All posts tagged learning

Kamikaze Koko!

Published November 25, 2012 by Kokomo

Today, a rare free Saturday, I woke early since I had been getting up early all week. I got up to make coffee, turned on my laptop and let the ladies out. As I sat down with my coffee and started playing an online game of Catan, Ruma and Koko were running around and playing.

Suddenly I heard a familiar noise. Alarmbells went off in my head. That is the sound of a strip of Advils… For some reason, they have been nibbling on these strips before. There was one in my purse and Koko got it out. I was just in time to see her disappear under the bed backwards with the strip in her jaws. I was quick and pulled it out on time. Relief spread through me. Until I noticed there was a place where the back was unopened, but the pill was missing. CRAP!

In blind panic I janked my bed from it’s place so far it almost ended in the kitchen! Pillows flew everywhere and I managed to grab Koko, who obviously squeeled like a little pig because she new I was going to steal her ‘snack’. I grabbed the pill, which had been damaged but not really emtpied (they are liquid caps) and with that saved Koko from a peaceful, but WAY too early death.

Really Koko? Advil for a snack? I know rats have weird habits but Advil? Needless to say, the pills are now safely hidden away and I might switch to Aspirin as this might heal the heart disease Koko caused in me today….

The ‘murder weapon’


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.

A trip down memory lane

Published October 22, 2012 by Kokomo

As I was cleaning my house this weekend, sorting through boxes and making more room for all my rat-related-shit to be put away, I found my old micro-sd reader, complete with an sd card from an old phone. Oh joy, I LOOOOOOVE discovering things I thought I had lost. This time, I got to discover pictures of  my second set of rat ladies; Bear and Tiger. I got them in 2007, whilst still living in my dorm, but had to give them away to a friend’s aunt when I moved to the US in July 2008. I never got to see them grow old (nor did I see the 1st pair grow old as my dorm-landlord had banned all pets and I had to find another home for them), but then again, I never had to endure the heartache of seeing them die.

I remember I got Bear first. She was white and very docile. She would sleep between my pillows on my bed or under a blanket with me when I would take my study-naps. All of that changed when I added Tiger to the mix. They were at least 4 months apart. (Yes I had Bear alone for a while, but all the nests I had looked at in the mean time had sick rats). Tiger was not even half the size of Bear (I wish I still had pics of that time), and had a black hood on her head, with a stripe going all the way down her back. Sadly, Tiger was sick when I brought her home (I had looked so good, never heard a sneeze in the pet-store) and so she infected Bear.

Tiger on my shoulder, young me 😉

Back then, I hadn’t done much research on rats. The first pair were given to me by a roommate who had bought them for her boyfriend who didn’t like them. The two had started fighting each other (looking back this must have been a consequence of too little space), and she wanted to get rid of them. I separated them in two cages, gave them lot’s of love and taught them to be nice to each other. All was fine within a few weeks. But then they had to go. About a year later I got Bear. I didn’t have an internet connection in my dormroom, nor easy access and, to be honest, no idea there actually was any research. But the first pair ( called Star -first Cruella and Scabbers) had made me fall in love with the species. Can you believe I actually wanted hamsters first?

Bear, peeking out the cage. She used to ‘center’ a lot.

It took me a while to notice that Bear and Tiger were getting worse. Bear actually developed an abscess, or so it looked. So after two weeks, I took them to the vet. The vet wasn’t very hopeful. He told me rats are very viable to cancers and tumors and Bear’s days (by then probably 6 months old) were counted. He gave me antibiotics for both (the same as I got for Koko and Ruma) and told me to hope for the best. Just 5 days into giving them their cure, Bear’s abscess started disappearing. Soon, she was back to normal eating, and playing with Tiger.


The girls cuddled together. Bear in the front. 

Tiger was way more active and feisty than Bear. She was always running around, playing, trying to go places she shouldn’t, stealing things and gnawing through EVERY thing. Always pulling things into the cage too. Weirdly, as she grew into adulthood, her hood turned white, with an odd dark hair here and there.

Eventually, this was left of Tiger’s black hood…

I have to admit, besides this, I don’t remember much of the bunch. It was quite a while ago and I didn’t know half as much as I know now about keeping rats. (Their caging was actually quite proper – the straw was only temporary, I was experimenting). So, just enjoy the (very blurry) pictures below. It makes me reminisce.


Lazying about


Tiger again.


Sleeping in a self-made nest.


Owner’s voice

Published September 14, 2012 by Kokomo
Koko, day 1

Koko day 1

So, today it’s time you hear about these little deviants from my point of view. Let’s start at the beginning. I had rats many years ago when I lived in a dorm and, as much as I loved them, didn’t know the first thing about raising them. I did a little research on what bedding they need, fed them standard rat-food and treats, but that’s about it. needles to say, the rats, as well as me, lived quite cramped and for some reason I never got them completely tame.

Last February I had a bad day and decided to go to the pet store and get me a rat. I had been mulling over the idea for a few weeks now and I just needed the comfort of an animal around me. I went to the pet store and they had 2 rats left. One was already quite big and looked ill, not too strange if you consider the rats were living on hay (at a pet store no less!). The other one was small and active. The only thing was that she sneezed a lot. But she looked healthy enough for me and so the little creature was taken out of her cage. Put in to a box big enough to hold a whole cage and I drove her home. It took me a few days but I eventually named her Koko, after my own nickname, given by a friend of mine. The whole night Koko was up, gurgling and rattling and needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep either. I took her to the vet the next day and they prescribed an antibiotic. Only one issue; the doses said 0.10 mg per 100 gr of bodyweight and Koko only weighed 88 grams. She was so small and helpless and I decided that I needed to get her healthy before I would get her a companion.

I spent the biggest part of the week doing research on how to care for rats and picked up a bigger cage that I had in storage. After a week of intensive attention, fresh food and twice a day antibiotics, I went back to the pet store to get some accessories for the cage. There, in the rat ‘cage’ was a new nest. The babies were all quite big and as I knelt down to watch them, from the bottom of the pile suddenly the runt appeared. Not only was she the smallest, but also the only one with dumbo-ears, a new feature to me. She came to the glass and put her two paw right where my face was. I opened the cage at the top and before my hand was well in there, the little thing had crawled up my arm into my neck. I was in love for the second time in a week. she was so ugly, I had to take her with me.

Ruma, 1st week

Looking back, it might not have been the smartest decision I made, because within 24 hours both ladies sounded worse then before. Sneezing, gurgling and rattling. Again, a lot of loving care, fresh foods and antibiotics cured the two and within a matter of hours they had become friends for life.

They were SO small ❤

This time it took me less then an hour to think of a name. I opened google translate, typed in the word ‘ugly’ and hit every language that was in the window. When I came to Finnish it said ‘Ruma’. It felt right. I then, just for fun, translated the word ‘Koko’ from Finnish, which turns out to mean ‘size’. So I guess in my cage they are ‘size’ ‘ugly’. In retrospect, Koko (size) turns out to be the perfect name for my little glutton girl who is growing to a size beyond proportions.  Whereas Ruma is still significantly smaller (too small for her age).

By now maybe you have figured out those weird words at the bottom of the last two posts; they are words in Finnish!

It’s quite obvious to see which one of them likes to exercise in the silent spinner wheel and which one doesn’t :). Koko nevertheless runs around like mad and climbs whatever she can pull her weight (still under 500 grams) onto. Besides that she can projectile jump as far as 3,5ft! (Only horizontally). Ruma is still quite small for her age, but this is quite in her advantage as the holes she needs to make in things are smaller and she can very easily fit into pretty much every small space. (she still fits completely in my cupped hands – she weighs around 350 grams).

Well, so much for the beginning. Stay tuned for more adventures!

Koko then; 92 grams

Koko now (7 months later); 430 grams

Ruma then; 72 grams

Ruma now (7 months later); 230 grams

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Together now

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