A number of people have been begging for news of the Seven Little Ratties, aka the Perma-Ratties. As in our permanent colony of Lola, Yuri, Leonardo, Lily, Laurel, Laura, and Trixie.
Rest assured that they are alive and doing well. Lola will, by our estimate, be turning two years old on February 18th. She has already outlived our previous longest-lived rattie, Sable, by a few weeks. Lola shows no signs of stopping, though sometimes her irritation with the younger girls gives her the air of the curmudgeonly old woman yelling at the kids to get off her lawn.
One of the reasons I don’t post as often about them is that it’s sometimes a long time between news-worthy events. We get distracted with foster babies, and as older rats, new cute things don’t happen in the perma-cage nearly as often as they once did.
I decided this week to make the effort, to make something happen. I looked around the room, and saw this:
A fairly ordinary, heavy cardboard box. This came recently with an order of Peaches & Creme cotton yarn cones that I got from the Elmore-Pisgah people (http://www.peaches-creme.com).
One of our big recent successes with the ratties had been a mailing box with a flap cut in the side, stuffed with paper bedding. The ratties love it as a nest box. They have, of course, added their own touches, like a window in one corner. Leonardo one day decided he wanted to sleep near the box, but not completely in it, so he stuck his head in that hole and snoozed blissfully:
The yarn box was bigger, but would still fit in the cage. Could I do something with it to stir up a little excitement?
I thought a moment, tried something for fit, and discovered that saltine cracker boxes and tissue boxes were perfect for going inside this larger box.
We cut a flap in the bottom outside corner of the big box.
We decided on a way to arrange two tissue boxes and one saltine box inside:
We added strategically placed holes to provide the rats with at least one pre-existing path through the maze we were creating. The openings on top of the tissue boxes were used as well, aligned with holes in other boxes. As you can see here, one tissue box in the middle of the maze was left about one-third full of tissues, providing an obstacle and some fluffy paper fun for the ratties.
Two boxes lay horizontally on top of each other, and the third was placed vertically. We left the space next to the outside flap free of boxes, but filled it with paper-strip bedding.
We put it in the cage. The reaction was immediate.
Ratties crawled on the box, around the box, and then, in a never-ending wave, it seemed, into the box:
Paper bedding began moving at once. Ratties pulled great mucking mouthfulls out and piled it on the cage floor. When the piles got deep enough, they turned to bulldozer mode and started shoving it aside with their front paws, as far away as they could get, to make room.
Eventually, they reached the mother lode – the stash of fresh, clean tissues in a box in the middle of the maze. The white fluffiness was dragged out of the box in the biggest wads they could manage to pull free.
In the end, the floor of the cage looked like a winter wonderland, and ratties were enjoying the pile of soft paper as much as the box they’d pulled it from.
At this moment, there seems to always be at least one, sometimes more, ratties in the box. It’s something of a black box mystery for us – the way this was designed, we can’t really tell what’s going on in there. I frequently hear the gnawing sound of teeth on cardboard, so I know further modifications are being made. This is also evidenced by the little pile of box pieces that is accumulating outside the front door.
I suppose one day, I’ll have to open the box and take a look. I’ll let you know what I find. Meanwhile, the Seven Little Ratties are having fun, and that’s what counts!