
The last few weeks have really worn me down. With each new development I’ve seen more clearly that it’s only God’s grace that’s carrying me through. I certainly have no human strength or energy reserves left to face each new wave of bad news. I know it’s the time I spend praying and reading God’s wonderful Bible that renews my hope and faith each day. I may often be weak and discouraged, but I serve a great and faithful Father, who knows exactly what I need and supplies it abundantly!
And on my heart are the words of that lovely worship song from Matt Redman:
Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name
Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord…
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!
From what I gather, this award is to celebrate those bloggers who are inspirational and/or ‘up and coming’. Plus, there’s a list of questions to answer and ask in return.
So here are my answers to Busy Darling’s questions:
1) What is your earliest memory? – Running to my dad, crying, because I had a thorn (an especially nasty one called a ‘dubbeltjie’ in Afrikaans) stuck in my foot. I must have been about 2 years old, but I can remember the sunlight on that day and the hope that my dad would fix me… which he did 🙂
2) Describe your natural environment. – A very green leafy suburb in Jozi.
3) What is your pet peeve? – Uh, I hate to admit it, but I actually have quite a few ;-P Fake people. Small talk. Crass jokes. Blasphemy and swearing. Et cetera 🙂
4) What is your favourite colour? – How can I choose?! I L–O–V–E colours 😀 It’s probably easier to list the colours I don’t like: ochre, olive green, drab browns and reds. Other than that I love all bright, cheerful and preferably neon colours!
5) What is your maybe-one-day dream car? – If it ever worked out, I would love to drive a restored version of the OLD Fiat 500 (not that new overpriced modern one).
6) And your keep-on-dreaming dream car? – Without a doubt, the Audi R8. In lime green and black. Ahhhh yeahhhh!
7) Name 3 items of clothing that define your style. – I used to have an awesome style all my own but I guess I kinda lost that somewhere on the way… But 3 items that have stayed with me since those days are my funky hat covered in badges, my bright orange beanie and my collection of random jewellery.
8) Do you have any scars on your body? – Yes I do… and my ratties keep adding more (especially during their bathtime when they’re desperately trying to escape the water)!
9) What inspired you lately? – The discovery of customising your own Moleskine diary/planner. Where have you been all my life?!
10) What was your last awkward moment? – Now that I think about it, it’s actually been a while. Great stuff for someone who only opens her mouth to change feet…
11) What was the last thing that made you smile? – The funny way rats groom so fastidiously. It’s as though they try to pull their ears into their mouths to wash them! It results in some funny expressions, as Vodka and Mishka model for us below:
Here are my nominations:
And here are my questions:
1. What’s your main reason for blogging?
2. Three favourite flavours?
3. What’s the funkiest thing you’ve ever done with your hair?
4. Where was the last holiday you took?
5. Favourite pet?
6. What do you enjoy most about Christmas?
7. Who’s your role model and why?
8. One dream you think you’ll never realise?
9. Do you use a diary or daily planner?
10. What are your three most cherished possessions?
11. When last did you do a random act of kindness?
Thanks once again Busy Darling!
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!