Goodbye Song

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.

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Song and the vet

SongSong hates going to the vet. And we’ve had two trips there in three days.

On Friday I thought I noticed a tiny lump between her front legs and after much struggling and scratching — she is a friendly ratty, but has never been keen on being picked up and likes being held even less — I discovered that she had a pea-sized lump there. So a visit to the vet was in order.

I put her in the carrier on Saturday morning and, after a few minutes of happily pootling around in there, she stopped, pooped, paddled in it, and tried to make a break for it up my arm. After a quick clean up of both her and the carrier, I managed to get her back in and she went and hid under the fleece.

It would appear that she is coming to associate even being put in the carrier with going to the vet. There must be something about the smell of the place that upsets her, because all the vets we’ve seen have been very nice and she’s never had anything nasty done to her there — though I suppose she could reasonably object to having had her temperature taken once…

The carrier routine is now “dash around trying to get out” followed by “sniff madly at the gaps” and then resignation sets in and it’s “hide under the fleece, flatten against the floor and don’t move”.

And once at the vet, it’s “try to avoid being picked up” and then “dash back into the carrier ASAP” and if the carrier has been moved it’s “climb mummy and hide in her t-shirt, preferably in-between her shoulder blades so she can’t reach me”.

At the vet we had fun and games trying to hold her long enough and in a suitable position so that the vet could check out the lump. Did I mention she doesn’t like being held? I have an impressive set of scratches on my hand where she tried — and mostly succeeded — to escape. But eventually we managed to pin her down well enough to confirm that she does have a lump.

This morning I took her to have the lump removed, so now I’m trying to keep myself distracted and not stress too much while I wait for the vet to call me and let me know how it went. All being well I should be able to pick her up at the end of the afternoon.

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.