Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Pitter Patter’s Noises

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 11:05 pm on Wednesday, July 15, 2009

As much as I want to keep updating you on foster ratties that have been and gone, I need to keep up with current rattie reality! Pitter Patter’s Noises are the four little foster girls we have in the house right now, and they are darling! Meet Boink, Eek, Chatter, and Flutter! They’re about seven and a half weeks old, and available now to adopt through Mainely Rat Rescue.

noisy girls square

I wish I could tell you who’s who in this photo, but they all look alike! All four girls are Black Berkshires, and except for their white bellies, they look almost identical. In personality, they’re very similar, too – all friendly, lively, and bouncy!

Although they’re only 7 1/2 weeks, already they’re so used to people that they’re excited to play with and be handled; they take treats from the hand with no hesitation; and though highly energetic and squirmy, they are easy to pick up and hold.

This is a lively bunch. I have never seen such a group of babies for popcorning, running, wrestling, and chasing each other around! It made it hard to get photos of the group, because they’re hardly still for a moment. I only managed the hammock shot above because they had just woken up when I opened the cage door.

This was a previous attempt at getting a photo of the whole group:

hold still, girls!

The idea was that I’d either be able to corral them in my arms, or they’d settle together on my shoulder. Then Gryphon could get a group photo, all of them together. Apparently, half of them liked the arms, and half the shoulder.

On my next attempt, I opened the cage door, and tried to get pictures of them playing in the cage. These girls are friendly, though, and when the cage door opens, they come running to see what’s happening. So the action went something like this:

p7141189 p7141191 p7141192 escape!

As you can see, the general trend was in the direction of the door, and spaces beyond! These girls are all about exploring!

Since they all look alike from above, here’s an easy guide to telling them apart:


boink_edited boink side_edited

Boink is actually a varieberk, not just a Berkshire. That means that her white markings come up her side. As you can see, she has two distinct white stripes on her left side. None of the other girls have such distinct side markings.


eek 1_edited eek belly_edited

If you look at Eek’s belly, you can see a place where the black on her sides narrows the white. In the photo above, the black peninsula on the left is rounded, and the one opposite it is pointed.

All four girls have white tips to their tails as well, but Eek is the only one with just the smallest tip of the tail in white. All of the other three have at least a half-inch or so.


flutter 1_edited flutter belly_edited

“Flutter Funky-Belly,” that’s what we call this girl! Her white belly is the most irregularly shaped of the lot. The lower part looks a bit like Africa, with an extra stripe of land pointing off to the West.


chatter_edited chatter belly_edited

Chatter distinguishes herself by having the least irregular belly marking of the lot! I usually identify her by figuring out who the other three are first, and whoever’s left, must be Chatter.

All four of these girls love playing together. They’ll be adopted out in pairs, but it would be absolutely awesome if someone wanted to keep the sisters together! If you’re interested, just visit Mainely Rat Rescue and check out the instructions for adopting from us.

Meet Bailey

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 5:28 pm on Thursday, July 9, 2009

Meet Bailey, originally uploaded by Folkcat.

She was furiously washing herself while we had a late pizza lunch at the Fox Run Mall in Portsmouth. Bailey was surrendered to MRR the very day that our Lola passed. When I can get a good picture of her face, and tell you the rest of her story, you’ll see just how amazing that is. For now, we’re still on the road home.

A New Shawl

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 4:26 pm on Sunday, July 5, 2009

A New Shawl, originally uploaded by Folkcat.

I’ve had two main knitting projects lately. One is the never-ending run of cotton blankets for the rats. The other is this entre-lac shawl. I’m knitting it from the point up so I can get it as big as I want w/o guessing. The yarn is Noro Kureyon Sock, color 229.

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Foster Update, Part 2: The Mystery Girls

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 5:07 pm on Thursday, July 2, 2009

The first group of foster girls that passed through our cages without being reported on here were the Mystery Girls. They were so named because two of them were reserved for adoption before arriving in our home, and their new owner named them for favorite mystery book characters of hers.

These four girls were all sisters from the same litter. The entire family was turned in to a shelter in Maine when they were about 5 or 6 weeks old.

Sookie Stackhouse and Stephanie Plum
sookie and stephanie

These were the girls who were adopted first. I wasn’t familiar with either book series, but have learned that Sookie Stackhouse (the black Berkshire on the left) is the main character in the True Blood series, and Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter in her own series.

Inspired by adopter Betty’s names for these two girls, I plunged into my own favorite mystery series to name the other two.

Sneaky Pie and KoKo
sneaky pie and koko_edited

Yes, my favorite mystery books are the Sneaky Pie books by Rita Mae Brown, and the Cat Who books by Lillian Jackson Braun. That’s KoKo on the right up there, of course – a Himalayan rat seemed appropriate to name for a Siamese cat!

Sneaky Pie and KoKo found an adoptive home of their own in short order, and now live with a young brother and sister pair of humans here in New Hampshire. Their new names are Phoebe (Sneaky Pie) and Piper (KoKo)*. They were really fun while they were here, though, and I miss them like I miss all my foster kids.

Next Time on “Foster Updates”: The Soda Pop Girls!

*Yes, the adoptive mother of their new family acknowledged that if they got more rats, they would likely be Prue and Paige!

Road Trip

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 4:40 pm on Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Road Trip, originally uploaded by Folkcat.

On our way to Concord to pick up new foster girls – the Sound FX Girls and Mia.

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New Day Different Rat

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 5:31 pm on Monday, June 29, 2009

New Day Different Rat, originally uploaded by Folkcat.

Laurel takes her turn sleeping in the hose "window".

Sleepy Girl!

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 4:21 pm on Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sleepy Girl!, originally uploaded by Folkcat.

Caught Isabella, sound asleep and hanging her head out a window the rats chewed in their vent hose.

Foster Updates, Part One

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 10:34 pm on Friday, June 26, 2009

I know, I know – I’ve been too long without posting. It’s been kind of a rough time here, and very busy as well.

Since last I posted, we’ve had 10 foster girls come and go that you haven’t even heard about! There were the Mystery Girls: Sookie Stackhouse, Stephanie Plum, KoKo, and Sneaky Pie. There was the fizzy 4-pack that we called the Soda Pop Girls – Moxie, Fanta, Faygo, and Shasta.

Net-Net and Missy

Then there was a very special pair, older girls Net-Net and Missy. Yes, that’s the same Net-Net who, with her litter of babies, was my very first foster case. The one who bit me five times, sending me to the emergency room once.

Net-Net Gets Cozy

Net-Net’s owner reached a point where she had significant changes in her life that made it impossible to give her rats the care they deserved. So she surrendered them all to Mainely Rat Rescue. Since I’d had Net-Net before, it made sense for her to come back. I was promised she wasn’t a biter, now that she didn’t have babies.

Not entirely true. Net-Net and Missy both made attempts at biting Gryphon right away. Me – well, with me they were what I came to call toothy, but not biting. I could pick them up (Gryphon couldn’t), and handle them, and even take them in on my bed to romp under the blankets. And all I ever got was a Tooth Touch to the arm, hand, even the nose or chin – a gentle touching of the teeth to a body part, not a bite.


Missy Explores 

The Tooth Touch sometimes became a Slow Bite. Not an aggressive motion, but a slow and considered one. I took the Tooth Touch and the Slow Bite both to mean they were trying to communicate, not express anger or fear.

The Slow Bite is a case of a Tooth Touch that doesn’t know it’s own strength. If you are quick enough, you can pull away from them. I was slow one night, and Missy actually broke the skin on my ear. Ouch!

So, here we were with a pair of older girls (over 18 months, elderly for a rat), with a temperament issue. And in addition to that, they both developed tumors. What was intended to be foster care in contemplation of finding an adoptive home, became hospice care. Net-Net’s tumor grew rapidly, and it was the ever-increasing size of her lump that set the deciding point for the next phase.

We parted company with Net-Net and Missy last week, sending them on their final journey to the top people at MRR. The head honcho herself is a certified euthanasia technician, so I can rest assured that they were handled gently, with great care and respect.

Net-Net will always hold a special place in my heart. She was the rat who got me started on this path to greater involvement with Mainely Rat Rescue. On her first visit, she instilled in me a great fear of being bitten by aggressive rats. On her last stay, I came to understand her behavior better, to see the toothiness for what I believe it really is – an attempt by an intelligent rat to communicate with the living beings who provide her daily care.

Net-Net and Missy, as cuddly as they ever got

In the end, Net-Net, Missy, and I developed a mutual respect, and dare I say, even a friendship, for each other. I think they knew that in their final home, they were loved and cared for as their own cantankerous selves.

Next time: The Mystery Girls!

Lola Rattie, February 18, 2007 – May 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 10:48 pm on Tuesday, June 2, 2009

mrr raffle prize - mohair spiral scarf-copy_edited I’ve been trying to screw up the courage to write this post for a few days now. This past Saturday afternoon, our best beloved Rattie, Lola, passed away in my arms. Lola was about 2 years, 3 1/2 months old.

As we sat ready to eat our Saturday breakfast (which is around 1 p.m. for us), Gryphon noticed that she was lying in the nest box, gasping for breath. He gently removed her from the cage and handed her to me.

Lola was struggling for air, but seemed glad of the comfort. Her breathing troubles waxed and waned over the next two hours. At intervals she would scramble to drag herself to another spot, as if hoping to escape the pain and discomfort. She was so weak, she couldn’t raise her body and stand.

Finally, a few minutes after 4 p.m., she had a few spasms that appeared to be a final seizure. Her little fists clenched and pawed at her face as if washing it. Then, lying on her side on my chest, with my hands covering her, she went still.

I cried. I have cried at least once every day since. I see her face all around me.

We have lost other rats before. We loved every one of them, and each loss hurt.

But not like this one. Lola was special. Both Gryphon and I feel like we’ve lost a soul mate.

She came to us originally in mid July of 2007. We found her at a local PetCo, a surrendered rat hoping to be adopted. They claimed she was five months old at the time. It may have been true – she was less than full size, but no longer a baby. We ultimately decided to approximate her birthday as February 18, 2007.

The most astonishing thing was that she kept jumping out of the tank she was kept in, to climb onto my shoulder, then jump back down and repeat the process. Over and over again. Clearly, she didn’t want us to leave her.

So we didn’t.

lola portrait
Lola’s First Picture, July 21, 2007

We brought her home, a spunky young teenager, to live with our aging girls Star and Sable. Star had clear health issues – a growing tumor, and a history of seizures and possibly even strokes. Sable was getting up there, but still functioning well.

ratties together 
First Morning Together:
Lola draped over Star below, Sable in the hammock above. July 28, 2007

Star succumbed to her health problems on August 14. By then, Lola was able to keep Sable company. Their companionship kept Sable going until January, at which point the older girl passed away in our arms from respiratory failure.

Lola became very depressed. We don’t know how long she may have been without rattie companionship before we adopted her, but she had come to love Sable, and she missed her big sister. Anxious to ease her loneliness, I got in touch with Mainely Rat Rescue. We adopted a pair of neutered boys, Yuri and Leonardo, a week after losing Sable.

First Meeting with the New Boys, 01/29/08

Lola had, from the start, been friendly, affectionate, and cuddly. Her personality had shown through at all ages, from her days as a bratty teenager picking on the old girls Star and Sable, to the flirty girl getting to know the boys we brought home for her. She became a protective mother figure when new girls were added – while still making sure they understood she wasn’t just a mother, she was The Queen Mother, thankyouverymuch.

Since the start of 2009, Lola had started showing her age. She slowed down. She asked for more cuddles, spending up to an hour at a time just snoozing in my arms. She took on the role of curmudgeonly old woman, becoming more annoyed at the young whippersnappers she shared a cage with.

In her most shining display of her true nature, when we tried to introduce Marbles into the colony cage, Lola turned out to be the only rat who accepted him. Every other one attacked him at every opportunity, but Lola slept with him, sometimes fended off his attackers, and kept him company when no others would.

A short time later, we noticed a bulge starting to develop on Lola’s chest. Female rats are prone to mammary tumors, and at Lola’s age, surgery would be both costly and risky. So long as she had a reasonable quality of life, it was best just to help her live with it. She didn’t seem impaired, but did lose some weight and slowed down even more.

The end finally came on Saturday, as I gave her what comfort I could, and told her if she had to leave it was okay, that we didn’t want her to suffer. I believe she went fairly peacefully. I hope she did.

She was Lola. She was our love.

She was a Clown:


A Cuddler:

Lola and Lily, March 2009

A Gourmand:


A seeker of love:


And a lover of yarn:


She was our best friend, and sometimes a very nice neckwarmer: 

 Gryphon and Lola, together.

Rest peacefully and well, our dear friend. You will always be in our hearts.

Lola’s Last Picture, March 5, 2009

Lola Rattie

Feb. 18, 2007 – May 30, 2009


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 Ratsinov
October 23, 2007 – May 4, 2009

He will be missed.

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