Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

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?

Pattern Update

Filed under: Blogfriends,Downloads - Original Knitting Patterns,Knitting — folkcat at 3:54 pm on Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Internet is a great big pond, and everything you post on it makes ripples that keep going on, long after you have forgotten about the stone you threw in.

Someone who found my pattern for the Knit Felted Catnip Mice decided to repay me for offering it free. You may or may not remember that I posted the pattern as a TXT file on my patterns page, because I never got around to creating a finished PDF version. Imagine my surprise yesterday morning when I found exactly that in my inbox – a finished, professional PDF of the pattern!

I am eternally grateful to this new friend for her gift, and I have made sure her work was not in vain. The PDF is now posted on the patterns page for anyone to download. I’ve left the TXT version up as well, just in case anyone prefers that.

I just need to go figure out what Ravelry links and listings need to be updated now!

Enjoy!

Whew!

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon,Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 5:12 pm on Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I know, I know – I’ve been conspicuously absent from this blog. Well, I’m here now, and ready to bring you up to date!

Things have been busy here. A couple of Sundays ago, we had the Great Rat Baby Exchange, passing along babies from Brynn’s litter who were destined for other foster homes, and collecting a little girl from another litter, Persephone, who would be paired with Perignon for adoption.


Perignon and Persephone

That’s our Perignon on the left, and Persephone on the right. ‘Seph, as we came to call her, looks like a Pink-Eyed White (PEW) rat, but she’s almost certainly going to grow into Siamese markings. Right now, she’s a lovely cream color, with soft pink eyes. I used to be put off by the appearance of PEWs, but now that I’ve met a rat who, at least for now, is one, I actually find them quite attractive.

Peri and ‘Seph didn’t stay for long. Even before we brought Persephone home, an adoption was in the works for these girls. This past Sunday, one week after ‘Seph came to stay with us, we delivered the pair to a delightful 11-year old girl. Their new human is already head over heels in love with these little ratties. Their new names are Ginger (Peri), and Nutmeg (‘Seph). Which are so darned cute I wish I’d thought of them! I just might have to go to the spice rack for the next litter I raise.

Over the last week, we also delivered the remaining members of Brynn’s family, including Brynn herself, to their new homes. Everyone was just thrilled with them, and I am getting regular e-mails and photos telling me how well they’re doing. We made some people very happy, with Brynn’s help!

In other news, I’ve been stepping up in my role with Mainely Rat Rescue. I’m in training to become an adoption counselor. I think I’ve reached the probationary period – they had me make first contact with a potential adopter for the first time last night! If this pans out, I’ll be right on the front lines, so to speak, helping people who love rats connect with the rats who need them most.

I’m also operating a Twitter feed for Mainely Rat Rescue. I’ll be providing links to featured rats for adoption, newly available rats, and perhaps unknown features of the MRR website. If you’d like to keep in touch with what’s going on at MRR, you can follow the Twitter user @MaineRatRescue and get all the news. (www.twitter.com)

On the subject of our personal health – Gryphon finally got to see a neurologist last week, who agreed that he does have a neurological issue. There are a few possibilities – none of the options include cancer or such, thank goodness. He’ll be undergoing some testing soon to rule out possibilities.

And then there’s the Seven Little Ratties. They seem much pleased by the gradual disappearance of all those strangers in the cage next door. Lola particularly has been demanding extra time with her humans – I often look over to the cage to find her laying on the shelf closest to me, with her nose stuffed into the space between the bars, and gazing longingly in my direction. At which point I always laugh, open the door, and take her out for a snuggle.

Lola is happy. She has me well trained!