Pip Gone to the Bridge

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On the 14th April our sweet Pip departed to the proverbial Rainbow Bridge…

Since the death of his brother Stripe, Pip had been struggling against the ongoing effects of Mycoplasmosis. Although we tried an antibiotic called Septrin for roughly a month, the infection was too advanced, and his shallow gravelly breathing continued. In the end his body just couldn’t fight any more and he stopped eating.

Pip was the leader of the gang, and very much a rat’s rat. He tolerated being picked up and fussed, but he wasn’t overly friendly. He would rarely seek out human attention, so the day he slowly made his way across the cage to me and climbed onto my chest, I knew something was wrong. I thought at first he was asking for food (I had been giving him soft baby food for a while now) but he wouldn’t even take his favourite yoghurt. I tried him with different favourites, and water, but he didn’t want anything. So I put him back in his bed with some extra bedding to keep him warm. No sooner I had put him in his bed, he was up again and making his way feebly towards me. Now I was quite distressed – I knew he was asking for something but I didn’t know how to help. I think I knew then that he had had enough of his illness, and somehow I was a comfort.

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I took a few deep breaths and calmed myself down, and carried Pip in the house to monitor him more closely. I wrapped him up in a blanket and sat with him on my chest. He made no attempts to move and soon fell asleep. He had used up the last dregs of energy and it was obvious that he was not going to recover, so I made the decision to take him to the vets to be put to sleep. I didn’t see any point in trying to keep him alive – I think in his own way he “told” me he was ready to go. It was terribly sad for us all – especially so soon after Stripe’s death, but we didn’t want Pip to suffer any more.

On a brighter note – here are some fond memories of our lovely Pip…

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Slumbering Fuzzy
This is Pip at six weeks old, on the day we brought him home from the Rescue Centre.

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Pip and Rocky
Pip was very timid at this age and snuggled up to his brothers for security. We wouldn’t have guessed he would become the Alpha male in months to come.

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Too Cute!

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“I is shy”

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Pin-up Pip
Pip was such a good-looking rat!

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Cuddly Boy
Here Pip demonstrates his good nature and patience at being man-handled by young children!

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Guarding the Tube
Pip was a good alpha leader – firm but fair. There were never any serious fights among the pack of four. In fact, when Stripe was ill, Pip was protective of him.

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The Last Days of Pip
Finally one of the last photographs taken of Pipsy, with a yoggie drop in his mouth!

Today my lovely rats are mostly eating ethereal yoggies.

Stripe at the Rainbow Bridge

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Just a few days after Stripes 2nd birthday, he began to show signs of being seriously ill, and sadly, over last weekend he declined very quickly. It was all so sudden and unexpected.
I continued to give him soft food and keep him warm, but he grew tired very quickly and slept most of the time. He was too weak to walk properly, and just shuffled very slowly, if at all. He lost weight in a matter of days, and his eyes were encrusted with porphrin in the mornings – which I bathed in cooled boiled water on cotton wool buds. He didn’t seem to mind this, in fact, although he was weak, one time he managed to crawl up to me in his cage, and kissed me on the nose. It was a poignant moment since I knew he didn’t have long left with us.

On Monday 30th March we took all three of the older boys, Stripe, Pip and Shy-Shy to the vets. Shy-Shy and Pip were no longer responding to the Baytril antibiotic, and Stripe was still deteriorating. Shy-Shy and Pip were examined and the vet prescribed a different antibiotic: Seprin. The vet took one look at Stripe, and we both came to the decision that it would be best to put him to sleep. She gave him gas to make him sleep, and then gave him the dreaded injection. He died peacefully while I stroked him.

We buried Stripe next to his brother Rocky in our garden and my daughters found a stone and shell to mark the place. Here are some images of Stripe in those magic moments of his life:-

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One Tiny Fuzzy
At 6 weeks old, Stripe was a curious but very timid boy. He was already endearing us to him. He was chosen for my daughter Skye, and she named him because of the stripe on his back.

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Dreamy Days
At 7 weeks, Stripe was still napping often, and growing very quickly in size and confidence.

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Curiosity
With plenty of handling and positive reinforcement, Stripe became a friendly little guy, and never nipped like the other boys. He was the most submissive member of the group. He was still jumpy though, and freaked out at strange sounds, or fast movement.

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Praying for Yoggies!
Stripe was the only rat to have a fascination with my face, and was the first rat to give me “rat kisses”. When he was this age, he used to climb on to my glasses and sit there!!

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Stripe in his Prime

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During an Intro with Jinx & Dublin
Stripe was not able to accept Jinx & Dublin into the group. I think it was partly because he was too scared of them.

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Wash Time

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The Last Photo of Stripe
Here he is on his birthday, thoroughly enjoying his cake! He had a special bond with his brothers and will missed by all of us.
Go find Rocky and have fun at the Rainbow Bridge Stripey…

Today my lovely rats are mostly eating porridge with yucky medicine in.

Poorly Stripe

I have some sad news, Stripe, my sweet affectionate little rat is not well at all. Over the last two days he has suddenly become very weak and is unable to get about the cage very much.
His breathing is quite shallow, and I think it is quite serious.

I’m feeding him soft food with Nutrical, keeping him warm, and monitoring his condition. He’s already on a course of the antibiotic Baytril for his Myco infection.

Get better Stripey.

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Sweet Stripe

Today my lovely rats are mostly eating yoghurt.

Happy 2nd Birthday Rats!

It was the big boys 2nd Birthday today.
My daughters helped me make pine nut sponge cakes for them.
We also gave them rat treats and bought them a feather stick cat toy which Pip chased round the room like a kitten!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOYS!!!

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Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating birthday cake and rat doughnuts.

De-gloving

About a month ago I lifted Dublin out of his cage for his free range time and had a horrible shock – the skin on the tip of his tail was ripped almost right off and red raw. The skin had pulled off in a perfectly circular pattern, so I was quite certain that it had been “de-gloved”. De-gloving happens when a rat catches his tail or his tail is pulled to hard and the skin pulls of in one clean go. I wasn’t sure what caused it, but one of the rats in the cage below may have bitten him if his tail was dangling over, so I cordoned off the cage in such a way that it couldn’t happen again.

Poor Dublin was obviously in pain because his squeaked whenever anything went near his tail and he wanted to sit and rest more than normal. It was out of vet hours, so I gave him a tiny amount (0.3ml) of Calpol (liquid paracetamol for little kids). I wouldn’t advise anyone else doing that – but he suffered no ill effects, and I couldn’t leave him to suffer.

The following day I took Dublin to the vets and they booked him in for a small operation to nip off the end of his tail (wince!). The skin never grows back after de-gloving so it is best to remove the bone – which could catch or become infected and would take longer to heal. Dublin had to have an anaesthetic -which always carries a small risk with tiny animals. I was annoyed to discover that the vet viewed his injury so minor that “it wouldn’t bother him” when it obviously did. After a tense hour or so wait we returned to pick Dublin up and he was fine – a little groggy but okay. I wasn’t given any painkillers for Dublin, so I gave him a tiny amounts of Calpol for the next two days. Again, I wouldn’t advise this – too much paracetamol could be dangerous or fatal – always ask your vet first!

Dublin recovered remarkably quickly, and his tail has now completely healed! Yeah!

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Dublin post-operation

Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating cereal and grapes.

Taming Rats

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I’ve had several comments in the discussion areas about how to tame shy rats, so here are my replies, and a couple of useful links about the subject:

For Nervous Rats

Why not try putting your rats on a bed (with you on it) or a table or kitchen top so that they can’t hide from you. They don’t normally try jumping off. Have a blanket or box they can return to if they feel nervous. Let them sniff your hands and get used to your hands being near to them before picking them up. Some ratties are more shy than others, so try to be patient – they will come around. My older rats prefer to run up on to me rather than me picking them up, but they tolerate it and will keep still for me now, when they were babies they would wriggle and try to run off too. It just takes time, and keep trying – the more contact you have with your rats, the more they will learn to trust you.

How to Approach New Shy Rats

My advice is to offer them treats and try and handle them as much as possible. A way to trust-train them is to keep them on your person for at least 20 minutes a day – I mean don’t let them on the floor or anywhere but where you are. Even if you just keep your hand near them at first – not to pick up – offer treats till they associate you with good things. I used a box with Jinx & Dublin – they could play in the box and I put my hand in the box near them all the time – they were soon running up my arm to explore! Try not to move to fast towards them if you can. I had to put some of my boys (one at a time) in a pouch where they felt secure and let my hand rest near them.

If they don’t like you picking them up out of their cage or don’t come out by themselves – don’t chase them – this will only make them more scared of your hands – either offer food to encourage or get a pouch or bag and get them used to it – then you can use it to get them out (they will run into the safety of the pouch). Dublin and Jinx used to step from their bed to the pouch and I would carry them in it to the box. It was a secure place to explore from while they were getting used to me. I didn’t let them on the floor (main play area) until they were used to me.

The best treat for trust-training is yoghurt on a spoon – rats love it and they have to stay to lick the spoon – they can’t just run off with it!!

Useful Links

Fancy Rats
Rat Guide

Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating coconut pieces.

Rat Teen Troubles

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Dublin and Jinx feigning innocence

Yes, it’s true – rats can have hormonal mood swings and teenage angst too!
My youngest two rats have been doing a lot of posturing and having increasing skirmishes.
Jinx has been a complete bully to poor laid back Dublin, by chasing him off the fresh food I put in the cage. I’m not intervening, because Dublin certainly doesn’t look underfed – in fact he’s the bigger of the two rats. It doesn’t help that Stripe has found a way to climb up their cage and agitates them both to distraction, if I don’t get there fast enough!

I’ve had to improvise a makeshift wall to seal off the cage from climbing rats, especially after Jinx discovered he could scale the cage too.

Last week, Jinx attacked Dublin for a dog biscuit, and chased him across the room. Half way along, Dublin changed direction, and ran straight up to my shoulder for protection!!

Stripe, Shy-Shy and Pip are still the best of mates. Pip tells them off if they get out of line, but he’s a fair boss. It still seems strange without their brother Rocky – the cage seems quieter with only the three of them.
Here’s some recent shots of them:

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is my cheesy wedge!

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it tickles

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hi!

Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating sunflower seeds

Happy Ratty Christmas!

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Merry Christmas from the Ratties!!

My clever mum made these xmas mice, although they look more like rats to me!

The boys have a brand new home: A glorious Explorer cage from Pet World Direct. It’s fabulous. It’s well built and sturdy, with plenty of room, while having a much smaller “footprint” than my previous Furet XL. The bar spacing is great – it would suit young rats from 6 weeks old. The price was fantastic. So easy to clean! The only draw back with the cage that I can see is that it’s very heavy, so it’s not so easy to transport – but you can unscrew it all and flat pack it. I’ve thrown these cage furnishings together, so it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as it could be, but here it is:

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The rats are extremely comfortable in their new abode, as you can see here:

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Stripe taking it easy

Jinx and Dublin live in the top portion, and Shy-Shy, Stripe and Pip live in the bottom.

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Jinx peeps out of his new house

Today my lovely rats are mostly dreaming of eating Christmas dinner!

Goodbye Rocky

Rocky took ill with a tumour only a short time ago, and began to lose weight rapidly. I fed him soft food twice a day for as long as I could, but last night he didn’t even attempt to come out of his bed. He was panting with every small movement, so I decided it was time to let him go.

We took him to the vet this morning, wrapped in a fleece, and he gave me one last feeble brux when I scritched his neck. He very rarely bruxed, so this was a lovely last memory of him to treasure.

Here’s some pictures of him through his too short life:

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Here he is when we first took him home, at 6 weeks old. All the boys were very nervous, but Rocky was the first to venture out and explore the big wide world that was our dining room floor!

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“Hi!”

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Sleepyhead

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This picture was taken when Rocky was still a youngster, full of vigour and mischief. He always gave me a cheeky nibble on my ankle in the same place, whenever it was free range time! He did that all through his life, right up until he got sick. When he was little, he was always the first one to find a place I didn’t want him to go, and was very good at evading detection, by hiding in the most unreachable places!

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Rocky soon filled out and became a big bruiser of a rat!

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Peepo!

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Rocky looking his adorable self. He was such a handsome rat! He was very poor sighted and used to rock his head from side to side (like Stevie Wonder!) as if he was dancing.

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One of the very last pictures of Rocky. He was enjoying his baby porridge, only stopping to rest briefly. He loved his food, possibly more than any rat should!

Goodbye Rocky, go run free at the Rainbow Bridge. You will be forever in our memories and hearts.

Today my lovely rats are mostly eating a little less in their dish.

Past Rats

I found these photos the other day of our first rats which we used to keep about ten years ago.

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Ratty

Ratty was my boyfriend’s favourite (before his allergy to rats got worse), and although he was very shy, Ratty felt happy being held by him, especially near the end of his life. Poor Ratty, his story is quite sad.
My other half found him in a local pet shop, being bullied by his siblings. He was the runt of the litter, and on several visits to the pet shop, it seemed that he was being chased away from the food dish. So my boyfriend took pity on him, and took him home.
I remember how scared Ratty was at first, and I held him in my jumper for a long time, until he fell asleep. I guess I was feeling particularly maternal because I was pregnant on my first daughter Hannah, only I didn’t know it at the time!
We didn’t know much about rats, only a friend of ours kept a lone male rat who continually scampered across the cupboards and bookshelves in his flat. I know we had a book about rats, but didn’t have access to the extensive information you can find now, via the internet.
After a couple of weeks of Ratty continuing to be very nervous of us and I was scared of him biting (he kept putting his teeth round my finger), we decided he might be happier if he had a friend. So we went back to the pet shop and bought one of his brothers, Ruby.
They were 11 weeks old when we tried to introduce them, and knowing nothing about the correct procedures of rat intros, it all went terribly wrong. Ratty was horrified that there was another rat in his territory and fluffed right up, making the most horrendous noise. In the end we didn’t know what else to do but to separate them and buy another cage for Ruby.
Ratty never got over his shyness and after a couple of years succumbed to the terrible Mycoplasmosis, his breathing got very rattly, and in the end he had to be put to sleep. I think he was about two and a half years.

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Ruby

Here’s Ruby, my dizzy boy. He was content in his own funny way. What he lacked in intelligence he made up for in his gentle quirkiness! He was given the name Ruby because of his ruby coloured eyes, and because of his effeminate nature. Ratty was the big butch boy rat, and Ruby was such a contrast – he was slight and fast, and ran about everywhere, right up until his later months, rather like female rats are inclined to do. He followed his brother to the rainbow bridge within a few short months of old age.

Today my lovely rats are eating cheese wedges.