Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Icy Adventures

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 3:32 pm on Friday, December 12, 2008

Icy Adventures, originally uploaded by Folkcat.

250,000 w/o power in NH. Or so my dad in Syracuse told me. I wouldn’t know for sure, ’cause Gryphon and I and the Seven Little Ratties are among those numbers.

Ice on everything. Melting fast now, but the utility crews have their work cut out for them.

Can’t cook – all-electric kitchen. Heat requires electricity to pump water, same w/hot water.

Most of the nearby towns are in same boat, so no restaurants to eat at that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

We managed to gather some basics to eat w/o cooking. Aladdin oil lamp w/mantle puts out enough heat for living room. I’m off to shelves soon to find a book to read.

We’ll be ok here. Back when I can.

Thanks to flickr for making this post possible from my cell phone.

Christmas for Ratties

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 8:08 pm on Monday, December 8, 2008

By late Saturday night, it was a done deal. The new cage was tricked out and the Seven Little Ratties were introduced to their new home.

Our First Attempt at Rattie Decor

This cage is at least three times the volume of the franken-cage our kids have been living in, and it’s much better laid out, too. We’ve never had the room to consider more than the most minimal of accessories before, and suddenly, we can put in almost anything we can imagine.

Our initial set-up includes three hammocks of various types, some rugs, a few fabric bowls, a litter box, a Wodent Wheel, and a dryer vent hose snaking around the ceiling in the middle. We’ve since swapped out a couple of the hammocks – our kids are more used to tunnel and bunk-bed types than these envelope hammocks. They expressed their displeasure with our selection by sleeping in a grumpy-looking line all across the upper shelf, right under the offending hammocks. We also added a cracker box – which usually has at least two or three rats in it.

Once we’d installed all the furnishings our non-rattie brains could imagine, we added the rats.

Milling About

They spent a long, long time wandering the cage. This is new for every one of them, and change is a scary thing for rats. The floors are covered in rigid plastic, not metal grid. The walls are wires spaced far enough a small rat can almost, but not quite, get their entire head through.

A Home Gym

Some change was quickly embraced, however. We’ve had a Wodent Wheel ever since our original two Ratties, Star and Sable. Although we tried it with every rat since, not a one of them has considered it worthy of anything but stuffing the holes with bedding. So we never kept it in the cage, because if it wasn’t going to be useful to them, there wasn’t room to have it taking up space.

Until now. When Laura and Trixie came back to us, they came with a small wheel. So we made sure to put our Wodent Wheel into this huge mansion when we set it up. As we saw it, there’s so much space here, they can use it however they like and we won’t care.

Well, Laura immediately hopped in and went for a spin. All the other Ratties stood and stared in amazement. You could almost hear them thinking, “Oh! So that’s what it’s for!”

A little while later, Leo decided to try his paws at the wheel.

Leo goes for a run

He loved it. It seems like nine times out of ten, when we hear the wheel spinning, it’s Leo doing a few laps. He even tries to sleep in it now and then, as if to reserve the track for himself.

This Way to the Egress

One of the problems we faced with this new castle was Rattie access. Mind you, it’s ridiculously easy for us to get into the cage. Each of the two cage sections has two doors. Each door is an entire half of the front of the cage section. They unlatch easily, and even lift completely off the hinges if you want.

Cleaning the cage, re-arranging the furniture, all those little chores are going to be a breeze.

No, the problem is Rattie access – how easily the kids can get in and out of the cage when it’s play or snuggle time. The old cage sat low enough that all I had to do was pull it over close to the arm of my chair, put a couple small pillows on the arm, and open the door. Ratties streamed in and out with ease.

Now, there are two large lower doors that I can’t fully open while the cage is near the chair, and two upper ones that are far above the arm. What to do?

I had an inspiration. I opened the top left door, the one sitting most directly above the arm of the chair. I took it off its hinges, threw a small blanket over it and, resting the bottom edge on the arm, I leaned the door against the cage.

As you can see from this image of Lily and Laurel passing each other on their respective ways in and out, it works.

This way to the Egress/Ingress (is that even a word?)

The system isn’t perfect. The first step is a big one, the hill to climb down is long, the fabric slips. But it works, and the rats are going in and out. We’re going to improve matters by attaching a layer of half-inch hardware cloth to the surface of the door, to make a more rat-friendly climbing ramp out of it.

Family Politics

As for inter-Rattie relations, they’re still a little rough. I think the shared trauma of being moved into a new house may have helped, but there are clearly still some issues being worked out.

Trixie must have gone into heat recently, because I noticed Leo deciding she was woman enough to, well – do what boy rats do with woman rats. Laura is still being assertive about making sure everyone else knows she’s here and not going to be anyone’s doormat. Lola mostly just goes about her business, allowing anyone into the sleeping pile if they behave themselves, and ready to give a mild smackdown if they don’t. Laurel seems to be having some mild issues about who’s the boss, because she’s been following new girl Trixie around and mounting her. (Female rats are known to mount other females as a dominance maneuver.)

The Littlest Rattie?

Lily – poor little Lily. She’s not the littlest in size, certainly, but she seems to have become the littlest in status in the colony.

Lily and Laurel, you may remember, were the two youngsters we adopted in July, right before we started fostering. Up until now, they’ve been the babies in the family. Being here first, and being about a month older, doesn’t seem to guarantee a higher place in the totem pole, however. Lily seems to be somewhat less assertive than the two new girls, and I frequently see her getting a little bullied.

Throwing the new cage into the mix really unsettled her. The first twenty-four hours, she spent her time as close to me as possible, staring out of the cage in my direction and clearly pleading to come out. If I offered a finger for a lick, she would instead grab it hard with her teeth and try to pull me into the cage – a clear indication that what she wanted was ME, and NOW.

Lily says, “Please, Mom?”*

As a five and a half month old female rat, she would normally be way too fizzy to sit still for much snuggling. But that first day or so, I frequently took Lily out for a little comforting, and she would snuggle into a prone position cupped in one hand, while I skritched her around the head and shoulders thoroughly. It’s actually somewhat distressing to see in so young a girl.

We considered separating her and maybe her sister, Laurel, from the others for a bit. But we decided we should be strong, let them all work it out, and just give Lily what comfort we could without otherwise interfering with the power struggle. Today, things seem to have calmed down, and I expect it will get even better with more time.

Lily still seems to be at the bottom of the totem pole, perhaps tied or close enough to Trixie as not to make a difference. But she seems to be dealing with all these changes better, and finding her way to fit in, and she’s being a little less picked on.

And in the end, sometimes that’s all you can hope for – to at least fit in somewhat, and not be too badly picked on. Reminds me of my own grade school days.

Lily, I’m here for you. Mom understands.

* Yeah, this one’s the new desktop on my computer.


Filed under: Holidays,Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 4:51 pm on Saturday, December 6, 2008

Don’t tell the kids, but we picked up an early Christmas present for them today!

Yes, it’s really that big. And it will actually fit in the corner of the living room where we traditionally keep our rat cages.

And no, we didn’t have to lay out any money for it. Mainely Rat Rescue has us signed on as a regular, ongoing foster home now, in exchange for which we get the loan of this amazingly awesome Ferret Nation cage. Sounds like a fair deal to me!

Gryphon and I need to do a little cleaning, then outfit it with hammocks, a Wodent Wheel, and all sorts of hidey-holes, nests, and places to climb and crawl. The Seven Little Ratties will move in sometime later tonight or tomorrow.

Here’s the frightening part – this cage is actually big enough to hold twelve rats.


We’re going to try not to use its full capacity. But it’s nice to know that, if rats that belong with us come our way, we’ll have the space to accommodate them.

Many, many thanks to Kim at Mainely Rat Rescue for offering us this opportunity. We feel like we’ve had a nice Christmas gift here, not just for the Ratties, but for ourselves, too. Once we’ve established the Perma-Ratties in this cage, their existing cage will be available for our next fosters, whoever they may be.

And don’t worry – I’ll get pictures of the gang exploring their new home, I promise!

The Seven Little Ratties

Filed under: Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 8:03 pm on Thursday, December 4, 2008

Laura and Trixie, former foster daughters up to the point where they were four and a half weeks old, came home with us Monday night. Time elapsed between the intial e-mail and collecting them from their adoptive parents was only about eight hours.

It’s a sad situation. The woman who adopted them planned well, worked with her boyfriend to make an excellent cage and everything, took care of them right. What she couldn’t anticipate was that her sister is allergic to them.

The girls were moved out to the boyfriend’s apartment – a dicey proposition at best, because he’s not allowed to have pets. As if that weren’t bad enough, then he turned out to be allergic.

Not sure where else to turn, they went back to Mainely Rat Rescue. The MRR coordinator knew we didn’t have any fosters currently, and that it could be really good to get them back to a familiar home, so she contacted us.

Gryphon and I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Connections were made with the adopters, and we collected them the same night.

Sending them to a familiar home was a good idea. They are well socialized, and the smells of our apartment were probably so familiar, that less than five minutes after arriving they were sitting on my shoulder, munching on cereal flakes.

Trixie poses for the camera; Laura shows her tail.

We kept the girls in the cage they came with, one that the adopters had built from scratch for them. (They did an excellent job!) Laura and Trixie settled in quickly, and were immediately comfortable coming out for cuddle sessions.

Meanwhile, Gryphon and I had already sort of decided we wanted to keep the girls. We always regretted that we couldn’t justify keeping a pair from this litter when we had them the first time, so it felt a bit like destiny that Laura and Trixie came back to us. The adopters told of how Trixie sulked when they had to move them to the boyfriend’s apartment, too, because she missed their people. Gryphon and I agreed that it would be nice to keep them from further home-hopping, and just keep them with us.

Since their cage sat next to our main cage, I was able to observe how the rats in each cage reacted to each other. There was much curious peeking, but no dominance behaviors that I could detect. Wednesday night, I decided I was comfortable trying to make introductions.

I had learned of a technique where you simply put all the rats in question into a large carrier together. And leave them there. Just leave them. Some people recommend all day long. Other suggestions include taking them for a drive in the car, taking them for a walk, anything that makes for a strange situation for all of them together.

Since I was inspired late at night, I simply put them in the carrier and left it on the floor by my chair while I continued knitting and watching television.

It worked. There was much milling around. Some minor interactions that caused a few squeaks. Mostly, though, everyone just anxiously puttered around the carrier until they finally huddled in a mass in one corner.

All Seven in one picture. Identifying individual rats is left as an exercise for the reader. Click to embiggen.

After an hour, we decided we were good to go. We did some straightening of the franken-cage, changed out a couple of hammocks, and added Laura and Trixie’s litter-box. (Oh, yeah – their adoptive family did so well with them they’re litter-trained! Maybe they can teach the rest a thing or two!) Refresh the food, add the Ratties, and *poof*. All seven Ratties living in one happy family.

Well, mostly happy. Lola, elderly matriarch that she is, spent a lot of time posturing and boxing with Laura, who apparently comes across as the most threatening of the two new girls. They never got serious, though, and by this morning, Lola had begrudgingly accepted that the new kids are warm, fuzzy, and good enough to sleep with.

Everyone else was soundly sleeping when I took this next picture, but Laura and Trixie were up and about wondering what Mom was up to. As you can see, Laura loves the camera!

Extreme Close-Up for Laura! Trixie looks on shyly from behind.

So, now we are nine – Gryphon, me, and seven Ratties. Five of which have “L” names, and I swear that was accidental! In order, from oldest to youngest, they are: Lola, Leonardo, Yuri, Lily, Laurel, Laura, and Trixie.

But wait – doesn’t the franken-cage only hold five? Well, yes. Seven rats will be okay in there for a few days. We can’t afford to buy anything much right now, but sometimes life hands you what you need, and within a few days we’re hoping to have a rather larger cage to house the Perma-Ratties in together. Our obligation in return is to continue fostering other rats on a regular basis, something we’re more than happy to do anyhow.

Sometimes, parts of your life just work out right. Two of our girls came home, not just for the holidays, but for good. Karma contrives to bring us the means to keep them, and to help other ratties as well.

I can live with that!

Prodigal Daughters?

Filed under: Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 4:08 pm on Monday, December 1, 2008

Prepare the fatted grains! It looks like two of our foster babies from Net-Net’s litter are coming back to us.

Laura and Trixie were adopted by a woman in Massachusetts, but it turned out her younger sister is allergic to rats. They moved the girls to the boyfriend’s apartment – where not only is he not allowed to keep pets, but he turned out to be allergic, too.

Luckily, they got in touch with Mainely Rat Rescue about surrendering the girls back to the source. MRR, knowing we have a history with the girls and that they’re not a socialization problem, asked if we’d take them back to foster.

We immediately said yes. Arrangements are being made, and we’ll probably pick them up tonight.

I’m sad for the folks who adopted them – it’s always an unhappy thing to try to bring animals into your life, only to learn that they make you sick. On the other hand, I’m pleased to see two of “our girls” come home for Christmas.

Updates and pictures to come when I have them!

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