Ratties’ new home

I’ve been idling contemplating getting a new cage for the ratties for a while. The Savic Freddy 2 Max has been great for them, but as Nine became less mobile, it got harder to elegantly lift her out through its relatively small door. And something with better access would be easier to clean and furnish.

Much reading of forum recommendations and cage specifications, combined with an admission that no, we can’t fit one of the double-height cages under the stairs, led me to the conclusion that I wanted a single Critter Nation for them. Unfortunately, when I was looking earlier this year, they were quite hard to find, and anyone who did have them was charging silly money. I finally found a supplier at a sensible price, but then all the redundancy kerfuffle kicked off, so it got put on hold.

Then, on Friday, Codepope dropped in to our local pet shop and texted me a photo of the single Critter Nation they had on sale for £40 less than the best price I had come across. He even got them to bring it round to us that evening.

So now the girlies have a new home.

New cage
This layout will change — I just needed to get them settled in so the old cage could be thoroughly cleaned before going to its new home next door. It is now home to three younger girl ratties and will give them a lot more climbing space than they previously had.
Delivery rats
I might not be overly impressed with the food we’ve had from Deliverance, but their delivery boxes make perfect ratty hideouts. That’s River and Song poking their heads out, and Seven is somewhere in the depths of the box.
Rats in a box
River (top) and Song, ready for their close-up

Meet the rats: part 6 – River and Song

We hadn’t had Seven and Nine for long before I was sure that I would want to Get More Rats, but, being practical and aware of their relatively short lifespan, I decided that it would be sensible to wait until the first pair were at least a year old before adding to the horde.

So, less than eight months later, we found ourselves in the local pet shop making arrangements to pick up two adorable, tiny ratlets.

River & Song

Named, by Codepope, after River Song from Doctor Who; this too has to be explained to everyone they are introduced to.

They are both white with chocolate-brown hoods. Song is slightly darker brown, has a distinct spot on her back below the hood, another tiny one just above the base of her tail, and a narrow white stripe down her throat. River has a broken stripe below her hood and a much wider stripe down her throat. Song has a wonderfully silky coat, whereas River has a tendency to look like she’s been dragged through a hedge backwards.

Song started out as the smallest of all our rats, but over the last few months she has turned into fat rat the incredible food thief and is now the largest of them — though if Nine hadn’t become lumpy rat then she would still outweigh her. Song is always hungry and will, very deftly, steal food from anyone else who has some; her speed and precision is quite remarkable to watch. It’s hard not to admire the skill, even as you’re admonishing her for removing food from the mouths of other rats.

River isn’t far behind in the must-have-food stakes, though she is more selective as to what she has to have. I once made the mistake of trying to eat a shortcake biscuit while they were all out and, after fending off the ratties crawling along my arm to get at it, ended up with River hanging off the biscuit by her teeth. Hard to be mad with them when you’re practically crying with laughter.

In the first few months we had them, their energy and their extra-spiky claws earned them the nickname the demon twins; they are now nineteen months old and far more chilled than they used to be. River has her spot on the back of the sofa from where she can survey her domain — not that she looks that impressed with it — and Song no longer runs around like a lunatic all of the time, although she still has the ability to teleport around when she’s in the mood and she still dives under my t-shirt whenever I take her out of the cage — skin, apparently, being her preferred climbing surface.


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.

Meet the rats: part 1 – the decision

Whenever we’d idly discussed get pets before, we had always assumed that we would end up getting a cat – we don’t have a big enough garden for a dog and, with both of us working, we didn’t have the time for one either. And Codepope is more of a cat person anyway. But we never really wanted a pet enough to actually do anything about it.

In 2010, we pet-sat for our next-door neighbours’ daughter’s lone old white rat; not the most sociable of creatures, but interesting enough to pique our curiosity. But not enough for us to actually do anything about it.

In early 2011, we pet-sat for her two brown rats; much more lively creatures and we really noticed their absence when they went back home. Now we were seriously thinking about doing something about it.

I researched all the pros (intelligent, friendly, cute) and cons (short-lived, sharp claws), found suppliers of ratty things, and found and ordered a suitable cage. And, most importantly, accepted that I would be doing most of the day-to-day feeding, cleaning, and caring for them.

Conveniently, around this time, the rather unimpressive local pet shop changed hands and got a new owner who was genuinely interested in animals and who even had some rats.

So, on 25th July 2011, we brought home two pet rats.