Rocky Shock

I took Rocky to the vets yesterday, because over the last few days he appeared to be losing condition. His fur looked odd (kind of fluffed up and messy) and three days ago I noticed he was an odd pear shape. When I picked him up he felt really bloated around his abdomin and he was dirty under his tail (he had had diarrhoea). Also, the most worrying aspect of all – he felt bony around his upper body and that’s unusual for Rocky – he’s normally quite rounded.

I thought it might be that he was constipated or something, but the vet’s diagnosis was much worse – he felt around Rocky’s body and said that he could feel a hard mass which was most probably a tumour, connected to his bowel (the reason for the diarrhoea). It was such a shock.
It was only a week or so ago that he appeared completely fine. The vet said that he could do an exploratory operation, but that it would be risky and stressful for Rocky, and that if the tumour was attached to an organ there would be little they could do, as it would grow back.
He advised me to let him be for now, and to make him as comfortable as possible and give him his favourite treats etc. He said the fact that he’s lost weight so quickly is not a good sign, and that I should take him back when he stops eating or appears to be suffering. I don’t want to put him through an operation if it’s unlikely to work, but he’s not even two yet. It’s so upsetting.

On the upside Rocky has still got a healthy appetite, and is still doing all his normal ratty things, and cuddling up with his brothers!

Sighhh.

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Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating humble pie.

Handsome Chaps

Here’s a few more great mugshots of my six handsome bucks!

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Rocky, 19 months old

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Jinx, 5 months old

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Shy-Shy, 19 months old

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Stripe, 19 months old

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Dublin, 5 months old

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Pip, 19 months old

Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating apple slices

Rats Reunited

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I made another attempt to reintroduce all the rats on neutral ground with the following results.
Shy-Shy accepted both the younger two rats, and even groomed Dublin affectionately. Pip wasn’t so sure but seemed to tolerate the new boys for the whole duration, and he actually sniffed them a few times, rather than completely ignoring them like he normally does. Rocky lasted a whole 10 minutes before getting agitated, and I put him in his box before he got aggressive. Stripe was the first to go in the “naughty box” because he fluffed right up and began to chase the younger two. Jinx got in a flap and when Pip ventured too near him he yelped in a squealy voice. I will continue to repeat this, but I’m afraid I will have to consider keeping the new bucks separate for now.

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Stripe & Pip sniff Dublin

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“Fluffed up” Stripe calms down with mashed banana

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Jinx freaks out as Pip approaches

Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating mashed banana

Dublin and Jinx

A little post all about the new boys.

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Dublin the Bold

Here’s our lovely big buck Dublin. I think he’s going to be a big rat – but he’s not fully grown so it’s hard to tell. He’s more laid back than his brother Jinx, and more outgoing. After all the traumatizing introductions with the older bucks, he still keeps coming back for more and continues to try and makes friends with them. In contrast to Jinx, who squeaks loudly whenever Stripe or Rocky approach him! He’s people friendly too, and has formed a strong bond with myself especially. His favourite place at free range time is on my shoulders, where he will sit for ages grooming himself, and enjoying his great vantage point! The two rats have also been known to jealously fight for a place there, and I have often had to intervene! I don’t stop their play fights usually, but I intend to keep the back of my neck unscathed and unscratched!

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Jittery Jinx

Jinx, or Jinxy as I affectionately call him is a sweet little hyper-active drama queen! He is a bit on the neurotic side and can appear quite nervous at times, but he is human-friendly, and can be easily coerced into an excitable frenzy, by tickling and play-fighting with him. He is sometimes a bit of a tearaway, and in a spritely mood has been seen intentionally irritating his brother or the older bucks, just for the hell of it – then he runs away squealing, feigning complete innocence! He hated being picked up at first – I had to resort to retrieving him from his cage via a bag – but after only a couple of weeks he would stay still in my hands just long enough to be placed on the floor. He just likes to be on the move and has a lot of energy.

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Free Range Time

Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating couscous

I Smell A Rat

It’s Day 27 of the rat introductions and lots of sniffing rat bottoms going on! I’ve been putting the new boys and older rats together every day (the more often you do this the better) on neutral ground (a place neither set of rats normally go). Shy-Shy and Pip have been great big buddies to the baby rats, but Rocky and Stripe have been demonstrating the common signs of aggression: fluffing up their fur, sidling up and kicking with their back feet. I try to separate them before things get out of hand and give them some breathing space away from the newcomers. It is useful to have a plant spray and thick towel to retrieve the aggressive rat, if a fight breaks out, so that you don’t get bitten.

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Pip sniffing Dublin

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Shy-Shy sniffing Dublin

For information on the stages of ratty introductions I found these sites useful:

http://www.ratz.co.uk/ratintro.html
http://ratguide.com/care/behavior/introducing_rats.php
http://www.fancy-rats.co.uk/information/guides.php?subject=introductions

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Cuddling up to Shy-Shy for Protection

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Stripe sniffing Jinx

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Rocky and Jinx

Today my lovely rats are mostly eating salad

The Trouble With Tribbles

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Well, it’s Day 10 of the rat intros. It’s becoming apparent that it’s not going to be as simple as I’d envisaged. Getting two strange rats to get along and play nice is one thing but trying to encourage four big bruiser bucks to be best buddies with two complete strangers is another! I’ve had no problems with Shy-Shy and Pip. Pip is the tolerant kind, he doesn’t like any silliness from the two new boys, and let’s them know by giving them a quick power groom, then it’s all over. Shy-Shy has accepted them as his little brothers (he’s even protective of them). Rocky and Stripe however, are acting slightly freaked out, and continually “fluff up” (their fur stands up on end) until they look like tribbles. They then sidle up to the offending new rat, and kick one of their back legs at him. If I don’t intervene, Rocky begins an all out attack, and looks as if he’s going to take a chunk out of Jinx’s neck. I have had to squirt Rocky with a plant mister, to stop him in his tracks, and scoop him up in a towel. It’s a bit scary! I’ve been putting the aggressive rat into a carrier box for ‘time out’ and then trying again later. Stripe acts in the same way and has had a few time outs too, but he’s seems to just want to create a distance between himself and the new rats. I think Rocky and Stripe are actually more defensive than aggressive. There haven’t been any injuries, and hopefully it will stay that way. I’m going to need an awful lot of patience to succeed in this monumental task!

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Shy-Shy nose to nose with Jinx

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Rocky checking out ‘the Enemy’ Jinx

Stripe is missing from this collection of photos because he was in the Naughty Box!

Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating porridge

Introductions

After scouring the internet for gems of wisdom about rat intros and gaining some sound advice from a local rat fancier, I felt it was time to have a rat party for all the boys. In theory, it is possible to introduce any two rats together, but the age and sex of the rats can make a big difference to the proceedings. Two females (does) is supposed to be the easiest combination, especially two youngsters. An older female may attack a baby rat though if it is too young. With males (bucks) the younger they both are the better. According to my research, an adult buck will accept a baby buck (less than 10 weeks) because the baby hasn’t got the buck ‘hormonal’ smell yet. Therefore the most awkward group to put together are adult males. This is only a basic guide though, because anyone who keeps rats will tell you they are as individual as people, and it is going to be down to personalities whether they get on or not. The most important information I gleaned from various sources was that neutral territory was the key to ratty meetings. Neutral as in somewhere where there are no smells of either the old rats or the new ones. In another room, in the bath, on a table. That sort of thing.

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Day 1
So, here we go! On the 23rd July I brought the rats into the utility room. It’s a tiny room and the surfaces are all in easy reach so it’s ideal. I let the two new boys have a sniff around first, then unleashed one of the big boys onto the scene! It was Stripe. I thought he’d be the least likely to make a fuss, because he’s so soft and silly. He’s also at the bottom of the pecking order. All he did was sniff Dublin and then hid under a blanket with the two of them. The same happened with Rocky. He didn’t seemed to notice that the new boys were different. I let Shy-Shy have a look next, and bless him, he gave Dublin a gentle reassuring groom! Pip (the head honcho) was happy to snuggle up to the new lads also. It was almost too good to be true. The first intro couldn’t have gone better.

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Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating mixed cooked beans.

More Baby Rat Pictures

Here’s a few more pics of the new little boys. Also a big huddle of the older bucks with Hannah.
As you can see the new ones are black hooded dumbo rats. Dublin has a longer “hood” and a stripe widening at the tail, while Jinx is smaller and has black mottling on his back. Jinx has white on his chin, and two strands of white fur on his head, which distinguishes him from his brother.
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Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating bread in Lactol

New Baby Rats!

Oh yes! We couldn’t resist! These two little 8 week old bucks came home with us on Saturday.

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Jinx and Dublin

They were a little freaked out, but very very sweet. I think they’ve been handled, because they were from a local lad (accidental litter) but they’ve had to endure a pet shop environment for a few days, so they are understandably nervous. It’s only been four days, but they are already curious about us and will sniff my hands, and run in and out of my clothes! They didn’t like being handled at first, but today I was very pleased that both of them went slack when I picked them up (a good indication that they trust me). They live in their own cage (a Ferplast Tubeline Mary) for now. Once they are used to me and my daughters I will begin introductions with the big boys. Here they are: Dublin and Jinx.

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Jinx

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Dublin

Dublin is the biggest of the two, and more friendly so far. He comes straight up to us for a sniff, and he already runs to me for safety if there is a strange noise that spooks him. He even gave me a little lick today, which means he is accepting me (or I taste good!). He’s already posing for the camera!

Jinx is a little smaller and more skittish. He seems to like his food though, and will take treats straight out of my hand which is a good sign. Both of them are adorable as you will see by the photos. The older rats are not at all bothered. They know there are some strangers in the room, but seem curious rather than upset.

Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating EMP

Stripe

All the rats seem to have recovered from the sneezing and they have put on weight (again!). I will have to put them on a diet soon. Rocky and Pip let the other two to wait on them, by sitting in the food larder, while Stripe and Shy-Shy frantically store the food! Stripe is very sweet. He’s always sat at the top corner of the cage waiting for me lately. When he knows he’s got my attention he “chitters” excitedly and “bruxes” at me. When a ratty chitters (grinding teeth rapidly to make a ch-ch-ch sound) it can sometimes mean nervousness, but it is usually associated with excitability and/or contentment. During “chittering” often a rat’s eyes will bulge noticeably in and out and this is bruxing. Stripe always bruxes when he sees me getting ready to open the cage and let him out. He knows it’s playtime!

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Stripe waiting for cuddles

Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating pieces of dried fruit.