Total rat envy. It’s an ugly thing, rat envy.
It’ll be here before you know it. April 4th is World Rat Day, a day for celebrating the rat for the marvelous animal that it is and whipping up some PR around how many people actually keep and adore pet rats.
Throw a rat themed cocktail party with a “B.Y.O. Rat” on the invitation. Give a specified donation to the Humane Society for the upkeep of homeless rats that have fallen on hard times. At the very least, make it a goal to bring the fact of your rat fandom out from the shadows for all the world, or at least a few select friends and colleagues, to know.
Think of it as International Rat Lovers Coming Out Day.
Or better yet, TAKE YOUR RAT TO WORK DAY!
Oh man, I am so totally doing that….
Oh dear, what can the matter be? I’ll tell you what the matter bloody well is: Squill is a blasted Houdini, that’s what the matter is! Damn my eyes if the little hussy didn’t find a way to squidge through the bars, cross the chaotic no-mans land that is my bedroom at present, dodge two homicidal fox terriers and a sociopathic Siamese cat, and settle in for a nice night of the old foopah-foopah in the boys’ cage. And after all the sermonizing I’ve done to other rat owners who find themselves in this position! I’ll be eating crow well into the next decade.
It’s just more than a body can bear. Twelve healthy pups – for that I was grateful, and I found good homes for all but a pair of females I’ll probably be able to place in Arizona while I’m home visiting the folks. For that I am also grateful. And I learned a boatload about rattie prenatal and neonate care and feeding. Frankly, it was a blast to raise the litter and a real kick in the head to have little ratlets running around all over the place like wee wind-up mousies.
And just when I was down to a tiny population in the girlies’ colony, I have three charming Russian blue and white cuties, to be introduced in a later post, one of them a rex. It’s been a rough year for rexes at Dovetail, what with the passing of Blossom, Will Shakespeare, and Henslowe within a twelvemonth.
Happily, the paternity was a snap to figure. Half the litter are a pattern of their mother, Squill, and the other half are Russian blue with either stars or blazes, a darker version of my British blue buck, Arthur. He’s the dominant male in the boys’ colony since Will Shakespeare’s demise. Arthur is a handsome fellow, though I think the girls are going to resemble their mother in their classic narrow heads and long snouts. Arthur is more typey, with some chunk to his build and a face and head more akin to a dumbo profile. Either way, the girls are going to be lookers.
But more to the point, and stay tuned for further riffs on this theme, Mea Maxima Freakin’ Culpa. As the Ronco comercial salesman says, “But wait, there’s more!” Stand by for further humiliating revelations….
Yep, you guessed it: necessity was once again the mother of invention. A sink full of dirty dishes is an ugly thing when combined with vehement demands for carrot juice emanating from two cages of insistent ratties. And yet sticky orange cages, to say nothing of sticky orange rats, isn’t by any stretch of the imagination “a consummation devoutly to be wish’d.” Yikes! All cigar ashtrays dirty, Arab Spring reenactment imminent…what to do, what to do? A desperate rifling of cabinets produced two alternatives, both of which proved just dandy:
1) LID FROM CANDLE JAR (SANS PLASTIC GASKET)
I can’t stand waste and really love these jars, so I go to the trouble of draining residual candle wax and then use these virtually indestructible containers for storage of moth-ish staples, dried beans, a wee bit of leftover sauce or soup, hardware odds and ends, and what have you. I must have a dozen of these sitting around, and somehow there are always more lids than jars.
Great solution for a small number of rats, in this case three does. Pry off the plastic gasket, which shouldn’t be on the menu. Virtually tip-proof. Since the low sides offer little incentive to tilt toward one’s self when lapping and the center of gravity is virtually at ground level, one can’t really tip, anyway, but can only flip. Which isn’t to say they won’t do so. But why should they when there is sweet, golden orange carrot nectar to be lapped up? Perhaps later….
2) MAMAW’S OLD-FASHIONED GLASS JUICER
I love how these glass gadgets look, and when my beloved Mamaw’s ca. 1948 glass juicer came up for grabs, I grabbed. Since I also have a super-cool levered juicer that is much more efficient and easier on the wrists, though, Mamaw’s glass juicer collects dust.
Not anymore! Six big bruising boys can belly up to this juice bar without anyone having to cue the pianist to play “Camptown Races,” which never seems to break up bar fights anyway, but only make them even more fun to watch. And speaking of fun to watch, there’s something about my boys shoulder to shoulder while sucking up tasty juices and soups from what looks for all the world like a big rat fountain that makes me laugh. Not that Mamaw would approve. She’d be horrified. But she would, I think, be just ever so slightly more pleased that her old juicer is still seeing some use.
Mamaw, my loathsome vermin thank you from the bottom of their rattie little hearts.
Alien Abduction, Ancient Aliens, animal health, Black Death, Black Plague, Documentaries and Factual, History Channel, I want to believe, Medieval, Pet Rat, pet rats, Phobias, Rat, Ratties, Television
It must be pingback week here at dovetail, but there you are: these days, rats are surfin’ the zeitgeist.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve suspected all along that the black death was caused by space aliens, and I, for one, am delighted that a major representative of the American media has been the first to establish that as a fact. Rats around the world breathe a sigh of relief.
One last time, folks: IT WAS THE FLEAS, DO YOU HEAR ME, THE FLEAS, NOT THE RATS! Humans ALSO carried fleas from one place to another in this period in history, and rats died of the plague in numbers that blow the human casualty rate right out of the water. So there. Harumph!
Pity the History Channel. How the mighty have fallen….
Ooo ooo! You need to know about this: http://vostokzapad.wordpress.com/2011/05/14/banksys-graffiti-1-rats/#comment-45
Great shots of astonishingly cool work by Banksy, an artist you need to know. This superkeen blog entry connects to to the artist’s website, which is also really neat. You’ll really like this sort of thing–if this is the sort of thing you like.
Here at Dovetail, we loves us some Banksy.
Yep, I guess Dovetail has arrived. Someone sent me a link to this little photo composite video on YouTube thinking I might enjoy it and recognize a kindred spirit. What I recognized were two of my own rats. Dang, I’ve been copy/pasted!
A student once told me that plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. Yeah, whatever: I gave him a zero. He’s a lawyer in DC now and still holding to that philosophy, by all reports.
Anyway, if you’re a rat person, you’ll enjoy the vid and identify with the song selection. If you aren’t, you’ll still enjoy the vid and think the soundtrack is a funny juxtaposition. And if you’re thinking of becoming a rat person, you’ll absolutely salivate over these splendid photos (if I do say so, myself, having taken two of them).
About the 907th time I had to mop up overturned soup, pureed peas, yogurt, tomato juice, oatmeal, and the like, it suddenly occurred to me to devote some cognitive activity to the task of thinking through the problem. Either that, or I ran out of little side dish bowls and grabbed one of my cigar ashtrays off the shelf in sheer desperation to get breakfast on the table for a cage full of vermin vehemently protesting their cruel treatment and impending starvation. That’s a long row to hoe for a fat squishy plop-osaurus like Henslowe or the dumpling twins, Antonio and Sebastian, but the little blighters manage it. First thing in the morning, I just want to get them fed and get some coffee in me before that day’s fresh brand of hell gets fully under way. Yep, not a morning person. How’d you guess?
Regardless of the source of inspiration, be it deductive reasoning or sheer laziness at NOT having run the dishwasher the previous night, I came up with the idea of feeding wet and potentially messy foods out of large, heavy, tip-proof, and inexpensive cigar ashtrays. Ok, I admit it: not always so inexpensive. I sometimes use a rather attractive Baccarat crystal ashtray that otherwise gathers dust in my china cabinet, a gift from a former dusky paramour. But you know what? The bastard ran around on me; his gift has now proved more serviceable a selection for me than he ever was [smutty inference entirely intentional]. He was a complete rat in the old-fashioned, James Cagney-esque sense of the word. Since he had the vulgarity to make it clear this gift was a reward for particularly memorable services rendered, and since he feared and loathed the beloved rodents–a sure sign of depravity in any man, dusky and well-endowed or otherwise–it seems an appropriate gesture. I hope he’s stalking my blog right now. >:- ]
Dear former dusky paramour, did I look like a cheap gangster’s floozy to you, really? In which case, for the same price I’d rather have had the always appropriate traditional chorus girl payoff, the diamond bracelet, and continued using my perfectly functional $5 Walmart ashtray.
What (you might well ask) are you doing with cigar ashtrays lying all over the place, Dovey?
Well, the truth of the matter is that I occasionally enjoy a good cigar, particularly on the front porch or in the garden…keeps the mosquitoes away a hell of a lot better than toxic, smelly citronella candles, I can tell you. And the oral pleasure of a plump, soft, lightly-fermented roll of tobacco leaves between the teeth is not to be underrated, not to mention the heady experience of roiling sweet smoke over the palate and all of the delightful rituals that surround cigar smoking. I may only smoke half a dozen or less a year these days, but when I do, I don’t intend to spend all evening searching high and low for an acceptable and aesthetically pleasing ashtray, nor do I want to go picking up cigar butts all over the garden.
Note to the reader: you are not my mother, and the task of upbraiding me for “that unhealthy, disgusting, expensive habit” belongs exclusively to that good lady. No comments from the militantly non-smoking section, please.
$5 is significantly less than a good food bowl goes for at Petsmart: no need to pull out the Baccarat unless it just tickles you, as it does me, to feed your rats out of a “breakfast bowl” that cost a certifiable jackass significantly more than a grand, as some sort of perverse metaphorical revenge when he probably doesn’t even remember what was so damned erotically memorable to begin with. Bitterness is not a pretty thing in a woman, but as a woman scorned, I’d feel better if I felt worse about it: the ratties seem to appreciate their posh dinner service, they couldn’t tip one of these babies over with a bulldozer, and their velvety tongues playing over the smooth surface of that 4 lbs. of hand-blown, lovingly polished crystal perfection pleases me beyond reckoning. Pleasure is a hard enough commodity to come by before noon for us theatre folk.
And I’m not kidding about the $5 ashtray at Walmart. It’s actually very simple and pretty, and I keep one on hand in my potting shed as well as in the vicinity of the rat cage. Try one, yourself. They save a heck of a lot of time and unpleasantness…have you ever tried to get dried-on boeuf bourguignon out of a Berkie’s white belly fur? It’s not a pretty process.
Ah, the heartache of chew toys. The edible hut or tunnel is chewed to bits in an evening, and what’s left smells like rat piddle for the rest of its days. The extra-special and extra-pricey genuine apple wood chew sticks and other posh solutions are unceremoniously ignored.
But not so one’s angora sweater, which one oh-so-foolishly hung on the back of the door next to the rattie cage and then swung open on one’s way to class, dangling the sweater a tantalizing four inches from our wily, resourceful friends. That, dear readers, was a sad, sad day, requiring many a shot of better than average bourbon to take the edge off of one’s grief.
Alas, neither let us not dwell on the fate of the research paper that foolishly came to rest on top of the cage “just for a minute” when the bed and desk were too covered with books to afford it room. Oh, the horror, the humanity….well, anyway, what a mess. Makes them really hard to grade, too, sorting through all those little drifts of literary toil. Got a rat? Then you’ve got a document shredder.
The truth remains: rats will chew something. They must. Whenever possible, it will be something not created for that purpose. Often it is something weird–the mystery lipstick and the hand spade incidents come to mind. Occasionally it is something dangerous–an electrical cord, a toxic plant, sub-standard paint from the cage bars: the mind reels.
Our only hope to avert disaster is to jump into the fray and provide ample options for chewing that, though intentionally “placed” by us, do not broadcast our hidden agendas. Rats resent being “managed” and perversely refuse to cooperate whenever they detect mendacity or condescension. I’m convinced of it.
If you doubt it, try taking a rat’s picture. She’ll sit there posing for you oh so prettily and nibbling daintily on the cream cheese you are using to keep her still, and then ZOOM, just as you snap the photo, she’s off like the blur that will be your picture.
Yes, the task of engaging a rat in a productive activity is very much akin to sneaking vegetables into recipes when preparing food for kids.
Or like my Mamaw’s “tricky sandwiches.” That sainted woman, who wouldn’t tell a lie to save a kitten’s life, perpetrated gross fraud on generations of grandchildren by turning the heel slice of a loaf of bread inside out when making peanut butter sandwiches, so that her victims wouldn’t know they’d been handed a sandwich that was, quite literally, ALL CRUST! Monstrous. I suppose living through a depression will do things like that to your character.
So right. Angora sweaters aside, you can spend a fortune on chew toys, only to have your little darlings destroy them utterly in a night, or worse yet, ignore them altogether and turn their attention in destructive directions. The trick is to place things in their paths that are interesting, in and of themselves, but to do it nonchalantly, as though you couldn’t care less whether your rats find the objects engaging and decide to chew on them or no. Rats like to chew on interesting things, things that pose questions and present a challenge. They love to puzzle over objects: What is this marvelous thing? Does it smell funny? Where has it been? How might it feel between my teeth if I take a little nibble just so? Can I take it away from Violet without her beating the crud out of me?
These are interesting questions to a rat.
I once had a rat who needed, for reasons both diplomatic and expeditious, to live alone for a period of time, to lay low, as it were. To keep him occupied and stimulated while I was away, I would place things on or near his cage on purpose–a head of lettuce from the garden, a cardboard shoe box, an entire hard-shelled winter squash, a deflated leather basketball, a full-sized bath towel. How the little devil managed to get these items through those skinny bars and chew them to smithereens in the time it took to teach a two hour college course is beyond me. He was so busy with his demolition tasks that he gave up, altogether, his heretofore favorite pass-time of baiting my dogs and then biting their noses viciously through the bars. Eventually, the dogs no longer found him to be interesting, either, and went off to torment the cat.
But at last, ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner! Best chew toy ever. No more $20 wooden houses to piddle on or oh-so-precious prissy-ass chews to ignore. The cow hoof has arrived, providing a solution both elegant and economical. Cow hooves, designed as dog chews, are tough, no-toxic, small enough to be carried around and scuffled over, cannot enter or leave the cage without your direct assistance, and can be washed in hot soapy water. And best of all, they smell interesting.
Hell, they smell fascinating! At least to a rat.
Cow hooves last forever. And when the rats start to get a little bored with their hooves, I switch the boys’ hoof to the girls’ cage, and vice versa. Diabolical! Tricky! Mamaw would be so proud. Those hooves become interesting all over again, redolent of mystery, danger, and the opposite sex. Rats who’ve never showed the slightest interest in chewing anything but water bottles and suede jackets suddenly become worshipers of the sacred cow. All night long, I hear my ratties gnashing away at their beloved hooves. That distinctive sound, along with the soft whisper of a Wobust Wodent Wheel wotating through the night, makes up my lullaby. Less squabbling, more peaceable and cooperative chewing–it’s heaven.
My dear cows, trust me: your sacrifice has not been in vain. “It is a far, far better thing that you do, than you have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that you go to than you have ever known.”
Bovine, I salute you.
Far and away, my rattie’s favorite time of day is “CANNN-DY TIME!” Each night before I go to bed and just as they are getting up, each and every rat over the age of six or seven months gets a delicious treat in the form of a flour-coated peanut butter ball about the size of a garbanzo bean, cleverly laced with doxycycline. The daily dose helps prevent outbreaks of mycoplasmosis or pneumonia. It has not failed to register that my recent loss came at the end of a week in which I had run out of medication and was not diligent about replacing it quickly.
According to the excellent Rat Guide:
The prognosis for rats with pneumonia is very grave, and will require long term antibiotic therapy. Due to the belief that Mycoplasma is probably never eliminated entirely from the airways in rats, and because it is a contributor to the development of pneumonia, it often becomes necessary to use pulse antibiotic therapy (long term, intermittent, dosing), or a continuing maintenance schedule of antibiotics for rats with chronic Mycoplasmosis.
I don’t think that pulsing really gets the job done for rats with a tendency toward mycoplasmosis. Call me a reactionary war-mongering Texan, but I’m for bombing the little bastards into a parking lot and keeping them that way. I’m all about daily dosing, which has worked wonders on my troops. Fear not: for whatever reason, rats don’t seem to develop immunity to doxycycline over time the way humans do.
Medi-balls are easy to make and are so tasty that they make rats literally jump for joy. It’s worth it to mix up peanut butter treats even if you aren’t medicating them, and I do so when I have rats that are too young for doxycycline, a drug which can adversely affect bone development in rats that are still growing. Otherwise, the babies feel left out.
There are several recipes on line, but mine’s the best and the easiest. I will be mixing up a batch as we go along to make sure I don’t forget a step, such as “mix in medicine.” Forgive the stream of consciousness style of my instruction. I’m nearly as tall a Julia Child and will, for the amusement of my dogs, cat, and rats, all of whom are looking on, use my “Julia” voice whenever it seems appropriate.
YOU WILL NEED:
TO MAKE DOXYCYCLINE MEDI-BALLS:
RECOMMENDED DOXY DOSAGE: 2.5 MG PER KG OF RAT (Up the dosage to 5 mg per kg of rat if you are treating an active case of respiratory distress.)
1) Plan to make enough balls for a 14 day supply. Carefully separate the top from the bottom of the capsule and allow powered medication to spill into the ramekin.
2) Add about an ounce of water to medication and use a tiny whisk or a fork to thoroughly blend medication with water. Take care that all of the medication has completely dissolved in the water.
3) Add a cap-full or so of the vanilla-butter-nut flavoring, which will somewhat lessen the medicine smell of the mixture and turn it (insert “Julia” voice here) a lovely saffron color.
4) Use the fork to mix any separated oils back into the peanut butter in the jar and lift a big glop into the bowl of medicine. How much is a “big glop?” Well, that depends upon the strength of your medication. If you use 50 mg capsules, you need less; 100 mg capsules, which will make twice the number of balls, require more so that the balls are not too tiny to easily work with. Remember, we’re shooting for garbanzo-sized balls. Blend liquid and peanut butter until you can sleep the sleep of the just knowing you have blended the medication in evenly and thoroughly.
5) Put the lid back on the peanut butter jar before you leave to answer the door, so that your pernicious little fox terrier bitch does not eat up half the jar by the time you get back. Damn and blast.
5) When you’ve blended all of the liquid into the peanut butter, stir vigorously, which will thicken the mixture to roughly that of room-temperature cookie dough.
6) Add as much flour to the mixture as you can mix into the dough without making it crumbly, first with the fork (or a pastry cutter, if you prefer), and then by kneading with your hands. Remember, flour must be thoroughly and evenly cut in before you start kneading, so that the doxy will be evenly distributed.
7) Role dough into a ball. You will know you have used enough flour if the dough ball is not noticeably oily and yet not so dry that it cannot be easily worked. If it is too dry and crumbly for the little bits at the bottom of the bowl to be easily worked into the big ball, spread it all out in the bowl again, add a bit more water, and re-blend. Crumbly medi-balls are a problem.
8 ) Give yourself a headache while figuring proper dose per ball based on the weight of your rats, and then mathematically computed number of balls you ultimately want to end up with, depending upon the strength of the medication and the number of capsules you emptied into that ramekin. It’s probably a good idea to do this before you start. Um, yeah. Next time.
9) Having forgotten how many capsules you used for this batch, sort through disgusting kitchen trash until you’ve counted up empty capsule shells. I used two 100 mg capsules this time, apparently.
10) Note: there are two points in the process of making medi-balls that involve a certain amount of “fudging,” and this is one of them. My smallest doe, the diminutive and whip-smart Bluebell, weighs a mere 400 grams (.88 lbs) at eight months of age, while my largest buck, the porcine Henslowe, tips the scale at a whopping 720 grams (1.58 lbs). Merciful heavens, what a fatty! Right. So fudge #1 is to split the difference and decide upon an “average” weight for dosing purposes. Fudge #2: don’t sweat it if some balls end up larger than others. I make “doe balls” and “buck balls,” which are about a third larger than those I make for the does. So here we go: two 100 mg capsules at 2.5 mg/kg of rat, figuring an average rat weight of 500 grams or .5 kgs (because it’s easy to equate), means I should get 28.5 (let’s say 28 so I don’t have to shoot myself in the head at this point) balls per capsule, which means I need to end up with 56 balls when I’m done. Piece of cake.
11) Recover from splitting headache from trying to figure out the dose and proceed to form the dough ball into two, three, or four equally sized smaller balls as needed to work with more easily. If you’re OCD, you can use a gram scale to compare sizes of dough balls, but I just go with a visual check and how they feel in my hand. Opinions about proper dosing for rats varies somewhat, anyway.
12) Place one of the balls onto a lightly floured surface and roll into an evenly sized log with your hand. Slice the log into the correct number of evenly sized chunks. Form chunks into balls by rolling in your hand and coat each ball with flour so that they don’t stick to each other when stored.
13) Put floured balls into a ziplock bag (the smaller the better–too many balls create too much weight and press together into a floury mess). I always put a few tablespoons of flour in the empty ziplock and toss the balls like shake-n-bake as they go into the bag, so that each is liberally coated with flour and will not stick.
BON APPETIT, RATS AIMÉS!
♥ Doxycycline balls will keep up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Make enough for two weeks when you make them so you aren’t having to whip up a batch any more often than necessary.
♥ MAKE CERTAIN that each rat eats his or her own ball entirely and that no thuggish cage mate (Bluebell!!!) mugs another for her treat. If a rat can steal a medi-ball, a rat will steal a medi-ball.
♥ Do not give doxycycline to rats that haven’t finished growing unless they are seriously ill, and then only at the instruction of your vet. I start rats on the doxy regimen at somewhere between six and eight months of age.
♥ You should include yogurt containing active cultures in the diet of any rat that is on an antibiotic regimen to keep the gut flora healthy.
♥ Explain to your vet that the doxy prescription is for prophylactic care and ask for refills on the original prescription. You shouldn’t have to call the vet each time you need a refill. Conversely, don’t purchase more doxy than you can use in a year, and be sure to check the expiration date carefully on your drugs.
♥ Dose ratties at the same time each day, or close to it, for maximum drug efficacy. Your rats will soon begin “reminding” you each day that it’s CANNNN-DY TIME, never fear!
Favorite rattie vid ever. Some days you just need joy in your life. Here’s some joy. Remember getting this excite about the Popsicle man when you were a kid? I do. Aren’t rats awesome?
Nothing wrong with a little vintage Harry Belafonte, either.
Shake, Shake, Shake, Senora…Somebody HELP me! 🙂
I’d like rats, if it weren’t for those ghastly tails.
Ugh, those tails–they make me shudder just thinking about them, all scaly and hairless like that!
Why don’t they make rats without tails? Rats without tails would be fine…
And, my personal favorite, from a substitute vet at my excellent clinic: Ok, I admit it. Will Shakespeare (the rat, not the playwright) is just as sweet as a peach and even sort of pretty–I didn’t know rats could have Siamese markings–but I’ve never actually treated a rat. If you can maybe just sort of shield his tail from view, I’ll be able to do a better job here.
Poor unsuspecting, bravely honest (or overtly visceral) speakers. Little do you know that a fundamentalist upbringing has left a residue of evangelistic verve. You are mine, oh sinners in the hands of a rat-loving educator.
Cue the Spiel:
“I know exactly what you mean,” say I, hand gently placed on speakers forearm in sympathetic solidarity, “I used to feel exactly the same way!” (Shift in tone to Lecture Hall setting) “Actually,” pontificates moi, “the rat’s tail is a marvel of engineering.” (Dare I say intelligent design? Nope, don’t go there, my Darwinist friend, or you’ll regret it) “It allows the rat, an animal that can neither sweat nor pant, to thermoregulate in a variety of temperatures, such as those experienced in the wild–you know, the Times Square subway station in July, Taco Bells where the manager has forgotten to turn the heat down for the night, your attic….” (Whoops, how in hell did you wander off into THIS territory, Dovey? Back away from the involuntary shudder response and keep your blasted big mouth where I can see it.)
“Rats also use their tails to balance, much like a wire-walker uses a pole,” I say, back on message at last, “They use it as a counter balance to shift their gravity and, in some instances, for stability–like you’d reach your arm out to make contact with a banister while descending steep stairs with something in your hands. It’s not prehensile, but it almost seems that way sometimes.” (Good job, Dove, you DIDN’T say “like a possum’s tail.” People react even worse to possums than they do to rats!)
“There are actually tailless rats available as pets, but I wouldn’t want one, personally. They have a hard time keeping a steady body temperature, which means they’re much more susceptible to heat exhaustion, and they are not nearly as much fun to watch climbing and playing on ropes and ladders and such. Also, they lack a certain je ne sais quoi, don’t you think? A certain native brio? Remember that scene in Prince Caspian where Reepicheep ( who is clearly a rat and not a mouse, as any 4 year old could tell from his size relative to the other animals in the movie) gets his tail severed in battle, and his warriors are prepared to cut off their own tails rather than bear an honor denied to their leader? A rodent without his tail is a diminished creature.”
I move on to the money shot: “But have you actually ever felt a rat’s tail? Here, give it a go. Feel how warm it is, how supple and velvety? It’s not actually scaly or hairless at all, is it? Yes, it’s really quite nice, when you think about it.” (smiles encouragingly and hands rat over to previous non-fan, now entranced by sweet face, curious snuffling nose, and endearingly twitchy whiskers) “And look how clean rats are! They constantly groom their tails to keep them at their velvety best. Aren’t they just lovely?”
At this point, it’s all over but the crying. A fan is born. Like so many other biases, the loathing of the rat tail is conceived in ignorance, gestated through segregation and distance, and nurtured by a perceived otherness of the being in question, in a word, bigotry. Haters are so often in reality, though, merely never-met-ers. Isn’t it interesting, for example, that the first serious rat fanciers were Victorian rat catchers? Familiarity breeds admiration, where the noble rat is concerned. To know a rat is to love a rat. Really. Give it a go.
Here’s a really excellent web page that examines many aspects of our amazing little friend, Rattus norvegicus: http://www.ratbehavior.org/rats.html
What first convinced you to bring a rat into your home? There are as many answers as there are rat owners out there. But I’m willing to bet what convinced you to bring rats into you home was a heartfelt plea from another rat lover that you not condemn a social creature to a life of miserable solitary confinement. Recent studies on the effects of solitary confinement point to the fact that individuals of any intelligent species who are left alone for any length of time actually experience profoundly damaging neurological changes: they lose their sanity. And rats are terribly, terribly intelligent, I assure you. Watching a helpless creature that you profess to care about slowly come unhinged is not my idea of humanitarian behavior. Don’t get one rat. Get two. Get three! Two or three are actually less trouble than one.
What OPuPo, the video producer, says:
Food for thought for those considering buying just one rat on its own, or those who already have just one rat:
Rats are really sociable animals and need company all the time, not just human interaction and cuddles but rat companionship. Someone to groom and to groom them back, someone to curl up with for warmth and safety at night, someone to eat food beside so that they don’t feel vulnerable. No matter how great an owner you are or how much time your rat spends with you, you still have to sleep and work and no human can replace a second rat for the interaction they get from one another. It’s so important for their quality of life to have a buddy with them at all times.
Please ask any questions and leave comments. I hope the video can start to show the connection and bond that two rats form. Whiskey and Womble would never want to be without the other.
Please note: If you do only have one rat at the moment then it’s important that you don’t simply get another rat and put it into the same cage. In that situation rats will often fight and could kill each other. For advice on introducing rats to each other please message me.
I also just want to add that recently Womble has been pretty ill and Whiskey has been so great to him. He cuddles and grooms him and won’t leave his side. They know when something is wrong with the other and will do what they can to help.
Thanks for watching
And Thank you, OPuPo, for the good you’ve done the rat fancy through your marvelous videos. You are my inspiration. It was this video that finally decided me to bring rats into the house. And I’m so glad I did! BEST PETS EVER.
OPuPo is right, though: it takes a lot of patience to incorporate a new individual into a colony, even if it’s a colony of one. I should know–I’m in the middle of that process right now. Not three feet from my bed, Tybalt, a recently neutered male, is adjusting to life with the girls. He was a rescue and had been alone for many months. His lack of socialization and his fiery temperament made the neutering absolutely necessary if he is ever to have a normal life.
“Fiery temperament?” you ask? Hell yeah. Tybalt had been called some silly foo-foo name or other before I took him in, but he also had a bad case of fleas and ear mites, which pretty much voids any naming rights his old owners may have held, as far as I am concerned. They liked Tybalt, but they didn’t have idea one about how to care for a rat. Anyway, here’s the story they told me: they had put Tybalt’s cage on a stand next to a kitchen shelf the previous winter and woke one day to a CSI incident all over their kitchen floor. It seems a hapless mouse had been scurrying over the cabinet in search of a crumb when his eye came to rest on Tybalt’s food bowl, just a short jump from the counter-top and a quick wriggle through the bars. Oh, bad bad idea, little mouse. Tybalt opened up a fresh can of whoop-ass on that little interloper and tossed what was left over the side as a warning to other would-be burglars. God’s Bodkins, even their cats were afraid of Tybalt. If you haven’t read Romeo and Juliet lately, do take this opportunity to do so and remind yourself how appropriate was Tybalt’s new name.
“Was” being the operative word. When he first jointed the boys, Henslowe, Will Shakespeare, and Arthur must have thought I’d lost my mind and thrust a rabid weasel into their midst. Since his surgery, Tybalt has gone from psychopathic plague rat to the strong, silent type. With a nod to Rick Castle, suddenly he really is ruggedly handsome. Tybalt is the Gary Cooper of rats. The ladies love him. Or they will. In a week. Or maybe two. I hope. Luckily, there’s plenty of good information out there regarding best practices for introducing a new cage mate. I personally recommend “the pudding treatment,” wherein all members of the community and the new rat are smeared with vanilla pudding and deposited onto a neutral table or counter with a few boxes and hides to take the edge off everyone’s nerves. It makes them all smell the same, and, let’s face it: once you’ve licked pudding off of a person, well, you’re not really in any position to get all up in his face anymore, are you? Get lots of pudding…you’ll need some, yourself, to take the edge off your own nerves, won’t you? Yes, I thought you might.
Dovey <:3 )~~~~