I was not expecting to have to write this yet. Smoak had seemed fine, it was her sister Nyssa who had a lump. But then there were little hints, slight changes in behaviour, that suggested something wasn’t right. She became a bit clumsy and then started having difficulty holding snacks and soon it was obvious that she had some sort of neurological problem. I took her to see the vet a couple of weeks ago and he agreed: she most likely had a brain tumour of some type.
She had been fluffing up a bit, which can be a sign of being in pain, so I brought her home with some painkiller. She went downhill gradually, losing weight and finding it harder to eat and to keep her balance. Even her beloved banana became difficult for her. And I knew that it was time to say goodbye to my beautiful grey Smoak, the rattiest of rats.
In November 2018, we said goodbye to Ivy. She lived to the very respectable age of two years and seven months. She slowed down, lost a bit of her mobility and gradually turned into an old rat. She did have a slow-growing lump, but that never really caused her any problems. Eventually, life was just getting too hard and we let her go before it became painful.
Saying goodbye to Molly in November 2017 left us with just one ratty: Ivy. We weren’t going to rush to get more, but it was obvious that Ivy wasn’t going to be happy on her own, so friends had to be found.
I fell in love with Smoak the moment I saw her; such a beautiful grey-brown girl, a bit skittish, but utterly gorgeous. She proved herself to be the rattiest of rats: when we brought her home, she escaped onto the floor as I tried to get her from the carrier to the cage and the sight of her bounding along the skirting board under the sofa… just so incredibly ratty.
Such a pretty rat
Nyssa was more forthcoming and curious; she didn’t want to be held, but she was more than happy to be around people, especially if they had snacks. She quickly discovered that the inside of a t-shirt was a fun place to explore (I’ve used tucking ratties inside my t-shirt as a socialising technique before but Nyssa did it all on her own). She has to be the focus of attention, if anyone else is getting any fuss — or worse, food — then she will quickly place herself front and centre.
On the move
Raiding the snacks
Smoak was beautiful and a little aloof, with the softest fur. Nyssa was and still is, energetic and sleek, with a beautifully silky coat.
Smoak quickly learned her name and would acknowledge you, even if she then chose to stay exactly where she was. It took a lot longer for Nyssa to even understand what a name was, she recognises it now and does respond, but I’m convinced she just thinks it means “snack time”.
At the end of November 2017 — at the unfairly young age of one year and seven months — we said goodbye to our beautiful Berkshire ratty Molly. In the summer, after she’d only been with us for just over a year, we found a small lump. We tried keeping it under control with Galastop but it didn’t respond, so we just worked at keeping her happy and comfortable until the lump became an insurmountable problem.
She coped with it astonishingly well for four months and never had any other health problems. In the end, it was only when the risk of the lump ulcerating became too high that we had to make the sad decision to let her go.
This is hard to write. I have utterly failed to keep this blog up-to-date — it was just too hard to keep writing ratty obituaries and going through photos and I felt I had to do everything in the proper order — so now we have lost our gorgeous ratty Smoak before I even introduced her to you. And both Molly and Ivy have passed on, one from a lump and the other from old age.
Over the next few days, I am going to catch up. That will mean one “Meet the Rats” and three obituaries, which is so sad, but at least there will be cute ratty pictures to help make up for it.
Right now we are left with just one ratty — Nyssa — she has a lump and is quite feisty, so I am wary of introducing new rats. We will have to find a new source anyway; the place we got our girls from no longer has ratties and the local(ish) rescue that I was thinking of going to has just relocated to Ireland. I’d rather not go on GumTree and while I feel sorry for the rats in Pets At Home, I can’t bring myself to buy from there, but I have no relationship with any breeders, so I’m not sure what we’ll do in the future.
For now, we’ll just look after Nyssa (whose photo is at the top of this post), the ratty who always insists on being the centre of attention.
At the start of this week we had to make the decision to say goodbye to Quorra. She’d been slowing down over the last few months — losing weight and starting to look like an old rat — but when she went off her food over the weekend we knew it was time.
When I found a small lump on her ribs at the start of last year we never thought that we would have anywhere near this long left with her. The Galastop kept that lump under control the whole time and, while there may well have been some secondary internal tumours affecting her health at the end, it was old age that caught up with her. She made it to the very respectable age of two and a half; outliving her sister Yori by nine months.
When she joined us she didn’t have any really distinctive personality traits. She wasn’t a jumper or a climber or a biter or a hider; she was just a sweet little ratty (who roaned out her grey and black baby colouring in just a couple of weeks!). And then she got the ear infection which left her with an adorable head tilt and the ability to go round corners like no other rat. Suddenly she was the rat who could escape onto the top of the cage in the blink of an eye, and did so at every opportunity. She took a liking to spiralling her way down my t-shirt, from which vantage point she would often lick my face (going through a phase of sticking her tongue up my nose which was just a bit disturbing) and if she wasn’t licking, she’d be chewing on the neck of the t-shirt.
She grew old gracefully, tolerating the newcomers and putting them in their place with a good power grooming when needed. I will miss that sweet, tilty face.
The loss of Rommie left us with just one rat for the first time ever, so we had to find some friends for Quorra; she was only alone for a few days, but she obviously wasn’t happy. Having said that, I’m not convinced she was always particularly impressed by the presence of two lively youngsters either. The two newcomers are Molly and Ivy, named after characters in the Dresden Files books.
And once again I managed to forget exactly how energetic young ratties are; a situation that was made worse by having to look after them by myself for the first week as my other half was away visiting family. Molly was particularly trying as she would attempt to use me as a jumping off point to absolutely anywhere else she thought she might be able to reach. Ivy just didn’t want to be picked up and was quick enough to avoid it much of the time.
Molly is a wonderfully sleek mismarked black Berkshire. She has the cutest little white feet and belly and a tiny dot of white on the top of her head. Luckily she has grown out of her initial habit of trying to leap off in random directions; now she is happy to just run around at full speed, including in the wheel at five in the morning…
Ivy doesn’t really fit into any of the markings categories; she has black from her nose to her shoulders and the rest of her, including her chin and throat, is white with a couple of stray spots of black. She is decidedly skittish, twitching at most noises (especially crinkly plastic) and is not keen on being held. That’s not to say she’s scared of people — she will happily come up for food and will let you stroke her — she just doesn’t want the interaction to go on for too long; she would much rather find a comfy spot to hide in. She loves her food and is destined to be another “fat rat”.
At the start of July last year, a few weeks after the unexpected loss of Yori, we had to say goodbye to Rommie. She was the second-longest-lived of all our ratties, making it to the grand old age of two years and eight months.
At some point, we’re not sure when as it was probably masked by Yori’s propensity for bleeding randomly, Rommie started to have a small amount of blood in her urine. We never found the cause of it, neither antibiotics nor steroids cured the underlying problem, and she was too old to even consider exploratory surgery, so we lived with it. Just another side effect of getting old. And as with all ratties who don’t succumb to a specific medical problem, she got older, she lost weight, and eventually started to look like life wasn’t fun any more. And that’s the point at which you make the decision to stop before life becomes painful.
Rommie was one of the prettiest ratties, with a lovely splotchy tummy to match her splotchy back. She loved her food and turned into a bit of a squishy fat rat (though never excessively so), and would even put up with the indignity of having her tummy scritched as long as there was food to distract her.
With no warning, the mischief is suddenly reduced to two members. I came downstairs the other morning to find that Yori had died unexpectedly overnight; she had been perfectly happy the previous evening and hadn’t even had so much as a sniffle for weeks.
The smallest rat had been a bit of a medical mystery in her short life. Last August we had the unexplainable “bleeding from the eye” incident. And then earlier this year she was bleeding again, different location, which led to her being spayed (although the vet couldn’t see anything obviously wrong with her when she operated). Apart from the random bleeding and the initial respiratory infection when she joined us, she had always seemed to be a remarkably healthy and energetic little ratty, and even when there was something wrong it didn’t slow her down at all (even continuing to run in the wheel while bleeding).
She was always the first to the cage door and was the most active one in the evenings, still running around while the others had found comfy spots to curl up. Any squeaking was usually caused by her deciding to exert her presumed authority by power grooming the others; she was utterly convinced that she was the alpha of the group.
Yori was a real ratty ambassador, cute, licky and loved by all who met her. I will miss having her on my lap at snack time, making sure she eats hers rather than hiding it.
We knew that our time with Rocket was going to be limited when we discovered a pea-sized lump in her groin last November.
She had just turned two years old and had a bit of a snuffle, so I decided against getting it removed there and then. I wasn’t keen on putting her through surgery and, more importantly, the recovery time alone in a smaller cage — especially as there was a good chance that (from past experience) another lump would appear within a few weeks…
She got over her snuffles and, while the lump was growing, it was growing very slowly. She was showing signs of ageing: generally slowing down, happy to just find somewhere to curl up when she was out with us in the evening, a little weakness in her back legs, and generally turning into a grumpy old rat. She had always been a “toothy” rat, ready to give a bit of a nip to get your attention or express her irritability, and this behaviour got more pronounced over the last few months.
In the end, a few weeks ago, Rocket left us as quickly as she had arrived. Those signs of ageing were, with hindsight, signs of a pituitary tumour and she went from being a happy sofa companion one evening to being unable to hold her food the next. Her decline was so rapid and so drastic. I spent the evening cuddling her and feeding her, and took her for a last visit to the vet the next morning.
Rocket was a very special grumpy rat who stole my heart and she will be greatly missed.