rat in a box
old lady Quorra
a very twisty rat
with her sister Yori
her baby markings
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.
with her sister Rocket
having a snooze
guarding the snacks
banana over dignity
old lady Rommie
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.
Snacking on my lap
Yori with sister Quorra
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.
Watching the world go by
A sweet, smiley rat
Helping with the filing
With her sister Rommie
Snacking with mini-me Quorra
Relaxing in fur and fleece
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.
So incredibly tiny
Resenting recuperating alone
Enjoying a snack
Keeping her sister company
Relaxing on her last evening
Showing off her whiskers
On Saturday we said goodbye to Song. The rat that wouldn’t give up — who had lived with an ever-growing lump since January, who trolled around the cage barely acknowledging the lump’s existence and who would have still been climbing the sides of the cage if physics and gravity hadn’t conspired against her — refused to give up even when the lump finally outgrew itself and was on the verge of ulcerating. It was a hard decision to make, but it would have been harder to have waited until there was no choice. This way she was never in any pain.
She had a lump removed last year and, although she recovered well, she went stir-crazy being kept separate while she healed. That, combined with her constant respiratory problems, discouraged us from putting her through surgery again when we discovered a total of three lumps at the start of the year. Two of the lumps were kept under control with Galastop, unfortunately the third didn’t respond.
The remaining Demon Twin made it to the decent age of two and a half years old, outliving her sister River by four months. She never lost her love of food or her desire to crawl inside my t-shirt. She will be missed.
River and Song finish off the malt paste
In her favourite spot
She was so tiny when we got her
Appreciating the handmade cube
Out for a stroll
Her last days
The time came to let River go.
She hadn’t really been herself for a few months; nothing specific and nothing that couldn’t be put down to a combination of being unsettled after losing Nine, being run down from her repeated upper respiratory problems and no longer being the youthful energetic ratty that she once was.
Then, in the middle of February, she started showing more worrying symptoms. She slowed down and wasn’t quite so enthusiastic about food any more and would sometimes miss the food and get the fingers holding it instead. You’d occasionally find her sitting quietly, head-first in a corner. We started her on steroids, which definitely perked her up a bit, but it was obviously a neurological problem of some sort, which would, and did, only get worse. And so it was just a matter of time and judging when it was no longer fair to keep her struggling through her days.
That time came on Wednesday this week. She had started sounding mildly respy a couple of days earlier, but was much worse that day. We could have tried her with antibiotics or a stronger shot of steroids, but it would have only delayed the inevitable and most likely not given her much relief anyway.
Goodbye River. I shall miss having you sitting on the back of the sofa, staring over my shoulder at your domain.
Why get out of bed if you don’t have to.
With her sister, Nine.
Seven’s ever-changing colouring.
Why go in the bag when you can hide under it.
Much fun was had “attacking” the pink ball.
Showing off her beautiful tail.
Yesterday Seven ran out of energy, went to sleep in her hut and didn’t wake up again.
She made it to the very respectable age of thirty-three months, outliving her sister, Nine, by more than five months.
Seven started losing the strength in her back legs towards the end of last year and that slowly worsened over the following months. Although she couldn’t clamber around the cage any more, she did still manage to somehow — sheer determination, I think — get up onto the lower platforms and even into the tube hanging on the cage door so she could see the world going by. The other morning she managed to climb out of the cage onto my lap for a cuddle while I was doing the morning medication rounds.
She slowly turned into an old rat; still adorable, but life was obviously becoming more of an effort. We’d known for a while that she wouldn’t be with us for much longer and were dreading having to make that decision for her. She kept going right up to the end, she had some time out of the cage and a wander around my office earlier in the day, before settling back into her spot in the cage and going peacefully to sleep.
Never the smartest rat, but always the sweetest of them, and the one with the softest, most strokable fur, Seven will be sorely missed.
Sisters, Seven and Nine.
Nine comes over to say hello.
Nine enjoys a snack.
You will stay still for this photograph.
Not a drop of malt paste must be wasted.
Time for a quick clean.
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.