The Rat Fan Club

The Rat Lady’s Corner

To see pictures of Debbie’s rats click here.



The last month has been harrowing. I have lost 5 rats in that time, most of them quite suddenly. However, there is hope, because I adopted 2 new babies.


Fergus, one of my hairless boys, started chewing at the base of his tail back in April. At first I thought he was itching, and tried different treatments for that, without any success. Then, when a friend was over, and we were standing in front of the giant round cage, where Fergus lived, talking, I was looking right at Fergus when suddenly he screamed and jumped, and then turned around and started chewing at himself! Well, that was a revelation. I had thought that he was only crying out when his chewing caused pain, not that pain was causing the chewing. My vet prescribed some powerful pain medications, which was able to keep him comfortable. I also put a tape body wrap on him to prevent him from damaging himself any more. I hadn’t wanted to do that earlier because I know how excruciating it can be when you itch and can’t scratch it. His wound finally started to heal up, but the pain would return any time I was late with his pain meds. That continued until July 13. That morning, Fergus was cold, and he ended up dying later that day. It looked like the cause of his death was liver failure. Fergus was only 20 months old. In a way it was a relief he was gone since we hadn’t been able to prevent his pain.


On July 31, a boy named Vinnie who I adopted a little over a year ago, died pretty suddenly. A few days before, his back legs had suddenly become much weaker, and he was lethargic, but he had gotten a little better on amoxicillin. But he died during the night and I found him in the morning. It turned out his spleen looked very abnormal, and his liver didn’t look too good either, and one of them had hemorrhaged into his abdomen. I am waiting for the results of biopsies I took. Vinnie was one month short of 3 years old, so he did have a good long life, although he was not well-socialized.


Next to go was Finn, my last hairless boy, who was Fergus’ cousin (and maybe half-brother). I had been treating him for congestive heart failure since June 30, and he had been doing well. On July 31, he had labored breathing, and I added a bronchodilator to his treatment, and he did better for 2 days. On August 2, his breathing became labored again, and he wouldn’t eat anything, so I euthanized him. Not only did his heart look abnormal, but also his kidneys and liver. Finn was only 21 months old, and it was so hard losing both my hairless boys so close together.


And the sorrow continued. The morning of August 5, I gave my big fat blue capped Dumbo boy, Gibson, his normal dose of doxycycline and he started gasping. I immediately put him in oxygen, and he stopped gasping. I gave him a bronchodilator, and when I took him out of the oxygen about 30 minutes later he seemed to be doing fine. About 20 minutes later, I walked by his cage and found him gasping again, but this time he was dying. It turned out he had a huge mass in his left lung that had hemorrhaged. I’m not sure if the mass was a tumor or not. It had been there long enough to push his heart all the way to the right side of his chest, but up until then his breathing had been fine. Gibson was 23 months old.


Then there was Sygy, my powder-blue rex Dumbo boy, Gibson’s cousin. On July 20 I noticed he had a pronounced lump on his spine, about in the middle of his back. It didn’t seem to bother him, and my chiropractor couldn’t tell what it was, but it felt like a bony growth. On July 29 Sygy seemed to be in pain, so I started him on some injectable Metacam that I had gotten from my vet for Fergus. That helped his pain, but on August 1 Sygy seemed to be having some neurological signs: acting strange and a little “out-of-it.” I assumed he had a pituitary tumor and started him on prednisone. That seemed to help, but the morning of August 9, he started gasping, and when I put him in oxygen, it didn’t help much, so I euthanized him. He did not have a pituitary tumor, but his liver looked really bad. Liver failure can mimic the signs of a pituitary tumor, because the build-up of toxins in the blood can affect brain function. Sygy was 4 days short of his 2nd birthday. Wow. Losing 4 of my favorite rats so close together, and at such young ages, was pretty devastating.


So, now, the good news about my 2 new adopted boys. One of the Rat Fan Club members posted a Craig’s List ad on our Facebook page about a litter of babies needing homes in the Chico area. I contacted the owner to get more info. She said the babies had been handled from birth, and were white with little spots of color. She had bought 2 rats at a pet shop that were supposed to be boys, and were pregnant females! She actually didn’t live in Chico, but had given one of the moms and babies to a friend up here. So, on August 7, I went to see them. It turned out they were Himalayan! Not my favorite color, and they can be hard to tell apart. Fortunately, one of the boys, the smallest one, had a little white blaze on his nose which would make it easy to tell him from his brothers. He was also the most friendly, although none of them wanted to be touched or held; so much for “handled from birth.” So, I took him and the only other boy who came to the door of the cage to interact with me. The whole litter was also still all together, along with their mom, in the same cage. The woman who had them said she didn’t know they needed to be separated, although later the original owner told me by email that she had promised to separate them. So, I drove home and got another cage for her so they could be separated. I also gave her one of my care books and Rat Health Care booklets. The original owner was asking $8 a piece, and I was hoping I could trade the books instead of cash, but she said she still needed the money. Oh, well, what’s $16 for 2 rats? I named my 2 new boys Felix and Oscar. Oscar has the blaze and is about ¾ the size of Felix. I have been doing trust training with them, and they are making slow progress. They will now come out of their cage on my hand, Oscar all the way, and will allow me to pet them while they are licking pudding from my fingers. They will also play with me, and Oscar gave me kisses one day.


So, I now have 18 rats. Since all the boys who lived in my giant round cage are now gone, I have moved my 4 boys who came from the hoarder rescue as babies into that cage. Calvin, my biggest boy right now is probably the biggest rat I’ve ever had. I couldn’t really get him to stretch out, but he’s gotta be 12 inches long and he weighs just 1 oz. less than 2 lbs! His brother Hobbes weighs 1 ¾ lb. The other 2 are from different litters. Quincy weighs 1 ½ lb, and Mini Cooper is only 1 ¼ lb, and looks much smaller!



Well, it’s just embarrassing how long it has been since I’ve made an entry here. I resolve to keep up with it better from now on. Trying to catch up this much later, I’m sure I will be missing details, but here are the main highlights of the last almost 6 months. I now have 21 rats.


On February 11, 2014, I finally had to euthanize Wyatt when his neurological problems kept getting worse. Surprisingly, he did not have a pituitary tumor, so there must have been something going on his brain that I couldn’t see. He was 32 months old, and it was very hard to let him go. The next one to go was Duchess. She had been treated with tamoxifen by her previous owner, and this time it did not help and her mammary cancer continued to get worse. The morning of March 1, she wouldn’t eat anything, so I euthanized her. I only had her for about 2 months, but she was a sweet cuddly girl, and I was sad to lose her. That left Virgil alone, and I was able to move him in with Chas. Chas was so glad to have a companion, after being alone for a few months. He had decided to trust me, and really enjoyed being petted (although not held), but that’s not the same as having a rat companion 24/7.


The next day after losing Duchess, I adopted a new rat from the hoarder house. He was an old agouti boy who had been beat up by some other rats and had a wound on his shoulder, as well as labored breathing, a very thin fur, since parasites like lice tend to overwhelm sick animals. He wasn’t well socialized, but was really sweet. I was able to put him in with Chas and Virgil. Since then he has warmed up to me some, and really enjoys being petted, although he really doesn’t want to be held. I named him Rufus. He is now on heart medications, as well as amoxicillin and doxycycline, and his breathing is much better, and his coat has mostly grown back in.


On April 25, I lost Herschel, one of my silver fawn boys from Florida, very suddenly. That morning he took his breakfast fruit, but at 10:30 he did not come out for his vitamins. He was very lethargic, so I gave him a shot of dexamethasone and a large dose of amoxicillin, and put him in a small cage on a heating pad. Three hours later there was a noticeable swelling on the bridge of his nose, and I thought an abscess was starting there. Two hours later he was dead. It turns out he had a cancerous tumor inside his nasal cavity that had penetrated the nasal bones. I was totally flabbergasted that he hadn’t shown any earlier symptoms, but I’m glad he didn’t suffer for long. I adopted Herschel on June 22, 2013, along with his brother Curry and Nolan, and estimated that they might be 8 months old, which would have made him maybe only 20 months old. None of these boys were very well socialized, and haven’t bonded to me much, but it is always especially sad when they die below 2 years of age.


On May 16, I adopted a new boy from a local family. Their rat, who was about 8 months old, had started biting them, hard. I explained that if he were neutered, the aggression would go away, but they said their young kids were now too afraid of him and would not be likely to trust him again. So, I said I would take him. He is a beautiful blue rex named Ash. He was very aggressive and macho to start with, puffing up his fur and marking his cage with hand rubbing and shoulder rubbing anytime anyone came near. I neutered him, and gradually over a few weeks that behavior became less and then stopped. He is now very friendly and enjoys coming out on the couch with me and cuddling with me on my chest!  I am so glad I adopted him. His is now my most cuddly rat. He is still living alone because I haven’t figured out who I can introduce him to. I tried introducing him to Mole, my black rex boy, who is also still alone, but Mole was extremely aggressive toward Ash, even though he is also neutered.


On May 29, I lost my old boy Virgil. I had noticed 2 days earlier that his bladder was overfull. I anesthetized him and a few drops of urine did come out. I managed to insert a catheter, but was unable to extract the urine that way, so had to use a needle. At least that made him more comfortable. The urine looked normal, so I couldn’t figure out what caused the blockage. The next two days his bladder was more normal, but he died on the evening of the 29th. I never did know what caused the blockage. Virgil was just 2 weeks short of 3 years old.  He was a very sweet boy, and it was very sad to lose him.


On June 6, Mason, one of the older boys from the hoarder house, started acting a little different. He actually let me pet him, which was not like him. Usually, if I tried to pet him he would skeedaddle out of the way as fast as he could. Over the next few days, I noticed a few more differences, but they were very subtle. Then, all of a sudden he developed severe neurological problems and died on June 12. The cause turned out to be a pituitary tumor.


Then, on June 14, I had to euthanize Chas. On May 30 he developed a lump on his throat, then a bump on the bridge of his nose, and then a mass in his abdomen. He started getting weaker, and finally looked like he felt miserable. It turned out the bump on his nose was an abscess that went down into his nasal cavity (despite being on amoxicillin and doxycycline), the lump on his throat was an enlarged gland, and the mass in his abdomen was a cancerous tumor inside his cecum. He also had a pituitary tumor, not to mention his long-standing tooth malocclusion and paraplegia. He was really falling apart, poor guy. But he was a happy boy right up until his last day, and I was very glad to have made his life better for his last 7 months. I don’t know how old he was, but he was obviously elderly.


Mason’s death left Herman alone, and Chas’s death left Rufus alone, so I tried introducing them. When I first put them together they seemed very glad, and Rufus started grooming Herman. However, the next morning I found that Rufus had beat up Herman! I was very shocked to find a few small wounds on Herman. Since then, I have gradually been letting them spend a little more time together, but only supervised, and so far Rufus has been a gentleman, and Herman seems to enjoy his attentions.



My goodness, where did the time go? It seems like it has been non-stop since the RATS Autumn eBay Auction Fundraiser the first week in October, through the holidays, until now. On October 29, I took in a mom with a litter of 2-week-old babies from the hoarder case. I ended up keeping 2 of the baby boys, a beige Berkshire I named Calvin, and a black Berkshire I named Hobbes, and found homes for the others.


From September to November I lost all of my first group of older hoarder rescue boys. On Sept. 25, I had to euthanize Hector because of a fast-growing cancerous tumor under his leg. On Oct. 23, Reuben died, probably from a combo of heart and lung disease. On November 8, I had to euthanize Polo because of respiratory distress, caused by tumors in his lungs, which turned out to be sarcoma, a type of cancer. I also lost Lucky, the rat who was abandoned with me. On Sept. 28, I had to euthanize him because of severe bladder stones.


So, on November 10, I adopted 9 more rats from the hoarder situation: 2 more baby boys, an adult male, an adult female, and 5 old boys. When Lucky died, his roommate, Maple, the hairless girl, was left alone. Because I was adopting so many of the hoarder rats, Raleigh and Linda offered to adopt Maple, and because she had never bonded to me, I was happy for her to go with them. They changed her name, and because I liked the name Maple so much, I decided to give it to the new hoarder female, who was agouti. One of the new babies I adopted was a tiny agouti I named Cooper, and the other was what I thought was a cinnamon hooded, the first cinnamon I’ve ever had, who I named Quincy. They went right in with Calvin and Hobbes. Mole, a black rex boy, was maybe a year old. The old boys were: Chas, an albino with paraplegia, bumblefoot and malocclusion; Ian, a big black boy with a sparse coat because of a horrible lice infestation; Mason, a black Dumbo, and Herman, a cinnamon capped (I thought), who is paraplegic and has the longest tongue I’ve ever seen on a rat! All the adults had respiratory symptoms, which responded well to antibiotics, and of course I treated them all for lice. I neutered Mole and Ian for aggression, but decided the other adult boys were too old. Mason and Herman live together, but they picked on Chas, so he is alone. I’m still waiting for Mole’s aggression to subside. The babies, especially the 2 I raised, are very friendly. None of the adults were socialized, and while I can pick them up when necessary, none of them like to be touched, let alone held. But it is wonderful to see these poor suffering rats now much improved and happy.


On November 16 I lost Pimento, one of the 4 boys I adopted in August. He developed a hard testicle, which I suspected was cancerous, and did not survive surgery to remove it.  On Dec. 27, I lost the first of the new group of old hoarder rescue boys, Ian to a huge cancerous tumor in his abdomen. The tumor was no doubt already there when I adopted him. I had him for less than 2 months, but I know he was much more comfortable with me than in his former home.


At the end of December I agreed to adopt a beige hooded female named Duchess, who is at least 2 ½ years old and has mammary cancer, when her owner was going away and couldn’t take her. She is a sweet girl, and the most cuddly of all my rats now! I have an appointment to take her to the vet on Monday to get a prescription of tamoxifen for her. I was able to put her in with Wyatt and Virgil.


I’ve also had some health problems in my rats aside from the normal respiratory symptoms. Starting in October, Wyatt, who was born June 4, 2011, started growing more fibroma tumors. He now has at least 5 of them on both sides, but he is getting too frail for surgery. More recently, he has had some neurological symptoms, holding his hands clenched, so I suspect he might have a pituitary tumor. So far, treatment with prednisone and amoxicillin seem to be keeping the symptoms from getting worse. The evening of January 5, Sygy suddenly went into respiratory distress while I was in the bath. Ack!  I put him in oxygen and gave him injections of dexamethasone and aminophylline, and fortunately he was able to come out of the oxygen after about an hour and has been doing fine since then on doxycycline and amoxicillin. On January 11, I decided to neuter Fergus, one of my hairless boys, because he had grown more than 10 sebacecous cysts, and I’m hoping the reduction of testosterone will stop the formation of the cysts.


Finally, on January 13, I lost another one of Pimento’s group. Ebenezer, the hairless Dumbo, had started showing neurological problems a week earlier. I started him on prednisone and amoxicillin, but there was little improvement, and the morning of the thirteenth he was so much worse I decided to euthanize him. As I suspected, an autopsy showed he had a pituitary tumor that had hemorrhaged. As of now, my rat population is at 25, and it sure keeps me busy!



I have lost 2 rats and adopted a new one since my last entry. On the morning of Sept. 1, Willy, the last boy I had adopted back in July 2011 from the huge southern California hoarder rescue, was disoriented and cold. I also noticed his incisors were uneven. I moved him to a small cage on a heating pad and he was much better by the evening. He continued to take his regular medications, doxycycline and amoxicillin, and B vitamins for his paraplegia. The next afternoon his cage was next to me on the couch, and all of a sudden he started having a seizure. His breathing became very slow and I thought he was going to die, but he came out of it within about 20 minutes. But then he started having repeated seizures, so I decided to euthanize him. Willy was full grown when I adopted him, so he had to be at least 34 months old, and could have been older. I didn’t find anything very significant on his autopsy, and assumed that he was having strokes, which would not be detectable without detailed pathology of the brain.


Willy’s death left his roommate Fern alone, so I started introducing her to Curry, Herschel and Nolan. After only 3 nights with Curry, Herschel and Fern together on the couch (Nolan still won’t come out), and only a couple fights, I was able to put her in with the boys, and they have doing well together ever since.


Then, about 10:00 pm on the 17th, Calvin, who I had adopted on August 11, suddenly began gasping violently. I immediately set up the oxygen chamber, but his gasping didn’t improve even when he was in the oxygen, which is really bad news. I decided to euthanize him. His autopsy showed he had emphysema. I only had Calvin 5 weeks. He was wheezing pretty badly when he arrived, but treatment with amoxicillin, doxycycline and prednisone had gotten him symptom-free. He was just starting to trust me some too, poor guy. He had paraplegia pretty bad, so he was probably at least 2 ½ years old, but I don’t know for sure since he was a hoarder rescue.


Back on June 1, I agreed to rat-sit for a young woman named Sarah who had lost her apartment and needed time to find a new one. Her rat Lucky had wheezing and labored breathing, so I started him on amoxicillin, and after two weeks of that, switched him to doxycycline. The doxy helped, although his breathing was still a little labored. Lucky was a very shy rat and really didn’t like to come out of his cage or be touched. He didn’t use an exercise wheel or a hammock, but preferred to sleep in an igloo. A couple weeks went by and I called Sarah’s cell phone for a status report. She said they had found a new apartment and would be picking Lucky up that weekend, but she didn’t call or show up. I left a few more messages on her cell phone, and finally a guy called back and said Sarah was in the hospital. Several more weeks went by, and my phone messages were unreturned. Finally, the second week in September, after having Lucky over 3 months, I decided he was now my rat, and I decided to try introducing him to my new hairless girl, Maple, who was also still alone. I set up a new cage, and furnished it with a hammock (which Maple loves) and some upper perches where Maple could find refuge from Lucky if he was aggressive. There were a few fights, but now they are getting along okay, even though Lucky still sleeps in his igloo, and Maple sleeps in the hammock.



I have a lot of news…I have adopted 11 new rats in the last week and a half! That means my rat population has gone from 12 to 23! First, on August 8, I got a call from Sarah at Pet Works that someone had brought in a hairless girl because they had wanted to use her for breeding, but she ate her first litter, so “obviously they couldn’t keep her.” I called a few people I know in town who like hairless rats, but none of them had room for a new one. The next day I went to look at her. She is a dark-skinned girl, and seemed quite friendly, so I brought her home. The pet shop manager had put her in with a male, even though she told me she wouldn’t have sold her for snake food (so it’s okay to breed her?) It just so happened that I was doing surgery on my boy Wyatt for a fibroma on his side, so I went ahead and spayed her. I was still hoping to find someone else to adopt her, but she has been a little nippy, so I guess I’ll need to keep her. For now she is alone, and has been pretty suspicious of me. I finally picked a name for her, Maple, and now she seems a little more responsive. I’m not sure who I will try introducing her to. Maybe the silver fawn boys, if they ever get over their macho-ness.


Next, on August 11, I met Raleigh and Linda in Oroville to adopt 6 boys from the Fairfield hoarder house. They brought me 4 old, partially-paraplegic boys, and 2 babies, none of whom were well socialized. One of the babies is special needs because his arms are frozen to his chest. He gets around quite well by pushing with his hind legs and sliding on his chest and arms, and when he wants to move fast he can hop like a kangaroo. He even gets up into a hammock. (Raleigh and Linda are keeping another boy like this too.) He is fawn, so quite attractive, and has quickly become friendly. He is maybe 3 months old. I’ve decided to call him Rex, after Tyrannosaurus rex. I ended up neutering him today because the last couple nights playing on the couch he has puffed his fur up at the scent of the newest rats. His roommate is a bluish brown color, but is in a molting phase so his color is currently pretty uneven. He is smaller than Rex, so maybe 8-10 weeks old, but it is taking him longer to trust me and enjoy being petted. I’ve named him Shadow. Three of the old boys live together, an albino and 2 black barebacks, one with a slash of white across his face, who has a large bumble on one heel, and had a bad wheeze when they arrived. (His wheeze has cleared up with amoxicillin and Baytril.) He is also the most gentle, and I’ve named him Calvin. His brother is the dominant rat of the group, and very protective, so I’ve named him Reuben. I’ve named the albino Hector. The fourth rat is also an albino, and is by himself for now. I tried to introduce him to the other 3, but he was too aggressive, so I neutered him today as well. I’m calling him Marco Polo.


Then, I was asked to take 4 older boys by a woman named Rosie who had to move into a motorhome, and she was concerned about space and temperature control. She brought them to me on Sunday. I thought they were all living together, but it turns out one is by himself. His name is Brando and he is black with white gloves. He is only 16 months old, whereas the other 3 are 23 months old. Brando was mounting and pestering the other boys and so was separated. I have neutered him today as well, hoping to eventually move him in with the others. The other three are Pimento and Benny, who are black hooded brothers, and Ebenezer, who is a dark hairless Dumbo. They are still adjusting to the change, and are cautious for now.


Since Bat’s passing, his brother Wyatt has gotten more cuddly, bless his heart.  To make room for the new rats, I did some cage rearranging, and moved Wyatt and Virgil to an open top habitat near the couch, and they now enjoy the easy access, which lets me give them scratches several times a day. With so many new rats now, things are unsettled, but hopefully that won’t last long.



It is a sad, sad morning. I had to euthanize Bat Masterson, who was only 25 months old, this morning. He started Tues night with labored breathing, lethargy and poor appetite and I immediately started him on amoxicillin. That didn't seem to help much, so the next day I gave him a shot of dexamethasone, and later a dose of theophylline (a bronchodialator). By bedtime he was so bad I put him in an oxygen chamber for the night. This morning he still had labored breathing while in the oxygen, which is a very bad sign, and then seemed panicky, so I made the difficult decision. I just finished his autopsy and it looks like he had a tumor inside his heart. (Pathology confirmed he had a fibroma tumor inside his heart.) His chest was also full of fluid. I'm glad I didn't wait any longer to euthanize him, but oh, it was hard to let him go. He was really the only one of my current rats who would let me snuggle him for short while on my chest. Nobody else wants me to hold them.


I neutered Herschel and Nolan last week, but I’m still waiting for it to change their behavior.



I have picked names for my new boys. Because 2 of them are silver fawn, I wanted names that would reflect that, so I ended up picking Curry for the dominant boy and Herschel (which means deer in Hebrew) for his brother. I picked the name Nolan for the albino, just because I liked it and it seemed to fit him. They must like their names because they started responding to them right away. Curry started getting friendly within just a few days, and let me pick him up and pet him, but when I let him out on the couch, all he wanted to do was urine mark and chew on the wooden frame. So I neutered him on June 27. I also removed a tumor from Bat’s side, which was most likely a benign fibroma. After about another week, Herschel was a little more outgoing, so I decided to get him out on the couch, and Nolen even surprised me by getting in the basket I use for transportation, and exploring the couch. Both of them also only wanted to urine mark and chew on the couch, so I plan to neuter them as well.



I lost Tino on June 4. It was heartbreaking. His breathing gradually got worse, and that day I finally had put him back in the oxygen. After a few hours, I tried taking him out of the oxygen and he immediately started gasping. I decided enough was enough, and when I did his autopsy, I’m glad I did finally let him go. His lungs were quite nasty. Because Tino spent the day on the couch during his last weeks, we became very close, and right up to the end, he still loved to be petted. The only things he would eat much of was avocado, pudding, and Gerber Macaroni & Cheese with Vegetables baby food. At the end of May, he started getting shaky, and acting drunk. I assumed this was a sign that his liver was failing, and his brain was affected by toxins his liver couldn’t filter out. I got some milk thistle seed capsules, which are good for liver function. Fortunately, the capsules contained a powdered fine enough that he didn’t mind eating it in his baby food. He was only taking the milk thistle for about 2 weeks, and I wasn’t sure if it was helping or not. But it was his lungs that finally failed more than his liver. I miss Tino a lot. Sadly, he was only 21 months old.


Tino’s death left Fern alone, so I decided to see if she would get along with Willy, who was also alone, and she did. So the 2 of them now live together. I adopted Willy in July 2011, and he was an adult then, so he has to be at least 32 months old. His back legs are partially paralyzed, but other than that, he is doing well.


Not only were Molly and Fergus’ wheezing not going away, they started to get worse, so I finally decided to switch them to Baytril from doxycycline and that now seems to be doing the trick. I haven’t heard them wheezing in about a week, so that’s a very good thing. I guess there are just some strains of myco that only respond to Baytril and not doxy.


Since I had an empty cage, I offered to adopt some rats from North Star Rescue, and they asked me to take 3 boys who came from Florida!  In January the Tampa Bay SPCA confiscated several hundred animals, including reptiles and rodents, from a home after finding them all in deplorable conditions. There’s an article about it up here:

and another article here:  Shortly after, the SPCA contacted the Humane Society of the United States for help, and they suggested that they try and send some of the rodents out west to North Star. They placed a lot of the animals into new homes directly through the shelter, but a few months later sent the remaining rats, hamsters and mice to North Star. They flew them out through Delta Cargo, with one stop in Utah. They arrived on April 19th, and Lauren, the founder of North Star, said they got them from the airport at almost midnight. The SPCA paid for the flight, and Lauren guesses it might have cost around $400 to ship the 75 pounds of rodents in the carriers.


My new rats were driven up from the San Francisco Bay Area on Saturday June 22 by a volunteer with a boxer rescue who was taking some dogs up to Redding. Larry and I drove over to Orland, which is right on highway 5, and picked them up from her. Two of the boys are beautiful silver fawns, and the third is a smaller albino. They have not been well socialized, and the albino is especially shy and fearful. It took him 2 days to decide to lick some pudding off a spoon. Hopefully it won’t take them long to learn to trust me. I haven’t picked names for them yet, as I want to get to know them a little better first.  I now have 13 rats.



I’ve lost 3 rats and adopted one new one since my last entry, bringing my rat population to 11, the lowest it’s been in a very long time. I guess I had forgotten to mention that on Feb. 19 I noticed that Sambo, my albino hairless boy who was the last survivor of his group, had a massively enlarged spleen. The usual causes for this are an infection or cancer. He was already on doxycycline, so I also put him on amoxicillin and prednisone. Within a few days, his spleen had shrunk and he had been doing pretty well since then. He had been living with Basil, but was now alone, and spent time with me on the couch each evening. He had never been very cuddly, but he came to enjoy being petted more and more. I also spoiled him with all kinds of special foods. On March 25 it felt like his spleen was again enlarged, but there wasn’t much more that I could do. On April 8, his abdomen looked even larger, so I decided to do surgery, just in case the problem was a tumor on his spleen that could be removed. It turned out this time that his spleen was normal, but there was a tumor growing in the wall of his abdomen, that was no doubt cancerous, so I had to let him go. Sambo, my “Little Pink Sambo,” was 31 months old.


Although Chief had never seemed as sick as Tino, he also didn’t get any better, and in fact, his labored breathing slowly got worse, even though he was still living in the oxygen chamber. On April 17, I finally decided he was no longer comfortable and I euthanized him. His autopsy showed he had an abnormal liver, just as his cousin Sid had had, as well as heart and lung problems. He was just over 2 years old. That left Tino alone in the oxygen chamber. His breathing gradually got better, and he started eating a little better. He was getting restless in the oxygen chamber aquarium, so I started bringing him out onto the couch with me in the evenings and he seemed to be doing okay. I even started introducing him to the new rat I adopted. Fern, a 10-month-old Siamese Dumbo rat who was purchased at Petsmart and was apparently never well socialized, had been biting her former owner, so I agreed to take her with the hope that spaying her would reduce her aggression. The spaying appears to have reduced her aggression some, but she still does not trust people. However, she quickly accepted Tino, as if she had always known him. Finally, on April 24, after being in the oxygen chamber for 4 weeks, I took Tino out of the oxygen for good, and he now lives with Fern. However, Tino still is not eating normally, so he spends the day out on the couch so I can offer him a variety of foods to tempt his appetite. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like the soy infant formula, and will only drink so much Ensure, although he will eat small servings of different baby foods. He is very picky and won’t eat any fruit at all. But he is gradually putting on a little weight. His breathing is still quite labored at times, and he is still on 6 medications, but most of the time he seems happy and comfortable. Tino is the only one of my rats who has come through oxygen therapy. All my other rats who got bad enough to go in oxygen did not survive. Tino is17 months old, and is now more cuddly with me than before his illness.


Molly, the girl who brought the SDA virus into my colony, is still wheezing after more than 7 weeks of treatment, but it doesn’t slow her down. She has plenty of energy and is a fearless explorer. She will not stay on the couch during playtime, but has made it her goal to climb every cage and piece of furniture in our living room. So much for her cuddling on my lap! Like most girls she is always on the go and although it’s annoying when she persists in trying to reach forbidden areas, such as the top of the entertainment center, (she jumps more than a foot from the armchair to my music stand in her attempts), she is very entertaining. Fergus, my pink hairless boy, is also still wheezing, but he also seems to be feeling fine. All the other rats are over their respiratory symptoms.


On April 25 I drove to Sacramento and stayed the night with Barbara, and the next day she drove me to the airport to fly to Hampton, Virginia for the World of Pets Expo on Saturday and Sunday, and I came back Monday. This was the first time for the show in Virginia, although I have attended the show in Maryland several times. I took Gibson and Sygy with me to the show and Gibson performed 3 tricks—walking from one platform to another (he doesn’t like to jump), pulling open a tiny drawer, and tipping up a hoop and walking through it. He also posed very well in the costumes. Unfortunately, Sygy didn’t do anything but look cute, although lots of people told me he is the cutest rat they have ever seen. We sold a fair amount of stuff, so the show was a success, and much better than the one in San Jose, CA in January. I met with Lucinda Rideout and her husband, Jim, at the show, and they took me out to dinner Saturday night (thanks, guys!). Lucinda writes a column called A Mouse in the House for Pet Tails magazine, which is distributed in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, a cluster of cities that includes Hampton, Virginia Beach and Newport News. She also plans to write an article about me for the It’s a Rat’s World magazine. Lucinda and Jim started a mouse rescue in 2010 and then branched out into rats as well. Meeting rat owners is one the best things about going to pet expos!


Finally, last night at bedtime, Grace, one of my remaining Hoarders rescues, was very lethargic and seemed to have some neurological symptoms suggestive of a pituitary tumor. I put her in a small cage on a heating pad, and gave her prednisone in addition to her normal doxy and amoxi. She still took her medicines willingly, although slowly. She also ate some baby formula, but she died during the night. During her autopsy, I found that she did not have a pituitary tumor, but what I thought was a small benign mammary tumor on her chest was some other type of tumor, very red and therefore probably malignant. She probably died from a combination of that and liver failure. Because she was an adult when I adopted her I don’t know her true age, but she was at least 2 ½ years old. Now her roommate Willy is alone, and I don’t think I have any good candidates to introduce to him. I’ll see if he seems to be okay on his own.



I’m a bit late with this entry, partly because I’ve been so busy, and partly because I haven’t had the heart to write about the tragic events of the last few weeks. The last half of February and the first part of March were fairly uneventful, but on Thursday, March 14, I got a call from a woman who works at Pet Works, a locally owned pet shop here in Chico. She said someone had dropped off a group of pet rats that they couldn’t keep, and there was one little girl left who had what looked like a tumor on the side of her foot. Because she was so sweet they didn’t want her to go for snake food, but she didn’t think anyone would buy her for a pet with a lump on her foot. I immediately went to look at her. She looked like she might have been about 3 months old, and what I saw on her foot was a small red nodule which was definitely not a tumor, but I wasn’t sure what it was. Her right eyeball was also abnormally small, most likely caused by a serious injury to the eye in the past, so she wasn’t the most attractive rat. But she was very sweet, and the shop let me have her for free. She is black hooded with a very nice stripe down her back until it spreads to some blobs near her tail. I immediately decided her name was Molly, and that very afternoon she laid on my lap to be petted. What a winner! As is common with many pet shop rats, Molly was wheezing, so I started her on amoxicillin. However, her wheezing didn’t go away completely, so on Saturday I also put her on doxycycline, and that helped. Over the next few days the red spot on Molly’s foot began to get better, and eventually completely healed. It must have been just an injury. The following week I spayed her, since because she had been in with boys at the pet shop, she was likely to be pregnant (and she was).  After that, it took just a few days to introduce her to my young boys.


On Monday morning after I got Molly, Sid, the boy with the spastic head movements, was very sick. He was lethargic and cold with puffy fur and labored breathing, so I gave him a shot of dexamethasone, started him on both amoxicillin and doxycycline, and put him in a small cage on a heating pad. When he wasn’t any better the next morning I decided to try him on the heart medications, since he was related to Chief and Gabe. That night he was worse, and his breathing was so labored I put him in an oxygen chamber. Unfortunately, that didn’t improve his breathing all that much, which is a very bad sign. I knew I should probably euthanize him, but I just couldn’t do it. I gave him another dose of dexamethasone, hoping that the problem was just severe inflammation in his lungs. However, he wasn’t any better the next day, and he died about 2 pm. Then, about 6:30 pm I saw that Sid’s relative, Gabe, was unconscious and gasping. Although I tried putting him in oxygen, he died after just a few minutes. Their autopsies showed that it wasn’t just their lungs or heart that was involved. Sid had an abnormal liver and Gabe had a very bad spleen. However, that day some of the new boys started wheezing, and Tino and Chief had labored breathing. I started to suspect that Molly had brought in a very bad respiratory infection. As a matter of fact, a few days later, Finn had a lump on his throat, so she probably brought in SDA virus, which opens them up to secondary bacterial infections.  I started everyone on amoxicillin, put Tino on the heart medications (he is also related to Chief and Sid), and put Chief on a bronchodilator and prednisone. Chief’s breathing improved, but Tino’s didn’t, so over the next couple days, I dosed him with dex, started him on prednisone, and also put him on the bronchodilator. Everyone was doing better by the weekend, so I felt I could visit Barbara in Sacramento as planned. However, when I got back Sunday night, Tino’s breathing was so bad I had to put him in oxygen. Fortunately, his breathing was much better in the oxygen.


The next day, Chief was much worse again, and I felt he needed to be in the oxygen too, but I couldn’t just put him in with Tino. They didn’t live together, and I knew Chief was likely to be quite aggressive. I decided I would put Chief in a small wire carrier inside the oxygen chamber to separate him from Tino. However, I was using was a 10-gallon aquarium for the oxygen chamber, and that wouldn’t give Tino much room left. So I got a 20-gallon aquarium from our shed to use instead and it worked well. Chief made some aggressive threats from inside the carrier, but soon settled down. However, as the day went on, I noticed that their breathing had both gotten worse again. I realized the 20-gallon aquarium was too big for an ideal concentration of oxygen. My oxygen concentrator only makes 5 liters of oxygen a minute. Five liters equals not quite 5.3 quarts. Since there are 4 quarts in a gallon, a 10-gallon aquarium contains 40 quarts, and a 20-gallon aquarium contains 80 quarts. The oxygen levels in the larger aquarium were only half as high, and it wasn’t enough to keep them comfortable. By this time, they had had most of the day to get acquainted, so I hoped that they would get along in the small confines of the 10-gallon aquarium, and fortunately, they did. As soon as I put them together in the smaller aquarium—with the higher oxygen level—Chief immediately went to Tino and pushed underneath him, a rat signal that he wanted to be friends. They have been in the oxygen chamber together ever since. They have been mostly comfortable, although Tino got worse a few times, but a shot of dex always made him better. At first, neither were interested in eating much, and I had to force their medications. Gradually, as they got better, they started eating more, and Chief went back to drinking his meds out of a baby food jar lid on his own. Progress was slow, but there was progress, so I had hope they could eventually come out of the oxygen.


Yesterday, there was major crisis. About 10 am, Larry came and told me the oxygen concentrator had quit. He had tried moving the power cord to the other plug, but it didn’t help. When I looked at it, it was making a bit of a buzzing noise, but the compressor was not working. I tried the reset button, but it didn’t help, and then it seemed totally dead. Fortunately, although Tino and Chief’s breathing got more labored, at least they were not really distressed. Tino was worse than Chief and I gave him another shot of dex. I also gave Tino a shot of Valium to keep him calm. I left Tino in the aquarium because it was where he seemed to be the most comfortable, but I put Chief back in his normal cage. I started calling around town to try to find a shop that would repair the concentrator, without any luck. Oxygen concentrators are actually prescription medical equipment, and the businesses that sell or rent them only deal with registered patients. I looked on Craigs List for another one to buy without success. (I originally bought my oxygen concentrator on ebay several years ago.) As the day went on, I frequently checked on the boys, and they seemed to be doing the same: they weren’t comfortable, but they weren’t overly distressed either. At bedtime, I decided to put Chief back in the aquarium with Tino for company. After I’d gotten them to take their medications, I gave Tino some subQ fluids, because he was dehydrated. I also decided to put a heating pad under the aquarium, because Tino felt cold. With the oxygen concentrator running, a heating pad wasn’t necessary because the concentrator generated a fair amount of heat next to the aquarium. I plugged the heating pad into the closest outlet, but its light didn’t come on. That was strange. I tried the other plug and it didn’t work either. Suddenly I realized the whole outlet wasn’t working!  I got a heavy duty extension cord, plugged the oxygen concentrator into a different outlet, and turned it on…it worked!  Thank God! I felt so stupid that we hadn’t tried that earlier. Because the concentrator seemed to have power right after it quit I didn’t suspect the problem was with the outlet. As soon as the oxygen began flowing into the aquarium again the boys perked up considerably. Although I regret the boys had a hard time during the day, at least I know they did better without the oxygen then they had in the past.


Molly, the rat who started the whole thing, is still wheezing off and on, as are the younger boys, so it is obviously going to take quite a while for everyone to recover. My other rats, Sambo, who is 2 ½ years old, Bat, Wyatt and Virgil, who will be 2 years old in June, and Willie and Grace, who are at least 2 ½ years old, apparently haven’t been affected by the virus. Obviously in this case, I should have quarantined Molly before bringing her in. But this is only the second time in 28 years that a rat has brought SDA into my home. However, if I rescue a rat from that pet shop again, I will do a quarantine first.



I lost two more rats in the last month. I had to euthanize Wilson on Jan. 20, 2013, a Sunday afternoon, for a suspected pituitary tumor which came on very suddenly. That Thursday night his fur was puffed up, but when I did an exam I couldn’t find anything wrong, and he ate his dinner treat as normal. Friday morning he was still puffed up and just seemed a little “off” so I started him on amoxicillin. He ate both his morning and bedtime treats that day. On Sat morning he took and ate his morning fruit, although a little slowly, but by that night he was much worse, lethargic, and acting “spaced out” so I moved him to a small cage on a heating pad and started him on predisone. By Sunday he could barely swallow baby formula, so I decided to euthanize him. On the autopsy I found he had a large pituitary tumor. Symptoms of a pituitary tumor usually come on much more slowly than this, but his tumor must have grown very quickly.  He was one of the rats from the Hoarders case, and was full grown when I adopted him in April 2011, so he was probably at least 28 months old.


On January 31, Larry and I left for a 10-day trip to Israel for a tour of the Holy Land. I had visited before in 2005 with my friend Barbara, but Larry hadn’t gone, so when our pastor put together a tour we decided to go. It was a great trip! Many people think it’s dangerous to travel to Israel, but as long as you go with a tour group, there is no danger. Tourism is the main source of income for the country, and no one wants to chase away tourists. The only rat we saw on the trip was in a mosaic floor, although we did see 2 nutria, South American rodents similar to muskrats, at the Jordan River. (They were imported for fur just as they were to the southern U.S.) While were gone, we got a text on Jan. 5 from the rat sitters that Basil had died peacefully in his sleep. Basil had just turned 3 years old, and was pretty frail, so it wasn’t a surprise. I had been treating him for congestive heart failure since the end of December, but his heart finally gave out. Basil had a long and eventful life. I adopted him on March 29, 2010 as a baby because he had a compound fracture of his tibia, which I was able to fix. Then, when he was 2 years old, he had a tumor on his spleen, and I was able to remove both successfully. Basil was never very cuddly, but he was with me a long time, and I miss him. My rat population is now down to 14.


Something I forgot to mention earlier is that in December I started treating Chief and Gabe for congestive heart failure, even though they are both relatively young. I’m not sure of Gabe’s birthdate, but he was probably at least 8 months old when I adopted him in March 2012. Chief was probably born May 1, 2011. So they are both around 22 months old. They may be brothers, and they are certainly at least cousins, as they both came from the same incestuous free-roaming, freely-breeding group of rats. They both started wheezing in October, and treatment with first amoxicillin, and then doxycycline, and later Baytril, never completely cleared up their symptoms, and they gradually developed labored breathing as well. On Dec. 22, Chief went into respiratory distress, which was relieved with injections of aminophylline and dexamethasone. Prednisone only helped for a while, so toward the end of Dec. I put them both on the heart medications, and that, along with doxycycline, seems to be keeping their symptoms under control.



December was another very busy month for me. I lost 2 more rats and adopted 2 new ones. At the end of November, Comet had a lot of what I thought was porphyrin discharge from his right eye, and eventually, in December I realized it was actually blood, not just porphyrin. I suspected there might be cancer near his eye that wasn’t yet detectible, and sure enough, on Dec. 14 a lump popped up under his right eye. It grew quickly, and I ended up euthanizing him on Dec. 21. During his autopsy, I also found that his incisors were worn unevenly, which I hadn’t noticed. I adopted Comet in Dec. 2010 (thus the reindeer name), as an adult, so he had to have been at least 2 ½ years old.  Then, on Christmas day night, I found Blitzen dead in his cage without any warning. The main finding on his autopsy was an enlarged heart, so no doubt he died peacefully of heart failure. I had adopted Blitzen at the same time as Comet, also as an adult, so he was also at least 2 ½.


My 2 new rats are baby hairless boys from a Craig’s list ad. Their secretly pregnant mothers were rescued from a bad situation by a family in Redding, CA, and the 2 together produced 20 babies. Since I love hairless rats, and Sambo is my last one, it wasn’t hard to decide to adopt them. The first one who chose me was a dark-skinned Dumbo boy, and second was a pink boy with dark eyes and standard ears. I adopted them on Dec. 15, and because the family was from Irish descent, I decide to name the Dumbo Finn, and the other boy Fergus. Finn is quite outgoing and I think he might be a good trick performer. Fergus is more shy, but both boys are active and playful. They are cousins, not brothers, as Finn was born Oct. 25, and Fergus the next day. I tried to introduce them to Sigy and Gibson, but Gibson was a bit aggressive, so I decided to neuter the 2 older boys. Then the introductions went well, so all 4 youngsters now live together.


On Friday, Jan. 11 my 4 new boys traveled with me to San Jose, CA, along with my good friend Barbara Henderson, for a pet expo the next day, and participated in my presentation. Although the 2 older boys weren’t too willing to do their tricks in front of the audience, Sygy did pull a little wooden train engine by a string, and Gibson did walk from one platform to another. Gibson also happily posed in several costumes. I was, of course, disappointed that they didn’t do any better, but they are still quite young (Sygy 5 months, and Gibson 4 months), and it was their first show. The building in which we did our presentation was very noisy, with lots of barking dogs, so it’s hard to expect them to perform as they do at home. We’ll keep practicing. The attendance at the show seemed low, and we didn’t sell very many things at the booth, but I was able to talk to several people about their rats, and to meet chinchilla and pigeon people, and we had a good time. A big thanks to Barbara for all her help! Also, a big thanks to RATS members Mary Karen and Tom Spindel of San Jose for their hospitality.



I’ve been real busy since my last entry and lot has happened. I have lost 5 rats and gotten 2 new ones. I had to euthanize Caramel on Sept. 22 when she didn’t want to eat. Her lungs were fine, but her heart was enlarged, which explained her labored breathing, and I don’t know if that or her cancer pushed her over the edge. She had a good long life and was 3 years 8 months old.


I held the RATS Autumn eBay Auction fundraiser the first week of October and that kept me busy for several weeks. Guinea pig costumes have been a big seller every since, especially the Santa and a new elf costume, so sending those out have taken up a fair amount of my time.


The last weekend in September I met with newlyweds Jessica and James from Long Beach, CA in Sacramento! They flew up with their rat who had a huge mammary tumor for a consultation, but unfortunately I decided she was not a good surgical risk because the tumor was ulcerated and the rat was very thin. Jessica, James, my friend Barbara and our friends Raleigh and Linda Adams all had lunch together, and learned that Jessica and James also had a blue rat from a breeder in southern CA who specialized in blue Dumbos. They offered to bring me a couple of babies from the breeder. I had been thinking about trying to get a couple of babies from a breeder for potential performers. Most of the rats I have trained to perform tricks have been rescues, and although it’s not too hard to get most rats to do tricks, getting them to do tricks in public, in front of a large group of people is, you’ll excuse the expression, quite a trick. So I was wondering if well-bred rats from a breeder might be better performers. The breeder’s rattery is called Misty Blue Rattery, and Jessica sent me the link for her website. Fortunately, she had a litter of babies that was just old enough to sell. Since Barbara lost her last rat recently, I decided to get two of the babies for her too, as Christmas and birthday presents. It took a while to decide which babies we wanted, but we finally each picked two, and I paid for them with Paypal. I picked a variegated misty blue rex Dumbo boy and a blue capped Dumbo, and Barbara picked two blue Berkshire Dumbo boys.


Jessica and James picked up the babies from Jeannine on October 26, and then finally flew up to Sacramento with the babies on November 10. The babies are beautiful. The capped boy has a white marking on his forehead that looks just like an electric guitar, so I have named him Gibson. I’ve named the rex boy Sygy (not Siggy; the g is pronounced like a j), which is short for syzygy, an astronomical term for when 3 heavenly bodies are aligned. Sygy is extremely smart!  The second time I showed him the basket and let him eat treats out of it, he figured out all on his own how to pull up the string to get the basket! Unfortunately, none of the 4 boys are cuddly at all and don’t like to be picked up and held, although they are playful. The breeder says she has never had any complaints about her rats not being cuddly, and blames it on the fact that they were older than usual when picked up, (she said she didn’t have time to handle them the last week she had them), and the stress of the plane flight, etc. Hmmm. I’m very disappointed that they are less cuddly than most pet shop rats, but since I mostly wanted my 2 boys for performers, I have high hopes for Sygy at least.


Bernie suddenly got very sick on Oct. 20 and I found he had a large mass in his abdomen, so I immediately euthanized him. He had a large tumor attached to his intestines, probably cancer. Bernie was an adult when I rescued him in April 2011, so he was probably at least 2 ½ years old. His death left Comet alone, so I moved Comet in with Willy, Grace and Blitzen. Comet is paraplegic, and so stayed on the floor of the cage, so the others mostly left him alone, although Blitzen did occasionally pick on him, and I had to come to his rescue. On Nov. 21, I noticed that Basil, who originally lived with Comet, was starting to lose some of the use of his legs, and the cage he was in with Wilson, Chief and Gabe is not suitable for a paraplegic rat, so I decided to move him and Comet into their own cage. So far they aren’t sleeping together, but at least Basil doesn’t pick on Comet.


On Oct. 3 I noticed that One, one of my hairless boys, had a mass in his abdomen. He had also had a tiny lump on his throat for a couple months that hadn’t done much. I started him on prednisone and the mass in his abdomen, as well as the lump on his throat, shrank significantly. However, I knew that he probably had cancer, and our remaining time together would probably be short. One himself also seemed to know we didn’t have much more time together, and he became more cuddly. The mass in his abdomen was noticeable again on Oct. 21, and on the 27th One was miserable, and I euthanized him. Not only did he have a tumor in his abdomen, but his liver also appeared to have small tumors in it. I sent biopsies to my brother, and it was metastatic adenocarcinoma, an aggressive cancer. You might remember that I had to euthanize One’s brother, Two, in June because of abdominal carcinoma. I was certainly grateful for the extra cuddle time One gave me at the end. He was 28 months old when he died and it was hard to let him go.


The next one to go was Pixie, who had mammary cancer. She also had grown 2 tumors on her chest that appeared to be benign mammary tumors which were starting to get in her way, so on Oct. 23 I decided to remove them. It turned out that one of them was probably cancerous, although I was able to remove it cleanly. It took her a couple of days to bounce back from the surgery, so I knew I would not be able to remove any more of her tumors. On Oct. 30 she was a little lethargic. The next morning I thought she was awake in her hammock and I picked her up to give her some baby formula. She bit me hard on the little finger and wouldn’t let go. When she finally stopped biting me she was disoriented, and it was obvious that she wasn’t herself. I immediately euthanized her. It was a sad way for her to go. When I rescued her in January 2012 she already had a large benign mammary tumor, so I figured she was probably at least 2 or 2 ½ years old at that time. That means she was probably almost 3 years old. She was a real sweetie and I miss her.


I have one more death to report. The night of Nov. 21, Three, the last of the 3 hairless brothers, spent his time on the couch with me on my lap, which wasn’t like him because he wasn’t very cuddly. So I wasn’t surprised when the next morning he was lethargic and cold. Despite treatment with heart medications and dexamethasone he got worse throughout the day, and died later that night. Since both of his brothers died from cancer, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had it too, but I didn’t see any obvious tumors, just a really bad looking liver. It still could have been some sort of cancer, but I decided not to take a biopsy. I still have one hairless boy left, Sambo, who is not related to One, Two and Three. I’m going to try to introduce him to Comet and Basil, and hopefully, Basil will like him and not pick on him. My rat population is now at 16.



I’ve lost 2 more rats since my last entry. I actually had to euthanize Prancer on August 29 when he suddenly went into respiratory distress. I was shocked to find on his autopsy that his lungs were almost solid abscesses. I haven’t seen lungs this bad for a long time, since I started treating my rats aggressively with doxycycline. Apparently, the doxy wasn’t enough to prevent the formation of the abscesses, and I wish I would have thought to also put him on Baytril. I resolved that next time I have a rat whose labored breathing doesn’t clear up with all the medications Prancer was on, I’ll be sure to add Baytril.


Well, Caramel was soon in that situation when her labored breathing returned, and wasn’t going away even though she was on amoxicillin, doxycycline, prednisone, aminophylline, enalapril and atenolol, so she has been on Baytril as well for a week. Unfortunately, her breathing isn’t much better, but if she has lung abscesses, certainly they would take time to shrink. Meanwhile, Caramel’s cancer has been slowly growing, but mostly under the skin, instead of the angry red lesion that had been growing on top of the skin before I started her on the prednisone. She has good days and bad days, but is still hanging in there, and gets to spend time on the couch each day getting special foods. Caramel turned 3 ½ years old on Sept. 11.


On Sept. 10, one of my big fat boys, Doc Holiday, was lethargic and didn’t want to eat so I immediately started him on amoxicillin. An exam didn’t show any obvious problems. He got a little better over the next two days, but not as much as I expected. When I did an exam on him on the 13th, his bladder was huge. There also didn’t seem to be much urine in his cage. I decided to anesthetize him and put a needle in his bladder to drain it to make him more comfortable until I figured out why he couldn’t pee, but when I pulled back on the syringe, it didn’t fill with urine, it filled with pus. I decided to do surgery to see if I had mistaken a large abscess for his bladder, but when I opened him up, I found it was his bladder, and it looked terrible. Not only was it full of pus, but the wall was thickened and very red. His bladder and some of his intestines were also stuck to each other and his abdominal wall with adhesions. I was pretty sure he had bladder cancer, so I euthanized him. I was in shock. Doc was only 15 months old, and it was sad to lose him so young. I took a biopsy of his bladder and will send it to my brother the pathologist to confirm my tentative diagnosis. These deaths puts my rat population at 19.


After Prancer died, his roommate Blitzen was alone. Blitzen is pretty non-socialized and didn’t like to come of his cage anymore, so I decided to put him in with 2 of my Hoarders rats, Willy and Grace. Because Willy and Grace are totally non-socialized, and never come out of their cage either, I just put Blitzen in their cage and told them to all get along. I hung Blitzen’s hammock in their cage so they wouldn’t have to sleep together. Thank God they have been getting along pretty well. They have been together for 2 weeks now, and over the last couple of days there have been a few fights, but nothing serious. Blitzen is probably about 2 ½ years old, and Willy and Grace at least 2 years old.


There has been one other change. Basil, who is just over 2 ½ years old, kept beating up on Bernie, even though I put him in solitary confinement every time he did, sometimes for 24 hours. Finally, when he attacked Bernie just minutes after I put him back in the cage, I’d had enough, and I took Basil and put him in the cage with Wilson, Chief and Gabe. (You can read the long story of when I put Gabe in that cage starting back in April.) I even told them, “If you want to attack Basil, it’s okay with me. He deserves some of his own medicine,” although of course I was hoping they would accept him without two much trouble. Amazingly, they have! Basil has now been in with them for about a week, and there have only been a few squabbles. This morning Basil was even sleeping in the hammock with Wilson, so all’s well that ends well. Bernie and Comet, who are probably also about 2 ½ years old, can now live together in peace.



I can’t believe almost 2 months have gone by since my last entry. Pixie’s mammary cancer did grow back, but it has continued to periodically open a hole, drain down to nothing, and then heal and slowly refill. The tumor is therefore staying quite small. The tumor under her arm has about doubled in size, but isn’t bothering her. She has also developed another dark tumor in her left groin, but so far it is still quite small, bout the size of a pea. Pixie continues to feel great.


Caramel’s tumor also grew back fairly quickly, so although pathology suggested it was benign, I’m thinking it is cancerous. A little over a month after I removed it, it was about one inch across again. However, when Caramel experienced some labored breathing, I put her on prednisone, and that has caused the tumor to shrink by about half! The prednisone also helped her breathing, although I also had to put her on the heart medications to bring her breathing back to normal. Caramel will be 3 ½ years old in a couple of weeks, and she is definitely showing her age, as her back legs are quite weak, but is comfortable and still eating well.


I lost another rat quite suddenly. Rooster was one of the Hoarders rats I adopted from North Star Rescue April 30, 2011, and I found him dead the morning of August 19. I had named him Rooster after the movie character Rooster Cogburn since his right eye was damaged and abnormally small. He was an adult when he arrived, so he had to have been at least 2 years old, and probably older. His back legs had become paralyzed, but other than that he was acting normally, so he probably died from a stroke or sudden heart failure. I couldn’t tell from his autopsy. That left his roommate Bernie alone, so I moved Basil and Comet in with him to keep him company. I thought Bernie was the one who would be the most aggressive toward the new boys, but it turned out Basil, who is still mobile on his back legs, was the problem. When he kept harassing Bernie, I gave Basil a couple of overnight timeouts in a spare cage, and that seems to have convinced him to stop the harassment. Both Bernie and Comet are paraplegic, so they are becoming friends and sleep in an igloo, while Basil sleeps in his hammock. Losing Rooster puts my rat population at 21.


I had to put Prancer on treatment for congestive heart failure when his breathing became labored, as well as prednisone and aminophylline, (he was already on doxy and amoxi) and he’s not doing as well as I’d like. I adopted Prancer and Blitzen on Dec. 14, 2010 (thus the names), when they were probably 8-12 months old, so they are probably close to 2 ½ years old. I don’t know how much longer I can keep him comfortable.



Great news about Pixie!  Four days after my last post, a hole opened up on her cancerous mammary tumor and it drained much like an abscess, but what came out wasn’t pus but blood and soft white tissue.  It did not smell bad like an infected abscess. It continued to drain for a little over a week and then started to dry up and heal. By July 27, the hole was pretty much healed up and the tumor was gone!  Now, I’m assuming the cancer is still there, but hopefully if it grows it will do so very slowly.  Pixie also has a tumor about the size of two large peas under her left arm that also looks like a cancerous mammary tumor, but it hasn’t grown any in the last month.


It also turned out that the tumor I removed from Caramel on April 20, that I thought was a fibroma, grew back. By June 26 it had gotten quite large, so I decided to remove it again. This time, I took a biopsy and sent it in for pathology. I assumed it was cancer, but turned out it isn’t.  It is a leiomyoma, a benign tumor of smooth muscle. Apparently, I just didn’t remove the entire tumor. Caramel is doing great, and felt much better the day after the tumor was removed than she had been feeling. So far, the incision is healing well and there is no sign of the tumor growing back yet, so hopefully I managed to remove the entire tumor this time.


Along with the good news, I have some very sad news to report. Two, my biggest hairless boy, died on June 23.  About a week before that I noticed that he felt cool, and because hairless rats usually feel quite warm, this was worrying. He also seemed to have some edema in his skin, so I thought he might have congestive heart failure and I started him on enalapril and atenolol. The medications helped, and for about a week he was more back to his normal self. But on June 22 he was very sick: lethargic, cool, didn’t want to eat, and had labored breathing. Doubling his dose of heart meds, and giving him aminophylline and dexamethasone helped, and for most of the day and into the night he was more comfortable and drank a lot of Ensure. However, at 8 am the next morning he was gasping, and I euthanized him. It turned out he did not have congestive heart failure. He had a tumor between his liver and stomach that had hemorrhaged, causing him to bleed out. Obviously the tumor had been bleeding for a week, causing his symptoms, but the tumor was soft and couldn’t be felt from the outside. Pathology showed it was a carcinoma, a type of cancer. Poor Two. He was only 2 years old and I miss him a lot. He was the only rat I have now who loved for me to blow raspberries on his tummy. My rat population is now at 22.



Things have been pretty calm here lately, with not much new, and everyone doing well. So far, a month after Pixie’s spay, her cancerous mammary tumor hasn’t shrunk like I’d hoped, but at least it hasn’t grown much either.  Here are some more notes on the progress of Gabe’s integration:


May 4, 7 pm: Gabe was in the right-hand pitcher with Chief!

May 5: Sid was harassing Gabe so much I took him out of the cage and put him in the holding cage alone. Put him back that night after playtime.

May 6: Took Sid out for the day again.

May 7: Took Sid out for the day again.

May 8: About 6 in the morning Gabe was screeching so I took Sid out again. I decide that Sid is never going to accept Gabe. After talking with Barbara I decide to try introducing Sid to the girls, so that night I put them on the couch together, and they mostly ignored each other. I put Sid back in the holding cage alone for the night.

May 9: I put Sid in the girls’ cage for part of the day, and mostly he stayed to himself either on the top shelf or in the pitcher. Once he fought with Caramel and I had to break it up and tell him to be nice.

May 10: Sid is doing so good with the girls that I leave them together overnight. He spends most of his time in the pitcher. Meanwhile, Chief is harassing Gabe, but not nearly as much as Sid was. Gabe spends a lot of the day sleeping in the hammock. While out on the couch, I saw Sid groom Caramel’s head.

May 11: When I give everyone their breakfast fruit, I’m glad to see Gabe comes out of the hammock.  However, it isn’t long before he fights with Chief and goes back into the pitcher.

May 13: This evening when I came back from a weekend in Sacramento, I find Tino attacking Wilson! After breaking up the fight and yelling at Tino, he goes right back to it. I decide to move Tino into the cage with Sid and the girls. Not only will this remove Tino from Wilson, but it will also give Sid some company his own age. He has been bugging Caramel trying to get her to play with him. Sid puffed up at Tino and there were a few brief scuffles, but it didn’t take long for him to settle down and accept Tino in his new cage.

May 15: Gabe is comfy in the hammock this morning when I give everyone their breakfast fruit.

May 19: This Saturday morning, I find both Gabe and Chief in the same pitcher!

May 20: Gabe and Chief are both in the same pitcher again this morning.  They seem to have worked out most of their issues, although later in the day there was a short fight.

Since then, Gabe and Chief get along most of the time with just a few quick fights now and then.



I’ve been so involved with Gabe’s unfolding story I’ve gotten behind on reporting some health problems in some of my other rats. On the morning of March 23, as I was getting ready to drive to Sacramento for the weekend, I noticed Cecil was acting strangely. He seemed disoriented and a little uncoordinated. Fearing he’d had a stroke, I took him with me on the trip, but by the time I arrived in Sacramento (about a 2-hour drive) Cecil seemed fine. Over the next few weeks, Cecil had several more of these strange episodes, none of which lasted longer than a few hours. After his second episode, I started him on heart medications to lower his blood pressure, in case the cause was mini-strokes. However, this actually seemed to increase the frequency of the episodes, so I stopped the heart medication after just 2 weeks. Cecil went several days without an observed episode, and he was happy and seemed to be doing well. Then I lost Cecil on April 20. He was fine in the morning, but at evening playtime I found him dead and stiff on the floor of the cage. The main finding during his autopsy was an abnormal looking heart. Brain strokes are not visible in rats with just a gross autopsy, but would require pathology of the brain, which I chose not to do. Cecil was one of the rats I adopted from Northstar Rescue from the huge group of rats they rescued from the hoarder in southern California, and I did not know his age, but he was full grown when I got him April 30, 2011, so he was probably at least 2 years old.


On March 16 I had noticed a tumor growing on Butler’s right flank next to his thigh. I adopted Butler on Feb. 25, 2010 when he appeared to be about 5 months old, so he was about 2 ½ years old. His back legs had gotten pretty paralyzed and he was getting pretty frail, so I wasn’t sure surgery would be the best thing for him. I decided to wait and watch the tumor for a while. Because of its location and how it felt, I suspected it might have been fibrosarcoma, a cancer that is most common on the hind leg. The tumor grew quite rapidly, which only supported my suspicion that it was cancerous, so I kept putting off surgery. Butler was still happy and the tumor didn’t seem to be causing him any discomfort. Between April 20-27 the tumor grew even faster, and practically doubled its size. Now it was slowing Butler down, and I was really worried about it. I finally decided I might as well try to remove it, because otherwise I would need to euthanize him soon anyway. Unfortunately, Butler did not survive the surgery. The tumor was fed by numerous blood vessels, and there was a lot of bleeding. What was even worse was that the tumor turned out to be benign, not cancerous. I was so mad at myself.  If only I had removed the tumor when it first appeared! Butler would have been more likely to survive the surgery at that point. This will always be one of these decisions that I regret.


As long as I was doing surgery on Butler, I also decided to remove a small tumor growing on Caramel’s flank. When I first noticed it on Jan. 1, 2012, of course I thought it might be a mammary tumor, which upset me, since I had spayed Caramel when she was only 2 months old (not that spaying prevents mammary tumors 100%.) However, my faith in spaying is undaunted, since her tumor turned out to be a fibroma, not a mammary tumor. Caramel turned 3 years old in March, but she is much more vigorous than Butler was, and therefore a better candidate for surgery. I also did surgery on Two, finally accepting that the 2 lumps under his arm which I had assumed were abscesses had to be tumors instead. I couldn’t figure out why it was taking these abscesses so long to open up and drain! Well, it’s because they were fibromas, not abscesses, even though the appearance of the skin over the tumors was very similar to that of abscesses as they go through the process of opening. Even after 27 years of experience, I’m still making mistakes.


Now, it looks like Pixie has a cancerous mammary tumor next to her vulva. I was considering putting her on tamoxifen, but because she recovered quickly from the surgery to remove her huge benign mammary tumor about 3 months ago, I’ve decided instead to spay her. This will be an interesting experiment to see the effect of spaying on a cancerous mammary tumor.


Okay, now back to some notes about Gabe. Sunday, April 22, when Gabe came out of the pitcher to get his vitamins, Sid got into the pitcher, and this time when Gabe jumped back into the pitcher he managed to get past Sid and Sid flew out with a screech. Then, on Tues evening, I saw Gabe jump out of the hammock and get back into the pitcher. I don’t know how long he had been in the hammock, probably not long. On Monday morning, May 1, Sid was hassling Gabe so much that I finally took him out of the cage and put him in a holding cage by himself. Later that day, I saw that Gabe had moved over to another of the pitchers in the cage and stayed there most of the day. The only problem was that there was no water available at that pitcher, so I don’t know whether he went without water most of the day, or made a trip to get water at some point. When I put Sid back in the cage after evening playtime, Gabe was back in his regular pitcher. On Tuesday morning I took Sid out of the cage again because once again he was being a pill to Gabe. There isn’t a much worse sound than a screeching rat! After work at 5:30 pm I saw that Gabe was sleeping in the hammock with Tino and Wilson! Yay! Chief was in Gabe’s usual pitcher. By playtime (8:30 pm) Gabe was back in his regular pitcher.



The night of Friday, 4/6, I saw Tino approach Gabe in the pitcher, standing on the stepping stick, and Gabe groomed Tino’s head!  Gabe started to come out of the pitcher to take treats from my fingers, and also to get his vitamins, which I give with a syringe. On Sunday night when Gabe left the pitcher to get his vitamins, Sid jumped up into the pitcher and wouldn’t let Gabe get back in! This situation lasted a while, maybe 5 minutes, with Gabe sitting on the stepping stick, until finally Sid let Gabe back into the pitcher. On Tuesday, 4/10, I twice saw Gabe leave the pitcher, run down to the food hopper, pull a block out and run back up into the pitcher. I was amazed at how quickly he pulled the blocks out of the hopper. Gabe is definitely a very smart boy. Since then, Sid still spends a little time in the pitcher, but most of the time he sleeps in the hammock now, leaving Sid alone in the pitcher. Chief still sometimes hassles Gabe in the pitcher. Other than that, I haven’t seen much happen. I hand a block to Gabe in the pitcher a few times a day, and he still comes out of the pitcher onto the shelf below to get his treats from me.



Happy World Rat Day!  I have adopted a new rat, a relative of Tino, Sid and Chief, and it’s a long story.  Dianne, the woman who allowed the parents of Tino, Sid and Chief to breed was evicted from her home, at least partially due to her increasing practice of letting her rats run loose and breed. My friend Barbara let her move in with her temporarily, but that didn’t work out well, and Barbara had to call the sheriff’s department to escort Dianne out of her apartment. While Dianne was packing up her things, she opened 2 rat cages and let the rats loose in Barbara’s apartment. Two of the rats were completely non-socialized, and it took weeks to catch one of them in a net. Because he was so wild, Barbara euthanized him. It took months to catch the other rat, and in the meantime, Barbara became attached to him, and asked me to take him. When Barbara finally caught him in a live trap (which he at first refused to enter), and put him in a cage, he seemed to be taming down and let Barbara pet him. One day, he even let Barbara pick him up and hold him, but that didn’t last long; he sprang out of her arms and was on the loose again. After several more weeks, Barbara finally managed to catch him again with a net. This time the rat was still in the cage when I visited the weekend of March 24, and I brought him home and named him Gabe.


Barbara thinks Gabe is Tino’s brother, which seems strange because Tino is so completely socialized, and Gabe is so unsocialized. I suppose Dianne might have handled Tino a lot from birth because of the cute white spot on his forehead, and not handled Gabe at all, which would explain the difference between them. The only reason I agreed to take Gabe is because I felt that Tino, Sid, Chief, and their non-related roommate Wilson, might accept him more readily than an unrelated rat. Because Gabe is feral, and cannot be outside of a cage, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do the usual introductions between them. I had to hope that my boys would accept Gabe without too much difficulty. The alternative would be that Gabe would have to live alone all his life, and I didn’t like that idea. Because Gabe was loose in Barbara’s house for a few months, I had lots of time to think this all through. My first step was to remove Cecil from the cage, because he was getting too frail to consider exposing him to the violent fighting that might take place when I first put Gabe in the cage. I decided to see if Caramel and Dixie would accept Cecil in their cage. Because Caramel is 3 years old, and her back legs are weak, I had moved their hammock to just a few inches off the ground, which would be perfect for Cecil. Cecil still liked sleeping in the boys’ hammock, but he was having trouble climbing up to it. Then I got the idea of moving Butler into the girls’ cage too, and making it a real geriatric apartment. Caramel and Dixie accepted the boys without too much trouble, and they are now all 4 living together. Cecil and Butler love their new digs, as you might imagine. I have been letting Cecil’s and Butler’s former roommates see them every few days so they know their friends are okay.


The next step was to neuter Gabe. I did this the day after I brought him home. To get him out of his cage, I first took the cage into the bathroom in case he escaped, and then I used a piece of cloth to block his head while I slowly and carefully grasped him around the neck so he couldn’t bite me. He tried to get away, but fortunately didn’t scratch me too much as I held him against my leg, although he did pee all down my pants. After his neuter, I waited a week for him to recover, and for the neutering to hopefully take full effect. Gabe never seemed to be an aggressive rat, just scared, but I still figured the neutering would be good. Next, I had to make some changes in the cage I would be putting Gabe in. I know I may never be able to take Gabe out of the cage to clean it, so I had to make the cage as easy to clean as possible. I took out a solid metal shelf that tended to get dirty quickly, and plan to replace it with a wire shelf. I also added a third hanging pitcher to the cage for another hiding place. I wanted to give Gabe some places to hide to avoid attack. Finally, on Sunday night I put Gabe in the cage when Tino, Sid and Wilson were out for play time. Chief almost never comes out of the cage, only for cleaning, and this night was no exception. So Gabe did have to deal with Chief, but I wanted Gabe to have some time in the cage to learn the layout and find the hiding places without the other boys there. I was a little concerned about how to get Gabe out of his smaller cage into the large cage, but it wasn’t a problem. Gabe seems to be very smart, and he just went right into the big cage. Chief sniffed Gabe for a minute and then launched into an attack, but Gabe defended himself vigorously, and Chief almost immediately broke off the attack and went and hid in one of the pitchers. Gabe found another pitcher that can be reached only from a stepping stick, a very defensible position, and made that his base. When I put the other 3 boys back in the cage, I was amazed to see that Wilson and Tino seemed to avoid Gabe. Sid, the goofy guy, immediately made a beeline to Gabe. I’m sure he was saying, “Hi there, you smell familiar, let’s be friends!” However, Gabe attacked Sid briefly and then returned to his pitcher. Sid was a little shaken up, but he kept trying to get as close to Gabe as possible. Fortunately, Gabe must have decided that Sid wasn’t a threat, and didn’t attack him again. Sid sat on the stepping stick in front of Gabe’s pitcher and stayed there until we went to bed. I put a water bottle where Gabe could reach it from the pitcher, and put a rat block in with him.


I didn’t hear any screaming during the night, and the cage was much the same when I got up the next morning. When I gave the rats their breakfast fruit, and Sid left his position in front of Gabe’s pitcher, I placed a piece of date in the pitcher, and Gabe took it and ate it. About midmorning, I noticed that Sid was now curled up in Gabe’s pitcher, sleeping!  They weren’t really sleeping together, Sid was in the front of the pitcher and Gabe was in the back. It was fascinating how Sid wanted to be so close to Gabe. Maybe they are brothers! It almost seemed like Sid was protecting Gabe from the other boys. They stayed like that most of the day. Tino, Sid and Wilson came out to play that night, and Chief avoided Gabe, while Gabe still stayed in his pitcher. I did not see Gabe leave the pitcher at anytime on Monday or Tuesday, although I was in the living room only briefly during the day, but I saw him eating a block I put in the pitcher for him, and drinking from his water bottle. Tuesday night was much the same as Monday. Wednesday morning Gabe took a slice of banana directly from my fingers. Midmorning on Wed I heard a commotion from the cage, and saw that Chief was badgering Gabe in the pitcher, but he quit when he saw me.


Addendum 4/6/12, Friday

Sid didn’t spend quite as much time sleeping in Gabe’s pitcher yesterday, and I saw Gabe actually get out of the pitcher briefly on a couple occasions. Once he chased Chief away. And in the evening he came most of the way out of the pitcher to take a piece of squash from me. At 6:30 last night, I noticed some activity at the pitcher, and saw that Sid was trying to get into the pitcher but was blocked by a black head?  Black head? Amazingly, Wilson was in the front of the pitcher keeping Sid from getting in! He apparently didn’t stay in the pitcher long. When Sid, Tino and Wilson were out of the cage for play time, Chief hassled Gabe in the pitcher some. At lunch time today Gabe came out of the pitcher to tussle with Chief on the shelf and they both ended up falling to the floor of the cage, unhurt. They both assumed the boxing stance briefly, and then Gabe scrambled up the side of the cage to get back into his pitcher. After that, Sid was again on guard curled up in the front of the pitcher, and when I saw Gabe peeking out over the top of him I managed to get a couple pictures. It does really seem that Sid is trying to protect Gabe, or at least keep him to himself!



My new girl Pixie is doing great and has gained weight up to 260 grams. Because her tumor was so large, and I could only remove so much skin, she developed a seroma, which is a pocket of fluid, at the surgical site, but her body reabsorbed the fluid within a week and her incision looks great. I was able to introduce Pixie to Caramel and they are getting along well.


Cecil, one of the boys I adopted from the southern California Hoarders case, is losing the use of his hind legs. I don’t know his age, but I guess he must be at least 2 years old. None of these rats were well socialized, and Cecil never wanted to be petted, but the last month he has changed his mind, and now lets me pick him up and enjoys being petted. It is so sweet! Cecil is a tiny boy, and because Sid has been picking on him lately, I’ve been moving Cecil to his own plush apartment when I can’t supervise them, and he seems to like that.


Butler, who is probably 2 ½, is also losing the use of his back legs, even though I give all my rats a B vitamin complex supplement. His roommates Basil and Comet are about 2 years old, and although up to now they have come out to play every night, several times this last week they decided they would rather just stay in their cage.


Two has been developing two small abscesses under his left arm since early in January and they are finally showing signs of being close to opening up. They don’t bother him a bit, and I haven’t been in any hurry to open them up. On March 12 I made a presentation at a charter school in the neighboring town of Paradise, and took One, Two and Tino to do tricks.  Unfortunately, One had an off day, and wouldn’t do much of anything. He did do his favorite trick, pulling open the drawer of a tiny chest, a trick that was so easy to teach them I just had to show them how the drawer pulled out once. Two did a few of his tricks, and Tino also did a few tricks, but Tino was too hyper to concentrate.  When I asked him to jump from one platform to another, a trick that is very easy for him, he wouldn’t do it, but instead jumped down to the table and then jumped up on the other platform.  We all laughed, but I wouldn’t give him a treat for cheating.



I have lost one rat and adopted another. On January 30 I got a call from a woman whose step-dad saw a rat peeking out from under a bush as he was driving in his trailer park. Heather and her boyfriend then walked down to look and found her hiding under the bushes, but she was very friendly and came out to them. She is a tiny black hooded rex Dumbo who had a huge mammary tumor under her right hind leg. They brought her to me the next day. She was very thin, so I worked to fatten her up before doing surgery. Her breathing was also somewhat labored, so I put her on antibiotics. She was so small I named her Pixie. She didn’t have a big appetite at first, but that improved a few days later when the antibiotics kicked in. By Feb. 11, I decided Pixie had gained enough weight to have surgery, and I was able to successfully remove the tumor, which weighed 80 grams. Pixie herself weighed only 227 grams (just over half a pound), so the tumor was 35% of her weight!  She is, of course, so much happier now without her “ball and chain”, and fortunately, it hasn’t taken long for the leg that was next to the tumor to regain its full use. Pixie is a very cuddly rat who loves to lie on my lap and be petted.  What a joy to be able to save her and now enjoy her company!


The day before I got the call about Pixie, I realized Cotton probably had a pituitary tumor. I’d been a little suspicious before because she was putting her teeth on the syringe when taking her meds, which she didn’t do before. This seems to be a very early sign of a pituitary tumor. I started Cotton on prednisone and amoxicillin, but her coordination continued to deteriorate rapidly. By Feb. 7 she was spending most of her time walking around aimlessly, and wouldn’t stay in her hammock. Most of the time she ended up stuck under the ladder in her cage, so I decided it was time to euthanize her. The autopsy showed she did have a large pituitary tumor. Cotton was one month short of 3 years old. Although she was spayed when she was 2 months old, spaying doesn’t prevent 100% of pituitary tumors, but it is likely that spaying her delayed the growth of the tumor. Cotton’s cousin, Caramel, is now alone, and I’ve been working to introduce her to Pixie. Although Caramel has been aggressive to other rats in the past, it was Cotton who was dominant, and Caramel has not been aggressive toward Pixie at all. In fact, it is Pixie who has been feisty toward Caramel. Pixie hasn’t actually attacked Caramel, but she has intimidated her. However, she is doing better now, and I think they will be able to live together soon.


Basil is still doing great, 2 months after I removed his spleen and lymphoma tumor!



On December 11 as I was putting Basil back in his cage after playtime, I saw a lump in his abdomen. It felt like it was in his lower abdomen, which made me fear he might have bladder cancer. The next day I did surgery and discovered the lump was actually a large white tumor attached to his spleen. Since the spleen is usually up just under the stomach, I guess gravity must have pulled it down farther the night before. Fortunately, you can live without a spleen, and I was able to remove both his spleen and the tumor attached to it with only a little trouble. It took him about a week to fully recover, but now he is completely back to normal! Yay!  This is the first time I was able to successfully remove an abdominal tumor from a rat. Usually abdominal tumors are cancerous and attached to an organ that can’t be removed. Pathology showed the tumor was probably lymphoma, but fortunately a slow growing type, so hopefully Basil, who is now 23 months old, will live for a while yet.


After I did Basil’s surgery, I removed a couple tumors from Alice. On November 14th Alice had poor coordination, and I was afraid that she had a pituitary tumor, but after getting worse, she was pretty much back to normal after a week, and I finally decided she must have had a bad reaction to the moxidectin I had dosed everyone with on Nov. 13 for fur mites. I haven’t been using moxidectin for very long, and this was the first time I’d seen a reaction to it.  Moxidectin, ivermectin and selamectin (Revolution), which are all related, work by paralyzing parasites. Normally, at the proper dose it does not cross the blood-brain barrier in mammals, but an overdose can cause poor coordination. Anyway, by Dec 12, Alice was back to normal, so I decided to remove her tumors, one on her right side and one in her left groin.  However, only the one in her groin was a benign mammary tumor, and I could tell that the one on her side was most likely cancerous, because of its higher blood supply and the difficulty in removing it.  Probably it would have been better not to remove it at all, in hindsight. The incision didn’t want to heal right, and a few days after the surgery started bleeding. Pathology found that the tumor was probably a myosarcoma, cancer of the muscle. The tumor grew back, but around where it had been in a donut shape, which I had never seen before. The incision site in the center continued to bleed more and more. Alice appeared happy and comfortable until January 8, 2012 when I euthanized her. I adopted Alice May 3, 2011 and her former owner thought she was 1 ½ to 2 years old. My rat population is now at 24.


Wilson’s group is getting along much better now and sleeping together, but Sid still bugs Wilson. Sid wants to groom Wilson, which makes Wilson squeak loudly, but since he doesn’t even move away I guess he can’t be complaining all that much.  I was finally able to get most everyone out for pictures, including Chief and Cecil, which you can see at Tino is getting pretty good at some tricks now. He can pull up the basket on a string, pull open a tiny drawer, jump, and climb in and out of a lidded picnic basket. It looks like he will be my next performing rat. Bat and Virgil, on the other hand, seem to be less interested in doing tricks. Oh, well.  One and Two are still performing their tricks well, and even had a few audiences recently when people visited.



As I mentioned in my last report, I planned to adopt a rat who is probably Chief’s brother during my visit to Barbara in Sacramento the weekend of Nov. 5. We don’t know for sure if they are brothers because they are from a hoarding situation where the rats were allowed to roam and breed freely in the house and give birth anywhere they pleased. It’s amazing any of them turned out well socialized. Well, I ended up adopting 3 rats, all of whom Barbara rescued from this hoarding situation, and so all are related. The other 2 rats were a brother and sister about 5 weeks old. Barbara said the boy was super friendly and special and had to be saved, and the girl appeared to have megacolon and would certainly not survive without treatment. That would put my rat population up to 26, but I agreed to take all 3. The girl did have a very bad case of megacolon and was not able to pass any feces on her own. After a week of treatment I had to euthanize her. Her brother did turn out to be a special boy, very sociable and responsive. He is also a very handsome mocha bareback, with a large white teardrop on his forehead. A few days after I got him when I had him out on the couch with me and I was reading the comics, he all of a sudden leaped into the newspaper page! I was very impressed with his fearlessness, and wanted to give him a fitting name, so I did some research online about the Flying Wallendas. Turns out the oldest living member of the family is named Tino, so I decided my new boy’s name is Tino Wallenda. The other boy, who might be Chief’s brother, is a gorgeous Burmese hooded!  He is also spastic. When he moves around, especially when he’s excited, he throws his head up and around in an uncontrolled manner. He is a friendly and sweet boy and I like him a lot, but other rats have a hard time with him at first because they don’t understand his behavior, and they think he is being aggressive when he just wants to play. One day a checker at Safeway was telling me about her dog, who was named Sid, and remembering that is the name of the sloth in the Ice Age movies, I decided it was a perfect name for my clumsy and socially inept new boy.


At first I got Tino and Sid out on the couch together, and they would play for a while, and then Tino would get upset at Sid and become defensive and I’d have to separated them. Gradually Tino learned that Sid didn’t mean any harm, and once they were getting along I started bringing out Wilson on the couch with them, and Cecil too, when he would agree to come out. Then I also started to get out Chief, which was easier said than done. The first time I reached into his hammock to pick him up, he bit me again, hard!  So after that I took his cage apart and took him out hammock and all, or coaxed him into a basket rather than trying to pick him up. After a couple of weeks of all of them interacting on the couch, I was finally able to put all 5 of them together in a new cage last night. So far, only Tino and Sid are sleeping together, but I’m sure it won’t be long until they’re all best buds.


Valentine got much worse on the 10th, soon after my last report, so I euthanized her. I was glad to see she did not have a pituitary tumor, adding more support for the evidence that spaying helps prevent mammary and pituitary tumors.  Her liver looked a little pale and swollen, so she probably had liver failure. She was 3 years old and had a good life.


Now, it looks like Alice might have a pituitary tumor. She was at least 1 ½ years old when I adopted her back in May, so I did not spay her. She started having some poor coordination on the 14th, and although I started her on prednisone and amoxicillin immediately, she continued to get worse for several days.  She got so bad that one day she was just sitting listlessly in her cage and was cold, so I moved her into a small cage on a heating pad. I also gave her lots of special soft foods because she was losing weight.  Then she started getting better and 2 days before Thanksgiving she was back to normal and I was able to put her back in the cage with Bernie and Rooster. However, I think she might be starting to have problems again. Time will tell.  I still have her on the prednisone because with pituitary tumors, once you stop the treatment, it doesn’t seem to work again.


I got the biopsy results back on Caramel’s tumor. It looked like a low-grade squamous cell carcinoma, but it wasn’t definitive because the sample I took didn’t include all the layers of the tumor. Next time I’ll know better. So far, though, it looks like I removed the entire tumor because it hasn’t grown back.


Willy and Grace are now sleeping together in the hammock. Yay!  With Valentine’s death, my rat population is now at 25, and I have no more single rats in my house!



I have some sad news to report. Woody died shortly after my last report. He started having symptoms of poor coordination, so I naturally suspected he had a pituitary tumor, and started him on prednisone and amoxicillin. He was actually much better the next day, which is strange because the symptoms of a pituitary tumor usually take a few days to improve after treatment. Just one more day later he got worse again, and just 7 days after his first symptoms he died in his sleep. It turned out he did not have a pituitary tumor, he had an abnormal looking liver and spleen, and became jaundiced. Because the liver is the organ that filters out toxins from the body, a poorly functioning liver can allow toxins to build up which can affect the brain and therefore the coordination. How sad that he had just a couple weeks with Wilson and Cecil. I guess that’s better than nothing, but I wish he’d had some more time to enjoy the comforts of rattie companionship.


Now it looks like Valentine probably has a pituitary tumor, even though I spayed her at the age of 4 ½ months. She has responded more typically to the treatment and is doing a pretty good for now, but she is still uncoordinated, not quite herself, and has some trouble eating. Her illness gave me the opportunity to move her into a smaller cage, and move the 4 young boys into the giant round cage where Valentine had lived all her life. I had felt bad moving her out as long as she was healthy, but of course the boys are enjoying the extra space. Valentine turned 3 years old on October 15.


I was successful in moving Willy in with Grace, and although they don’t sleep together, they are getting along fine. Also, 7 weeks after Chief’s neuter I noticed he was no longer puffing up when I was working around his cage, so I gave him the chance to come out of his cage on the couch. He has come out a couple of nights, and although he hasn’t wanted to be petted, at least he sniffed my fingers without any desire to bite me! I will actually be adopting one of his brothers this weekend, so next week I plan to start introducing the 2 of them to Wilson and Cecil. Wilson has been picking on Cecil recently, so I’m hoping that more rats in the cage will at least spread his bullying around.


On October 11 I surgically removed a strange ulcerated growth on the inside of Caramel’s right ankle that had been there for a couple of months. It came off cleanly and healed up with hardly a scar, so I’m pretty sure it was benign, but I sent a biopsy to my brother the pathologist to see what it was anyway. I should be getting the results back soon. Caramel and Cotton are 32 months old and are still doing well.


One has been wanting to come out and do tricks almost every day lately, and Two has also been willing to do tricks too, so that’s been fun. They quickly learned a new trick: to pull open the drawer of a tiny doll-sized dresser. They are still pinching me some on the couch, but not as much. Virgil hasn’t been wanting to come out to do tricks much lately, but today Wyatt and Bat both came out and Wyatt actually pulled the string to ring the bell! They also both know how to pull open the drawer. However, they all still seem to be a little too active and scattered to want to concentrate much on learning other tricks. They are still only about 4 ½ to 5 months old.



Not too long after my last post, I was able to put Woody in Wilson and Cecil’s cage, and they have been getting along quite well.  That means I only have 2 of the hoarder rats still living alone: Grace, the tiny girl whose female roommates died, and Willy.  I neutered Willy and spayed Grace on Sept. 11, so now it is time to try to introduce them. The problem is that Willy is still so shy it is very difficult to get him out of his cage. I also adopted another new boy, a mocha hooded rex who I named Chief, from Sacramento because he was highly aggressive and biting. I also neutered him on Sept. 11, but he is still quite aggressive, puffing up and threatening me through the cage bars. So I’ll likely have to wait the whole 8 weeks for the complete effect of his neuter before I can try to introduce him to anyone else.


Bernie, Rooster and Alice are all getting along better and sometimes even sleep together.  Virgil and Doc are still the most interested out of the group in doing tricks. Virgil is very bold and is the only one so far that seems to be willing to jump. Wyatt is still the shiest. I had given the hairless boys a break from doing tricks, and it took a little while to get them back interested in doing them, so I guess a big break wasn’t a good idea. They are now over a year old, and in the last couple of months One and Two have started doing something weird when they are out on the couch with me. Two started grabbing my elbow with his teeth and holding on hard enough to hurt. Yelling and squeaking did not discourage this behavior, and I just can’t figure out what he was trying to tell me. I would have to pry him off, and then I would try petting him, but he would avoid the petting and go right back to pinching my elbow. One also started doing something similar to the skin on my hand or arm. Now that the weather is getting cooler and I’ve been able to wear a sweatshirt, I think that will help.


Valentine will turn 3 years old on Oct. 15. She has been living alone for 3 ½ months now, and has been getting more cuddly. She was not handled much as a baby, and so never liked being held and petted much, but now she enjoys a little bit of cuddling most evenings. She is still doing quite well for her age. You’d never guess she is as old as she is.


The last couple weeks I’ve been very busy working on the new issue of the RATS newsletter, and preparing for the RATS Autumn Ebay Auction Fundraiser, which is online now for the next week. To find all the RATS items search on eBay for R.A.T.S.



I was successful in getting Bernie to live with Rooster and Alice, and they are doing pretty good. Alice is definitely the boss of the cage, and I think Rooster is dominant over Bernie too. Poor Bernie seems a little “hen-pecked” and is still very shy sometimes, but sometimes he is also fine about coming to get his treats. Neither he nor Rooster have any desire to come of their cage to play.


I’m also making very good progress with introducing Woody to Wilson and Cecil. Woody still won’t come out of his cage on his own, but he will now let me pick him up and take him out. (He let me know he was willing by sitting still and crouching slightly when I started to put my hand in the cage.) There was one fight on the couch between Wilson and Woody before I could stop it, but since then they have been behaving themselves pretty well, and they can be on the couch together now without any problems. Last night when I returned them to their cages, which are right next to each other, they even went into each others cages for a short time without the other showing any aggression. So I think it won’t be too much longer before I can move Woody in with Wilson and Cecil.  Cecil doesn’t like coming out of his cage at all, in fact the one time I picked him up he bit me hard, but I don’t think he will cause any problems. Their cages are actually not side by side, but perpendicular to each other, and when both cages are open, they can climb from one to the other. A few times I had Wilson out on the couch by himself and let Cecil and Woody interact with their cages open. Cecil does not show any aggression when Woody goes into his cage. I wonder what he was thinking the first time Woody visited him. Did he say, “Hi, come on in and visit, Wilson isn’t here right now,” or did he say, “Hey, you better be careful because when Wilson comes back he’ll kick your butt!” It’s the job of the dominant rat in a colony to protect the colony from strangers and the subordinate rats don’t always take an active role in this process.  Both Wilson and Woody will let me pet them a little when they are out on the couch, so it’s nice that they trust me more.


I decided to call my new boy Doc Holliday, and I’m enjoying the 4 young boys (see last entry). I have even started to teach them tricks. The first day out on the trick table they were pretty shy at first, but after about 5 minutes, they all started eating the Cocoa Krispies and Virgil and Doc were even standing up on their hind legs and going through a hoop to get a treat. It looks like they might be the best performers. Wyatt was the shyest one.


I had to euthanize Puck on August 17th, much sooner than I expected. I guess the tumor on his face was blocking his nasal cavity because he started gasping for air. I had Puck for a year and a half, and he was probably just under 2 years old.  He was one of the biggest rats I’ve had, and although he wasn’t cuddly, it is very sad to lose him.


I got the results back on the biopsy I took from Hope’s abdomen. She had malignant histiocytosis, which is a sarcoma cancer of the white blood cells. And more bad news about these girls from the hoarder’s case: I had to euthanize another one of them, Faith, yesterday. The middle of August I noticed her breathing was a little labored, so I started her on the heart medications. They helped a little bit, but she kept getting worse. A bronchodilator didn’t help her, and dexamethasone and prednisone helped temporarily, but she still kept getting worse. Turns out she had what looks like a tumor in the right atrium of her heart. That means her roommate Grace is now alone, and I’m not sure who would be best to introduce to her. Maybe Willy, but I haven’t neutered him yet.


I released the 5 roof rat babies on the 30th. They were almost 8 weeks old and had really been trying to get out of their cage, so I’m sure they appreciate their new freedom. As I was setting their nestbox down on the ground, one of them jumped out of the box and took off, but the other 4 stayed in the box. I like for them to take their time to learn about their new habitat, but I’m sure the one who ran didn’t go far, and he’ll most likely join the others.



My first attempt to introduce some of the new rescues was only partially successful. I was able to get Rooster and Alice to live together, and Wilson and Cecil to live together, but Bernie and Woody were too aggressive. Since then I’ve been working on introducing Bernie to Rooster and Alice more slowly on the couch, which is going pretty well. I think it might be just another week or so before Bernie can move in with them. It has been harder to work with Woody, because it is very difficult to get him out of his cage. I’ll have to be more clever and more persistent, I guess.


I actually lost 2 of my new rescues. The morning of July 4 before I left to visit my friend Barbara in Sacramento I did emergency surgery on Hope, the girl with 2 anuses, because she was bloated. It turned out all the lymph nodes in her abdomen were hugely enlarged, suggesting lymphoma. I didn’t let her wake up. Corbin had developed symptoms of a pituitary tumor that came on pretty suddenly and I ended up euthanizing him on the 7th. When I told Cynthia at North Star about the 2 deaths, I said I could probably take 2 more boys, thinking that it would be a little while before we could arrange to get them here. The next day, Cynthia called back and said someone from the Oroville area was picking up some rescue rats and was willing to bring 2 boys to me the next day!  I only ended up keeping one of them, because the family that brought them had fallen in love with one of them and wanted to keep him.  That was fine with me. My new boy from North Star was already named Willy, and he is a black Berkshire. He is very shy and wary, so I haven’t been able to do much with him yet, but he is starting to come to the door of the cage to get treats.


The reason I didn’t need to keep both new rescues is because I had already agreed to adopt 2 baby boys from a Chico family with an accidental litter. The parents are divorced and when the dad bought 2 baby rats to feed to his snake, his young daughters protested and wanted to keep them as pets, so they went to live at the mom’s house. However, no one noticed one rat was a boy and one a girl, so 7 weeks later they needed homes for 12 babies. One of the 2 boys I adopted is an agouti Berkshire, whom they called Bat because he liked to climb upside-down. I liked that name and decided his full name was Bat Masterson, so I named his brother, who is a black self (all black), Wyatt Earp. At first Wyatt was very licky and attentive, and Bat was very exploratory, but now that I’ve had them a month, their behavior has reversed. Now Bat is licky and more cuddly, and Wyatt just wants to run around.


I also adopted 2 more new baby boys from my friend Barbara. I picked them up when I visited her in Sacramento August 6-7. They are from a litter born to a rat who was pregnant when Barbara adopted her. One is a black bareback, whom I’ve named Virgil Earp. The other is a black hooded with just a few little spots on his back, and I’m not quite sure if his name will be Morgan Earp or Doc Holliday. He is more shy so it will be a little while before I figure out which name fits him better. Meanwhile, Virgil is a very licky, friendly in-your-face rat! He wants to get into my mouth, which I don’t allow, so I can see he will drive me crazy, but I think he will be a lot of fun. It was no problem to put the 4 baby boys together since Bat and Wyatt are only 9 weeks old, and Virgil and Doc/Morgan are 7 ½ weeks old. The 2 younger boys love their new exercise wheel!


On July 15 I took in 6 orphaned wild roof rat babies who were 9 days old. As usual, it took a few days for them to start eating really well. One of the little girls developed pneumonia and I put her on amoxicillin. Things seemed to be going well, and then one of the little boys suddenly died without any warning. I don’t usually lose any of the roof babies I raise, so that was upsetting. The remaining 5 babies are doing well and are now 5 weeks old. I will release them when they are 8 weeks old.


One more bad thing has happened. On July 31 poor Puck had a huge swelling on the right side of his nose. I figured it was an abscess from a scratch, since there is frequent fighting in the cage. I put him on amoxicillin and gave him a shot of dexamethasone for the swelling. The lump was smaller the next day, and the abscess opened up on August 3. Unfortunately, the abscess is not healing up as it would if were just a simple abscess, so I suspect there is cancer in that location. I have started Puck on prednisone to see if that can make him more comfortable, but he might not be with me more than another month or so.



My 9 new rats from North Star Rescue are all becoming more trusting. At first, most of the boys wouldn’t even come to the door of their cage to get treats. They will all do so now, although they are still very suspicious and jumpy. I finally named them.  The boy with only one eye is Rooster, (after the True Grit character Rooster Cogburn) and he is a black hooded. Wilson, a black bareback, is the youngest boy, and is sometimes willing to come out of his cage into the basket to explore the couch. Cecil is the prettiest boy, mostly white with black markings on his head and back. Corbin is almost completely black, with just a tiny wisp of white on his chest. Bernie is a black Berkshire, as is Woody, but Woody has more white coming up his sides. This next weekend it will finally be a full 8 weeks since they were all neutered, so I will begin introductions next week. Hopefully I will be able to get at least some of them to live together. I now have more cages in my living room than ever before: six large occupied cages, seven smaller single cages, and two large empty cages hopefully waiting for multiple occupants.


The girls weren’t quite as mistrustful as the boys, but they still don’t like being petted or picked up. They are now Hope, who is mostly white with black markings on her head and back, Faith, a black Berkshire with quite a bit of white on her sides, and Grace, a black Berkshire. Grace is a tiny girl, and only weighs half a pound. Both she and Faith are missing their right hind foot. Hope was very aggressive, so I spayed her on June 4. While she was anesthetized, I was able to have a good look at her 2 anuses, and discovered that she was probably not born that way.  There is an abnormal opening before the actual anus that does not have a sphincter. Most likely, this false anus was torn open during a fight, and fortunately healed in such a way to allow passage of feces, rather than blocking the rectum. Grace, and Alice, whom I spayed May 6, are both much less aggressive now. In fact, Alice has gotten pretty cuddly, loves to be petted, and gives kisses; this from a rat who used to huff and try to attack people standing next to her cage.


On June 10, Mo’Blu, who was 2 ½ years old, suddenly went into respiratory distress. An injection of aminophylline quickly brought him out of the attack, and I also gave him a shot of dexamethasone, and started him on amoxicillin. He had been on doxycycline preventatively since October 2010 and hadn’t had any other respiratory symptoms. He had another gasping attack on June 12, with the same response to aminophylline, so I continued him on an oral bronchodilator. This time I was shocked to realize that his incisors were worn unevenly and needed to be trimmed. Mo had not been well socialized as a baby, and hated to be held, and hadn’t lost any weight, so I hadn’t noticed before. Two days later he started wheezing, so I also put him on Baytril. The next day he started gasping again, and this time the injection of aminophylline didn’t bring him out of it. I decided to put him in oxygen, to buy some time to see if heart medications would help. He was in the oxygen chamber for 2 days, and after 3 doses of the heart medications, he still gasped without the oxygen, so I decided to euthanize him. During his autopsy, when I could finally examine him closely without him fighting to get loose, I could feel that the muscles on the right side of his face were atrophied compared to the muscles on the left. This must have been what caused his teeth to wear unevenly, but I don’t know what caused the muscle atrophy. He did have abnormalities of his heart and lungs, and although they didn’t look that bad, the external appearance of the organs cannot tell you exactly what is happening inside.


Mo’Blu’s roommate, Valentine, is now alone, but she has always been a very aggressive rat, and was still frequently “beating up” Mo’Blu. She doesn’t seem upset to have the whole giant cage to herself now. With Mo’Blu’s death, my rat population is now at 23.



On Friday May 6 I neutered 3 of my new boys, and the next day I neutered the last 2 and spayed Alice, one of the new local adoptees who was very aggressive. One of the boys I neutered only had 1 testicle, the other having been removed by a traumatic injury inflicted during fights before the rats were rescued from the hoarder’s house.  He had let the rats roam and breed freely inside the house, resulting in over 3,000 rats!  North Star has found homes for about 1000 rats so far, and still have about 600 rats who need homes!


Meanwhile, I was very worried about Bella, Alice’s roommate, because her respiratory symptoms had worsened again. Her breathing was increasingly rapid and labored, and her toenails were starting to darken. I had already put her on doxycycline and amoxicillin, and now I added, one at a time, prednisone for inflammation in the lungs, a bronchodilator, to enlarge the breathing passages, enalapril and atenolol, to aid her heart, and a diuretic to flush excess fluid from the lungs. Each medication seemed to help a little, and her toenails weren’t so dark, but for every step forward, she seemed to take 2 steps back. Breathing was becoming more and more difficult for her. Finally, on Thursday May 12, I gave up and euthanized her. Bella was with me for only 9 days, and I was sorry to lose her. She was a very sweet girl.



The Wonderful World of Rats event in San Mateo, CA was April 3, this year, and as usual I drove down together with RATS board member Lee Standlee and we ran booths for both RATS and the Rat Fan Club.  The attendance was not as high as in years past, but it was pretty good and we had a very good time.  If I remember right, Rattie Ratz adopted out 13 rats to new homes.


The Rat-stravaganza on April 30 at the Sacramento SPCA went quite well.  We didn’t have a tremendous attendance either, but it was decent.  The most important thing is that 22 rats got new homes!  We had invited North Star Rescue to come do adoptions and they brought rats from the huge hoarder rescue in southern California that was featured on the TV show Hoarders.  North Star adopted out 18 rats, and my friend Barbara adopted out 4 rats from an accidental litter that she fostered.  In addition to the 18 rats North Start adopted out at the event, I also took home 9 of the Hoarders rats, 6 boys and 3 girls.  I told them I would take their least adoptable rats, and they gave me 5 very aggressive boys (some of them cryptorchid), one boy missing an eye, and 3 girls, 2 of which are missing a hind foot, and the other girl actually has 2 anuses, and she apparently poops out of both of them.  In addition, I adopted 2 other females from a local rat owner, which you can read more about on the page about my rats (see the link above.) Over the next few days I will be neutering and spaying the new rats.


The week before the Rat-stravaganza, I had to euthanize Buddy and Hoppy.  Buddy was getting close to 3 ½ years old, and his skin problems had been getting worse, so I decided it was time. Hoppy developed severe symptoms of congestive heart failure, including blue toenails, and medications were only able to help for a little while.  She was just over 2 years old.  Even though she was about half the size of a normal rat, her heart was the same size as a normal rat, and showed signs of being enlarged. Her heart filled about 70% of her chest, which didn’t give her lungs much room.  Normally, the heart takes up only about 30% of a rat’s chest.  It seems that her dwarfism was probably responsible for her death.  I will sure miss her funny little self.  You can see a photo of Hoppy as an angel that I took a few weeks before her death on my memorial page here. That left me with 14 rats, and with the 11 new rats I’ve adopted, I now have 25.



So, obviously it’s been 3 months since I’ve written. Part of the time I was out of town, and after that I was pretty sick for several weeks. So let’s see if I can remember everything that’s happened since my last entry. I’ve lost some rats, and adopted new ones, and currently have 16. On Dec. 7, it took Munchkin forever to lick his medications out of his dish, and when I examined him I found that his tongue was terribly swollen. I couldn’t find any reason for the swollen tongue, but I immediately gave him an injection of dexamethasone. His tongue was less swollen the next morning so it was easier for him to eat, but he could only eat liquids. I gave him another dose of dex the next night, but there wasn’t much more improvement. When his tongue was still swollen on the 10th I decided to start him on enalapril, in case it was being caused by congestive heart failure, but it didn’t help, so I stopped it 3 days later. It became more and more difficult for Munchkin to eat even liquids.  Finally, when I examined him on Dec. 21 I found a lump underneath his jaw. I attempted surgery the next day, just in case it was an abscess instead of a tumor, but it was definitely a tumor, so I didn’t let him wake up. It was very hard to say good-bye to Munchkin, who was one of my favorites. He had such an irrepressible personality, he was always a joy to be around and I missed him terribly. I don’t know for sure how old he was, as he was an adult when I adopted him, but he was probably about 2 years old.


With Munchkin’s death, that left Puck alone in their cage, so I started introducing him to Basil and Butler. The introductions when pretty quickly, so I was soon able to move Puck in with them. I thought Puck would be aggressive, but he wasn’t at all. It is funny because Puck is a big boy, almost twice as big as Basil, but Puck is happy to let Basil be the dominant rat in the cage.


On Dec. 14 I adopted 3 new boys from a student who was going to try to run a rat rescue, but who discovered it was bit more than she expected. One of the boys, an adult albino, was alone, and the other 2 boys, both black hooded, were together. The last 4 inches of the albino’s tail had been degloved (stripped of its skin) fairly recently, and it was in the middle stage of healing where the end of his tail was black and dried up. I wanted to take a picture of it, but he was so scared when he arrived I decided to wait until he was feeling more secure. It took him a few weeks to feel comfortable with me, and most of the dead part of his tail fell off before I got around to taking pictures. I have been able to take some pictures showing the later stages of the healing process.  See the First Aid page here.


The black hooded boys, probably brothers, both had severe cases of mange mites on their ears, and one even had a large lesion on his nose. I had never seen anything like this before. I’m pretty sure that these boys had been purchased at a local pet shop which had sold several rats with mange mites between March and June of 2010, so they probably had the mites for 6-9 months.  To see pictures of their mange lesions, see the page on Skin Problems here. Fortunately, treatment with moxidectin quickly cleared up their lesions, and now the only sign that they had the mites is that the edges of their ears are a little jagged.


Through my friend the animal communicator, I named the albino Comet, and the hooded brothers Prancer and Blitzen. Blitzen was quite aggressive with Prancer so I neutered him. Comet was also aggressive, so I neutered him. After 8 weeks I started trying to introduce the 3 of them, but it didn’t go so well. Prancer wasn’t the least bit aggressive, but he kept jumping on Comet trying to hump him!  It was strange, because he never did that to Blitzen. As you might imagine, Comet didn’t like this much, and I’m sure he thought Prancer was trying to attack him. Rather than neuter Prancer, I decided to see if I could instead introduce Comet to Basil’s group. That went much better, and I was able to move Comet in with them yesterday, although he hasn’t completely adjusted yet.


On Jan. 22, 2011, Schnozzle started wheezing.  He was already on doxycycline and amoxicillin, so I tried putting him on the heart medications. He only got a little better, so 3 days later, I also started him on prednisone. Although there was a little more improvement, 10 days later I also started him on a bronchodilator, which helped him a little more. By Feb. 20, because he was still wheezing I also put him on Lasix (a diuretic) but that made him worse, so I immediately stopped it. The morning of Feb. 21 he started gasping. An additional dose of bronchodilator by injection didn’t help, so I decided to euthanize him. His autopsy showed he had emphysema and congestive heart failure, and it was probably the emphysema which was the main cause of his death. Although he had been on doxycycline continuously for 1 ½ years, it was apparently not enough to prevent him from getting the emphysema. Schnozzle was only 2 weeks short of making it to 3 years of age.  He was a great trick performer at home (not so good in public) and I soon plan to upload a video of him playing the piano.


On Jan. 18, 2011, I noticed that Sparky had developed a lump the size of a small grape under his left ear. I knew the most likely cause of a lump in this location was cancer, and I started preparing myself to lose him soon. It only took a month for the cancer to grow to the size of a walnut in the shell. Sparky continued to act normally for a couple of weeks, and then he gradually had more problems eating hard food.  For the last week or so he could only eat soft food. Finally, I knew it was time to let him go on Feb. 24. Sparky lived alone because he was too aggressive to accept other rats, despite the fact that he was neutered. I rescued Sparky when he was left behind in an apartment when his owner moved. He was not well socialized and didn’t like to be out of his cage very long. Every night he would allow me to take him out of his cage to spend about 15 minutes with me on the couch. He was a very playful boy and would wrestle with my hand and allow me to pet him, but he didn’t want to be held. When he was ready to go back to his cage, he would nip me on the arm to let me know. It took me a while to figure out this signal, and until I did he would just nip me harder and harder. On his last night, I knew he was telling me it was time for him to say good-bye because he stayed on the couch with me for 1 ½ hours, laying on my lap most of the time. It was so sweet and so heartbreaking to say good-bye to him. I’m so glad I was able to give him a good life for 19 months.



Over the last month I adopted 2 new rats and lost 3 rats. I don’t know why I didn’t mention last time that Jimmy had grown a tumor under his left ear. Maybe I was in denial. I first noticed it on October 20, and it grew rapidly. I knew that he was not likely to be with me much longer. On November 10 I got a call from Carrie, a local rat owner who is going through a nasty divorce. Her husband is fighting for custody of their kids, and got Child Protective Services involved, who demanded that Carrie reduce the number of her rat cages from 3 down to 2.  Carrie works for a local couple who breed both reptiles and rats, and of course most of the rats go for reptile food, so Carrie adopts the special ones. She had 16 rats, and she asked if I could help her to find a home for her 2 most recent adoptions, an 8-week-old pink hairless boy with pink eyes, and a young agouti tailless female. I told her I would adopt them, which pleased her of course. I figured I could introduce the boy to my other 3 hairless boys, and I thought my next youngest rats, Basil and Butler, who are neutered, would likely accept the girl. My friend Marg, who is an animal communicator, talked to each of them, to find out what names they would like.  The girl picked Leibchen, which is sweetheart in German. The boy picked the name Sambo. Marg explained to him that Sambo was not a politically correct name, but he didn’t care, that’s what he really wanted.  I thought it was hilarious!  I decided his full name is Little Pink Sambo, but I usually call him Sammy for short.  It took a little bit to persuade the hairless boys to accept Sambo. It helped that I took them all with me to visit my friend Barbara in Sacramento, as they were more willing to accept him on new territory. By the time we returned home he was living with them, and they continued to accept him once we got home.  It didn’t take very long for Basil and Butler to accept Leibchen. What 2 boys wouldn’t invite a beautiful young girl to live with them!


I decided to euthanize Jimmy on Nov. 18. He seemed uncomfortable and wasn’t eating very well any more. It was such as sad decision. He was one of my more cuddly rats, and had been one of my performing rats. Not quite 2 years ago he and his brother had traveled with me to Maryland for the World of Pets Expo.  He was 33 months old.


Then, the morning of Saturday, Nov. 20, Leibchen was terribly sick.  It looked like typical secondary bacterial symptoms: lethargic, puffy fur, reduced appetite, wheezing, so I immediately started her on a hefty dose of amoxicillin. She was doing much better by that evening, but the next morning she was worse again, and continued to get worse all Sunday, so I started her on Baytril also. All Monday I kept trying to get her to eat Ensure or baby formula, and she really didn’t want to eat anything, and I had her on a heating pad. She died Monday night about 9 pm. At first, I felt so guilty, thinking I should have done more for her. But when I did her autopsy, I found that her liver was very abnormal. So I think she had more going on than just a secondary respiratory infection. I plan to send a biopsy of her liver in for pathology.


Right about the time Leibchen got so sick, and over the next week, many of my rats started wheezing. Some of them have responded well to amoxicillin, some of them have needed treatment with doxycycline instead, and Two has needed treatment with both doxy and Baytril. They are all currently symptom-free, but still under treatment.


Finally, on the morning of Nov. 30, Marshall licked his doxycycline and supplements from the syringes very very slowly.  I thought maybe he had had a slight stroke. The next day he probably had a more severe stroke, resulting in severe neurological impairment, and he continued to get worse all day. He died about 3 am the next morning. Marshall was probably right around 3 years old, as I thought he was maybe 4 months old when I rescued him May 9, 2008. He had been living under someone’s house, and had to be caught with a live trap. He came to trust me pretty well, although he never liked to be petted or picked up, and I was glad to give him a good home. His roommate Buddy, whom I adopted about 2 weeks before Marshall, is about the same age, and is hanging in there. He’s probably glad he doesn’t have to share food with fat Marshall any more.



There hasn’t been much new happening the last month.  I haven’t been trying to introduce the hairless boys to anyone lately, I’ve just been working on teaching them tricks. Things are going well!  One loves doing the athletic tricks, such as jumping and the tightrope.  I think I will even be able to teach him to balance on and roll a barrel!  I’ve never had a rat willing to learn that before.  Two is good on the other tricks, and quickly learned to pull a string to ring a bell.  I don’t think Three will be a performer because even though he seems really smart, he doesn’t have too much interest in coming out to do the tricks.  I have been invited to attend the World of Pets Expo in Maryland again Jan. 28-30, so my goal is to get One and Two ready for that.


Buddy’s skin problem continues to slowly get better with ongoing treatment with prednisone.  He had developed a really nasty sore on his tail, and that is almost completely healed.  Yay!



It has been a very busy but very good month here!  Fortunately, I was able to release the 5 wild Norway rats just before we left on vacation, as all their symptoms had been gone for more than 2 weeks. Our vacation started Sept. 2. We first drove to northern Idaho to attend the 60th Anniversary celebration for Larry’s parents!  After 3 fun days of family, we drove to Glacier National Park.  On the way we drove through the National Bison Range where we saw not only bison, but also pronghorn antelopes, an elk, and a few deer.  We spent 3 nights in Glacier and had a thoroughly good time, except for the last night when it rained and some things in the tent got very wet.  The scenery in Glacier is of course spectacular, especially the waterfalls!  We hiked to several of the most beautiful and unusual waterfalls we’ve ever seen. Some of the animals there also have very little fear of humans.  We had close up views of Richardson’s ground squirrels, a golden mantle ground squirrel, a ptarmigan, and a black-tailed deer, and a quite close view of a mother mountain goat and her kid. We also got to have a delightful dinner with a new rat friend that I met online, Kiki, and her 4-year-old daughter, Holiday, who live in Kalispell!  What are the chances that we met online just before our trip to Montana?  I think God planned it! We drove back home on Sept. 10.  A big thank you to Jayme Erickson and her husband David who took great care of my rats while we were gone!


After trying all the other treatments I could think of for Buddy’s skin problems, without much improvement, I finally tried him on prednisone, which has been working.  All the scabs on his tail cleared up quickly, except for a very deep wound, which is healing more slowly. The smaller bare patches on his body have mostly grown in, and the largest bare patch is slowly getting better.  I guess he is either allergic to something, or developed some sort of dermatitis or immune system problem.  Anyway, he has gained back most of the weight he lost and is definitely doing and feeling much better.


The hairless babies are now 15 weeks old, and are getting big.  I neutered them on Sept. 28, so it is too soon to see a change in their macho behavior yet.  I haven’t been working much on introductions lately, but now that they’re neutered I will start again next week.  The babies’ personalities are now more clear.  Number One is the lovebug, a kisser who always wants to lick my lips.  He is the most cuddly.  Two will also lick my lips, but not as enthusiastically.  He is a little less cuddly than One, but he loves raspberries on his tummy!  I call them belly buzzes.  Two loves them but neither One nor Three likes them at all.  Three is shy, and a more of a loner.  He rarely comes to me to be petted.  They have been making some progress on learning tricks. Two and Three both know how to pull up the basket on a string, and One is partway there.  Three learned it all on his own!  One day he just started pulling up the string, although I hadn’t tried to teach it to him yet.  I think he is a genius!  But because he is shy, he’s slower to come forward to learn. So far it looks like Two is the most motivated to learn tricks. They are all still very playful and rambunctious!


Munchkin is still doing well on his treatment of Baytril and amoxicillin.  In fact, although several of my rats are on medications, for all but Buddy it is just routine maintenance, and this last month has been the first time in a long time that I haven’t had any seriously ill rats in my colony.  All 17 of my rats are doing well, and it’s so nice!



I guess it’s long past time to make another entry.  It has been very busy here. The morning of July 3 I noticed Aurora had developed a lump on her throat, but by evening it was about half the size, so I figured it was more likely to be an abscess or a cyst than a tumor. After September died, I started introducing Aurora to Lilly on the couch, and soon they started getting along.  Lilly really enjoyed having another rat to cuddle up to, and she became less cuddly with me. Lilly’s breathing continued to get worse, though, and on July 22 when she had an attack of respiratory distress, I knew it was time to euthanize her.  I actually decided to euthanize Aurora the same day, because her labored breathing had also gotten increasingly worse.  Their autopsies showed they both had emphysema and congestive heart failure. I took a sample of Aurora’s huge spleen to send to my brother the pathologist at some point. The lump on her throat was some sort of fluid-filled cyst.  When I adopted Aurora in Nov I figured she was over 18 months of age, since she no longer came in heat, so she was at least 27 months old, and probably closer to 2 ½ years.


Buddy started getting bare patches on his side, along with the scabs and sores on his tail, and they have mostly kept getting worse despite trying a number of different treatments: amoxicillin, moxidectin, 2 different brands of anti-fungal cream, and the homeopathic remedy sulfur.  So far the thing that seems to have helped the most is oral grapefruit seed extract, which is good for fungus and other infections. He’s still on that, and right now I’m trying the homeopathic remedy mercurius.


On July 9 I took in 3 wild Norway rat babies from a rat person in Sacramento.  It was good timing since I was going down to visit Barbara in Sacramento anyway. They were 10 days old and their eyes opened on July 13.  All went well with raising them and my friend Marg and I released them by the Sacramento River on August 10.  I also successfully released the male and female deer mice on July 28.  Then, on July 21 I took in 7 wild Norway babies, also 10 days old, from someone else in Sacramento.  This time I met them halfway, in Marysville, about a 1 hour drive one-way.  They seemed to do fine until the morning of July 24 when one of the small boys died unexpected. Another died 2 mornings later, and then I realized that the two smallest remaining babies had symptoms of pneumonia. They were also bloated and weren’t digesting their formula well. Marg thinks they got a bacterial infection called Bordetella, which she has had problems with in baby squirrels. I started them on amoxicillin and the homeopathic remedy phosphorus, and was able to pull them through. They are doing well now, although the 2 smallest ones still have some sneezing and wheezing symptoms even yet. They are now 6 weeks old, when I usually release them, but they still need amoxicillin.  They are too wild to hand dose now, and normally would be weaned, but I’m still giving them formula with the amoxicillin in it. We are leaving September 2 on vacation, and I hope I will be able to release them before we leave.


At the end of July Munchkin’s wheezing came back, even though he was on amoxicillin, so I switched him to doxy.  That only worked for a while, so then I switched him to Baytril and amoxicillin.  After 2 weeks I stopped the amoxicillin, but he got very lethargic so I had to put him back on the amoxi August 20.  I guess he will need to be on amoxi and Baytril the rest of his life. I figure he is about 15 months old.


On July 19, RATS board member Lee Standlee emailed me a Craig’s List posting from someone who bought a hairless rat at a pet shop who turned out to be pregnant and had eleven babies. The mother rat then died when the babies were twelve days old, so they were partially hand-raised. I figured they would be especially well socialized, and might make good performing rats, and since I need new performers, I contacted her and told her I was interested in adopting two of them. She was about a 1½-hour drive north, but it just so happened Larry had been asked to drive to Yreka, three hours north, for a church meeting, so we could pick the rats up on the way back. Talk about God’s perfect timing! I knew member Carla Humbert had just lost a rat, and likes hairless rats, so I asked her if she might want two hairless boys, and she did. On August 1 when we arrived at the home to get the babies, there were five boys left, and I couldn’t stand to leave one behind, so I took all of them, and decided to keep three. They were almost seven weeks old, and had a very short coat of fuzz, so I could see they were black hooded rats. Because they all had a different number of spots on their backs, I started called them Zero, One, Two, Three and Four. I decided to keep One, Two and Three, because they seemed to bond to me the best, and Carla picked up Zero and Four on August 9.


Now the baby boys are 10 weeks and have already starting urine-marking me!  The brats!  Looks like I might be neutering some or all of them, but it’s still too soon to tell for sure.  They are wild little boys and want to spend all their time roughhousing, so they haven’t been too receptive to the idea of learning tricks yet.  I’ve tried introducing them to Munchkin and Puck.  At first Munchkin was friendly and licky.  Now that the babies are bigger and more boisterous, Munchkin thinks they are just too annoying!  Puck was aggressive at first, but he is very slowly warming up to them.  It was so cute a few nights ago when I took them all out on the couch.  The night before, I had corrected Puck for attacking one of the babies, so this time it was clear he had decided to completely ignore them. He laid down on the couch and absolutely wouldn’t even look at the babies, even when they approached him.  It was so funny!  I praised Puck and told him what a good boy he was.  Since then, he is back to acting aggressive toward them, although not as intensely.



On June 13 I agreed to adopt an older rat because her owner was having trouble managing the rat’s health problems. Lilly is about 2 ½ years old and has had labored breathing with some respiratory distress for 2-3 months.  She also has 2 medium-sized mammary tumors, but because of her respiratory problems, is not a good candidate for surgery. Then, on June 9 she started having spastic behavior, which may be from a brain tumor. When she tries to move, her body, and more especially her head, flails around violently. With difficulty she can eventually steady herself so she can hold still to eat and drink, but it is distressing to watch.  When she does calm down, she loves being petted.  So far, I seem to have her respiratory symptoms controlled pretty well with medications, so she is doing okay for now.


I tried to introduce Lilly to September, who has been alone since Billie died the end of May. At first they were aggressive toward each other, and even when I thought they were getting along, an overnight stay together resulted in what appeared to be bite wounds on both of them.  So, I only let them interact on the couch when I could supervise them.  Sometimes they cuddled together and sometimes they didn’t.


Then September started going downhill.  His breathing became labored and increasing his heart medications only helped somewhat. Then his nose started sounding constricted, so I tried prednisone, but that didn’t help. What did help was aminophylline, but only for a few days. Then he started refusing to take his oral medications. This morning he didn’t want to eat the cooked cereal I offered, and then he had a seizure, so I knew it was time to euthanize him.  It turned out he had a very enlarged heart, so the medications obviously couldn’t help any more.  I started him on the heart medications way back on September 28, 2008 when I adopted him.  At that time he was wheezing and had a hard chest, and the heart medications, along with antibiotics, had helped relieve his wheezing.  So the heart medications were able to help him for 1 year 9 months!  I adopted September from Northstar Rescue and didn’t know his age.  He was a very big boy, so he must have been at least a year old then, which would have made him 33 months old.  I’m going to miss September a lot because right now he and Lilly are/were my only cuddly rats.  That puts my rat population at 16.


I’ve had a few more health problems in my rats. Buddy, who is probably a little over 2years old, suddenly developed sores all over his tail.  Amoxicillin didn’t help, and neither did an anti-fungal cream.  I’m currently trying a daily diluted-Betadine soak. I also moved him and Marshall to a nicer cage. On May 3 I noticed Aurora had an enlarged spleen. This is usually caused by an infection or cancer. She was already on Baytril and heart medications for respiratory symptoms, and I also put her on prednisone, but it doesn’t seem to have helped her spleen much.  Then, when I was out of town for the Rat-stravaganza, she must have had a small stroke.  She became slightly uncoordinated, and when I tried to hand her a treat, she would reach too far to the right to get it. These symptoms gradually improved so now she is pretty much back to normal, for her.  Her spleen is still enlarged, but she seems to be feeling fine.  She was also losing weight, so I have been giving her baby formula as a supplement.


The attendance at the Rat-stravaganza was very low—only about 20 people came all day. So that was disappointing, but the people who did come had a good time. Rattie Ratz adopted out only 2 boy rats, but they had been at the rescue for 8 months, so they were pretty excited that they got a forever home.


The 2 female deer mice that had been raising did well, and on June 29 I released them in a nice spot at a rock wall under some trees near a stream.  On June 22 some neighbor children found 2 more deer mice in a car and brought them to me. This time it was a boy and a girl who were 9 days old and fat and sassy. They are now 19 days old and are doing quite well.  I will soon be moving them from their box to the recently vacated aquarium.



I have just lost two of my rats, one very unexpectedly, and so my population is down to 16. On Thursday night I went out of town for a Christian weekend experience called The Walk to Emmaus (which was amazing!), and returned home Sunday night. My husband Larry took care of my rats while I was gone. On Sunday morning he gave everyone their fruit as usual, and all the rats seemed fine.  But when he went to give medications at 10:30, he found Peanut dead. Peanut was a big beautiful hairless boy and only 16 months old.  What a shock!  He looked like he had just laid down and gone to sleep.  I had started treating him with amoxicillin for wheezing on the 8th (he was already on doxycycline for long-term mycoplasma treatment), and he’d had some soft stools, but the wheezing had quickly cleared up and he had no other symptoms. An autopsy did not show anything too significant, just some typical heart and lung abnormalities, so I had to conclude he died either from a heart attack or a stroke. Peanut was never as cuddly as I would have liked, but he was a gorgeous sweet boy and it is so sad to lose him so young.


The next one to go was Billie. The morning of April 23 I was shocked to see that the right side of her jaw was severely swollen. When I felt it, it wasn’t just soft tissue swelling, I could feel some bone involvement, so I suspected she had bone cancer of the jaw.  I started her on prednisone and amoxicillin but it didn’t seem to help. Five days later, as the mass continued to grow, I also put her on ibuprofen twice a day to help control any pain. Over the next couple of weeks, the tumor grew more.  She seemed to feel okay, and continued to eat well, although she quickly lost the ability to eat hard food, so I was giving her mostly baby formula and Ensure, along with fruit and baby food. While I was out of town, the tumor opened up and bled. The night of May 17 the open wound had a terrible odor with what appeared to be thick pus. When I wiped it away, I found it wasn’t pus but necrotic tissue, and the tumor started bleeding again. After I cleaned Billie up and put her back into her cage, she was not happy and frantically climbed the bars of the cage.  I wasn’t sure if she was experiencing respiratory distress or pain, but I decided to euthanize her.  The tumor was quite extensive and had affected the entire lower right side of her jaw, basically destroying the socket for the incisor there.  I was able to easily pull out the whole curved incisor, which was over an inch long. Her upper incisors were overgrown and abnormally separated. She also appeared to have some liver disease. I don’t know how old Billie was. When I adopted her from the humane society May 27, 2009, I figured she was at least 1 ½ years old, which would make her at least 2 ½ years old. She wasn’t cuddly, but she made a good companion for September.


September is now alone, and his back legs have gotten so weak I now have him in a small cage with a pad on the floor. I don’t know exactly how old he is either. I adopted him on September 27, 2008 (thus his name) and he was at least a year old then, which makes him at least 32 months old. My only other rat who I would consider moving in with him is Aurora, but since she lives with Munchkin and Puck, I’m not sure it would be fair to her to move her to live with September.  I’ll see how September seems to do by himself and then decide.


I neutered Basil and was able to successfully introduce him to Butler.  I think it took about 5 days, which is pretty fast. Basil has a big bone callous at the location of his leg fracture, but that is the only sign of his broken leg.  He has become a little more cuddly now that he is neutered and doesn’t spend all his playtime marking the couch, but he still does a little marking. Butler has also become more social.  At first, he didn’t want to be touched or picked up, but now he will let me pick him up and pet him some. I have tried a couple times to introduce them to Munchkin’s group, but Puck has been quite aggressive toward them, so I haven’t pursued it.


Munchkin did something really funny last week.  You might remember that when I let his group out to play in the playground I have to lock them in or Munchkin jumps out.  So, I put Munchkin, Puck and Aurora out on the couch so I could clean their cage. I was outside washing the cage on the front lawn for maybe 10 minutes, and when I came back in, there was squeaking going on in the playground, where Valentine, Mo, Jimmy, Schnozzle and Peanut live. It looked like Peanut was halfway in the tube, trying to bite someone in the tube, whom I thought was Valentine. Valentine is the most aggressive rat in that group so I was yelling at her to stop fighting, and then I happened to see that Peanut was actually in the plastic house on top of the cage.  Wait a minute…if Peanut is there, then who was that hairless rat in the tube???  It was Munchkin!  He had jumped off the couch, run over and jumped up into the playground cage!  The little brat.  He did suffer a nice scratch on his side from his adventure.


On May 6 I was invited to give a lecture to a class of veterinary technicians at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA by Sandy Gregory, a long-time Rat Fan Club member. I was very excited about it as it was the first time for something like this. The only other time I’ve done something similar was a few years ago when I was invited to give a lecture on rat behavior to a class in animal behavior at CSU Chico.  I thought my lecture to the vet tech students went really well.  They seemed very receptive, and asked some good questions. By talking 100 miles an hour I was able to cover almost everything on my list, but I will certainly do better next time.  They had equipment to project web pages on a large screen, so I was able to show them some of the medical pictures posted on my website. I look forward to doing more lectures like this in the future.


On May 10, someone brought me a female baby orphaned deer mouse that was brought in by her dachshund. The mouse’s eyes opened 2 days later. My friend Marg Smith cared for the baby while I was gone, and then I picked the mouse up on my way home Sunday night. On May 18, someone else brought me another female deer mouse whose eyes had just opened.  She is much smaller than the first one, weighing only 6 g, while the first mouse weighed 8 g when she first arrived. This new mouse has an injured left hind foot.  It appears to be missing a toe and is swollen, but other than that she seems healthy.



The last few weeks have been very busy.  March 28 was the Wonderful World of Rats Expo in San Mateo, CA. RATS board member Lee Standlee and I drove down the day before and ran a combined RATS/Rat Fan Club booth at the event, with the help of RATS board member Robyn Appleton.  The event had a pretty good attendance, but we did not sell as much stuff as in years past.  The economy has obviously still not recovered.  About 30-35 people watched my demo on How to Teach Your Rats Tricks and Dress them in Costume.  Unfortunately, Caramel, my main trick performer, and her cousin Cotton, seemed mesmerized by the audience, and didn’t even want to eat their treats, let alone do their tricks.  They just stared at the audience. Oh, well, the audience seemed to enjoy it anyway, especially since the girls did still model their costumes.  The event as a whole seemed to be a good success, and Rattie Ratz adopted 12 rats into new homes.


A few days before the event, Lee had seen a notice on Craig’s list from someone in Oroville who had rescued some mice and rats and needed cages and supplies.  She had dropped some stuff off at his house before leaving town, but hadn’t had a chance to meet him. As we drove down to event, he called her cell phone and reported that one of the rats had broken his leg, and it was a compound fracture (where the broken bone sticks through the skin).  I called him back and from his description, the rat seemed to be doing okay.  He was still moving around and eating normally, and the wound did not look swollen or infected, so I told him we would stop in Oroville on the way back on Monday to pick up the rat, which we did.  The rescuer was a 16-year-old named Brandon, and we found out he had rescued 5 rats, 4 girls and the little boy who broke his leg, and 8 mice, from someone who was neglecting them. The little rat with the broken leg, a black hooded boy, looked to be about 8 weeks old.  The break was in the right tibia, just above the ankle, and we could see the sharp edges of the bone protruding.  At first, Brandon wanted the rat back, but since then he has agreed to let me adopt him.


The next day, Tuesday, I did surgery, and was able to trim off the jagged edges of the bone and put the bone back in place.  Two metal clips in the skin seemed to hold the bone in place securely, so I didn’t think any kind of a splint was necessary.  In fact, I think splints can cause more problems than they solve, because rats will often work so hard to get them off that they can actually cause damage to the leg.  The rat did well after the surgery, and in fact, just 2 days after the surgery, I saw him use that foot to gently scratch his face!  By Saturday he was putting a little bit of weight on the foot!  When I let the rat out on the couch on Sunday, I couldn’t believe what he did.  He started vigorously marking the couch with his hands and sides!  And when I say vigorously, I mean like a little speed demon!  There is absolutely no way you would know he had a broken leg!  So, obviously he is doing very well.  I was surprised by the marking behavior in a rat who looks so young, because it is a sign of high testosterone levels.  I will probably need to neuter him before I can introduce him to some of my other rats.  He doesn’t seem to be too interested in being held or petted at this point.  I have named him Basil.


On April 10, I ran a booth for RATS at the Love Your Pet Expo in Anderson, CA.  The event had a good attendance, and I talked with about 6 rat owners, but we didn’t sell much, just one Rat Health Care booklet, to someone who had bought one of the earlier editions, and one t-shirt.  I couldn’t seem to make the other rat owners understand the value of the booklet.  I tried to tell them that if it saved them just one visit to the vet, it would more than pay for its $7 cost, but they just didn’t seem willing to shell out any money.


Butler is not as aggressive as he used to be, but he is still a little touchy, and it has only been 6 weeks since his neuter, so there is still 2 weeks to go before the neuter will have full effect.  I plan to try to introduce both Butler and Basil to Munchin, Puck and Aurora.



On Feb. 24 I got a call from the humane society.  A week earlier, animal control had picked up a stray rat in a parking lot and taken him to the shelter.  They said at first he seemed friendly, but then he started biting people.  I picked him up the next day.  He is a half-grown Himalayan, maybe 5-6 months old, who is very touchy and puffy, so it seems clear the reason for his aggression isn’t so much fear as too much testosterone.  Once I got him home, he would barely let me touch him.  I neutered him on the 27th so it’s still too soon to expect to see much of a change in his behavior.  I named him Butler, and hopefully he will soon be as polite as his name! 


Puck is growing up.  He has gone from 265 g to 480 g (over a lb) and is no longer so hyper, so Munchkin is relieved.  (Munchkin has gone from 387 g to 471 g in 4 months.) Munchkin doesn’t seem as interested in doing tricks anymore, so it’s unlikely he will be a performing rat.  Puck has shown some interest in tricks, but he seems a little too shy to perform in public.  Still, that’s what I thought about Caramel at first.  Now, when I get the 3 of them out on the couch, sometimes Munchkin wants to be petted, but most of the time he hangs out on the stool by my feet under the afghan.  Aurora had gotten into the habit of nipping my leg, and at first it was hard enough to really hurt.  After jumping and screaming a lot, she is now doing it much more gently.  I think she does it just to get a reaction from me, sort of saying, “Here I am.”  I used to have another girl who would pinch the back of my upper arm in much the same way.  Unfortunately, Puck seems to have picked the habit up from Aurora, and he is still doing it pretty hard, so hopefully he will get over that soon.


Hoppy, my little dwarf girl, now spends much of her time out on the couch on my lap under the afghan.  She will even let me pet her some.  This is a nice change from when she sat on the arm of the couch and just sort of zoned out.  I am starting to teach Caramel how to push a bowling ball.


So my rat population is now up to 17.  I don’t know for sure how old Billie and September are, but I’ve had September a year and half and he was at least a year old when I got him, so he has to be at least 2 ½, and could be much older.  I’ve had Billie almost a year, and she seemed older than a year when I got her, so she is likely to be about the same.  Buddy and Marshall are probably 26 months old.  Jimmy and Schnozzle just turned 2 years old.  Valentine is 17 months old, Mo’Blue is 15 months old, and Peanut is 14 months old. Caramel, Cotton and Hoppy just turned 1 year old.  Sparky is probably 15 months old. Aurora is probably almost 2 years old, Munchkin almost a year, and Puck 6-7 months old. 




I recently adopted a rat under very strange circumstances. On Saturday Jan. 23 I got a call from a young man, Tom, who works at my local CVS Pharmacy, which is open 24 hours a day. He said he works the graveyard shift, and early that morning a customer asked him if he knew they had a rat in the store. He found the rat sitting on a case of water bottles. It was a small agouti hooded rat, very friendly, and he took it home with him. He called to ask if I would take the rat, and I said yes. Amazingly, the prior Sunday another rat had been left in the store!  This was a young albino rat who was left in a Petco box in a shopping cart near the pharmacy department. That rat was returned to Petco. It seems likely that the rats were left by the same person, although why someone would choose to leave rats in a pharmacy is a real mystery.


Tom called me to ask if I would take the little agouti hooded rat. I asked if he knew the gender of the rat, and he said he thought it was a girl. Because I thought I could probably introduce her to Munchkin and Aurora, I said yes. He agreed to bring the rat over, but I didn’t know he would be riding a bicycle. He put the rat inside a little box and tucked it into his backpack, so the rat must have had an interesting ride. When Tom took the rat out of the box he turned out to be a boy. I named my new rat Puck, because is lively and charming, and I will still be introducing him to Munchkin and Aurora. I plan to neuter Puck because although I think Aurora is too old to get pregnant, Puck keeps trying to mount her, even though she is not in heat. Puck is very playful and he and Munchkin are already playing together well, although Puck is so lively that Munchkin sometimes needs a break.  I’ve decided that Munchkin is probably close to 8 months old, so compared to him, Puck is just a pip-squeak.  Puck brings my rat population up to sixteen.


When I put Munchkin in the playground to play now I have to lock him in, otherwise he keeps jumping on the floor.  He is continuing to learn his tricks well, although it took him longer than I expected to really understand what I wanted him to do.  Although he seemed to learn the tricks the first time, during later sessions we had to start all over again, so he didn’t seem to be remembering what he’d done before. He reminds me of a dog I used to have, a yellow lab named Ketti (her picture is in my rat care book) who was really hyper.  She was also very smart, but took a while to learn things because she was a little scattered and had trouble concentrating.  However, compared to Puck, Munchkin doesn’t seem that hyper any more!


Even though Munchkin is learning his tricks well, the performance at my church’s children’s group on Jan. 19 did not go well.  I didn’t realize that they open each meeting with lots of singing, clapping, and even yelling and cheering.  When I asked the rats to perform, no one would do their tricks, and Cotton didn’t even want to come out at all.  However, I did get Caramel and Munchkin to pose in some costumes (not as many as usual) and Munchkin and Hoppy were pretty happy to sit in my lap while the children petted them one at a time. The kids enjoyed the show, and I plan to do it again next fall, but next time I will be sure the rats go first, before the all the ruckus.


I attempted surgery on Pinkus, but ended up letting him just go to his final rest because his bladder was so bad.  Not only did it look cancerous, it was also filled with large stones.  Poor little guy. (Pathology showed it was indeed bladder cancer.)  I only had him for a week and he was only a little over a year old. 




This last weekend I visited my friend Barbara in Sacramento, and Sunday we also visited a rat owner named Dianne.  She introduced me to her hairless Dumbo boy named Pinkus, and when I held him I could feel that he had a hard mass in his abdomen. Oh, no!  I felt it more thoroughly and it seemed to be an overfull bladder.  I pressed on it gently, and sure enough, a little pee came out. I didn’t want to push on it too hard, because it is possible to rupture an overfull bladder like that, so I used a needle and syringe to try to suck the excess urine out.  Unfortunately, I was not able to suck out any fluid, which means the mass is probably a solid tumor growing inside the bladder. Diannne asked me to take Pinkus home so he would have the best care possible, and I agreed.  When I got home Sunday night I started him on amoxicillin, and prednisone, hoping it would shrink the tumor. Today the mass is only about ¾ the size it was yesterday so that is encouraging.  He is a very sweet boy and so far seems to be feeling okay.


September and Billie are now mostly getting along okay, although last night I had to yell at Billie because she was beating up poor Sept, who is about twice as big as she is. However, his weak back legs definitely put him at a disadvantage. Good news, though, Sept is now sleeping in the upper hammock with Billie all the time now, so his legs aren’t stopping him from doing what he wants to.


Munchkin and Aurora live happily together now.  In addition to giving Aurora antibiotics, I am now also treating her for congestive heart failure but she continues to have some wheezing off and on. I don’t think she is well enough for major surgery so I never did spay her. She may also be older than 18 months.  But she is doing much better than when I adopted her, and sometimes even lets me pet her.  I tried introducing the 2 of them to the younger girls, but Cotton and Caramel were so aggressive to them, I gave it up.  I also gave up introducing Sparky to the younger girls, so Sparky is still alone.  He is very cuddly with me now when I get him out on the couch. He is making great progress and is much less reluctant to come out of his cage.


Munchkin, my hairless Dumbo boy, is very smart. The huge cage I also use as the rat playground has a large plastic kids wading pool as the base, and the rats can walk around the rim of the pool and climb up to the top of the cage.  If a particular rat doesn’t stay in the cage he gets locked inside the cage for playtime. A few days after I adopted Munchkin, and he had been in the playground about 3 times, he jumped off the rim off the pool onto the floor tiles by the front door.  The tiles are higher than the wood floor and so a little closer to the rim of the pool.  Larry saw him jump down and said, “Munchkin’s on the floor.” I sit on the couch, where my back is to the playground, so I stood up, turned around and said in a stern voice, “Munchkin?”  He immediately jumped back up on the rim of the pool!  I told him he was a good boy and he ran around the rim and got back into the cage.  The next night he did it again, and once again, when I yelled at him, he jumped right back up onto the pool rim.  Three days later the same thing happened again, and this time I walked over the cage and told him that rats who didn’t stay in the playground got locked inside where they couldn’t climb up on top of the cage. I thought that solved the problem because he didn’t jump out again…until a few days ago, about 2 months since the first time he did it.  This time I noticed that he jumped out just a few minutes before it was time for him to come on the couch. During playtime, I try to give each group of my rats a half hour in the playground and then a half hour on the couch with me. After Munchkin jumped out and then jumped back into the cage, I realized he might have gotten impatient to switch places.  I told him I’d take him out in a few minutes, but I didn’t want to do it right away, because I didn’t want to think I was rewarding him for jumping onto the floor.  The next night he did it again, about 5 minutes before it was time to switch.  I’m not sure what my next move will be!


About a month ago I added a new house to the playground made of woven grass. When it was Munchkin’s turn to be in the playground he turned out to be quite the little nest builder. He spent his time pulling pieces of grass out of the house and carrying them up the tube to the house on the top of the cage. One night when it was time to take Munchkin from the playground to the couch, I caught him with a mouthful of grass. When he saw it was time to go to the couch, he had a dilemma. He couldn’t decide if he should continue to the house to drop off his mouthful of grass or get into the basket I was holding out to transport him to the couch. He just stood there for several moments looking from the basket, to the house and back again. Finally, because I didn’t want the shredded grass on the couch, I made up his mind for him and pushed him toward the house where he proceeded to drop his load of grass and then bound out and get in the basket.  Now I wish I had been more patient and waited to see what he would have done on his own.


I have been working on teaching Munchkin some tricks. The first trick I tried to teach him was the basket trick, where they pull up a little basket on a string to get the treat in the basket. This is usually a pretty easy trick to teach rats, but Munchkin didn’t seem to be interested. He would eat the treat if I just handed it to him, but he wouldn’t put his nose into the basket to get the treat. Oh, well, I thought, some rats just don’t like to do tricks. A few weeks later I showed him another trick which is usually very easy to teach a rat: to get a treat out of a small picnic basket with a flip-up lid. Most rats learn how to push up the lid with their nose very quickly, but once again, Munchkin didn’t have any interest in getting the treat out of the basket. But that started me thinking. Maybe it’s not that he didn’t want to do tricks. Maybe he doesn’t like putting his head inside things. So I decided to try a different trick.  I got out the little piano to see if he might like to learn to play it. Well, he was happy to sit in front of the piano and take treats, and it didn’t take him long to rest his hands on the keys. And within just a few minutes he was pressing hard enough on the keys to make the sound, and he got the idea very quickly.  In just one training session, only about 5 minutes, he was playing the piano!  Wow!  I’ve never had a rat learn that trick so fast. The next trick I tried him on is pulling a string to ring a bell. I showed him the string, lifted it up and wiggled it and when he sniffed it, I said, “Good,” and gave him a treat. After repeating this just few times he got interested and started sniffing and putting his hand on the string. While he hasn’t learned the whole trick yet, in just a few minutes he definitely learned that I wanted him to do something with the string.  Next I showed him a bowling game with a ball bearing sitting on a perch.  All he has to do is give the ball a push and it will roll down toward the pins. Once again, he quickly learned that I wanted him to do something with the ball. Within a few minutes he actually picked the ball up with his hands!  Wow!  I’m going to have to try him on basketball next!  I have a performance scheduled for a kid’s group at my church on the 19th, so I hope he’ll be willing to do his tricks there.



It’s been a busy month with several changes in my rat population.  On Nov. 1, Skittles was lethargic so I added amoxicillin to the medications he was already on (doxy, enalapril and atenolol). The next day he seemed a little better, but the following day he was worse again.  That night I tried to put him in a small cage on a heating pad, but he vigorously objected to that, so I just left him on the couch with a heating pad under the couch cover. Although he didn’t have any obvious problems breathing, in hindsight, his objection to the small cage was probably a sign of claustrophobia, which often accompanies respiratory distress.  I woke up about 3 am and checked on him.  He was on the floor, was very cold, and had labored breathing and a little bit of gasping. I gave him aminophylline and dexamethasone and the gasping stopped within about 5 minutes.  This time he didn’t have the energy to object when I put him in the small cage on the heating pad.  When I woke the next morning, though, he had died.  His autopsy showed lung abscesses and emphysema. I was surprised his lungs were so bad, because he had been on either doxycycline or amoxicillin almost constantly for over a year.  I had put him on the heart medications only as a preventative measure since so many old rats have congestive heart failure. Because of this, from now on when a rat already on doxycycline and develops addition symptoms, will be adding the amoxicillin to the doxy, rather than stopping the doxy.  I originally believed you couldn’t give amoxicillin and doxycycline at the same time because the way they work can interfere with each other, but I now believe that because they treat different bacteria, they don’t interfere with each other and you can give them at the same time.  Skittles was 32 months old when he died and his hind legs had gotten quite weak. He had always been the most aggressive of my 3 Siamese boys so I was not as close to him.


About the time Skittles died, his brother Chai started wheezing, so I tried him on different medications. He was already on doxy, enalapril and atenolol, and seemed to be recovering well from the coordination problems caused by his stroke.  I tried aminophylline, furosemide, and prednisone, but none of them seemed to help his wheezing.  I put him on Baytril, which he hated so much I had to force him to take it, but that didn’t help him either.  After about 10 days his appetite started getting very picky.  This is often a symptom of congestive heart failure.  I tried increasing his heart medications, but that didn’t seem to help much. After about another week, he started getting very congested. I gave him the decongestant psuedophedrine, which helped his congestion, but his appetite continued to get worse. On the 19th, the only thing he would eat was avocado. I finally had to euthanize him at 3 am the next morning when I found him sitting in the middle of his cage, instead of in the hammock, cold and wheezing terribly.  In his case, the problem wasn’t his lungs, it was his heart, which was slightly enlarged and flabby.  Perhaps if I had taken him in for an x-ray and detected the enlarged heart then digoxin could have helped him.  Chai was the last of my 3 Siamese boys, and the cuddliest. He’s the one I miss the most.


So that meant September was now alone.  I thought maybe he would be more receptive of Billie, but he actually seemed to be more aggressive toward her again. They could still be on the couch together, because they weren’t really trying to hurt each other, but neither of them would back down and they just kept picking at each other.  I finally just started putting Billie into September’s cage, which is quite large.  Sept’s back legs are quite weak and he doesn’t climb the ramps much any more, but sleeps in a tent hammock on the floor. Billie is nearly half the size of Sept, but still quite mobile so I knew she could sleep in the upper hammock and get away from him if she needed to. She’s been living is his cage for 2 days so far, and although I have heard a little bit of squeaking, they seem to be mostly avoiding each other.  Hopefully they will make up soon.


On Nov. 6 I got a call from the Butte Humane Society saying they had gotten in a hairless rat with a lump on his side, which they thought might be a tumor.  I went down to look at him and discovered the lump was just a couple small abscesses.  But I could hardly resist adopting a gorgeous friendly young male hairless Dumbo!  The shelter also had 3 other rats at that time. A small white Dumbo male, a large black hooded male, and a black female.  The large male was in a tiny hamster cage.  They had put the hairless male, who had just come in, in with the small white male, and they were fighting.  The Dumbo male had come in a few days earlier with the black female and another rat, who had already been adopted. The surrender form for the black female and white male said they had been used to breed snake food, and the female hadn’t been handled much. When I got the female out of her box to see how friendly she was, I found out she was wheezing. So I ended up adopted her as well as the hairless boy.  I went home and gathered 3 cages, water bottles, nest boxes, and some blocks and rabbit food and took them back to the shelter as a donation.  I transferred the large hooded boy into one of the cages I brought and he was very happy to be in a cage that was large enough for him to actually move around in!  The shelter staff said they tried to handle the rats daily and felt that the 2 remaining males were friendly enough to be adopted.  I suggested they see if they could introduce them together, and list them on


Shortly after I arrived home with my 2 new rats, my friend Marg (an animal communicator) called on the phone. When I told her about the new rats, she said they were sending her the names they wanted to be called.  The boy wanted the name Munchkin, and the girl Aurora.  I thought the names fit them well, so that is what they are.  Munchkin is a typical young male, lively and mostly interested in exploring and interacting with other rats, but he is friendly and will come out of his cage onto my hands, and kiss me on the lips. Aurora is not so trusting of humans, and doesn’t like to be held.  Early on I decided to see if the 2 of them would get along on the couch, and for the most part they do.  I neutered Munchkin, not because he was aggressive, but because he was a little randy.  I also plan to spay Aurora when her wheezing clears up.  Neither amoxicillin nor doxycycline worked, so she is now on Baytril, and slowly getting better.  I think Aurora is about 18 months old, but I’m not sure, so they won’t be able to live together until she is spayed or until 3 weeks after Munchkin’s neuter when he will be reliably non-fertile.  I also plan to see if I can introduce the 2 of them to my 3 youngest girls, as I’ve about given up on introducing them to Sparky. The girls are still quite aggressive to him, and he is returning the favor.  Sparky may have to stay alone.  My rat population is now at 15, in 7 different cages!



Things have been pretty quiet in my rat colony the last 6 weeks.  Sparky is still reluctant to come out of his cage, but I can pick him up.  He’s not happy about it and struggles a little, but once he is out he enjoys exploring the playground and visiting me on the couch.  Now that it has been 8 weeks since his neuter I’ve started introducing him to my 3 young spayed girls.  I only put them in the basket I use for transport together, and I was astonished to see that the one who was aggressive—very aggressive—wasn’t Sparky but Cotton!  She is the boss of the girls and she almost instantly puffed up her fur and flew at Sparky.  I quickly picked him up out of the way, so I don’t think he even knew what happened!  Obviously the introductions will take a while.


I’ve been trying to introduce Billie (her roommate Bella died in late June) to my 3 oldest boys, September, Skittles and Chai.  I figure they are closest to her age, although she’s probably a little younger. Skittles and Chai are 32 months old, and September is probably a little less.  They all have weak back legs at this point.  The boys have been pretty aggressive to her, and she has shown some aggression to them too, but after a few weeks they can all be on the couch together for about 15 minutes as long as I closely supervise them and separate them when they start to get too huffy.  Maybe in another few weeks I can move Billie in with them.  Now that she is alone, she has become more cuddly with me (she was not cuddly at all when she arrived with Bella), so I’m sure she would appreciate the company.


Just a few days ago, I suspect Chai had a stroke. All of a sudden one morning when I gave them their fruit, his coordination was very bad. He was shaky and had a tendency to fall over. However, there has been no change in his personality or desire or ability to eat.  I suspect a stroke rather than a pituitary tumor because of the rapid onset of his neurological problems.  He can no longer climb to their hammock, so I gave him a tee-pee-style hammock on the floor which he now uses.  This morning September was sharing it with him, but Skittles was up in the regular hammock.  September is the boss, so it’s good to see him taking care of Chai.


October 3 was our 4th Annual Rat-stravaganza at the Sacramento SPCA. The turnout was low (less than 50 people), but most everyone who came was serious about rats and seemed to really enjoy the presentations.  The Rattie Ratz Rescue Rattery adopted out 13 rats at the event, which made it a very good day.



In the last month I lost one rat and adopted a new one. I finally had to euthanize Jewel on August 2.  She hadn’t been eating much on her own during the night, but had always been eager to eat in the morning when I offered her soft food. That morning, however, she didn’t want to eat much, and then when she tried to settle in her favorite spot on the couch, she was very restless and just couldn’t seem to get comfortable. Her cancer had progressed so much and she had lost so much weight I had just been waiting for some sign from her that she wasn’t feeling well to euthanize her. Up until then, she had seemed to be happy and comfortable. What a trooper she was. She was with me for 2 weeks short of a year, and already had the mammary cancer when she arrived, which I treated with tamoxifen. Shortly after she arrived she also developed neurological symptoms, which I suspected were caused by a pituitary tumor. She still had some neurological problems most of the time she was here, but they gradually got better. Her autopsy showed she had a small pituitary tumor, so maybe the tamoxifen kept it from growing too. (A rat owner in England recently reported treatment with tamoxifen helped his rat with a pituitary tumor for 3 months.) Jewel was 37 months old when she died. She was a sweet girl and I was glad to have her.


It wasn’t long after Jewel’s death that I filled her empty cage. On August 5 I got a call from the Butte Humane Society here in Chico because they had gotten in a new rat who had been abandoned in an apartment. He was very frightened and was biting, so they asked if I could come get him since they could not adopt out a biting rat.  I went and got him that afternoon. He was an adult Himalayan male and it soon became clear that not only was he afraid of people, but he also had a bad case of hyper-testosterone aggression. Fortunately, they let me take the cage he was in as I didn’t want to try to pick him up.  The next day I was able to transfer him to a clean cage by moving the tube he was hiding in. The next day I had to go out of town to run a booth at a reptile show, so he was left on his own in the new cage until I returned home on Monday. When my friend Marg, who is an animal communicator met him, she said he wanted his name to be Sparky.


I started trust training using baby food. Sparky really liked the ground turkey, and was soon willing to come to the door of the cage to eat the baby food off a spoon. Most of the time when I approached his cage he would run to the back to hide, but sometimes, especially after I closed the door of his cage, he would stand at the front of the cage, puff up his fur and make puffing noises at me, telling me that he would like to bite and dominate me.  It was very interesting. On August 13 he started wheezing, so I started him on amoxicillin, and I was very glad when his wheezing went away quickly, as I planned to neuter him on the 16th.  After his neuter, I continued with the trust training.  It has now been 2 ½ weeks since his neuter, and he is making good progress.  He no longer puffs at me, and will let me pet him while he eats.  He is also willing to put his hands on my knee and lick the baby food from my finger with no desire to bite me.  He will also now cautiously climb into the basket that I use for rat transport, and last night I brought him out on the couch with me for the first time. After exploring for about 15 minutes, I was amazed that he climbed onto my chest, gave me a few licks, and allowed me to pet him for 10 minutes!  Most of my other rats won’t do that. I assume that he was hungry for contact and attention.  He still won’t let me pick him up, but hopefully it won’t be long.


Now, some of you might be wondering why I would be doing a booth at a reptile show.  As president of the non-profit Rat Assistance & Teaching Society (RATS), I was hoping that we could educate a large number of snake owners about the benefits of buying frozen rodents for snake food instead of live rodents.  Unfortunately, we only gave out about 30 handouts, but we discovered that most of the snake breeders who had booths there were not only willing to give our handouts to their customers, they were excited about it.  So that will give us one more way to educate snake owners. For more information about RATS and this campaign go to


I have another good story about my chiropractor helping a rat.  On Monday I got a call from Cindy who lives in Magalia, a town about a half hour drive northeast of here, who said her daughter Kevina’s rat, Coco, had been screaming in pain at random intervals for the last few days. The rat did not have any visible signs of injury so they didn’t know what was causing her pain. It just so happened I had an appointment with my chiropractor the next day (I missed one the previous Friday because I wasn’t feeling well, so it seemed the new appointment was meant to be!).  I suggested that Coco may have thrown her back out and they bring Coco and accompany me to the appointment. My chiropractor graciously agreed to examine Coco, and sure enough, found a spot in her lower back where it was out of alignment. (In California, a chiropractor must have a special veterinary chiropractic license to charge money for treating an animal, otherwise it is practicing veterinary medicine without a license. My chiropractor does it for free.)  She was then able to successfully adjust Coco’s back into normal alignment.  The difference in Coco was almost immediately.  On the drive to the appointment, she had sat quietly in her carrier, but on the drive back she was more active and wanted to get out.  She obviously was feeling better.  Coco had a little bit more pain that night but continued to improve.



Since my last entry, I have lost 3 more rats, so I am now down to 16.  The first to go was Bella. When I adopted her and Billie from the humane society, Bella was extremely thin and had severe labored breathing. After trying all the medications I could for a month, her breathing continued to get worse so I had to euthanize her on June 29.  Her autopsy showed she had severe emphysema. I also forgot to mention another symptom she had when I adopted her.  Her incisors were white.  Normal rat incisors are yellow, so white incisors indicate a serious chronic illness.


The next one to go was Grant, quite unexpectedly. On the morning of July 4 he had apparently fallen and gotten wedged in a spot in his cage (his back legs had gotten quite weak).  He appeared to have hurt his back so I treated him with Metacam.  (By the way, the dog dose for Metacam is way too small to be of any benefit to rats.  Dogs are very sensitive to NSAIDs so their doses are very small.  Rats however need doses even higher than humans.  The dose for Metacam for rats should be at least 0.7 ml to 1 ml/lb twice a day.)  That made him more comfortable, but then I realized he had some severe neurological deficits. He pretty much just layed on his side.  I thought he must have had a stroke, but I didn’t rule out a pituitary tumor (which can hemorrhage and cause sudden stroke-like symptoms) so I also started him on prednisone.  He appeared to get a little better over the next day or two, and could still eat soft food out of a dish on his own. Then he gradually got worse and worse and I had to hand feed him. Finally on the morning of the 10th he did not want to eat and was agitated, so I decided to euthanize him. He did not have a pituitary tumor, so I’m pretty sure he had a stroke.  Grant was probably about 8 months old when I rescued him from the local animal shelter 5/24/07, so he was probably just over 2 ½ years old.


Grant’s roommate, Rascal, was quite upset about losing his friend. He went from being very independent to very clingy.  I spent extra time with him and also introduced him to Jewel, who had been alone since losing her roommate May 24.  She was a little testy at first, but then accepted him.  I was letting them spend most of the day on the couch, and one day I saw him scoot over to her (his back legs were quite weak) and lay his head on her side. It was so sweet.  She did lean over and lick him on the head. Rascal’s nose had been getting snuffly, and his breathing more labored.  I had started him on enalapril and atenolol for his heart the end of May, because he seemed less active, and that had helped perk him up.  He was also on amoxicillin long-term.  I would have rather given him doxycycline, but he hated it. However, now I started forcing him to take doxycycline, and the morning of July 21 I also started forcing him to take Baytril, but it was too late. That night he went into respiratory distress. An injection of aminophylline brought him out of it, but about an hour later it happened again. This time I put him in an oxygen chamber, and at first it made him more comfortable.  But about a half hour later he was again in distress, so I euthanized him.  Turns out he had pretty severe emphysema and abscesses in his lungs.  I guess maybe I should have forced him to take doxycycline earlier, but I hated to do that.  As it was, he lived a good long life, 33 months.  Rascal was a real character and I miss him a lot.


Since Billie was alone I started introducing her to Jumpy, but it did not go well at first.  He kept attacking her. (Although he hadn’t been aggressive to Jewel at first, he did then start attacking her.) After about a week, I took a trip to Sacramento to visit my friend Barbara and I took along Jewel and Rascal (because they needed some encouragement to eat), and Jumpy and Billie. I figured that it would be easier to introduce Jumpy and Billie at Barbara’s house because everything would be neutral territory, and I was right. When I returned home 3 days later, Jumpy and Billie could be together on the couch, and a few days later I was able to put them together in a new cage.




Last week I adopted another rat, increasing my rat population to 19.  His name is Jumpy and he is a black hooded.  He is over 2 years old, and because he has cancer his owners didn’t want to deal with it any more.  Four months ago Jumpy had surgery to remove 2 tumors, one of which looked cancerous.  Sure enough, the cancer grew back, but fairly slowly.  When Jumpy’s owners brought him by on 6/18/09 he had a 4-inch row of tumors, two of which had developed infected ulcers.  Even though it appeared to me that another surgery would be possible, they didn’t want to deal with it and wanted me to euthanize him.  I told them I was not comfortable euthanizing a rat who obviously was not ready to be euthanized.  They agreed that I could have him.  I started him on amoxicillin for his infections, and B vitamins (a supplement I give to all my rats over 2 years old), and did the surgery on the 20th.  Although it was a little tricky, and Jumpy needed some homeopathic remedies because he seemed to be going into shock, he has recovered really well.  Now, 6 days after the surgery, he is back to living up to his name!  He has a lot more energy and obviously feels much better. Interestingly enough, when I let him interact with Bella and Billie on the couch, he was aggressive to them, but he has shown no aggression to Jewel.  Instead, when I was holding Jewel on my chest and petting her, Jumpy crawled in next to her so he could be petted too!  I assume Jumpy can tell that Jewel, who has paraplegia and other neurological symptoms, poses absolutely no threat, where Bella and Billie are normally active girls.  Jumpy is a very cuddly boy, so he is actually a joy to have.  I know his cancer will grow back, but he will probably have at least several more good months with me.


When I picked up Bella and Billie from the humane society last month, Billie had scabs and a benign mammary tumor on her chest and Bella had severe labored breathing and was bone thin (100 g [¼ lb] less than Billie, who is the same size), and they both had lice!  I treated them with Revolution, which quickly cleared up Billie’s scabs, and I removed Billie’s mammary tumor on May 30th.  I started Bella on doxycycline, and gradually added aminophylline, heart medications (enalapril and atenolol) and prednisone, which resulted in slow but steady improvements in her breathing.  Then I noticed that both girls had blood in their urine, so I added amoxicillin to their treatment.  When that didn’t seem to be helping Bella, I added Baytril to her mix.  That means she is on 7 different medications!  Many people worry that this would be too much, but through my 23 years of experience, I have found that most rats tolerate medications quite well, and when they need a medication, they need it.  More recently, Bella was having problems with blue toes, so I have doubled the doses of her heart medications and she is doing better.  She still doesn’t eat very much, but she has gained 30 g since I adopted her, and she obviously feels better than when she arrived.  Neither of the girls is very cuddly, but Bella likes to hang out with me.  Bella is no longer licky the way she was her first day here.  She must have been thanking me!


Hairy, the 6-month-old hairless Dumbo I was ratsitting, ended up having to be euthanized.  Although at times he seemed to be getting better, he kept getting generally worse.  Not only did his seizures become more frequent, but the muscles on the right side of his face appeared to be atrophying and his teeth were wearing unevenly.  When he got to the point of having a seizure nearly every 10 minutes, his owner and I decided he had to be euthanized.  I didn’t see anything on his autopsy, but I sent his brain in for pathology, and it turned out he had meningitis, which is inflammation of the membranes of the brain.  In humans, meningitis can be caused by bacteria, a virus, or even fungus.  The pathologist couldn’t tell what caused Hairy’s meningitis.  Although Hairy was initially treated with amoxicillin and Baytril, they didn’t seem to help him. In humans, early treatment of bacterial meningitis is necessary to prevent severe permanent brain damage.  Perhaps if Hairy had been treated with a different antibiotic early in his disease, it might have helped.  Hairy was one of the sweetest rats I have ever met and it was very difficult to say to good-bye to him.



Things here have been quite busy, and there have also been some big changes in my rat population recently.  I ended up adopting 3 girls on April 11.  I didn’t write about them last time because I wasn’t planning on keeping them.  I was hoping to adopt them out to someone else, but that didn’t happen and I finally decided to keep them. They were from 2 litters born in the Sacramento area when someone bought 2 girls and 3 boys from a breeder and then proceeded to let them all live together.  She did not know anything about their genetic background, and as a result 2 of the babies in one of the litters had really bad cases of megacolon and had to be euthanized at the age of 5 weeks.  The other litter also had 2 babies with a genetic aberration: they appear to be dwarfs, a girl and a boy who also has malocclusion of his incisors.  I took one girl from the first litter, and 2 from the second litter, including the dwarf girl, whom I named Hoppy.  Hoppy is now only about half the size of her sister, Cotton, at the age of 11 weeks, and doesn’t appear to be growing any more.  Hoppy and her dwarf brother also appear to be semi-hairless, although their other siblings are rexes.  You can see pictures of Hoppy, Cotton and Caramel on my picture page above.  Hoppy is a strange little rat, sometimes hyper and sometimes she is very calm and seems to be in her own little world.  Cotton is an outgoing dominant but cuddly girl. Caramel, who wasn’t handled as much as the other 2, is a little shy.  Lots of earlier handling makes such a difference in how personable and cuddly they are!


Today I went to our local humane society and picked up 2 girls who were surrendered by someone who got them off Craig’s List and said they are 3 years old.  It is more likely that they are closer to 2 years old.  I took them because one has severe labored breathing.  She is a black Berkshire and is named Bella.  The other is a mocha Berkshire and has pretty bad scabs, so I will be treating them with Revolution for fur mites.  They both seem very friendly and licky, especially Bella.


I had to euthanize Timothy on May 24 due to 2 severe nose bleeds. He had had some minor nose bleeds a few months ago. I have been treating him with amoxicillin for a nasal infection and he had been doing pretty well.  But the last several weeks he had been eating less and less and losing weight, so when he had 2 massive nose bleeds only a half hour apart I decided it was time to let him go. He was at least 3 years old, as I had adopted him as an adult from the humane society on Jan. 23, 2007.  I had also been treating him with enalapril and atenolol for congestive heart failure, and for mycoplasma with doxycycline with good effect.  Normally I don’t recommend giving a rat both amoxicillin and doxycycline at the same time, because the way the doxy works interferes with the way the amoxi works, but Timothy’s case has helped me realize that since doxy and amoxi usually work against different bacteria, there may not interference between them.  Timothy had been doing quite well on both of them for 2 months and I wish I had put him on both sooner.  Before that I was alternating between them whenever he started having symptoms, mostly sneezing.


Timothy’s roommate Jewel is now alone, but she currently has pretty severe neurological symptoms, probably from a brain tumor, and she doesn’t seem to miss him. I’ve been treating her with prednisone for neurological symptoms ever since I got her 10 months ago, and I’ve also been treating her with tamoxifen for a cancerous mammary tumor.  She will be 3 years old in June.


I was successful in introducing September to Skittles and Chai and they now live happily together.  September is now much more friendly and relaxed now that he has friends but doesn’t have to protect August any more.  My current rat population is now back up to 18, even though I have been wanting to get it down to 10-12.


I have also been rat-sitting a very friendly 5-month-old hairless Dumbo boy named Hairy for a local student.  Hairy has been having seizures which are different than any I’ve seen before. Instead of jumping and thrashing around, as with most convulsions, he rolls. This actually makes it less likely that he will hurt himself, but I’m housing him in a cage with only cloth accessories. So far we are trying supplements of magnesium and a homeopathic remedy to see if they can help him.



Since writing my last entry, I lost 2 rats only 2 days apart!  It was a sad couple of days.  August, an albino rex I rescued 9/27/08, had been losing weight for several weeks and his appetite was getting worse and worse.  He would refuse many foods, and only eat a little of others and then push them away.  This can be a symptom of congestive heart failure, for which I had been treating him since I got him.  On the 14th  I went grocery shopping and bought him 4 flavors of yogurt, 3 flavors of pudding and 8 flavors of baby food. August just picked at a few, so I decided to euthanize him. When I did his autopsy I was glad I made that decision, because not only did he have disease of his heart and lungs, he also had liver disease.  No wonder he didn’t feel like eating, the poor guy.  North Start Rescue, from which I adopted August, thought he was over 2 years old, which would have made him at least 2 ½ years old at this point.


That night, Porthos, my obese boy who I rescued 11/8/07 from our humane society (he and another rat were found in a field), seemed lethargic.  At that point I also remembered that maybe a couple weeks earlier his back legs had gotten very very weak all of a sudden.  His legs had been getting gradually weaker before that, so I didn’t think too much of it, but now I wondered if something had happened two weeks earlier.  I did a full exam and felt his abdomen.  I discovered his bladder was overfull.  By gently squeezing his bladder I was able to express out some urine, which was so red it appeared to be almost pure blood.  I had not seen any blood in his cage.  Thinking he might have a severe bladder infection I started him on amoxicillin and Baytril, but after 2 days he didn’t seem to be any better.  In fact, now he wasn’t that eager to eat, and for Porthos that was a major symptom!  He had always been a big eater. I had been expressing his bladder twice a day to make him more comfortable, but that night I pushed a little too hard and I felt the bladder give way.  I knew I had caused it to burst.  I felt so bad!  I euthanized Porthos immediately.  During his autopsy I found that not only was his bladder very red and full of blood clots, there was also bleeding within the seminal vesicles, which are organs connected to the bladder.  He also had fresh appearing bleeding within the fat that lines the back of the abdominal cavity (of which he had a fair amount) but only on the right side.  The bleeding was as high as his right kidney, but there did not seem to be any bleeding of the kidney, and there didn’t seem to be any bruising of the abdominal wall. (The kidneys looked like he had some degeneration, which would not be unusual for an obese rat.)  In addition, his large intestines were completely full of feces, with some areas feeling hard enough that they were probably impacted and unable to move the feces along.  Something had apparently caused his large intestine to stop functioning.  I wondered if 2 weeks earlier he had fallen and injured his back, paralyzing his back legs, and somehow affecting his large intestines and bladder.  I’d never seen anything like it.  I wish I had thought to check him out thoroughly when I noticed his back legs had suddenly gotten weaker.  Porthos was at least 2 years old, but because he was full grown when I got him I didn’t know his exact age.  Now that Porthos is gone I am down to 14 rats, the fewest I’ve had since 1999!  I’d like to get down to about 10-12.


With August gone, his roommate September is now alone.  I have been working on introducing him to Skittles and Chai (Algernon’s brothers).  I thought Skittles was the dominant rat of the pair because he can push Chai away from food, but it turns out that Chai is the one who fights with September!  I knew that different rats can be dominant in different situations, but this was one of the more obvious examples that I have seen.  Skittles is obviously dominant over food, but Chai is the territorial protector.  Hopefully it won’t take more than a couple of weeks to integrate September with Chai and Skittles.



It’s been a busy few weeks since I last wrote.  The 4th annual spring RATS eBay auction ran from March 30-April 5 and it took most of my time the 2 weeks prior to get everything ready.  Then I spent most of last week sending out the items that people bought.  The auction went very well, thank you to everyone who bid!  The 5th Annual Wonderful World of Rats event in San Mateo, CA, happened on April 5 and I drove down with a couple of friends/volunteers to run a booth for both The Rat Fan Club and RATS.  The turnout for the event was very good and everyone seemed to have a good time.  I gave 2 talks on how to teach your rats tricks, and I was very disappointed that Peanut, who was doing tricks at home, didn’t want to appear “on stage” at all.  He seemed to like meeting people and looking at the various booths at the event, but he seemed to have severe stage fright.  Fortunately I had also brought Schnozzle and although he didn’t do his tricks very well, he was very happy to pose in costumes as long as I gave him treats.  I had taken Valentine as well, and although she hadn’t really learned any tricks, she seemed fairly happy to run around on the table and take a few treats.  Hopefully she will know some tricks by the next event.


On April 4 RATS had a booth in Anderson, CA, at the Love Your Pet Expo.  Since I drove down to the Bay Area on the 4th, I was not able to help in Anderson, so RATS board member Robyn Appleton ran the booth, with the help of new volunteer Adriana Boyd.  Thank you both!  I had never had to prepare for 2 events on the same weekend before, and it was a bit confusing to figure out what needed to go where, but the events went well.  Robyn even drove down to San Mateo the next day to help with the booth at the WWOR!  (She is much younger than I am and can still do things like that!)


I ended up euthanizing Algernon on March 29 because he really didn’t want to eat any more.  Although I had suspected the cause of his neurological problems was a brain tumor, I did not see any abnormalities during his autopsy, but I wasn’t really surprised.  Brain tumors are not always obvious to the naked eye. I didn’t feel it was necessary to have pathology done. 



I’ve been introducing Peanut and Mo to Jimmy and Schnozzle on the couch, and it has been going quite well.  The older boys have been a little aggressive to the younger boys, but not too bad.  Peanut is totally irrepressible and refuses to be intimidated.  At one point there was a pretty good scuffle going on between him and Schnozzle in the exercise ball that I keep on the couch for them to get in.  Schnozzle had his hair slightly puffed up (a sign of aggression).  I yelled at them to break it up, and told Schnozz to be nice.  Peanut came out of the ball, but then he plunged right back in again.  I said to him, “Peanut, what are you doing, you crazy boy? You might get hurt.”  Remember, Peanut is hairless, so he doesn’t have any protection against claws. I was amazed to see that Peanut was holding Schnozz down in the ball and grooming his face!  It’s like he was saying, “I don’t care if you don’t like me, I like you and we’re going to be friends whether you like it or not!”


I’ve been forgetting to write about a health problem of Algernon, one of my Siamese rex boys. He has had neurological problems for about a month.  At first he held his hands strangely when I was giving him his B vitamins from a syringe. Then it gradually got worse and he starting having problems sitting up.  I assume he has a brain tumor.  His symptoms are progressing much more slowly that they usually do for a pituitary tumor.  I started him on prednisone and amoxicillin, but it’s hard to tell if they are helping.  He can still eat hard foods, but it takes him more time than normal. He actually has more problems eating soft food—he makes a big mess—although he still manages.  I’m letting him spend most of his day on the couch now so I can give him special foods.  (His brothers are both overweight and real gluttons.)  In the past I had a rat with similar symptoms who lasted 8 months on prednisone, so I’m not sure how much longer Algernon will be with me.  Algernon and his brothers are 25 months old.


Another of my older rats has a new health problem now.  August, who I adopted last September, and who could be 2 ½ years old, had a small lump under his right ear on March 3. I pushed on it and nasty-smelling liquid pus came out of his ear.  This seemed to cause him some pain, but by the next day he was feeling well again, and the lump was gone.  I started him on amoxicillin and have been cleaning pus out of that ear twice a day since then, and it seems to be getting better.  It could just be an abscess, but in my experience there is a high chance that there is a cancer growing under the ear that has caused the abscess. Only time will tell.  For now he is doing okay.


As long as I’m on the topic of health problems, Schnozzle had a bit of a respiratory crisis the first week of February, mostly caused by my laziness.  On Jan 18 he started wheezing, so I put him on amoxicillin.  That seemed to be doing the trick at first, but on the 24th he was wheezing again, so I switched him to doxycycline. That seemed to work at first, but he was wheezing again by the 31st so I switched him back to amoxicillin. (I should have put him on Baytril, but I was lazy. My rats quickly and eagerly lick either amoxi or doxy from a syringe, but to get them to take Baytril requires separating them from their roommates so they can lick the mixture out of a little dish.)  He was worse again on Feb. 4, so I tried doxy again. The next day I came to my senses and said to myself, “What are you doing?  This isn’t working,” and I put him on Baytril and amoxicillin. By now he was losing weight and his fur had lost its sheen.  After 2 days he still wasn’t a lot better, so I stopped the amoxicillin and put him back on the doxy along with the Baytril.  That was finally the right treatment and his wheezing had stopped 3 days later.  I plan to keep him on the doxy and Baytril for at least 6 weeks.


Shortly after that I had another crisis with my old boy Timothy, who was on doxycyline and treatment for congestive heart failure.  He started refusing to take his medications, and didn’t want to eat.  Timothy was an adult when I adopted him from the humane society on Jan.23, 2007, so he is at least 33 months old and could be over 3 years old.  He looks very old as he is thin and his back legs are very weak.  When he started refusing to eat, I was scared that he was dying.  But I decided he might just have a secondary infection, so I switched him from doxy to amoxicillin, and within 2 days he started eating with gusto again!  So the moral of the story is, remember to try amoxicillin for any new symptoms of lethargy or poor appetite no matter how young or old your rat is.



Since losing Lazarus and realizing that Jimmy and Schnozzle don’t like to perform their tricks in public, I decide to start looking for one or two new performers.  It just so happened that a friend, Becka, who came to visit me from San Jose on the 12th, brought along four 6-week-old baby boys that she had gotten from someone near her who had 3 accidental litters.  Becka was keeping 2 of the babies, a hairless and a black rex Dumbo, and was going to find a home for the other 2 boys.  One of them was an adorable dark-skinned hairless rat and I couldn’t pass him up.  He has chosen the name Peanut (through a friend who is an animal communicator) and he is a sweet, playful, outgoing boy.  I thought about keeping the 4th boy too, who was a black hooded rex, but I had heard from another family in Chico that they needed homes for an accidental litter that was born in a classroom, so I decided to wait and take one of them to go with Peanut. 


They came over that Saturday and I chose a blue hooded boy who picked the name Mo.  I used to have a rat named Moe, so this new boy’s full name is actually Mo’Blu. He has not been as socialized as he should be, so he was quite shy to start with, but he is coming around.  He is a week older than Peanut, and it took a few days for them to warm up to each other, but they play and sleep together now.  I also adopted a 3rd rat from this family.  She is a 4 ½-month-old odd-eye rat with one pink eye and one red eye.  Her color is probably coffee, like coffee with cream.  She is very pretty and her fur is super soft.  I decided to adopt her because she is very outgoing and self-confident and when they had rolled a cat ball in front of her she retrieved it, so I think she might be a good performer.  She has chosen the name Valentine.  I have been introducing her to Jimmy and Schnozz (who are both neutered) and it has been going well.  At first Valentine was fairly aggressive and tried to dominate the boys, but now I think she is going to let Jimmy, who is bigger, be the boss.  I plan to spay her this weekend and then work on introducing Peanut and Mo into the whole group as well.  I anticipate that my new performers will probably be Peanut and Valentine.


A couple weeks ago I offered to babysit Sue’s 3 boys (see entry for 10/13/08) to try to get them introduced together as she hadn’t been able to do it.  One of the boys, Bear, a black masked boy, was still very aggressive toward the other boys, even though all 3 are neutered, and Samson, an agouti hooded Dumbo, was also aggressive toward poor Charlie, a poorly socialized albino.  It is easier to introduce new rats on neutral territory so I had hopes that I would have success if the boys were at my home.  I worked with them every day for a week and it soon became clear that Bear just wasn’t going to accept the other boys.  But it only took a few days to get Samson and Charlie together.  Charlie was very shy and scared of Samson at first, and even when Samson was no longer acting aggressive toward him, Charlie would whine if Samson got too close.  On the suggestion of my friend Marg I bought a little spray bottle of Bach’s Rescue Remedy to see if it would help with the introductions.  Spraying it on their bedding and coats did not seem to help at all, but when Charlie was really worried and whining, spraying it into his mouth did help calm him so he wasn’t as scared of Samson.  Now that Charlie and Samson live together, Charlie is happier, less shy and more self-confident, and Sue is thrilled!



I have some very sad news to report.  My sweet boy Lazarus died on Feb. 4, 2009 early in the morning.  It was very sudden.  He was fine Monday night, but Tuesday morning he had a lot of pain in his abdomen, so much that I couldn’t squeeze him to get the feces out. I also felt a strange lump in the lower right quadrant of his abdomen that wasn’t normally there.  I gave him a strong pain killer and that helped a little but he was not feeling well all day, didn’t want to eat and wouldn’t take his medications.  I knew I should probably euthanize him, but I just didn’t want to give up.  I kept him sedated with the pain medication and he died about 4 am.


His autopsy showed what the abnormal lump was: a large blood clot inside the small intestine just before it enters the cecum (the rat equivalent of the appendix) that had totally blocked the intestine.  This obvious was the cause of his pain and lack of appetite.  I assume the bleeding in the intestine was a result of the repeated squeezing that was necessary to help Lazarus eliminate feces. The small intestine just got in the way.


Poor Lazarus was only 9 months old.  But I’m glad that he is now in heaven beyond any pain.  Although he enjoyed the life he had, it wasn’t uncommon for him to have some pain or discomfort from time to time, so I guess it’s just as well that he has gone on to a better life.  But I do miss him terribly.



The biggest news lately was my trip to Baltimore, MD for the World of Pets Expo.  This is the second time they have invited me to come to give presentations on How to Teach Your Rats Tricks and Dress them in Costumes.  The dates of the Expo were Jan. 23-25.  I gave 2 talks on Saturday and one on Sunday.  I would say about 40-50 people saw my presentations, and I got a lot of comments about how they enjoyed them. One person said she had no idea that rats wearing costumes would be so cute!  The 2 boys I took, Jimmy and Schnozzle, posed very well in the costumes.  However, they weren’t so excited about doing the tricks.  The Expo was very noisy and they weren’t really happy to be there. During the presentation on Sunday, a man was letting his mastiff bark at other dogs right outside the area where I was doing the presentation, and the loud deep barks really scared the rats. (I had to ask the man to move away from the area.)


The Expo organizers also let me have a booth to sell rat items, and I am very grateful to volunteers Danielle Stanley and Julie Dumps for all their help!  Danielle took me to and from the airport and helped all 3 days at the booth.  Julie helped on Friday and Sunday and part of the day on Sat.  A little problem occurred with my books.  I had sent them ahead of time using Media Mail, and apparently the box must have broken open on route.  They didn’t arrive until Sat, and then the box contained only the care books and training books—all 25 booklets I had shipped were missing!  So unfortunately, I did not have any booklets to sell there.  A few people have purchased them by mail order after seeing the sample.  Other than that, I had a great time in MD.  The organizers have already invited me back for next year, and I will be looking forward to it!


In other news, I lost my rat Aramis to a pituitary tumor.  On Dec. 26, just before leaving on a trip to Sacramento, Aramis was thin and dehydrated.  I put him on amoxicillin and my husband, who takes care of my rats when I’m gone, reported that he improved over the next 2 days.  When I came home, he looked much better.  However, on the 30th he became uncoordinated, and I suspected that he had a pituitary tumor and not just a secondary infection, and started him on prednisone.  This helped him a lot, but he continued to be slightly uncoordinated.  Finally, the morning of Jan. 19 I found him sitting in the middle of cage, mostly unresponsive, so I euthanized him.  Sure enough, he had a pituitary tumor.  I’m not sure how old Aramis was.  When I adopted him and Porthos on Nov. 8, 2007 they were full grown, so he had to be at least 2 years old, if not older.  Porthos is now alone, and seems to be doing okay, but I have started introducing him to Rascal and Grant.  So far they have had one session on the couch together.  Rascal and Grant offered a little bit of aggression toward Porthos (who is easily twice the size of hairless Rascal!) but with my admonishments, there was no fighting.  Hopefully Porthos will soon have new roommates.



I haven’t had any changes in my rat population since I last wrote, but I did lose my hairless guinea pig Rhino pretty suddenly on Oct. 24.  He was 4 ½ years old, which is kind of young for a guinea pig, but it seems that the hairless ones don’t live as long.  It appeared that he died from kidney failure.  His departure has left a big hole in my heart, but my rats are doing their best to fill it up.


On Dec. 11 I was invited to speak to a class in animal behavior at the California State University here in Chico.  I was recommended to the teacher by Robyn Appleton, who is Lazarus’ rat sitter, who is a student in the class.  I have given talks to all kinds of groups of people before, but this was the first time I was invited to be a guest lecturer for a university class, so I was quite excited to do it.  My talk about rat behavior seemed very well received by both the students and the teacher.  Although Lazarus refused to perform, both Jimmy and Schnozzle dazzled the class with a few tricks.  They didn’t perform quite as well as I’d have liked, but they did show some of the behaviors rats can be trained to do.


The weekend after Christmas I visited my friend Barbara Henderson in Sacramento and took my 3 performers along.  I was delighted that while there, all 3 boys, even Lazarus, performed their tricks enthusiastically and abundantly.  Now I have to decide who to take with me when I travel to Maryland for the World of Pets Expo Jan. 23-25.



I adopted 2 new boys from Northstar Rescue, a group based in San Rafael, CA, on Sept 27.  Cynthia, a volunteer for the group, drove up with 8 boys to be neutered.  It ended up that 3 of them were adopted by a friend of mine, Sue, and I decided to take 2 because one of them, August, was wheezing quite badly and obviously in no shape to undergo surgery.  These 8 boys were scheduled to be neutered because they were somewhat aggressive and they were hoping neutering them would make them more adoptable.  I agreed to adopt August and his roommate not only because he was sick, but because I found them quite attractive.  Both are rex with red eyes, but August is white and September has a light orange tint.  I think he might be a silver fawn. August is also quite a bit smaller than September, so I’m not sure if they’re brothers, but Sep is quite protective of his smaller roommate.  They were both pretty suspicious of me at first, and Sep will still nip me if he thinks I might hurt August, but they are slowly trusting me more.  In fact, today August wanted to come out on the couch, and he was in a playful mood.  Although he didn’t want to wrestle, he gently bit and mouthed my hands.  (September was asleep in his hammock during this time.)


Both these boys were adults when they arrived at the rescue in May, and had previously been at 2 other rescues for several months, so we think they are at least 1 ½ to 2 years old.  When August came to my house he had been on amoxicillin and Baytril for about 3 days and had come down with diarrhea.  His wheezing seemed to be getting worse rather than better, and he was quite thin, so I stopped the amoxicillin and added doxycycline.  There still wasn’t much improvement after 3 more days, so I dropped the Baytril and added enalapril and atenolol.  After 3 more days there was some improvement, so I continued them and then tried, in turn, aminophylline and Lasix, but neither of them helped at all.  So then I tried prednisone and that resulted in more improvement.  It took a few more days, but his wheezing has now stopped altogether and he seems to be feeling better (thus the playfulness.)  So, he is on doxy, enalapril, atenolol and prednisone.


When September arrived at Northstar Rescue he whimpered for several nights after they turned out the lights, so they assumed he was afraid of the dark and called him Crybaby.  I renamed him September, Sep for short.  A few days after I adopted him Sep also began to wheeze, and I discovered his chest was hard.  This can be caused by a number of different things: lung abscesses, emphysema, or high blood pressure.  I started him on Baytril as well as enalapril and atenolol and his wheezing quickly cleared up and his chest is not so hard now.


The addition of these 2 boys puts my rat population back up to 16.  It was hard enough to give attention to all my other rats, and I didn’t need 2 more, but I really like August and Sep and I’m happy to give them a good home.



I have been very busy for the last month.  Larry and spent the first week of September in northern Idaho visiting relatives.  Big thank yous to my friends Barbara Henderson of Sacramento for house sitting for us, and Robyn Appleton of Chico who cared for Lazarus during that time.  Robyn also cared for Lazarus Sept 18-21 while Barbara and I attended a Christian conference in San Jose.  Because of Lazarus’ megacolon he needs daily monitoring, as well as medication, and occasional help going poop.  Robyn has experience caring for another rat with megacolon so she has been a big help to me.  The weekend of Sept 12-14 Lazarus traveled with me to our church women’s retreat and enjoyed meeting the other women and exploring the tent we stayed in. 


Lazarus is finally growing a lot and is doing quite well, especially considering that he had to have surgery in August.  It was all my fault again, of course.  On the advice of my friend Marg, in July we started giving him a homeopathic remedy for megacolon which seemed to be helping him a lot. In fact, he was having a lot of diarrhea, so I decided to reduce the amount of cisapride I was giving him.  (Cisapride is the medication that increases the peristalsis of the colon.)  That reduced the diarrhea, and he still was doing so well, on July 23 we decided to try stopping the cisapride altogether. In hindsight this was a very bad idea.  He continued to do well for almost a month.  Then, he stopped pooping.  I tried everything we could think of—I put him back on the cisapride, gave him mineral oil, a laxative, a stool softener, an enema, put him on a liquid diet—but nothing helped and no amount of squeezing got anything to come out.  At first his abdomen stayed soft and I wasn’t too worried, but after 5 days the feces in his colon started to get hard and I got really scared.  I knew that if I didn’t do something he would die.  I decided the only way to save him was to do surgery.  On August 25 I opened him up and tried squeezing his colon directly to get things moving.  At first it wasn’t working.  Eventually I found that by working my fingers down as far inside his pelvic canal as I could and squeezing hard, I was able to push out a hard fecal pellet that was lodged beneath his pelvic arch and blocking everything from coming out.  What a relief!  The pellet was almost 1 cm wide and over 2 cm long.  The location of this blockage was why squeezing from the outside wasn’t successful.  After that I was able to easily squeeze out the rest of his colon and close him back up.  After the surgery he pulled out one of his surgical staples three times as I kept replacing it (I finally left it out and he healed up fine), but otherwise his recovery was uneventful.


After the surgery I continued Lazarus on the cisapride.  I also continued him on the laxative (Senekot) and the stool softener (docusate sodium), but he hated them so bad I tried to find alternatives.  I tried another natural laxative called Swiss Kriss that is composed of dried herbs, but he wouldn’t voluntarily eat enough of it to work.  I finally found that if I mixed one tablet of Senekot with 6 cc of strawberry liquid adult supplement drink that he would take it voluntarily.  For some reason he seems to like it now where before he didn’t. I give him 0.4 cc twice a day.  The stool softener was more of a problem.  The docusate sodium is the only one that is readily available and it tastes absolutely awful—worse than Baytril!  It’s okay for humans since you can take it in a gel cap and don’t have to taste it.  The only way I could get Lazarus to take it was to force the liquid down his throat, and I hated to do that.  Finally I asked at the health food store and they said that magnesium acted as a stool softener.  After buying a preparation that they sold, which was effervescent and extremely sour and which obviously wouldn’t work, I decided the best thing to do was to buy tablets and grind them up and mix them in the strawberry drink.  He won’t take this on his own, but if I put it in his mouth he will swallow it without too much protest.  I’m giving him 0.25 cc twice a day which is 10 mg of magnesium (I had to guess on the dose).  So far this seems to be working pretty well, although I’m still playing with the amounts I’m giving him, and of course I will need to increase them as he grows.  He still needs help squeezing out a hard poop every few days, but he is able to poop on his own most of the time.  All of these problems and the time I’ve spent out of town has interfered with his training, but we’re getting back on track.  The birthday party we were going to do has been canceled, but we’re doing a presentation at a school this Friday instead.


On August 16 I adopted two 2-year-old girls, Tiger, a black hooded Dumbo, and Jewel, a mocha, from a family who didn’t want them any more.  They had neglected them and allowed them to grow huge mammary tumors.  Jewel’s tumor was 8 cm X 6 cm X 4 cm and weighed 100 g, while Jewel herself only weighed 309 g.  She also appeared to have a cancerous mammary tumor growing next to the huge benign tumor.  I was able to successfully remove both the girls’ huge benign mammary tumors.  A few days after the surgery I started Jewel on tamoxifen to treat her cancerous mammary tumor, as well as amoxicillin to control infection in the tumor.  I also started her on prednisone, because she had some neurological symptoms (poor coordination mostly) that suggested she might have a pituitary tumor.


I lost 3 rats in September.  The night before we left for Idaho, when Barbara was here, Claire suddenly went into respiratory distress.  Giving her a shot of aminophylline didn’t help much, so we put her in oxygen and that didn’t help either, which meant her lungs were no longer able to function.  We euthanized her, and froze her body and I did her autopsy when I came back.  It appeared her major problem was emphysema.  Claire was 25 months old, and I had adopted her in January 2007.  Two days after we left, Roscoe died suddenly without any symptoms.  Barbara said it looked like he just laid down on his side and went to sleep.  His autopsy showed he had an enlarged heart so he probably died of heart failure.  Roscoe was 30 months old and I adopted him in November 2006.  Then, 2 days before we came back, Tiger, one of the new girls I had adopted, suddenly went into respiratory distress, much as Claire had a week earlier.  In the same way, treatment with aminophylline and oxygen did not help her, and Barbara had to euthanize her. (Poor Barbara!)  Tiger’s autopsy showed she had some heart abnormalities and dark red lungs, indicating severe congestion.


Claire’s death left Timothy alone, while Tiger’s death left Jewel alone, so Barbara was able to put these 2 elderly rats together. (Timothy is neutered, but even if he wasn’t, since Jewel is over 2 year old she is not likely to get pregnant anyway.)  These changes in my rat population means I now have 14 rats, the lowest my population has been in a very long time.



I have some really bad news to report.  I have been reluctant to write about it, but I believe in honesty in the hope that all my mistakes might someday prevent something similar.


Sweet little Miriam died because of me.  She died from a ruptured colon.  Even though she was on the cisapride, her poops were unusually large and hard, and I had to squeeze her abdomen really hard to get them out.  I should have thought to give her a stool softener, but by the time I did, it was too late.  The amazing thing was how tolerant Miriam was to all the squeezing.  She squeaked a little, but not enough to make me think it was really hurting her.  I feel so guilty, and I miss her so much.  This world is really less bright without her here.


On a happy note, Lazarus is doing really well and is quickly learning more tricks.  He can now tip up a tape roll and go through it, “jump” through a hoop, pull a string to ring a bell, and he can almost play the piano.  The trouble is he is still quite small and has trouble pushing the piano keys hard enough to make a sound.  We are also working on getting a treat out of a small picnic basket, jumping into and out of a large picnic basket, and bowling.  He is really smart and learned to ring the bell within 5 minutes, using clicker training! 


I have been taking the 3 boys, Lazarus, Jimmy and Schnozzle, to friends’ homes to get them to practice performing in new locations.  I have also been making new costumes, and now have a collection of 18. We are already booked to perform at a birthday party on Sept 26.  It should be a great show.



I just got back yesterday from Sacramento and our big Rat-stravaganza.  This year was our 3rd annual, and although attendance was low compared to last year, everyone was enthusiastic and had a lot of fun.  Rattie Ratz volunteers Renee & Ethan Kuntz put on a demonstration of rat agility and I was really impressed at how focused their rats were on the agility obstacles even though this was their first public appearance.  They were a little distracted, and sometimes needed a little help, but all in all they did a great job.


The star of the day, however, was my new boy Lazarus.  He happily performed the pull-up the basket trick over and over, and over and over….  I hadn’t even taught him the trick; he learned it watching Jimmy and Schnozzle do it, and badly, I might add.  But while Jimmy and Schnozz really didn’t want to do any tricks at the event, Lazarus was enthusiastic.  Jimmy and Schnozz did pose quite well in the costumes.


I also have news about another new addition to my rat family.  On June 22, the woman who brought me Lazarus brought me another tiny baby who turned out to have megacolon.  She is a dalmation rat, white with just 4 spots of black, which is the other color in which megacolon occurs most commonly.  So I offered to adopt her as well.  She wasn’t in quite as bad shape as Lazarus had been, and I was able to start her on the cisapride immediately, but she needs more help to get the feces out, poor little thing.  She is also very sweet, and I have named her Miriam.  She came with us to Sacramento, but didn’t attend the Rat-stravaganza because her tummy wasn’t feeling good that morning.  But she spends time with the other 3 performing boys because she is still too small to get pregnant.  I will spay her when she gets bigger so she can live with them.  So my rat population is back up to 16.



There have been more changes in my rat population in the last week.  Late on the afternoon of Tuesday June 3 a rat owner asked me to take a look at a baby rat from an accidental litter who had something wrong with his “bum.”  It turns out he had megacolon, a genetic defect that prevents the large intestines from emptying normally (poor peristalsis).  This results in the contents backing up and causing bloating and constipation alternating with diarrhea.  It usually appears at the age of 4 weeks, and if it isn’t treated it is usually fatal within a few weeks.  This little guy had a bulging rectum, because he was not able to push out stool on his own.  Plus he was bloated.  Megacolon occurs most commonly in rats with one of two color patterns.  Most rats with this defect have the restricted spotting gene, which means they are mostly white with a few spots of black around their head, and black eyes.  This baby was the other color pattern, a blaze-face, and he also happened to be black.


I offered to adopt the baby, because rats with megacolon require lifelong treatment with both medication and physical help to poop.  The owner agreed.  The first thing I did was help the baby squeeze out a bunch of poop from his rectum.  Then I sedated him and worked on squeezing feces out from further up in the colon.  I also gave him some fluids under the skin to prevent him from becoming dehydrated.  The next day I called my vet’s office and asked them to order the medication that increases peristalsis, which is called cisapride and must be compounded by a pharmacist.  I also purchased a laxative called Senecot and gave him a tiny dose.  He only weighed 55 grams!  He didn’t seem to be feeling well and his intestines felt impacted so I gave him a little bit of mineral oil to help the contents of his intestines to pass, and some Nutri-cal, which contains nutrients and mineral oil.  I sedated him again so I could squeeze him out again. 


Thursday my friend Marg came for lunch and “talked” to him (she is an animal communicator) and he told her he wanted his name to be Lazarus.  We decided I should try giving him a homeopathic remedy called Nux vomica, which tends to be good for digestive problems, including poor peristalsis.  The cisapride arrived late that afternoon and I gave him his first dose.  By that night he didn’t want to eat much, and the next morning he didn’t want to eat anything.  I consulted Marg and she said he was bad enough that he might die.  Then I noticed that he was breathing heavily and realized he had developed a secondary respiratory infection.  I started him on amoxicillin.  I also prayed that he wouldn’t die. 


It all worked and Lazarus didn’t die!  He is now doing quite well.  He is mostly able to poop on his own, although it is still quite soft, but he isn’t bloated any more.  He has a great appetite and loves all kinds of greens.  I was afraid he would hate me after all the needles I stuck into him and all the nasty medicine I forced in his mouth.  But he seems to have forgiven me and is very cuddly and affectionate.  The day he arrived I did not want another rat.  In fact, just a day or two before Lazarus came, I had prayed, “God, please don’t send me any more rats…unless they’re real special.”  Well, Lazarus is obviously real special and now I am in love with him.


On June 5 Marg and I successfully released the 2 deer mice I raised from babies.


Then on June 7 my rat population went back down to 15 when I lost Belle.  I had been treating Belle for congestive heart failure for 5 months and I knew there was something very wrong going on in her chest, which was very round and hard. I suspected lung abscesses.  She had been losing weight for the last several weeks and I knew she probably wasn’t going to last much longer.  On the 7th she did not eat all her treats, and she seemed uncomfortable, her breathing more labored than usual so I euthanized her.  Her autopsy revealed something quite amazing.  One huge abscess—nearly 2 inches across!—from her left lung filled her chest and had actually engulfed her heart.  I had never seen anything like it.  There also seemed to be a hard tumor at the bottom of the abscess.  It is truly amazing how long rats can live even with massively compromised organs.


My friend Barbara Henderson, who house sat for us when we went on vacation, told me about something Belle did while we were gone.  Barbara was giving out pieces of banana to the rats for breakfast, and Timothy, one of Belle’s roommates, wasn’t coming out of their house.  The house is on the top floor of the cage, which does not have a door, so Barbara did not have easy access to hand the banana to Timothy.  Belle took her piece of banana from Barbara on the second floor, set it down and ran up to the top floor to look at Timothy, who was just peeking out of the house.  Belle then looked at Barbara and looked back at Timothy, and then ran downstairs to Barbara, who gave her another piece of banana.  Belle took this piece upstairs to Timothy and set it down in front of him.  Then she went back and ate her own piece.  I had never seen Belle do anything like this before, and I found it quite amazing!  When I adopted Belle and her mother Claire in January 2007 they had not been well-socialized, and had a tendency to bite.  Even after a year and half they still didn’t like to be picked up, although Belle really didn’t bite any more.  But Barbara said she felt a special bond with Belle, and that Belle fed Timothy to help her out.  Belle, an albino Dumbo, was probably just under 2 years old.


About a week after I neutered Jimmy and Schnozzle I was able to reintroduce them to each other and they now sleep and play together.  They are making some progress learning tricks.


Did any of you watch the recent TV movie The Andromeda Strain?  About 1 hour 45 minutes into the movie, they show a supposed wild rat running over to a snake who has died of the disease in the desert.  A close-up then shows the rat supposedly eating the snake.  I was puzzled that the rat, who was a light cocoa-brown and looked like a fancy rat, had what looked like mutilated ears.  They looked like the ears of a rat who had recovered from a bad case of mange mites (which are very rare).  Or, sometimes in lab rats they punch holes at the edges of their ears to mark them, but the ear looked like it had been punched all the way around.  It was very strange!  In the next scene the rat is supposedly snatched by an eagle and then dropped with a bloody splat in the middle of some soldiers, who immediately catch the disease and die.  So much for the rat’s big scene.



I forgot to write a story about Porthos that happened a few weeks ago.  Porthos, whom I adopted in November 2007 along with Aramis, is a very big boy.  Not to pull any punches, he is fat.  He weighs nearly 2 ¼ lbs and has fat rolls.  With his fur, he measures about 11 inches around his chest.  In my own defense, he came this way.  Porthos and Aramis were found as strays in a field and taken to the humane society, which called me.


Okay, so one of the tricks I try to teach my rats is to walk through a cardboard hoop after they tip it up with their hands.  For smaller rats the hoop I use is the cardboard roll inside packing tape.  I had been working on teaching Rascal to do this trick that day, and the hoop was still on the couch when I brought Porthos and Aramis out on the couch to play.  The hoop is about 10 inches around.  Well, silly Porthos tried to crawl through the hoop and got stuck midway!  The first I knew about it was that Porthos absolutely freaked out and started bouncing around the couch.  When I finally saw what had happened, I was afraid that his breathing was restricted, but when I got him calmed down I saw that he could still breathe, but he was just scared.  After trying for just a few seconds to get the hoop off I realized I’d have to cut it off.  I ran and got scissors and inserted them under the hoop carefully to make sure I didn’t injure him.  Fortunately, Porthos trusted me and held very still.  It didn’t take long to cut the hoop apart, and Porthos was very glad to be released from his “straight jacket.”  Porthos has probably learned his lesson, but I will make sure from now on there are no empty tape rolls on the couch when Porthos is out.



I have been super busy the last 2 months, since I last wrote.  On March 29 I drove down to the Bay Area to run a booth for both The Rat Fan Club and RATS at The Wonderful World of Rats 2008, an annual rat expo sponsored by Rattie Ratz and held at the Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo, CA.  RATS board member Sarah Jolly helped me run the combined booths. Attendance at the event was good and we all had a great time.


The following Saturday, April 5, I drove up to Anderson, CA (just south of Redding) and had a booth at the second annual Love Your Pet Expo.  I was assisted by Robyn Appleton, a new volunteer, and member Sheila MacGregor, who lives in Redding.  Attendance was better than last year, but most of the attendees are dog and cat people, so we didn’t sell much.  However, I did convince a snake owner to consider buying only frozen rodents for her snakes.


April 1-7 was the spring eBay auction fundraiser for RATS.  I was able to get some of the items sent off to the winners before my next trip, but some of them had to wait until I came back.


That Thursday, April 11, I flew down to Orange County, CA to run a booth at the America’s Family Pet Expo at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, CA.  This is the first time we have had a booth at this event, which is huge with a large attendance.  There were booths by two other rodent clubs there, so we concentrated mostly on trying to educate people about our RATS campaign: live well-socialized rodents only for pets and frozen rodents for snake food.  There didn’t seem to be very many reptile owners in attendance, although the most popular booth at the show seemed to be the reptile booth across from ours, where people could see, pet and get their pictures taken with large snakes and lizards.  Fortunately, I have a niece who lives in Costa Mesa whom I was able to stay with, and who drove me back and forth, so we didn’t have any expenses for a hotel or rental car, but even with that, the small impact we had on attendees and the amount of money we made didn’t really make the trip worth while, so I don’t think we will be going back.


After that, I spent a couple weeks doing the final edit on my new book, which will be called The Complete Guide to Rat Training, and will be coming out in August or September.


I then had a little breathing space to try to get caught up on things, and then on May 13 Larry and I went to Florida for a week’s vacation.  One of the places we visited was Epcot Center at Disney World, and I was pleased to see several rats at the China Pavilion.  No, not live rats, but rat figurines for sale in the shop.  In addition, outside there was a display of Chinese Zodiac sculptures, and since this is the Year of the Rat the featured sculpture was a beautiful rat, about 2 feet long, covered with what looked like pistachio shells, dried beans and seeds.  Isn’t it cool!



I’ve had quite a few changes in my rat population in the last 2 months.  I lost Ivan first, on March 31 from a pituitary tumor.  Beans was alone for another month before I had to euthanize him due to respiratory distress.  I had started him on heart medications, and then on April 15 took him in for x-rays and discovered he had an enlarged heart, so was able to also put him on digoxin, and he seemed to be doing quite well. Then on the 20th he starting having bouts of distress that became more frequent and severe and I euthanized him on the 22nd.  It turned out he had what looked like a huge lymphoma tumor in his lungs that did not show up on the x-ray.  I was very sad to lose Beans, who was a great performer and one of my favorite rats of all time.  He was the main model for most of the pictures in my upcoming book.  I don’t think I’ve had another rat who was so calm and understanding who could have posed the way he did for all the photos.  But he did have a good life, and was one month short of 3 years old.


Since my book is coming out this fall, and I hope to get on The Tonight Show again, I decided I better get a few more performing rats.  Right now my only performing rat is Rascal, but he will only do jumping tricks in public, and refuses to do other tricks or wear costumes.  So when I learned that a volunteer with Rattie Ratz, MC, was raising a litter in the Sacramento area, I contacted her and asked to adopt 2 boys.  I asked if she could pick out 2 boys who seemed the most calm and outgoing and give them extra socialization, and she agreed. 


While we were on vacation, my good friend Barbara Henderson came up to house sit, and she brought my 2 new boys up with her.  I got to meet them briefly before we left, but it’s only since we got back on the 21st that I’ve been able to get to know them.  Barbara said MC had named them Schnozzle and Jimmy.  I love the name Schnozzle!  I actually thought the name Jimmy was kinda boring at first, but when I tried to think of another name that would go with Schnozzle, I said, “Well who was the actor that was known as The Schnozz?” and of course it was Jimmy Durante!  Wow!  How cool.  So now, when my boys are performing, I will be introducing them as Jimmy and The Schnozz!


I have also rescued 2 albino boys in the last month.  On April 20 I got a call from our local humane society who had gotten one of them in.  The story they told me is that the woman who found him on the street posted a notice on Craig’s list, and another woman replied, yes, it was her rat but she didn’t want him.  So the shelter treated it as an owner surrender rather than as a stray, which means they didn’t require a waiting period, so I was able to go and pick him the same day.  He seemed about 3-4 months old and I decided to name him Buddy.


Then on May 9 I got an email from Tessa, a rat owner in Sacramento whose dad lives in Chico.  She said her dad had seen an albino rat living in his woodpile, and then the rat moved under his neighbor’s house.  The neighbor was leaving her back door open for her dog, so the rat decided to move into her house!  I said I would take him, so her dad caught him and brought him over.  He is missing about the last quarter of his tail, probably from being grabbed by someone.  I decided to name him Marshall.  Both Marshall and Buddy have been poorly socialized and do not want to be touched or held.  I have only had a short time to work on trust-training with them, but I anticipate they will come around eventually.


It turned out all 4 of my new boys have excessive testosterone aggression, so I have just neutered them all.  As soon as their aggression diminishes I will work on introducing them all to each other.  I currently have 15 domestic rats now, as well as an orphaned wild roof rat and 2 deer mice that I am raising.



I have been so busy lately I just didn’t feel I could take the time to write.  One of the last things I did was complete the new 13th edition of my Rat Health Care booklet, and last week I got the first copies from the print shop and sent them out to the people waiting for orders.  Now that that is done, I’m determined to take time to write an update.


I’m now down to 13 rats.  At the beginning of the year I had 3 of my old hairless boys left.  I had to euthanize Zeke Jan. 4 because of respiratory distress.  I had treated him for an enlarged heart since October 2006—that was one year and three months of successful treatment!   His autopsy showed his heart was not only enlarged but had developed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and he also had a pituitary tumor.  Then I had to euthanize Chico on Jan. 8.  He only wanted to eat baby formula and Nutrical and his breathing was very labored.  When I did his autopsy it appeared that he had liver failure.  Then, his brother Tyrone started getting labored breathing and respiratory distress.  He was already on all the heart and lung medications, and increasing some of the doses didn’t really help.  He may have also had a seizure his last night because in the morning he had some abrasions on his legs and scratches on his face.  It turned out he had a large pituitary tumor, as well as an enlarged heart and lung disease.  I adopted these 5 hairless boys October 30, 2005, and they appeared to be 6-8 months old then, so Zeke and Tyrone were probably about 3 years old and Chico might have been a bit younger.  Losing the last of them was the end of era for me. 


Good thing I still have one hairless boy left, my Dumbo, Rascal, who is as much of a rascal as ever.  He runs all over the living room during playtime, climbs onto my husband’s lap several times (Larry always puts him back on the couch but Rascal wants to get to Larry’s end table), usually visits Rhino, the hairless guinea pig, at least once and mildly harasses him for a bit, and tries to go everywhere and get into everything.  Meanwhile, his roommate Grant stays on the couch with me, and Rascal usually comes onto the couch several times to play with both of us a little.


Beans and Ivan are getting old now.  They are now 33 months old.  Beans is doing quite well, despite his weak back legs.  I have just started him on the heart medications with the assumption that pretty much all old rats have some heart disease, and he seems to have a bit more energy.  I am treating Ivan for symptoms of a pituitary tumor, which started Feb. 29, and he responded well after a couple days and is now symptom free.  Chances are he will have a few more months.  Beans and Ivan lost their roommate and benign dictator, Stella, on Feb. 26.  She had been doing well on treatment for lung and heart disease but suddenly had very severe labored breathing.  Her autopsy showed that despite long-term treatment with doxycycline (over a year) her lungs were very bad.  She also appeared to have some liver failure.   Stella was 3 years old.  When I adopted Stella I had to have her spayed because she was so aggressive she would not accept other rats.  After her spay I was able to introduce her to Beans and Ivan, and some other rats, but she was still a very dominant aggressive girl!


My other current rats are Roscoe, who is 2 years old and who lives alone despite being neutered because of his aggression, Claire (20 mo.), Belle, her daughter (18 mo.), and Timothy (2 years) who live together, my 2 Siamese boys Chai, Algernon, and Skittles (1 year old) who live together, and Porthos and Aramis, who I adopted last Nov. and are probably about a year old.



I spent this morning trying to get the promo for a new TV show on the Fox channel off the air.  In the promo clip, somehow a rat—presumable a wild rat—happens to wander into a microwave oven and somehow the door is closed and somehow the oven turned on.  Then it shows a group of men supposedly watching the rat being cooked.  At they end, one of them says, “That was the longest 9 minutes of my life,” and another one says something like, “It looked like he was enjoying it for the first few minutes.”  This is supposed to be funny?  They couldn’t do this with a bunny or a squirrel, but apparently a rat—being “vermin” —seems to be fair game.  The new show, Unhitched, is supposed to air in March.  Lots of people called and emailed with complaints and a few days later I heard from a representative of the Humane Society of the United States that Fox had agreed not to show the scene.


Here is a later addition posted on the internet.  I was in the Bay Area and did not watch the show:

Posted by: "psychofilly"   psychofilly

Sun Mar 30, 2008 7:09 pm (PDT)

Just watched last episode of Unhitched and yes it does still show the rat scene. It is a brown rat mistaken for a wild rat. The men in the show try to sweep it out the window but it lands on the friend’s shirt, then jumps into the microwave. The men freak and shut the door. It does not show them starting the microwave. But we hear the timer go off later and they mention the longest 9 min. of their lives and how he enjoyed spinning on the turn table at first. They only find out later that it was a new neighbor’s pet. The whole show turns out to be about animal rights. The beginning sucked, but the animal rights part of the show was not too bad. They do say at the beginning that no rats where harmed but it was still hard to see.


Today I also wrote a short Ode to the Rat for the Shanghai Star, a Shanghai newspaper in English, for a feature they are doing next week on the Year of the Rat.



I had to euthanize Nicky Sunday night because his breathing had been getting increasingly labored over the last couple of weeks and he was very restless; right on the edge of respiratory distress.  When I shared part of my dinner with him on Sunday and he didn’t want to eat any of it, I knew he was ready to go.  Nicky was never a cuddly rat, but he had let me pet him for a few minutes on Friday, and Sunday night when I asked him to let me pet him before euthanizing him, he did.  It was very sweet to share that time with him. 


Nicky was a black Berkshire whom I adopted 7/1/06 along with another rat named Scotty.  Their owners had not spent much time with them so they weren’t very people-oriented.  The owners told me Scotty was 2 years old and Nicky was 1 ½ years old at that time, so that would have made him 3 years old when he died.  When Scotty died in April, I introduced Nicky to the group of Stella, Beans, Ivan, Chad and Limpet. 


Six months ago in June, I started Nicky on treatment for congestive heart failure and he did really well for 4 months.  In October he started having more respiratory symptoms, and one at a time I added furosemide, aminophylline and prednisone, each of which helped his symptoms.  When his symptoms got worse in December I increased some of the medications, but it just wasn’t enough.  His autopsy showed that the upper part of his right lung was full of small abscesses, and the rest of his lungs had moderate emphysema.  With Nicky’s passing I now have 17 rats.



Well, I finally feel like I have some time to write an update.  On November 1st I flew to Massachusetts to run a booth and give talks at the World of Pets Expo in W. Springfield, MA.  This was the first time they have held this show, and Friday was very slow, but Saturday was busier, and on Sunday I had about 15-18 people at each of my talks about how to teach your rats tricks and dress them in costume.  The booth next to me was a gerbil society, and it was very interesting for me to see the gerbils, as they are illegal in California.  They held a show on Saturday, so I had the opportunity to see many different colors.  Gerbils are very cute, and smaller than I had thought.  I flew home on the 5th.  Since then I’ve been sending out the items from the RATS ebay auction fundraiser, catching up on emails and orders, and writing my monthly column for Pet Business magazine.


I have several changes in my rat population to report.  I had to euthanize Nemo on October 5, 2007.  He was the one who had the large mass on his hip from a past injury.  Chiropractic adjustments on his lower back had been helping to keep him comfortable, but at the end, he was experiencing pain and the adjustments weren’t helping any more.  Nemo was one month short of 3 ½ years old (41 months).  He was such a sweet boy, and it was painful to let him go.


On October 26, my rex Dumbo boy Limpet started showing neurological symptoms indicative of a pituitary tumor.  I started him on prednisone, but it didn’t help him, and his symptoms progressed rapidly.  On the morning of Oct. 31 he was pretty unresponsive and not eating, so I euthanized him.  His autopsy showed he did have a pituitary tumor.  Limpet was one month short of 3 years old (35 months).  He was the inspiration for the invention of my snuggle scarf, although for most of his life he was too active to spend any time in one.  His last few months, though, he had gotten very cuddly and I miss his affection.


On November 6, Ammo, Nemo’s roommate, also started showing neurological symptoms.  He didn’t respond to the prednisone either, and I had to euthanize him on Nov. 9.  His autopsy revealed a pituitary tumor.  Ammo made it to 3 ½ years of age (42 months), only the second of my rats to reach this advanced age. 


So obviously, God knew that I would have an empty cage, and when I got back from MA there was a call from the local humane society on my answering machine about 2 rescue boys.  The day before I euthanized Ammo I picked them up, a black hooded and an albino.  They had been found in a field as strays, and they were lucky that the people who found them weren’t scared of rats, as the 2 boys came right up to them and asked for food.  They are big boys, and it was obvious they had both been well fed.  With the help of my friend Marg, who is an animal communicator, the black hooded boy picked the name Porthos, and the albino picked Aramis.  Porthos weighed 1 lb 9 ½ oz, and Aramis weighed 1 lb 8 oz.  Although Porthos is a little pudgy, they aren’t that fat, they are just big boys!  They are both still adjusting to their new home, but they are both friendly.  At first Porthos was more trusting than his brother, but Aramis is really coming along.


By the way, Rascal has jumped into Rhino’s habitat several more times, but he doesn’t seem to want to interact with Rhino much.  He mostly wants to explore and usually jumps out of the pool pretty quickly to roam the rest of the room.


A Bat Detector

A while back I ordered a Belfry Bat Detector from the website at  At first I was very disappointed in it as it didn’t seem to be working right.  It would frequently emit a sound like a machine gun, which I know is not was rat laughter sounds like.  I emailed the guy who makes the detectors, and he told me that experimentation has shown that in order for the detector to detect rat ultrasounds, you must hold the detector within 8-10 inches of the rat.  Also, he said the rapid noise was most likely caused by interference from electrical equipment.  The bat detector, after all, is not designed for use indoors, nor for rats.  So it has some real limitations.  I thought I’d be able to place it somewhere in the room, turn it on and hear everything my rats were saying in ultrasound, but no such luck.  However, if you hold it pointed at your rats while you are wrestling with them, you will hear clicks from the detector caused by the rats laughing.



Rascal meets Rhino

Rascal, my hairless Dumbo boy, loves to jump and is an active boy.  This evening while out to play on the couch, he jumped from the footstool to the rim of the kid’s wading pool that is the habitat for Rhino, my hairless guinea pig.  He stood there for a little while and then jumped down into the pool.  I stood by to separate them in case of aggression, but Rascal just seemed to be curious about Rhino.  They spent some time “sparring” nose to nose, and then Rascal decided to explore the pool.  Rhino followed Rascal as he wandered about.  When Rascal jumped up on Rhino’s log tunnel, Rhino actually grabbed Rascal’s tail in his mouth and gave it a playful tug!  I really laughed.  It looked like Rhino really wanted to play with Rascal, but Rascal really just wanted to explore.  Eventually, Rascal got a little more interested in Rhino again and started chasing him around.  Rhino didn’t seem to like that so I decided to take Rascal out of the pool.  It will be interesting to see if Rascal goes to visit Rhino again in the future.



Beans’ Adventure

This morning when gave breakfast to everybody (grapes this morning), I could not find Beans in his cage.  Beans lives with Stella, Limpet, Nicky and Ivan in my giant round cage, which I leave open so they can climb to the top.  Normally they do not leave the cage, so I knew that Beans must have lost his balance and fallen out.


I started calling him and looking around on the floor in the living room.  No luck.  I told Larry that Beans was missing and he came to help look.  While I moved on to look in other adjoining rooms, Larry looked under the cages next to the giant cage (which I had already done).  However, when he called Beans, he heard a rustling noise nearby where the bags of rat blocks stood (I buy the 40-lb bags, and there were 2, 14% protein and 18% protein).  He moved one of the bags that was almost empty to see if Beans was behind it, but he wasn’t.  Then Larry looked into the bag and saw Beans standing at the bottom asking to come out!


The bags are about 3 feet tall, so how did Beans get into the bag?  Well, an empty cage was standing next to the bag, so he must have climbed up the cage and then fallen into the bag.  When I was looking for Beans I had noticed that the top of the bag was folded in on one side, but didn’t realize what it meant.  Beans was very glad to be found and happy to get his grape (which I gave to him on the couch so the other rats wouldn’t steal it from him).  When I put him near the water bottle in the cage he drank a little but not too much, so he probably wasn’t in the bag that long.

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