Four minus Nine leaves three

Today we made the difficult decision to let Nine go.

It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right one. Her main tumour had got large enough that it was seriously affecting her manoeuvrability and she could no longer reach to clean it all, the tumour on her chest was getting bigger, and the one in her ear had come back. In spite of this she still had her appetite and was always bright-eyed, perky and pleased to see us — enthusiastically dragging her way up my arm to get out of her cage when it was time to come out and slob on the sofa with us in the evenings.

Last night she had another respiratory attack, her third in the last two months, and we sat with her for several hours soothing her as she tried to get her breath. As with the previous times, she recovered overnight and was almost her usual self this morning. Almost.

We had an appointment at the vet this afternoon, check-ups for everyone and a serious discussion about what was best for Nine. Just watching her there, I could see her breathing was more laboured than it has been recently, last night left its mark, and the last thing I wanted was to put her through a repeat of that.

The vet was brilliant. He helped us make the right decision and gave us plenty of time to do it. And we had time to say goodbye, both before and after she went.

Now to go give the others an extra big cuddle.

Meet the rats: part 5 – health problems redux

And then, having written that a few days ago, Nine obviously decided I was getting too complacent about her health and decided to give us a scare.

In the early afternoon, I suddenly noticed a lot of raspy, wheezy, respiratory-problem type noises coming from the cage — it was Nine. I took her out and held her and could feel the rattling through her rib cage. Knowing how quickly ratties can go downhill and given that she’d been fine earlier that day, I worried that this could be the infection that would be the last straw for her — so I phoned the vet and got an appointment for that evening. Once she’d settled down a bit, I put her back in the cage and went to try to find something to distract myself with for a couple of hours.

When I went to get Nine into the carrier, she was laid half in and half out of a fabric cube in the corner of the cage — nothing unusual there, her lump is large enough that it can be tricky to manoeuvre at times. What was unusual was all the other rats (we have four in total, I’ll introduce the others soon) being in there with her. Normally, she either has a corner to herself or just one of the others for company. And the others did not want to move. I had to lift them out of the way so I could get to her. Her lump was cool to the touch and she didn’t respond when I moved her tail. Now I was really worried, thinking that maybe the vet appointment wouldn’t be needed.

I lifted her out of the cage and she woke up. Not exactly her usual perky self, but responsive. I sat with her for a while, letting her doze under my t-shirt, and then we headed out to the vet’s.

And by the time we were seen, she was absolutely fine again.

I felt like a fraud describing how poorly she had seemed only an hour before. She had a bit of a chest infection — the vet had “heard worse” — and was prescribed a course of antibiotic injections. She was so much better by the time I took her for the second injection three days later that the vet didn’t think she needed any more. And that was two trips to the vet.

The third visit was with Seven. When the ratties came out for their evening lazing around on the sofa, Codepope noticed that Seven’s right eye was looking very pink, like the light was reflecting in it oddly. She didn’t seem to be in any pain and her vision didn’t seem to be affected, but it definitely wasn’t right. I did some reading around and came to the conclusion that it was probably the lens slipping out of position. So off to the vet again. Trying to keep a very wriggly rat still enough for someone to get a decent look in her eyes is almost impossible, and I have the scratches to prove it — she even squeaked to show how unhappy she was with the whole palaver. But eventually the vet got enough of a look and agreed that a slipped lens seemed the most likely diagnosis.

There isn’t much that can be done about the lens, it’s really a case of watching out for secondary problems like increased pressure in the eyeball which can lead to glaucoma. She has to go back the next time Nine goes in for her regular check-up and fingers crossed there are no more problems in the meantime. If there are, then she’ll probably have to be given a whiff of gas so they can get a proper look at her eyes and we could even end up having to see a specialist with her.

Troublesome creatures.

Meet the rats: part 4 – Seven and Nine’s health issues

Health-wise, Seven has, so far, been pretty lucky. The occasional mild respiratory infection and one gunky eye which we had the joy of putting cream into — drops would have been relatively simple, but it was a definite two-person job to time getting cream onto her eye and not have it blinked straight off again.

She’s two years and two months old now and showing no signs of her age other than being less manic and enjoying curling up on the sofa more than dashing around on it.

Unfortunately, Nine hasn’t been so lucky. Along with the intermittent mild respiratory problems, she has turned into a lumpy rat.

Just before Christmas last year I noticed a small lump on her rib cage, which was diagnosed as a mammary tumour and removed. She recovered well from the operation, but, in late January, I noticed another, less well-defined lump near her groin. This one was deemed inoperable.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d read up on these things and knew that they could quickly grow to overwhelm a rat or leave them weakened and vulnerable to other infections, so I wasn’t hopeful of her lasting another month, never mind reaching her second birthday; however, with the aid of a prescription for Tamoxifen, she did, and she made it to the second anniversary of coming home with us, and she’s still fighting now.

Her movement is being limited and she can’t climb any more. I think I find it more painful than she does, but I can see it is slowly taking its toll on her. Still, her appetite is very good, she’s alert and doesn’t seem to be in any pain, so we have to take each day as it comes.

Update: Rats being contrary creatures  and obviously aware that I’ve been writing about how stable their health is at the moment, both of them have decided to prove me wrong since I prepped this post and I have my third vet visit of the week this afternoon… Details later.

Meet the rats: part 2 – Seven and Nine

Our first pair of rats. Both girls. Seven and Nine. Named, by Codepope, after Seven of Nine from Star Trek; this has to be explained to everyone they are introduced to.

Meet the rats: Seven and Nine

They were born on or around 1st June 2011, not sure of the exact date as we were just told they were about eight weeks old when we took them home on 25th July.

Nine is a black-eyed, blue, mis-marked Irish (has a small lop-sided white triangle on her chest), top-eared rat. She weighed around 180 grams when we got her and has always been the biggest girl, breaking 500 grams at one point; her physical stature matching her position as alpha rat in the cage. As alpha, Nine ruled the cage quietly, though she always has had her manic moments when dashing around was the thing that had to be done right there and then.

Seven is a ruby-eyed, white with a smattering of grey, top-eared rat. She has always been the smaller of the two girls and also the most energetic. She is the sweetest rat and also the derpiest, and she has the most luxuriously strokable fur.

They both liked to run in the wheel when they were younger: Nine ran smoothly and elegantly, while Seven bounded along in a way that never failed to raise a smile. Nine would jump when the mood took her, but Seven never seemed to see the point (or possibly she never saw the destination — being ruby-eyed her vision isn’t that good).

Always a bit clumsy, Nine’s the most likely to slip while walking along your arm, leaving a nice set of scratches. And, yes, they both have very sharp claws. Nine is also the only rat to have ever bitten me and drawn blood, but, of course, it was my fault, or at least the result of my inexperience… No matter how much research you do, there are always a few salient facts that pass you by, like the fact that rats can sleep with their eyes open. I reached into the cage to stroke her, thinking she was awake and could see me coming, when in fact she was fast asleep and very startled. Live and learn.

They have very different personalities, but are both utterly adorable.