Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Excitement for the Perma-Ratties

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 3:23 pm on Friday, January 30, 2009

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.

The Flap

We decided on a way to arrange two tissue boxes and one saltine box inside:

Boxes within a Box

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.


Lily asks, “What’s This?”

Ratties crawled on the box, around the box, and then, in a never-ending wave, it seemed, into the box:


There are at least three rats in this picture. I think the white patch is Lily. The black foot and tail behind her are Laura. And Yuri waits eagerly for enough room to stuff himself in as well.

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.


Laurel, Trixie, and Laura relax on the tissue pile.

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!

Counting the Days…

Filed under: Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 9:49 pm on Saturday, January 24, 2009

We’re approaching the final countdown with Brynn and her litter. The babies will be four weeks old on Tuesday. We separate the boys from the girls on Friday. On Sunday next week, the four babies that we won’t personally be delivering to their adoptive homes will be transported to the foster parents who will make that final connection.

Since I last wrote, Chardonnay has been spoken for. That just leaves – are you ready for this? – Dom and Perignon. Yup. Dom Perignon.

domperignon.jpg

Being a boy and a girl, they won’t be staying together. Instead, each will be paired with an odd baby out from another litter born around the same time. So everyone will have new friends and happy homes! If you were interested in either Dom or Perignon, you can still get in touch with Mainely Rat Rescue to inquire after them, and learn who their new buddies will be.

The babies are hardly babies anymore. They still throw themselves under Mom’s belly now and then for a suckle, but Mom’s body is changing and I think the milk is tapering off. For the first few weeks, when you picked Brynn up it felt you were holding a hand ful of hot coals. Now her metabolism is shifting back to more normal rattie temperatures. Biology wins over all, the babies will be weaned soon whether they want it or not.

Not that they risk lacking for nutrition. They’re eating like little pigs! Any food put in the cage is descended upon as though we’ve been starving them, and soon disappears. Some of the more greedy little ones have found that the best spot to sit for dinner is in the dinner bowl – you have the most convenient access to the food, and can control how much your siblings get to. Everyone gets enough of everything, though!

These babies sure love their togetherness. I’m beginning to think I should have spent more time taking them out of the cage individually, instead of in a crowd. I put them all out on a little table with rugs and a couple of props yesterday, and here’s what happened:


Mommy?
The four on the left, clockwise from back left: Asti, Champagne, Clairette, and Dom.
The four on the right, front to back: Korbel, Tattinger, Chardonnay (under kitty’s chin) and Perignon (only her rump visible under Chardonnay).

Everyone immediately grouped together, and went to the Beanie Baby kitty for comfort. Which, now that I think of it, makes sense, since it’s about the size of their own Mom.

That’s not to say they’re timid rats. Just that when they’re presented with a new situation, like all rats, they like to find a way to feel safe while they figure it out. Before long, they were milling all around the table like nobody’s business. Here’s my favorite picture from that:


Exploring the Mug, Inside and Out
Dom in front, Champagne behind him. No way to know who’s in and on the mug!

After the group photos, I decided to take some shots of Dom and Perignon together. It was interesting to watch how alike, yet how different, they are. They’re both mellow, snuggly little ratties. But then, Dom’s a boy, and Perignon’s a girl, and rattie society is much like a pride of lions. The boys stay home, lounging around, while the girls go exploring and bringing home dinner.

That was evident when I watched Dom and Perignon, and how they interacted with the little world of the table top. Both explored, both snuggled with the beanie kitty, both sought each other out for contact and reassurance. I took twenty-five pictures while they did this, and noticed that in nine of them, one or the other was staring down over the edge of the table, wondering what more there was and how they could get to it.

In only two of those pictures, the rat peering over the edge was Dom. In all seven of the others, it was Perignon. Peri, the girl, is the more adventurous of the two, while Dom is quite content to look, but leaves the genuine exploration to his sister.


Perignon peers intently over the edge…


Which is just fine with Dom, who will hang back and wait for her report.

And finally, when they’d settled down a bit, Dom found a cozy spot inside the mug, while Peri came and stared at me, demanding to know, “What’s next?”


Dom in mug, Peri out front.

A week from tomorrow, next Sunday, four of the babies will be moving on to other fosters, then to their final adoptive homes. The remaining babies and Brynn will be delivered to their new homes over the week after that.

And our world will be down to the Seven Little Ratties, our Perma-Ratties, which will thrill Lola, Leo, Yuri, Lily, Laurel, Laura and Trixie no end, as they’ll once again have our undivided attention.

Until the next foster ratties turn up on our doorstep, that is.

Three Weeks Tomorrow, and Almost Like Real Rats

Filed under: Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 3:35 pm on Monday, January 19, 2009

It’s astonishing to remember that, three weeks ago tomorrow, these little kids were brand-new, pink, grub-like wrigglers.

Today, they really look and act like little rats!

They’ve developed a fondness for nesting inside a tissue box.


Didn’t see their backs to say who’s who, but the different colored baby in the center is probably Champagne.

They come running excitedly to the door when it opens, because they want to see what good stuff it means.


Again, can’t identify anyone without seeing their backs!

And when a hand is offered, they climb right on, looking for people time.


Here we have Asti way out front looking up at me.

Mom Brynn, who is little more than a child herself (only around 4 months old now), has found that the kids have grown enough to play with. This morning I observed a lively game of tag on the bottom level of the cage, Brynn and three babies chasing each other around. Eventually, Brynn decided the game was over, grabbed a baby, and carried them to the top floor, with the remaining two kids running close behind her.

So, how do I know it was a game of tag, and not just Mom saying, “Get yourselves back home, now!”?

Because as often as Brynn was running after babies, hopping and popping as much as the little ones were – as often as she was the chaser, she turned around and ran the other direction, and let them chase her.

Given how much she seems to miss the siblings she grew up with, I am so glad she’s starting to find her own babies can be suitable friends and playmates!

Adoption Update

Within 24 hours of my last post, the first time you all got to see the babies’ little faces staring lovingly at you, five – yes, five – of the little ones had been spoken for. Not only that, but Brynn herself is going to be adopted along with a pair of her daughters. Out of the nine fosters, then, two-thirds – six of them – are already destined for forever homes.

Who’s gone, and who’s left? Asti and Korbel will be going to a couple in a nearby city. The babies were born on their wedding anniversary, and they loved the way the sparkling wine names add to the celebration!

Tattinger will be adopted along with one of his first cousins, who was born about two days earlier than he was to Brynn’s sister, Winter.

Brynn, and her daughters Champagne and Clairette, have found a home in another New Hampshire city. They will be first rats for this couple, and I can tell by my correspondence with them that they are well prepared and greatly excited about becoming owned by rats.

That just leaves one boy – Dom – and two girls, Perignon and Chardonnay. I have a feeling they’ll find places pretty quickly, though!

If you, or anyone you know, is interested, you know what to do – hop on over to the Mainely Rat Rescue website and fill out an adoption application!

Brynn’s Babies – In Your FACE!

Filed under: Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 6:36 pm on Thursday, January 15, 2009

The babies are sixteen days old today, Thursday. They opened their eyes late on their two-week birthday on Tuesday. Yay!

Here’s what they look like when they’re looking back at you. Yes, YOU. Each of these little ratlets is peering deep into your soul and saying, “Love me! Take me home!”

For the best, most heart-wrenching effect, do click through on the images for the full-size version. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Dom, Beige Hooded Male

Dom is turning out to be a husky little bundle of love. He can usually be found near the top of the baby pile when they’re sleeping, but he’s not shy about burrowing under his siblings if he wants to feel ultra-cozy.

On his back, there’s a small peninsula jutting out from his hood, with an island just off the tip.

Asti, Beige Hooded Male

There’s one in every bunch – Asti is the most daring explorer in the litter. For several days now, if you saw a single ratlet wandering far from the nest, sure enough, it’s always Asti.

On Asti’s back, the sea of white makes a small, pointed inlet into his hood, while the island spots form a thin, curving archipelago.

Korbel, Beige Hooded Male

Korbel is a snuggly lovebug. When you skritch his head and neck, he raises his nose to the sky and starts working his mouth like he’s nursing. He really loves it!

The fur down Korbel’s head and neck forms a bit of a cowlick in the center. He has a little inlet in his hood as well, with a larger group of islands.

Tattinger, Beige Hooded Male

Tattinger is another husky boy. He’s our precocious watcher – his were the first eyes I saw open in the litter on Tuesday evening.

Tattinger’s markings are almost more like a continent, with a few tiny islands scattered around one large spot.

Champagne, Platinum Hooded Female

Champagne is a cute little flirt. She pretends to be shy, but really likes playing and snuggling. As with Asti, there’s one in every bunch – Champagne is the baby most likely to lick my hand all over when I hold her! After Tattinger, she was the second to open her eyes.

Her platinum color gives her a softer look that sets her apart from her beige siblings. Her spots form a crescent-shaped island grouping down her spine.

Clairette, Beige Hooded Female

Clairette almost looks like she’s laughing at the camera! She’s a lively explorer and snuggly baby.

And wriggly! I had to hold her pretty securely to get this photo of her back. Her spots are interesting – a pair attached to the hood at the top, several others scattered near her rump. I still think the larger one on her rump looks like a maple leaf!

Perignon, Beige Hooded Female

Perignon is turning out to be an explorer, like her brother Asti. She’s a chubby-faced little wriggler!

She has a little notch of white in the base of her hood. Below that is a long string of spots. Since her markings developed, I’ve had a fantasy in my head that, if you turn her to face to the right, the spots are her name, written out in pen and then badly smudged.

Chardonnay, Beige Hooded Female

Chardonnay is another little flirt. She can often be found snuggling into the middle of the baby pile – or climbing over the top of it!

The base of her hood is shaped like a graceful, inverted “V”, with a pair of spots lower on her back.

As a Whole

Overall, the babies are coming along rapidly! They have taken to humans very nicely – when I handle them, they often voluntarily climb onto my palm and snuggle up to sleep there. Same thing if I lay them on my chest – they crawl under my sweater collar along my neck and snooze.

They come to the sound of my voice when I talk to them. These kids aren’t going to be people shy at all!

We moved them into a larger cage on Monday. Brynn finally decided the babies belonged on the third, top floor, and moved them all up there. We’re offering a shallow dish of soy formula for everyone now, and a little pile of dry kitten food. Some of the babies found their own way down to the main food dishes on the second floor, and have been nibbling at the Red Mill grains and chopped fruits and vegetables.

It’s interesting to see how different this litter is from Net-Net’s. Net-Net’s babies were hyper enough they were climbing the walls to the ceiling of the cage two days before their eyes even opened. Brynn’s babies seem to love the companionship of the nest so much, they don’t venture far from it. Most of the time, that is. I suspect after the wandering I saw today, that’s going to start changing. Poor Brynn! She seems conflicted about the babies wandering off. I spotted her finding a baby far from the nest a couple of times this afternoon. She would get agitated, and pick them up, only to just swing around 180 degrees and put them down again rather than take them back to the nest.

Her babies are growing, and she wants them to still be babies! But she wants them to grow up and leave her! But – no, they’re her babies! It’s a universal issue of motherhood, I imagine!

If you want to Adopt:

Whether you want one of Brynn’s babies shown above, or any of the other – five? six? I think it may be seven! – litters currently available from Mainely Rat Rescue, just visit MRR’s main site at: www.mainelyratrescue.org. They have a well-designed and orderly website that makes it easy to see all their Available Animals, as well as to find adoption information and applications.

Hurry! These babies are so cute, we already have people inquiring about them!

Surprise!

Filed under: Blogfriends — folkcat at 5:58 pm on Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I have the best blog-friends! Gryphon went to the post office today, and when he came back he said, with a slightly puzzled voice, “Were you expecting a package from Valerie?”

Um…no. He then handed me a box. Sure enough, the return address was Valerie’s. And when I opened it…

Asian treats! Yay!

Valerie’s note said that she’s been at the Asian grocery and wanted to send me a little New Year’s treat basket as a sort of pick-me-up, for all the rough times that Gryphon and I have been going through. How sweet – and appropriate! I’ve been missing my Asian goodies, because our Asian market is fairly far away and not near anyplace else we ever shop, so I haven’t been there in months.

Valerie sent five (five!) boxes of Pocky; a package of one of my favorite classic treats, Botan Rice Candy; a box of another Glico (makers of Pocky) snack called Collon, which is actually a cylindrical creme-filled biscuit that I’ve never found yet and am eager to try; and a five-slice Gummi Pizza that looks like a lot of fun.

I’m going to do my best to dole this out and savor it slowly to make it last.

Thank you, Valerie! I’m so excited, and you’re so very sweet and thoughtful!

Meet the Babies!

Filed under: Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 6:25 pm on Thursday, January 8, 2009

The kids are growing! They have fur enough now that we can identify their colors and markings.

Here are the boys:

All handsome, strapping, beige hoodeds.

And here are the girls:

You’ll notice the girl on the left is a different color than the others. The three on the right are beige hooded like their brothers, but the girl on the left is platinum-colored! She’s also hooded, but her colored fur is a soft, shiny silvery-gray.

Now, ideally, if these kids were true hoodeds they’d have a solid color stripe extending from the hood and down their back to the tail. If they were the variation known as “variegated”, they’d have the hoods with spots evenly distributed all over their backs.

We’re going to call them hooded anyhow, since the spots they have are mostly along the line where the stripe would be.

I had originally thought a couple of these babies would be bareback – hood, but no markings on the back. Turns out their spots were just lighter, and took a little longer to show. Especially the platinum girl!

Okay, so we’ve got easily identifiable babies – how about names? A great big No-Prize goes to Carol, who guessed “Champagne, Flute, and Bubbly” as possible names. While only one of those is actually being used, the theme is correct – sparkling wines! Perfect for a New Year’s Celebration.

Without further ado, then, allow me to introduce Brynn’s Babies!

The Boys


Dom, a beige hooded. Dom has a mostly bare back, but a pair of spots high under the hood add distinction.


Asti, beige hooded. A small series of spots run in a thin archipelago down his back from the hood.


Korbel, beige hooded. He has larger spots – I can’t quite tell if there’s just one big one, or three. At the top of the spots, there’s also a little notch of white extending into his hood.


Tattinger, beige hooded. One big spot on his back.

The Girls


Champagne, platinum hooded. Champagne has a large crescent-shaped spot high on her back, and seems to be developing a couple of other small ones below it.


Clairette, beige hooded. Clairette has several small spots on her back, but the most distinctive is the large one shaped like a maple leaf that points at her tail.


Perignon, beige hooded. Perignon has a series of beige spots on her back, and a little notch of white in the center back of her hood.


Chardonnay, beige hooded. While the wine known as Chardonnay is not normally sparkling, the Chardonnay variety of grapes is one used to make sparkling wines. Chardonnay has a couple of small spots on her back, and the bottom edge of her hood has a v-shaped indentation.

Whew! That’s a lot of photos and a lot of blogging. I need to go rest now, I’m still getting over some sort of bug. Enjoy!

One Week Old

Filed under: Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 3:48 pm on Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It was one week ago, in the wee hours of the morning, that Brynn’s eight babies arrived. They’ve already grown a lot!

As you can see in this picture I took yesterday, their markings have started coming in. That’s what’s making their heads look more gray than pink. All of these babies will be beige hooded, just like mom. There are a couple that may be the bareback variety, which means no spots or stripe on the back.

I’ve been testing myself by taking individual photos of the babies two days in a row, then seeing if I can match the pictures from day one with those from day two. The markings are distinct enough for me to consistently identify the individuals! I have names in mind, too – a New Year’s-related theme – but I’m not going to match them up to babies until these little rat stars get their fur and look more ready for their close-ups. Feel free to guess in the comments what theme I’ve gone with – there’s a great, big, “No Prize” in it if you guess right!

I took this picture through the bars of the white cage just a few minutes ago. For all that she’s so young, Brynn is a very good and attentive mother.

She’s also extremely relaxed about us and the babies. Last night, Gryphon noticed that one had been accidentally dragged from the nest when Brynn came running to the cage door for attention. He reached in, picked up the baby, and offered it to her. She wasn’t phased a bit, looked at the baby, then came back to the door. I guess she trusts that we’ll take care of them properly!

I’ve been fighting some sort of bug for several days now. Although I’m still doing everything I can to socialize and care for Brynn and the babies (not that mom needs the socializing, she’s a little social butterfly!), blogging may slack off a little. I’ll make sure you still see the important highlights, however!

Baby Walruses

Filed under: Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 11:57 pm on Thursday, January 1, 2009

I thought we were raising baby rats. If you look at this picture, however (click on any image below to embiggen), you might think we’re raising miniature, pink, baby walruses.

Look at those muzzlepowshes! Those little whiskers! The itty-bitty ears!

Can’t see the whiskers yet? Try now:

Other details are starting to come in, too, like the toes and claws:

p1010539-copy_edited.jpg

I have taken another good look at the genders – need the practice with babies this small! – and I’m convinced now that my initial count was correct. Four girls, four boys. How orderly!

Here are the girls:

And here are the boys:

*sigh* We could just die of the cute, couldn’t we?