Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

What’s That?

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 8:55 pm on Friday, December 4, 2009


What’s That?, originally uploaded by Folkcat.

It’s rats!

Koko (himalayan female) and Chanel (black berkshire female).

Don’t panic – all shall be revealed.

This message has been sent using the picture and Video service from Verizon Wireless!

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Where To Now?

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 11:04 pm on Sunday, October 18, 2009

My new blog is live! Please visit, bookmark, and subscribe to The Transmogrifier’s Tale. As of this moment forward, all posting will happen there.

My free downloads and how-to’s are linked there as well.

Of Rats And Jen will remain here as an archive. Feel free to peruse the contents at your leisure. You can also e-mail me, or comment on any post, as you wish. I’m still following anything that happens here.

Thank you for sharing your time with me here. I hope you’ll join me at The Transmogrifier’s Tale for more creative adventures!

Blogging

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 7:12 pm on Friday, October 16, 2009

Where I blog will be changing. As you can imagine, the subject of the rats is a sore one for me right now.

Of Rats and Jen will continue to exist as an archive. You will always be able to visit here and browse the photos and posts. I can’t bear to think of removing it, the rats have been too important to me. But I want a fresh start.

A new blog is under construction. Future posts will happen there, and posts with ongoing value (such as my how-to’s) will be linked there, possibly even imported. Have no fears about losing information, my links and downloads will be found both there and here as well.

I’ll let you know when the new blog is ready for primetime. Keep an eye on this space – I’ll be sure to give you a link when I’m ready for you to see the new digs!

The Other Shoe Crashes to the Floor

Filed under: Daily Life,Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 3:45 pm on Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It’s over. Saw the doctor yesterday, and she’s concerned that continued exposure to the rats, even on a minimal basis, could put me in the hospital.

Mainely Rat Rescue is, fortunately, able to take most of the rats in to foster and be re-homed. Leo, Isabella, Laurel, Laura, Trixie, and Bailey will be collected tomorrow and transported to their next stop.

Marbles and Mia will stay with us for the moment. Marbles has his special diet, and it will take a little longer to find a placement for them that can handle his needs. But they will move on as soon as that next position is found.

The newest arrivals, Dusty and Toby, will go back to their previous owner. D&T were surrendered to us when she realized she had to downsize her colony to a single cage. Since then, her own colony has seen a couple of losses, and the cage she has is large enough to bring Dusty and Toby back to without needing a second one. She’s going to be very happy to see them again, she talks about how she misses them all the time. I imagine they’ll be happy to see her, too.

I am heartbroken. Gryphon and I have always said we’d never be without rats again. And now, they’re all going to leave us.

If you wish there were a way you could help, there is. Mainely Rat Rescue is  struggling with their cash flow a bit at the moment, and could use cash donations desperately. If you visit their home page HERE, you will see a DONATE button at the bottom of the right hand sidebar. This is a direct link to PayPal, and you will be able to donate whatever amount you desire. No amount is too small, anything you can spare will be gratefully received, and will help tremendously.

If you care to, please add in the notes for your donation that it’s in honor of Jenny’s Ratties. I’d love for them to see how much my readers care.

No more rats for me, then. As you might imagine, the blog will likely be changing after all. I’ll have to think about that and see what direction I come up with.

Meanwhile, Gryphon and I will still be doing what we can to help Mainely Rat Rescue. This doesn’t change our love for the little furballs, and our respect and admiration for the work that MRR does only continues to grow with each passing day. I’m currently acting as a diet researcher and counselor, and Gryphon is doing some behind the site IT work, helping to keep their web presence in good order.

I may also find that I have the time to occasionally make something for some of their fund-raising raffles. I’ll be sure to let you know when I do.

I’m sad, but I’ll recover. It helps to know that the rats will all find good homes, and new people who will love them as we do.

Thank you for being here. The support of my blog friends helps tremendously.

Stick around – soon enough we’ll see whatever my life evolves into next!

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Filed under: Daily Life,Rats!,Ravelry — folkcat at 1:54 pm on Monday, September 28, 2009

Hello again!

It’s been a rough few weeks here. I’ve had some big changes forced upon me recently, and they’ve included being sick and still recovering.

We’d been fostering a pair of mature, intact male rats for a few weeks. Their names are William and Carlyle. They weren’t housed together, because Carlyle, while a sweet rat, was much younger and somewhat aggressive with 18-month old William.

William was an absolute cuddle-bug. A black berkshire with unusually long hair, and a speckling of white hairs throughout his coat, his favorite thing was just to hang out on my shoulders, neck, and chest, laying down and getting skritched.

We were, in fact, very close to adopting William. But then something came up.

Over the weeks that these boys were with us, I was having worse than usual problems with coughing and allergic reactions. With my new/old laptop, I was even spending much of some days in my bedroom all day to rest and recover.

I think that the bedroom time cleared my allergies enough that I was finally able to identify a distinct exposure/reaction pairing. After being in my bedroom for the day, I went and collected William for snuggle time.

Within minutes, I began coughing, my eyes were puffy and watery, and my nose was running. I was having an allergic reaction to William, with all his grown-up hormones and the buck grease of a un-neutered male rat.

This was an unexpected and startling turn of events. We conducted experiments. Exposure to Carlyle, a 7-month old un-neutered boy, did the same.

Then the heart-breaking moment. I took Trixie out of the colony cage. A moment later, the cough began.

I’ve obviously lived with our rats for some time without noticing a problem. Apparently William and Carlyle, who were surrendered to Mainely Rat Rescue because of severe allergies in the owner’s family, were causing the same issue for me. And they’d tipped my allergic reaction to rats (which I never suspected before) over the edge into critical and highly sensitive ranges on the allergen scale. Gryphon tells me he was even afraid I was going to have an anaphalactic reaction if we couldn’t curb the problem soon.

We contacted MRR immediately, and the other foster home here in Wilton was fortunately able to take the boys in the same day. A decision was made that we would discontinue fostering as well, since our health issues were clearly interfering with our ability to take in more rats.

We have ten of our own rats: Marbles, Mia, and Bailey in their cage; Leonardo, Isabella, Laurel, Laura, Trixie, Dusty, and Toby in the colony cage.* At this point, we’ll be allowing the colony to downsize through natural attrition over time. It’s my hope that by then, I’ll be “de-toxed” enough from the allergies to be able to comfortably live with a few select rats at a time.

In the meantime, I am staying out of the living room as much as possible to avoid exposure to all ten of them for any extended periods of time. I am making a point of having one or two brought into the bedroom for me to socialize with every day. They clearly miss their Mom, but this way I can play and snuggle with them without becoming seriously ill.

This problem has inspired us to do a little rearranging in the house. Since I’m spending my days in the bedroom, we removed a small, but un-used, crafting table from the corner across from my bed. An easy chair from the living room was brought in, along with the Table-mate table that I can slide up to it for a working surface.

My bedroom has become a very Victorian-sounding “bed-sitting room”. I can now spend my days comfortably sitting in a good chair, with my laptop in front of me, a television at a comfortable viewing distance, and my knitting at hand.

Concurrent with all this, I discovered an interesting group on Ravelry that resonated with me. Called “the cave”, it’s for people who, like me, have always considered themselves something of a hermit. We get along well enough with the outside world when we need to, and even seem very outgoing at times. But our highest and best happiness comes from being able to completely cocoon ourselves, isolated from outside distractions and having to interact with people.

I’d already been coming to grips with the fact that Gryphon and I are now, for all purposes, retired from working. It was a struggle for me to feel like it was okay to do nothing meaningful to the outside world all day, not to do work that produces an income. I was accepting that this is how our life is now, I don’t need to produce an income (though we are still pursuing a disability declaration and subsequent benefits for me), and it’s okay for me to spend my day doing whatever I want.

Then I found “the cave”, and added an extra dimension to my new reality – I accepted and embraced the fact that, all my life, my true nature has been to be the hermit, to spend my time alone at home doing things that please me, and to avoid having to go out and interact with people. Being officially retired, it was now okay for me to do this, too.

I’m not cutting myself off altogether. I have balanced my hermitude by making more contact with friends. I phone just to talk, and I am making a point of getting together with one or more for lunch every week. But it’s been immensely pleasurable and relaxing to sit in my room, fiddling with the computer, or knitting and watching a program.

More than ever, I am daily achieving that immersive state where you are totally involved in what you’re doing. You know it – when you finally look up and notice the clock, you are startled by how much time has passed without you even realizing it. This is a level of relaxation that I haven’t felt in years, and it feels good!

So, no more foster rats, but we still have our own. There is some hope that I won’t have to give up rats completely. I’m embracing a new paradigm where I am achieving more relaxation, and better personal progress on knitting and other crafts.

The blog will stay “Of Rats and Jen”, but obviously, the focus may shift a bit. A little more back to the knitting and crafts, perhaps. Just wait until I tell you about the new, elaborate, challenging  KnitPicks kit I started working on last week!

Don’t worry about me, friends; I’ll be okay. Change is stressful, but this change is leading to a new, less-stress reality. I hope you’ll stick with me for the ride!

*Dusty and Toby are new additions as of a couple of months ago. They were surrendered by a friend in Manchester who realized that, due to health reasons, she needed to downsize her colony to a single cage. Dusty is a petite, sweet, Pink-Eyed White (PEW) girl, and Toby is her burly PEW (neutered) boyfriend. They were introduced to our colony the day they arrived, and got along great right from the start. Though Toby and Laura tend to squabble like an old married couple…<g>

Lily Rattie, June 16, 2008 – Sept. 4, 2009

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 5:10 pm on Saturday, September 19, 2009

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It’s hard to post when the biggest news I have to share is yet another loss. This time, it’s our Lily, the little beige hooded girl that we adopted with her sister, Laurel, back in July last summer.

Lily had a tumor developing on one side throughout the summer. While it grew, she remained spry and lively. Eventually, however, some of the other rats began to see her as too sick to be part of a healthy colony. In the first week of September, Lily was attacked by Laura, and wound up with a gash on her back and a nick out of one ear.

That was the sign to us that it was time to help her move along. It wasn’t easy, of course. But once the colony has chosen to reject the sick rat, the beginning of the end has arrived.

We took Lily in to see our wonderful veterinarian. The doctor is very good with these situations. She has a tremendous, caring heart, and wants to help everything go as smoothly as possible.

Gryphon and I held Lily to the last moment, and beyond. We said our good-byes, and carefully wrapped her in one of my knitted rat blankets.

Wait for us at the Bridge, Lily. And say hello to your old friends, Lola, and Yuri. You’ll meet Star and Sable, too. You never knew them, but they’re the rats that opened our hearts and made it possible for you to come to us.

We’re still very much dealing with the loss, which is why it’s been so long before I posted this. Below, you’ll find an assortment of pictures of Lily in her early months with us.

Rest peacefully, friend.

And they called it puppy love…

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 7:45 pm on Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mia and Marbles

Mia and Marbles

Don’t they look sweet together? Remember how lonely Marbles was? Well, we made plans to adopt a girl for him, but we had to wait a while before bringing her home. In the meantime, Mia, the sweet, petite pink-eyed-white (PEW) you see above, came to us as a foster girl. We were meant to hold her for a few days before passing her to another foster home in town.

Well, I saw single, lonely girl…and single, lonely boy. I thought, what the heck! let’s try them together. So I brought both of them out on my bed to meet.

Mia fell in love immediately. The instant she saw Marbles, it was all over. She began following him everywhere like a love-sick puppy dog!

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Marbles, the poor guy – he wasn’t sure what to make of this! Every rat he’d ever known had beaten him up. Now this little PEW was following him all over, and she didn’t attack him! He spent some time backing away for a while before he finally got tired of running, and gave her a chance.

Sharing a snack

By the time playtime was over, they were getting along great. Marbles was following Mia at least as much as Mia followed him, and they even snuggled close to nibble on snacks together.

I put Mia in Marbles’ cage that night, and we’ve never looked back since. Gryphon and I actually resisted deciding to adopt her for quite a while – after all, we already had a companion for Marbles coming, and soon! We’re also trying hard not to take the easy road all the time and adopt every rat we fall for that passes through our hands. We’d soon fill up and not be able to take more fosters!

The two were so sweet together, however, snuggling in hammocks, playing tag, grooming each other. Marbles looked happier than we’d ever seen him, and Mia seemed quite pleased with her situation as well.

Finally, the adoption coordinator at MRR pointed out to us that it seemed cruel to separate them now, and we could add the other girl, too, and Marbles would have a nice little harem.

And that’s the story of how Mia grabbed hold of our hearts – Marbles’ included! – and came to stay with us forever. It was less than a week later that we brought home another girl – Bailey!

Next time: Lola, Bailey, and the Miracle Baby

Charles Atlas Would Be Proud

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 8:15 pm on Wednesday, August 12, 2009

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Marbles on March 23, 2009

Last any of you knew, our boy Marbles had recovered from his surgery, and was trying to become accepted by the rats in the main colony – Lola, Yuri, Isabella, Leo, Lily, Laurel, Trixie, and Laura.

Yuri passed away from respiratory failure the day after we introduced Marbles. The stress may have contributed, but Yuri was getting old and sick anyhow, and almost anything could have tipped him over the edge.

Marbles maintained a point in the cage where he was near me, but had easy access to food and water, and was defensible if need be. There were some seeming moments of success, as when Lola appeared to defend him now and then. But in the long run, Marbles was soundly beaten up by everyone in the colony.

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Marbles and Lola share a rare snuggle.

We tried to help by separating him from the others at times, but he kept insisting he wanted to be with them. So we allowed our boy to keep trying, even while we observed multiple fights and numerous injuries to his body. He suffered through two abcesses, and many cuts to the tail, back, and sides.

Finally, after about 3 weeks of trying to become one of the family, Marbles accepted us removing him from the main cage, and putting him in a cage by himself. It was a very sad occasion, but clearly our colony had proven that they weren’t going to accept him.

At that time, we also noticed that Marbles was showing some distress that wasn’t related to the injuries from fighting. His abdomen was distended, and he was having trouble defecating. We have known right along that he was a high risk for Mega Colon, and apparently it was now manifesting itself.

We were distraught! Marbles was clearly in a lot of discomfort. But we researched as we could, and found some sites that helped. Chief among them was www.ratguide.com, which has a series of excellent medical articles about various health problems, including mega colon.

We also talked to several veterinary offices, and learned that it’s not a condition often dealt with, so they were unable to offer much advice. In fact, we were gratefully thanked by one office when we told them about www.ratguide.com  – they hadn’t previously known about that very useful reference.

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Marbles enjoys some quiet time on Mom’s desk.

In the end, we wound up treating Marbles at home. We switched him to the recommended diet – a high-moisture, low-residue assortment of foods. It has a lot in common with the diet we feed to young rat babies and to pregnant or nursing moms, and includes such items as canned kitten food, baby cereal, soy formula, and whole-dinner baby foods. And, of course, plenty of juicy, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Before long, Marbles was able to poop again. And he did so profusely, until the impacted bowel was cleared up, and he was able to function fairly normally again.

While that was happening, he began to bulk up even better than before. By the time he had his health again, Marbles was looking like a linebacker, and weighed in at 1 pound, 1 ounce. No more 98-lb weakling – or the rat equivalent, at least. We had a big, burly boy on our hands – but a lonesome one, since the need for a special diet further separated him from other rats.

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Lonely Marbles!

Poor guy! Big and handsome, desperately craving love and attention. Every rat he’d ever known in his entire life had beaten him up. We gave him all the snuggling and attention we could, but it wouldn’t be the same. What would we do?

Next time – Mia steps in!

Foster Updates, Cont’d

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 7:45 pm on Thursday, July 30, 2009

Just a brief note about the group of four foster girls who passed through our hands so quickly we never got to blog them! The Soda Pop Girls were after the Mystery Girls, and before the Noisy Girls.

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The fourth one is climbing over the top of the others, under the blanket! This was another lively bunch, hard to get a group picture of.

Their names were:

Moxie

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Shasta

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Fanta

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Faygo

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As you can see, they had quite distinct and unusual markings. I especially liked Shasta’s question mark!

The names came about because, well – rat girls are fizzy. I’ve been wanting to use soda pop names for a while, but could never come up with the right number of rats to name. Then we got handed these four fizzy girls, and voila!

The Soda Pop girls were very lucky to find a single home that wanted all four of them! They now have beautiful, four-syllable Japanese names that start with K, including Kimono and Katana. I’d have to dig a bit to find the others! Reports from their new mom is that they’re a joy to play with, and very friendly!

Coming Soon:

Marbles, Bailey, and Mia…wait, Mia? Who’s she?

Pitter Patter’s Noises

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 11:05 pm on Wednesday, July 15, 2009

As much as I want to keep updating you on foster ratties that have been and gone, I need to keep up with current rattie reality! Pitter Patter’s Noises are the four little foster girls we have in the house right now, and they are darling! Meet Boink, Eek, Chatter, and Flutter! They’re about seven and a half weeks old, and available now to adopt through Mainely Rat Rescue.

noisy girls square

I wish I could tell you who’s who in this photo, but they all look alike! All four girls are Black Berkshires, and except for their white bellies, they look almost identical. In personality, they’re very similar, too – all friendly, lively, and bouncy!

Although they’re only 7 1/2 weeks, already they’re so used to people that they’re excited to play with and be handled; they take treats from the hand with no hesitation; and though highly energetic and squirmy, they are easy to pick up and hold.

This is a lively bunch. I have never seen such a group of babies for popcorning, running, wrestling, and chasing each other around! It made it hard to get photos of the group, because they’re hardly still for a moment. I only managed the hammock shot above because they had just woken up when I opened the cage door.

This was a previous attempt at getting a photo of the whole group:

hold still, girls!

The idea was that I’d either be able to corral them in my arms, or they’d settle together on my shoulder. Then Gryphon could get a group photo, all of them together. Apparently, half of them liked the arms, and half the shoulder.

On my next attempt, I opened the cage door, and tried to get pictures of them playing in the cage. These girls are friendly, though, and when the cage door opens, they come running to see what’s happening. So the action went something like this:

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As you can see, the general trend was in the direction of the door, and spaces beyond! These girls are all about exploring!

Since they all look alike from above, here’s an easy guide to telling them apart:

Boink

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Boink is actually a varieberk, not just a Berkshire. That means that her white markings come up her side. As you can see, she has two distinct white stripes on her left side. None of the other girls have such distinct side markings.

Eek

eek 1_edited eek belly_edited

If you look at Eek’s belly, you can see a place where the black on her sides narrows the white. In the photo above, the black peninsula on the left is rounded, and the one opposite it is pointed.

All four girls have white tips to their tails as well, but Eek is the only one with just the smallest tip of the tail in white. All of the other three have at least a half-inch or so.

Flutter

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“Flutter Funky-Belly,” that’s what we call this girl! Her white belly is the most irregularly shaped of the lot. The lower part looks a bit like Africa, with an extra stripe of land pointing off to the West.

Chatter

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Chatter distinguishes herself by having the least irregular belly marking of the lot! I usually identify her by figuring out who the other three are first, and whoever’s left, must be Chatter.

All four of these girls love playing together. They’ll be adopted out in pairs, but it would be absolutely awesome if someone wanted to keep the sisters together! If you’re interested, just visit Mainely Rat Rescue and check out the instructions for adopting from us.

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