grooming

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A new addition!

Published February 2, 2013 by Kokomo

About 4-5 weeks before Christmas time, there was a topic on the forum about rats that I frequent, that had a link to a christmas-charity website for rats that are in shelters. There was a long list of pictures of rats in several different shelters, with the option to either send a care-package, financially adopt or officially adopt one of the rats. Not all rats were adoptable, but my eye happened to fall on a little girl named Marit. The picture they had posted of here was too adorable to pass. As you all know, I had been considering getting a new rat (or two) for quite some time, and after mulling it over for a few days, I sent in an adoption form and from then on emails went flying all over the place and before I knew it, I was allowed to come pick her up, an hour’s drive away from where I live, the first weekend of December.

Look at that litte cute faced girl <3

Look at that litte cute faced girl ❤

She was already 2 years old, had been in the shelter for over a year, and spent the first months of her life in a cage that was WAY too small, in a cold garage where she got no attention at all. Poor thing.

But then, two days before I was about to go pick her up, the lady from the shelter sent me a email that she had found a lump, which could mean she had a tumor and if so, she would need surgery. So we postponed my pick-up date and I told her to give Marit a good deal of time to heal after surgery. Luckily, surgery went very well and Marit recovered quickly. But, by the time this had all passed, it was almost time for my surgery on my hand. So I didn’t want to have an introduction going on when I couldn’t intervene with my sore hand. We postponed my pick-up date again, until after my surgery.

Then, the day of my surgery, I came to the hospital and it turned out I was misinformed and I wasn’t going to get surgery until the second week of February. Once I got home, upset and frustrated, I emailed the lady from the shelter and I made plans to pick up Marit that Saturday, and I did.

When I first saw her, I was a little shocked at quite how small she is. She is even smaller than Ruma and weighs less as well. She is a little hunched, like in the picture, has Japanese hooded fur and dumbo ears. She was VERY scared when I picked her up and I instantly got covered with poop. But she was so adorable. Only one of her stitches was still in place, the rest had dissolved neatly and her fur was growing back in the area of the surgery. She still had her fur standing up, from either discomfort or stress, not quite sure, but the poor thing surely wasn’t feeling too good. And then we started the long journey home. I stuck my hand in the carry-on basket every now and then and talked and sang to her the whole way back. Once I got home, I instantly put Ruma with her and the two hit it off right away.

Marit has been here for a few weeks now, but it hasn’t been easy. I started introduction with Ruma, in a small cage, called a ‘mini-duna’ which I had purchased for this purpose and also for when one of them would get so sick they’d need to be separated.

(mine is blue though)

(mine is blue though)

Ruma and Marit went great together. They sniffed a little, but very soon were lying in a corner together, bruxing and boggling. Marit’s fur went down very quickly and I knew these two would be great together. I kept them in there for about 3 hours and then added Koko to the mix. This seemed to go just as well, and impatient as I was, after only another hour, I moved them back to the RS. Even still, things seemed to go fine and the next day I made the cage twice the size. That’s where I went wrong. Suddenly the fighting started. I had never heard a rat scream and squeal like a little pig, but Marit did. On the forum they advised me to quickly make the cage smaller and after some hesitation (took me a few hours to get it ready), I did and besides a bed and food and water, I took everything out of the cage. Nothing left to fight about.

The next day I got a visit from a friend, for dinner, and for a while, things seemed quiet. But then again, the fighting started and it was BAD. Hair was flying around and Marit and Koko were rolling around the cage so fast I could barely keep up. One time, Marit even fell from the little floor that was in there (about 25 cm high) and got a nasty cut on her back. I decided it was enough and put them back in the mini-duna. They ended up staying in there from Monday-night until Saturday-morning. No more fights luckily!

Little hunch-backed Marit

Little hunch-backed Marit

IMG-20130116-03660

Sleeping together in the Mini-Duna

From another shelter that I had visited to do a donation (another story), I was able to borrow a bigger Duna. The normal sized one, to take the next step in their introduction. I put them in there on Saturday and as things went well, I slowly started adding things to the cage, like a hammock and later a Sputnik XL.

They seemed to have become friends, so on Tuesday, I moved them back to half a Royal Suite. I slowly started adding things to the cage, one a day, like the Silent Spinner, and more hammocks. I started noticing they didn’t always sleep together, but that didn’t really worry me too much. Marit seemed to warm up to me, she would also come running to the door when I opened it, not as fast as the others, but always ready to receive a treat. I still couldn’t take her out of the cage much, because she would run and hide as fast as she could, but I figured this would just take time and patience. When I did take her out, she still had the habit of pooping all over me :(. The first days went great. They ate, pooped, drank and slept (together) and it seemed to have been a successful introduction. But then, everyday, I started noticing things. There would be a fight, Koko would have her hair standing up and threaten either Marit or Ruma, Marit would always be sleeping alone and more little things like this. On the forum they told me to be patient, maybe take out some beds from the cage and see what happened.

Marit nibbling at the hedgehog, ot a good pic, but you can see how small she is.

Marit nibbling at the hedgehog, ot a good pic, but you can see how small she is.

Then the other day, I had them all on my bed. Marit was happily exploring under my blankets and Koko came to join her. Instantly, Koko put her fur up and started pushing her. Marit would just make herself as small as possible and not move, hoping Koko would go away, but she didn’t. Eventually, Marit crawled into my shirt. Koko came towards us and then I caught her BITING Marit!!! I was so shocked! My Koko, biting! She wasn’t wounding Marit, but very clearly showing her disapproval. Obviously I didn’t let her and I instantly stopped this. Marit was so frightened after this. I kept her in my shirt for a while, until she felt safe enough to peek out again, and then returned her to the cage. Later on, I seemed to notice that Koko was locking her in the ball (they sleep in it as mentioned before). I wasn’t sure, so I moved the towel that Koko had been sleeping in, which was right in front of the ball, to the corner and checked again the next day. The towel was back in the same place, but I couldn’t be sure who did it, because Marit was always pulling it into the ball as well. So I left it like that.

In the mean time I had emailed the lady of the last named shelter, who loaned me her cage, to ask for her advice. What to do, because I could see Marit wasn’t happy, nor were Koko and Ruma. She told me I could come by and we could see of there was another rat there that Marit did click with. We made plans, but then I realised my surgery is coming up and I couldn’t be having an intro again here. She very sweetly offered to keep Marit for a while, if we were able to find her a friend there. I was to go over there on Saturday.

Then, last (Friday)night, when I let the ladies free range again, I noticed something that made me worry even more. Marit was on the bed with me, and Koko was nowhere to be seen, but Ruma came to say hi. Marit again made herself as small as possible and started pooping instantly. It was obvious fear-poop. Ruma, as far as I know, has never hurt her, she only grooms and cuddles, so I was quite shocked to see Marit behave like this. I realized she was just simply scared out of her mind for both my rats and I couldn’t put her back into the cage with them. So, I put her in the Duna, since it was just going to be one night anyways. I am going to the shelter today, and hopefully we will find Marit a new friend so she can spend her last weeks/months, maybe even year, happily together with her new friend.

Marit in a hammock in the RS. Love this sweet pic.

Marit in a hammock in the RS. Love this sweet pic.

This does mean I will have 2 groups of 2 rats, instead of one group of 3 or 4, as I wanted, but if this is best for the rats, this is what I will do. Either way, the RS will be in full use. I have enough to fill the cage, so it shouldn’t be an issue (except for the bottom plate that I need to get…). Not the way I would have liked to see it, but their happiness means more to me. So, I will keep you updated on the new developments!

P.S. Sorry for the endless post! 🙂

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A new addition, or not?

Published November 17, 2012 by Kokomo

So as you have read from my last post, I am considering getting a new addition to the family. Preferably two because I feel with three pets in one cage, one of them can become the third wheel and I wouldn’t want that for any animal. The point is to make their lives better, not worse. I have several reasons to consider getting 2 more ladies into the mix.

I got this pic from google, I think these are males, but aren’t they cute?

1. I am away from home more and more lately, as I took on a second job and will also be starting school in a few months, so less playtime for Koko and Ruma.

2. I have a GINORMOUS cage that would easily house up to 8 rats, why not use the space to it’s full extent?

3. There are so many poor ratties stuck in either bad situations or shelters because people didn’t know how to care for them or didn’t want them anymore.

But before I can actually go out and get me some new ladies, there are so many factors to consider, even more than I thought of at first.

1. Space; do I have enough space for 4 rats? (Yes, I do). It’s very important that you keep rats in a BIG cage, they need a lot of space to run around, explore and keep themselves busy. Also they need to be able to avoid each other now and again. The cage needs to be in a place where they can see what is going on, it can’t be in a draft or too hot and never in direct sunlight for the whole day (a few rays now and then are fine, they love to sleep in the warm sun).  I will do a whole topic on proper cage set-up soon!

Also from Google, since my pics are either to dark or too light 😦

2. Cleaning; cleaning a rat cage is QUITE a project. First you have to take the whole thing apart, take out all the loose (and tied up) elements, clean everything separately, clean the top (bars) part ( I usually just put it in the shower), throw away the used litter and clean the bottom thoroughly. Then, once everything is dry, you have to re-assemble the cage and try and mix it up every 2-3 weeks so the rats stay challenged. With two rats I can clean every 7-10 days ( but I take out the litter every 4-5 days), with 4 rats I’d have to clean every 4-7 days. Cleaning the whole cage takes me about 1,5-2 hrs.

yeah, another google image 🙂

3. Food; Rats eat. Rats eat ALOT. You have to make sure you have the time to feed them everyday, feed them properly and that you can buy their food as well. I feed my rats a mix of veggie/fiber blocks, with dry catfood and fresh veggies/fruit on a daily basis. As treats I give them millet, yoghurt treats, or small dog treats. Besides that they often get some fresh wood in the cage to gnaw on. Fresh water everyday and during the summer I give them icecubes and frozen fruits (and sometimes shrimp) to keep them cool.

All different kinds of rat-food

4. Vet money; You need to make sure you have enough money to cover the vet costs in case all of your rats get sick at the same time. In case of an infection, costs won’t be that high since you can give all of them the same antibiotics, but the costs of operations can run quite high! You need to know before you begin what you are willing to spend. My policy is that if they need operations that will cost more than eight times what I paid to get them, I am not willing to invest, Operations often  have such a major impact on rats. When they return, if they return, you have to keep them separate from the others for a while so they can recover and the wound can heal. This also means cleaning their recovery cage every day! I love my rats very much but if it comes to that point, I might choose to let them go easily.

5. Attention (time); rats need playtime everyday if you want to keep them tame. You need to handle them everyday, make sure they know your smell and the sound of your voice. Start doing this the first day you get them and they will become very tame. They also need free ranging time every day, depending on how much cage-space they have this varies from 45 minutes to 2 hours. You have to not only have the space to free range but it has to be rat-proof and you have to stay with them. My ladies run around my single room apt for at least an hour a day and thank heavens do not seem to have that much interest in power-chords (unless it’s my laptop), but they manage to get into trouble every single day, so I have to be there when they run free.

Runnig around freely is da bomb!

6. Toys; rats are very intelligent creatures and they need to be challenged one way or the other. Most rats like wheels for exercise (not my Koko though), they like wooden toys to gnaw on and sometimes you can train them to play fetch. If you really have a lot of time, you can train them to do all sorts of neat tricks, just like dogs. If you don’t have that much time or patience, you need to keep them entertained. Toys can be: gnawing toys or wooden toys for birds, balls, tubes to run around in, ladders and other climbing gear. I’ve tried a ‘hamster-ball’, that worked so well it is being used as their current nest (and has been for several months).

Rats like to play too!

7. Where to get them; Koko and Ruma both come form a pet-store. NEVER AGAIN! Both girls were so poorly when I got them and I had to put them on antibiotics when they were still so small, not even 2 months old. This was very stressful for them and not contributing to making them tame. If you get rats from ebay or something, from people who want to get rid of them, you never know what you’re gonna get. Even though I may feel bad for the little critters, they might be sick and infect my other girls. The best places to get new rats would be either a shelter (where they make sure the rats are very healthy before they are adopted) or a well-known rattery. But this usually also brings quite a few expenses along as well.

Poor thing!

8. Socializing; when you already have rats and you add more to them, you need to take time to socialize them. With Ruma and Koko this was dead-easy as they were very young and Koko was still alone (only for a week), so very happy to get a companion. But now, they have their own hierarchy and if I add new ones, this needs to be settled again. This can often be accompanied by a lot of squeeling, some fighting and in some cases even biting. So you have to be there to monitor the process. First put them in a small cage together so they can’t avoid each other. Once peace seems to be restored, they can be put in the bigger cage which needs to be cleaned first, so no dominant smells will be present. But what if they don’t get along? Then the two sets will have to live separately in different cages. I don’t have the budget or space to get another one of those monster cages, so I’d have to divide this one up into to smaller cages, still more than enough room, but completely past the whole point of why I wanted two new ones in the first place.

Very common behavior to see who is dominant.

So all-in-all a LOT to think about. What do you think, did I forget other things I should consider?

Why everyone should get pet rats!

Published November 10, 2012 by Kokomo

Giving my human kisses!

 

Following up on my post about bad habits, this post will be about how wonderful and funny and smart and sweet my ratties can be and why they make great pets. I could write on and on and on and on and well, on about it forever, but

Sweet Ruma grooming herself.

instead I have decided to give you a top 5. Sorry, couldn’t stick to just 3, I had to make it 5. Enjoy!

5. Grooming 

Studies have shown that rats spend 1/3 of their day grooming themselves. That is twice as much a cats do! To that time you can add the time they spend grooming each other. Depending on the size of your pack, that time can vary. My Ruma also likes to spend time grooming me and on a lucky day, Koko will start fishing around in my hair. Rats are clean. Cleaner than cats, WAY cleaner than dogs. If your rat smells, you need to clean the cage, simple as that. They smell bad, because the cage smells bad.

4. Tail wagging

I am sure most of you have never heard of this behavior, but it exists and it is damn cute! This site has dedicated a well 2 lines to this behavior as it is not well researched and no one knows for sure why they do it. I have caught both my ladies doing it and strangly, they were both sitting in nearly the same spot, facing in the same direction. Ruma does it more often, but I have also spotted Koko doing it. Now it’s nothing to be compared to dogs or cats wagging their tales. It’s a quick, almost nervous movement that makes the tail wag quickly and shortly. It’s just so darn cute.

3. Companionship

Rats are, like cats, very independent, they will decide what they do, when they do it and no human can change that. Like dogs, they can learn quickly and if you reward them, but also very much on their own. But they differ from dogs and cats in that they like to be together. I mean, sure, lot’s of people have 2 or more dogs or cats, but those animals do fine when they are alone in the family.

Sharing my drink together

Keeping a rat alone, not such a good idea. Rats live in packs in the wild and even though the domesticated rat is hardly to be compared to the wild one, they still like to be in a pack. A pack can be two, if, like me, you don’t like cleaning the cage every 3 days and don’t have a fortune to spend on food. It’s so adorable to see them together, grooming, playing, sleeping.

I am going to help you type this, so you don’t make any mistakes.

2. Playfulness

Rats are nocturnal by nature but very adaptable in this rythm. They don’t need as much sleep as hamsters for instance, so they will wake up during the day, according to your rythm and are ready to play whenever you like. I’ve played with my girls during all times of the day. It doesn’t really matter what time I get up, as soon as they hear me scurrying about, they come out of their sleeping mode and greet

I’m up, I’m up!

me warmly. Day and night, they are ready to come out, play, cuddle and explore.

1. Bruxing and Boggling

To some people this may seem scary, because of the eyes bulging out of their sockets (see a video here) but to a true ratlover, there is nothing better. It can be compared to a cat purring and it means the rat is very relaxed, and very happy. It’s not behavior they show everyday, so when I do catch them doing it, it makes me so happy because it means I am taking good care of my ladies.

So there you have it. Now if this hasn’t convinced you to buy rats, perhaps you should see some adorable pictures here.

Like birds of a feather…

Jus’ chillin’

Olemme niin söpö

Napping close to my human.

Animal…

Published September 26, 2012 by Kokomo

Have you met Ruma?

Lately, this is who she reminds me of. Mostly she is running around stealing things and hiding them. Crawling in things he REALLY is’t supposed to crawl into (my laundry basket, my kitchen sink, the trash bag, an oven dish covered in aluminum foil), climbing my leg ALL the time. Jumping around being defensive. Grooming Koko all the time, which makes Koko whine like the little girl she is… Escaping the cage (not as often as before but I can NEVER accidentally leave a door open, she will go out), gnawing through things, moving the shoe-box on the top floor of the cage up side down and mostly, pulling the chain that holds the tunnel in place. She can seriously try to pull this chain into the cage for 10 minutes on end and then start all over again half an hour later.

But, when I take her out, and she sits on my hands, licking my fingers, licking my face, crawling in my t-shirt, holding my nose with two paws while licking my forehead (I swear when it’s your own pets it’s not gross) or just sits somewhere very close to me while she grooms herself. Suddenly this video pops up in my head:

And I realize, she is just a misunderstood, tortured (by Koko), peabrained little rat in FULL-ON puberty. And I remember how much I adore her.

Ahhhh the life of a rat owner is sweet :).

Sweetest-natured rat I ever had ❤

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