Goodbye River

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.

Nester confirmed

River headshot

Yup. It’s River. She wasn’t just taking advantage of a cosy hammock yesterday, she was relaxing in her own handiwork.

Though apparently she’s a perfectionist and it just wasn’t good enough. When we passed the cage earlier, she was busily tidying up — pulling out the bits of paper that were hanging over the edge of the hammock and neatly tucking them back in. It’s a far more effectively stuffed pile and there’s enough in there now that she can bury herself completely.

She was so well buried that it took a good couple of minutes of snack bag rattling before she managed to climb out far enough for me to give her a treat.

Of course, this does mean that the other two have very little bedding left. I shall have to give them some more kitchen roll, but I’m afraid it will just end up in the hammock with the rest. She is a very determined little ratty.

A quiet evening with the ratties

Codepope was out tonight, so it was just me and the ratties and a quiet night curled up on the sofa.

But first I had to gather the girlies. This is a process that takes an unpredictable amount of time. Tonight everyone was snuggled up in the sputnik when I went to get them out — awake but far too comfortable to dash out to see me without some coaxing. River needed only a hand to climb onto, a few words of encouragement and a promise of snacks to persuade her out. Song refused to come out until she could actually see the snacks. Seven is too smart to ever be lured out of anywhere by mere food and has to be gently nudged until she decides she wants to move (sometimes it’s just easier to leave her for ten minutes until she realises she’s the only one left in the cage and comes out to see where everyone has gone).

Then I curl up with a fleece blanket over my knees, creating a cosy tent for them to hide in (they are lazy ratties and love this). All is quiet until they notice that I am trying to enjoy a cup of tea and a biscuit. A flurry of activity ends with Song hanging off the biscuit by her teeth and me having to admit that even I would not be prepared to eat the rest of it even if I could rescue it.

Once everyone has had a bit of biscuit, they all settle down again and I practise typing with one hand as River decides to fall asleep on my hand. Song hides in a paper bag, looking guilty.

Song looking guilty

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.