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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
and another article here: http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/story/20516364/oldsmar-couple-charged-with-child-abuse-animal-cruelty. Shortly after, the SPCA contacted the
Humane Society of the
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
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
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
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 .
Then, about 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
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 , 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
On January 31, Larry and I left for a 10-day trip to
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
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
On Friday, Jan. 11 my 4 new boys traveled with me to
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
Jessica and James picked up the babies from Jeannine on
October 26, and then finally flew up to
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
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
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
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 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, : 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
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
On March 16 I had noticed a tumor growing on
As long as I was doing surgery on
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 I saw that Gabe was sleeping in the hammock with Tino and Wilson! Yay! Chief was in Gabe’s usual pitcher. By playtime () 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
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.
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 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,
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
I actually lost 2 of my new rescues. The morning of July 4
before I left to visit my friend Barbara in
The reason I didn’t need to keep both new rescues is
because I had already agreed to adopt 2 baby boys from a
I also adopted 2 more new baby boys from my friend Barbara.
I picked them up when I visited her in
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
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,
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,
The Wonderful World of Rats event in
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
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
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.
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
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
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 . 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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 , 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
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
I neutered Basil and was able to successfully introduce him
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
On May 6 I was invited to give a lecture to a class of
veterinary technicians at
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
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
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
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
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.
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 Petfinder.com.
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.
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
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
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 www.petrats.org.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
That night, Porthos, my obese boy who I rescued
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
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
They came over that Saturday and I chose a blue hooded boy
who picked the name
A couple weeks ago I offered to babysit Sue’s 3 boys
(see entry for
I have some very sad news to report. My sweet boy Lazarus died on
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
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
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:
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 www.econvergence.net. 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.
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.
Rat Fan Club