Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

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!

p8131293 p8131261 p8131270 p8131279

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

Yuri Ratsinov

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 1:03 am on Monday, May 4, 2009

Our big, husky, shy boy Yuri passed away in our arms last night, straight up midnight.

He had another of what appears to have been asthma attacks, but this time, he didn’t recover. We gave him two puffs of an inhaler in a bag, then held him.

Lola, Yuri, and Lucet Braiding 
Yuri and Lola consider lucet braiding

He had bad spasms as he struggled to breath, even managing to clamp his teeth on Gryphon’s finger in the worst rat bite Gryphon’s ever had. Finally, he simply failed, giving up his last breath in my hands.

lola and yuri 
Snug as a bug in a rug with Lola

He was a sweet, soft, ruffly boy, who always waffled between his desire for attention and company, and his strong need to be alone in a hut, hammock, or box. In the end, as he always wound up doing, he did come to us in his time of need, wanting the comfort of his people at last.

Yuri
Yuri Ratsinov
October 23, 2007 – May 4, 2009

He will be missed.

Slow Times

Filed under: Daily Life,Games,Gryphon,Rats! — folkcat at 7:23 pm on Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sorry I don’t post very often these days. Truth is, things are pretty slow here in lots of ways, and very busy in others.

Marbles is as cute as ever. He had his surgery and is recovering well. We expect to be able to integrate him with the rest of the ratties in a couple of weeks.

One of my readers suggested calling the nine ratties The Ennead (en-ee-ad). It’s an ancient Greek term for a group of nine Egyptian deities. I like it. Rats almost look more Egyptian to me than cats do. I can picture them going around being pharoahs, building pyramids, and so forth. Not sure if they’d worship cats and dogs, but I’ll bet they could make an interesting Egyptian society.

I’m knitting a lot. We don’t use my knitted rat rugs as rugs anymore, they don’t cover the larger cage floors as well. But we do give them to the rats to use for nesting in. So I guess they’re more blankets than rugs now. Anyhow, the rats do chew them up, and when they get too ragged we have to toss them. Since supplies were dwindling, I needed to get back to work. The stock of new blankets is growing, slowly, but it’s growing.

We’re still somewhat in limbo on Gryphon’s situation, though there is progress. Still can’t talk about it much here, but know that he’s doing well and we think we can see, if not light at the end of the tunnel, at least a glow-in-the-dark sign pointing in its direction.

I enjoyed the first episode of ABC’s The Unusuals last week. I wasn’t sure how I was going to like Amber Tamblyn as a New York cop after Joan of Arcadia (a series I still, sadly, long for more episodes of). But it worked. I’ve got the second episode in the Tivo, waiting for me to get around to it.

I’m playing lots and lots of EverQuest II these days as well. It’s just really working for me at the moment. I’m hoping to start into Free Realms as well, a new Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) game that’s currently in beta testing. Both Gryphon and I made it into beta. Free Realms looks to be built on more of a Japanese model of an online game, more cute graphics. It’s also designed to be a very family friendly game – young children could play this without any issues. Sure, you fight creatures. But you don’t get killed, you get knocked out.

We pick up our next foster ratties this weekend, and may also be providing transport for another pair of girls to get to their new adoptive home. Still waiting for details on that.

YAMD (Yet Another Memory Dump)

Filed under: Daily Life,Folkcat's Fotos,Holidays,Rats! — folkcat at 9:49 pm on Friday, April 3, 2009

My phone has been busy again!

March 16, 2009: How Holidays are Made

It’s mid-March. You are a supermarket baker. You have a bunch of plain, undecorated gingerbread men, and an excess of green icing. What should you do?

If only there were some holiday in mid-March. With green for a theme color. Where little people were appropriately symbolic of the day.

I know! It’s Gator Man Day!

Yeah.

March 18, 2009: We Have Achieved Acceptance

Laura and Isabella prove that ‘Bella has achieved full acceptance into the family.

March 24, 2009: Let’s Brand Whoever Branded This

Seriously, Betty? What’s up next – Eskimo Helper?

March 25, 2009: It’s PaGino’s Time

The seam down the side of their cups creates some amusing portmanteaus:

Baby-Sitting Tinty Time
Birthday Timnner Time
Night Tids Time
Game TiBirthday Time
Movie Timight Time
Friends me
Tired Timme

and my personal favorite:

Ganward Time

March 31, 2009: And Some May Be Anyhow, Depending on What They’re Here For

Our little Captain Marbles is doing well. In the first two weeks we’ve had him, he just about doubled his body weight. Now he looks more like a normally proportioned rattie, instead of a big rat head on a teensy body.

This past Tuesday morning, he went in for THE PROCEDURE. Yes, that one. The vet’s office was one I’d never visited before, but they work with the rat rescue. While distant (an hour’s drive), they were easy enough to get to.

If you are in the neighborhood for other reasons, however, please be careful where you park!

As for the Captain, he’s recovering nicely. If anything, he’s actually been friskier since the surgery than he ever was before. Which is saying something for our hyper-active little superhero.

April 3, 2009: Useful Supermarket Photo

It’s hard for Gryphon and me to keep milk around. We don’t drink the stuff, we don’t have cold cereal in the mornings to pour it over, and while we will cook with it, the occasions are few enough and far enough between that we always wind up throwing out all or part of a bottle.

We’ve been wanting to keep dry milk in the house, but we’ve discovered a problem with that. Nowadays, the dry milk manufacturers only package the powder in bulk in the giant, makes-20-quarts packages. Not an amount we’re likely to use before it goes bad! Any smaller quantities are pre-packaged into handy, 1-quart, pre-measured packets.

Gryphon and I are likely to only ever need to mix one, maybe two cups at a time. The rest of the quart, if we used their assumptions and made the whole thing, would go bad in the fridge. Or we’d have to measure out the smaller amount, find a way to close up the top of the paper/foil packet, and hope to avoid bugs or spillage.

We finally decided today to buy one of the smaller boxes filled with the 1-quart packets. We’re going to open all the packets, dump the contents into a jar, and spoon it out as we need it.

The only hitch in this plan is the the smaller box doesn’t include directions for mixing any quantity of milk other than the full quart. But…aha! The giant 20-quart box with the bulk powder inside has a chart for making several different volumes, from one cup to the entire 20 quarts at once.

Whip out the handy-dandy cell phone, aim it at the back of the box, and voila! I now have my own directions chart to make any amount of dry milk we want. Here, feel free to take a copy for yourself!

Shazam!

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 6:39 pm on Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Meet Marbles

Cute little guy, isn’t he? That’s what he looked like on March 15, the night we picked him up from his owner.

marbles back mar 15.jpg

Here’s a look at his lovely markings. Marbles is a black blazed hooded rat. He’s got a lovely spattering of spots, and a beautiful white blaze up the middle of his forehead.

As for Marbles’ story, it’s a bit of a sad one. Marbles is about 4 months, one week old now. He came home from the pet store with another cagemate, Pancake, when he was two months old, to be companions for the aging solitary boy Nibbles.

Over the course of the next two months, Pancake grew about twice the size that Marbles did. In fact, Marbles didn’t really seem to grow at all. Nibbles died shortly after Pancake and Marbles came into the house. And Pancake turned out to be very aggressive with poor little Marbles.

Aggressive, as in, Marbles couldn’t be in the same cage with Pancake without being attacked, immediately and mercilessly.

Their owner, poor girl, was distraught. She didn’t have room to keep two cages. She wasn’t really even supposed to have pets in her apartment to begin with. Plus, she regularly traveled back and forth between Massachusetts and Canada, and her pets traveled with her. She didn’t have room for two cages in her car.

She was able to separate the two boys in a makeshift way, stuffing fabric into the passage between two levels of their cage. I’m told Marbles began gaining a little weight after that. But it was still not an ideal solution.

The easy decision would have been to keep sweet, darling, friendly little Marbles, and give aggressive bully Pancake up to another home. But no – their owner made the difficult, but very loving and generous, decision to surrender Marbles instead. She didn’t want to burden Mainely Rat Rescue with a hard to place rat.

Could I have done the same? I can only hope so, but I’m not real sure. Many karma blessings upon her, she has earned them!

Back to Marbles. He was so sweet when his owner handed him over to me! He climbed right up on my shoulder under my jacket and stayed there for the entire ride home. By the time we got to the house, my left ear had been thoroughly examined, and my arm had been peed on.

Marbles stayed on my shoulder for about a half hour altogether, while Gryphon set his cage up. Before putting him in, we did a weigh-in to see just how little he was. 140 grams, or about 5 ounces. Assuming his owner was told correctly that he was two months old when she bought him, that’s way behind for a four month old. The one chart I’ve been able to find suggests he should have been more like 380 grams. That means he was about one-third the size you’d expect for a normal, healthy male rat.

The primary theory is that he simply didn’t have easy access to food while he was being beaten up regularly. He’s certainly making up for lost time, now that he has his own food dishes and doesn’t have to fight over them. We weighed him again on the 22nd, and in one week’s time, he’d gone from 140 to 220 grams. That’s 80 grams of weight added, over 50% of his starting weight!

We’ve been getting to know Marbles over the last ten days. Not that he’s hard to connect with! I think he’d pretty much bonded with me by the end of that first evening. His owner told us he liked shoulder rides, and enjoyed getting his belly rubbed. I’ve been giving him plenty of opportunities to crawl around on me, under my sweater, and more.

Within the first twenty-four hours, we were comfortable enough with him to change his name. Marbles quickly became Captain Marbles! (Shazam!) Gryphon now refers to him as “Cap” or “Cappy”, and I call him by any or all parts of his name. Or “Buddy-boy”. Or “Sweetheart”.

Tickle chase is a big favorite game. Unlike other rats we’ve played that with, he actually turns around and grabs your fingers now and then to lick them, then runs off to be chased again. If you can catch him in a quiet moment and rub his belly, he’ll flop over on his side a bit and close his eyes while he enjoys it.

No offense to the Octo-Ratties, but Marbles is one of the snuggliest ratties we’ve ever encountered. Is it any wonder, then, that we fell in love at first sight?

That’s right – only a month after Isabella joined the colony and turned the Seven Little Ratties into the Octo-Ratties, we’re adopting a boy. He’ll have to live separately for a bit – as you can see in the last picture above, Marbles still, well – he has his marbles. Those will need to come off before he can enjoy the company of our six lovely girls. There’s a three week wait after surgery, too.

We are fairly confident he’ll be accepted into the colony, however. Marbles has had playdates with both of our neutered boys, Yuri and Leonardo, separately in neutral territory. Both of the big boys showed some slight curiosity, but not a lick of aggression.

As for the Captain, our biggest fear was that he’d be afraid of other rats now. In fact, he’s not the least bit scared – he was the first one to march up to either of the big guys and check them out! Marbles seems to know that his previous cagemate was not quite the norm for rat society, and he’s eager to make new friends.


Captain Marbles says, “Will you be my friend?”

Marbles is probably going for his operation next week. Three weeks later, it will be safe to start getting him better acquainted with all the Octo-Ratties. Soon enough, they’ll all be one big, happy family.

The only thing I’m not sure of – what do we call them when there are nine? Any suggestions?

Octo-Ratties!

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Daily Life,Gryphon,Rats! — folkcat at 9:11 pm on Saturday, February 28, 2009

Two weeks ago today, Isabella came home with us.

One week ago today, I did what I always wind up doing. I abandoned my “slow and cautious” approach to integrating her with the other ratties, in favor of the “rip the bandage off fast” method.

All eight ratties spent a couple hours together in the bathroom last Saturday afternoon. Gryphon and I cleaned and redressed the main cage during that time.

The Seven Little Ratties and Isabella, having spent the time in the bathroom not killing each other, were placed in the cage together. Isabella soon took up residence in one lower corner of the cage.

She defended her spot, and her right to be there, vehemently. All who approached – and they all did, really – were met by a white rat with bared teeth, reared up on her hind legs and squealing. She did not hide, she did not run. Nor did she attack in return. Merely insisted that she was there now, and they could deal with it.

Isabella rapidly gained confidence over the next few days, expanding her defensive perimeter, finding quiet moments when she could get to the food dish unchallenged, and approaching other rats first, instead of waiting for them to come to her. After a year and a half of living without ever seeing another rat, she was now in a cage with seven furry beings like herself, and she was determined to stay.

By Monday night, Leo was seen intervening between Laurel, Laura, and Isabella. By Tuesday, ‘Bella was going where she wanted in the cage.

Wednesday afternoon, Isabella was seen curled up in a hammock along with her greatest enemy, Lola.

Sadly, I have no picture of that moment. But I did take photos today as all the ratties gathered around the fruit-and-veggie dish.


l. to r.: Lily (almost off screen), Laurel, Isabella, Leo, Laura, and Lola

And there’s Isabella, right in the center of things, making sure she gets her share.

Isabella has already decided that some spots are the most fun. Like this dryer vent hose we’ve attached in the lower levels, so that it snakes around the cage.

Dryer vent hose is:

  • cheap (under $5), so you can replace it as often as the rats rip it to shreds
  • Easily mountable in the cage (we use zip-ties. Poke holes through the plastic of the hose on either side of a wire, and attach to the grid of the cage. Use sturdy pliers to turn the bare ends of the wires into a loop for safety.)
  • Lots of climbing and nesting fun
  • Can be arranged differently every time you replace it
  • And is easily remodeled by the rats, as you can see from the window that Isabella has created above.

For the record, that’s Lola lounging in the hammock below the hose.

The other ratties have been enjoying themselves lately, too. This hammock was a gift from the adopter of Brynn and two of her girls. As you can see, Lola and Laurel find it quite comfy.

Leo has found the addition of Isabella to the harem has made all the girls look fresh and interesting. Here he canoodles with Trixie beneath a child’s plastic step stool the rats use as a hut.

He’s in the true lap of luxury here, as we can see in the end view of the scene. Trixie is giving him a loving, attentive, all-over grooming.

Lola has stood down from being ever-vigilant about Isabella’s intrusion into the cage, and in addition to the sleeping above, she is spending time with her other favorite activity:

Eating.

The other rattie not seen in these photos is doing well, too. He’s just a little more camera-shy. Yuri is intermittently sociable, and most often prefers to stay in his little hidey-huts. Rattle the treat tub, though, and he’s a speed demon coming to get his share of the goodies! The trick is that it’s almost impossible to control a large, hungry male rat, hold a treat, and operate a camera at the same time.

In our personal reality, Gryphon and I are doing as well as can be expected. Gryphon has another change in his medicines to endure, and the transition is being difficult. We’re doing things to improve our diet, like actual meal planning (gasp!). Just a loose plan for dinner, mostly, with me planning my lunches, too.

I’ve always resisted meal planning, because I couldn’t imagine deciding today, for instance, that I’d be in the mood to eat spaghetti on Thursday. What if Thursday came, and I didn’t feel like pasta, but wanted tuna salad instead? So much for the meal plan!

In practice, however, I’m finding it works. Some of the things it’s improving:

  • We won’t be “shopping for shopping at home” anymore. This is where we don’t plan meals, but rather, just buy things we know we like to have in the house in case we feel like eating them. Meal planning then becomes a matter of looking in the cupboards and deciding “what looks good tonight.” Sometimes something doesn’t look good for a while, and it sits idle in the cupboard.
  • In relation to that, we don’t spend time wondering what to have for dinner and simply settling for something because it’s easier than making up our minds.
  • We can know ahead of time how much personal energy we’re going to need for meal preparation. If Sunday night is a more complex meal, we can relax and schedule other chores to happen on other days, saving ourselves for the effort of cooking.

We’ve been at it for most of a week now, and so far, so good. Gryphon’s going to cook a nice baked white fish dish we found in our local newspaper for our Sunday dinner tomorrow. Next week, I’ll figure out what’s good in the cupboards and cook something. The rest of the week, we rotate among dishes that use the current meat specials and things in our cupboard. Some nights we plan for minimal effort – there’s a frozen entree night in the schedule, for instance.

All in all, life is finding its way to work out. Things are still rough, but we’re taking our new reality much like Isabella took the challenge of turning the Seven Little Ratties into the Octo-Ratties. We’re facing it down, refusing to let it overpower us, and taking our rightful place in the new paradigm.

Folkcat & Gryphon, Plus Seven, Plus One

Filed under: Daily Life,Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 7:06 pm on Friday, February 20, 2009

I seem to drift further and further between posts. Things have just been very hectic for us lately.

I’ve been meaning to get to the main subject of this post for almost a week now. But before I do, I should talk about today.

Today, February 20, is our sixteenth wedding anniversary. Gryphon and I talked this afternoon about how neither of us has ever managed to keep anything – a job, a friendship, anything – going as long as we’ve been together. I think I’m safe in saying that we love each other more with every passing day, that I am his reason for getting up in the morning, as much as he is mine.

We’re going to celebrate quietly at home. Going out takes more money than we can spend, and besides, these days we’re too worn out by excursions for it to seem like a happy thing to do for fun. No, we’ve bought a couple of gourmet chicken pies at the local supermarket, and a prettily decorated rum cake to have for dessert, and we’re going to bask in each other’s company and spend time with the rats.

Speaking of the Seven Little Ratties, I’ve taken some pictures this week that you might enjoy.

We have an exercise ball for the rats, but it’s never been a success. At least, as long as we tried to make them use it as an exercise ball.

Turn it into novelty bedding, however, and they pile in:

Only four rats are visible in the photo, but by my count there were six rats in the ball at this moment. It’s so tricky getting them to hold still for a photo I had to take what I could get!

Meanwhile, if you’ve wondered just how Lola works her magic on me and gets me to take her out for a snuggle anytime she desires, feast your eyes on this photo:

Believe me, it’s absolutely futile to attempt resisting that look!

Lola herself turned two years old on Wednesday, making her officially our oldest rat yet. She shows few signs of slowing down, although she is more inclined to desire time out of the cage without those young whippersnappers climbing all over and walking on her head.

At last, the big reveal!

And now, the news we’ve been sitting on for almost a week.

Hold on a sec.

Darlin’, could you turn around please?

That’s better! Everyone, this is Isabella. Isabella, these nice people are going to become your newest fans.

Here’s the story. Gryphon and I were so taken with Persephone, the little “going to be Siamese one day but now looks like a PEW” girl who was adopted along with our Perignon, that we started thinking. Pink-Eyed White rats (PEWs) have a hard time finding adoptive families. A lot of people find their color boring. Others think their pink eyes are creepy looking.

MRR deals with this by having a policy that PEWs in their care are always adopted out with a more colorful rat as a partner. They also occasionally offer specials on adoption fees for adopting rats with pink-eyes.

Gryphon and I decided we had room enough, and love enough, for another rat. We made up our minds that we would do our bit by always trying to include one PEW in our rat family.

I went looking at the available animals on the MRR site, and spotted Isabella.

Isabella’s story is special. She was rescued from a laboratory when she was only 21 days old. That’s only about a week after her eyes would have opened. She would have just started eating solid foods.

The young woman who rescued her is a college student. She clearly took good care of Isabella. ‘Bella lived in her human friend’s dorm room for the first part of her life, allowed to free roam. She became very attached to her person, and is very friendly with every human she meets.


Isabella explores her new home

Sadly, her human’s circumstances changed. As her person went to school in New York City, she wasn’t able to bring Isabella with her. Isabella learned to live in a cage, at her grand-persons’ house.

Her human came home whenever she could, and gave Isabella a lot of attention. But the grand-persons’, as much as they like her, weren’t able to give her as much socializing as she was used to. ‘Bella’s human decided the right thing to do was to let Isabella go to another home that could play with her as much as she deserved.

Isabella is an older rat (1-1/2 years), a pink-eyed white, and a solitary rat. She hasn’t even seen another rat since she left the laboratory, though I’m told she once met a pet rabbit and tried to play with its nose! All of these qualities make it harder to find a home for her.

Until Gryphon and I came along, wanting a pink-eyed rat to love.

We first saw her listing on Thursday. Saturday afternoon, Valentine’s Day, we met Isabella’s owner, and collected our new Rattie.


Grooming my fingers

All the photos you see of Isabella were taken within the first ten minutes we had her home. I played with her in my arms and on my shoulders while Gryphon set up her temporary cage. In no time at all, she was licking my fingers, and when I made little clicking noises with my tongue, she turned her head and gave me kisses on the lips.

It is our hope to have Isabella move into the main cage with the Seven Little Ratties. It’s a slower process than usual, however. As an older rat, she is considered a larger threat than a younger one would be. And as a rat raised in isolation from other rats, she has some social instincts, but no practice at inter-rattie social skills. She probably comes across as “odd” to the other rats.

So we’re taking the integration as a slow, steady process, trusting our instincts and making small improvements where we can. One day, they’ll all be together.

Of course, we’ll have to stop calling them the Seven Little Ratties then. How does Octo-Ratties sound?

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