My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

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amycool
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My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

Post by amycool » Fri Jul 15, 2016 11:35 am

Hi everyone,

This board has been fascinating to read over the past few months and I've learnt so much. Last Friday I finally met my 3 girls and it's been an interesting week!

Sadly I am inept with a camera so have no good photos so I'll have to describe them:
Adeline - she's a very beautiful top eared rat with white fur and pale grey markings along her back and face. She is the most chilled out but likes a good climb or wrestle.
Angora - she's my rex with lovely curly whiskers - also top eared and white but with much darker grey markings. She's tiny compared to her sisters and the bravest of them all! Was pinging around the cage within 2 minutes. :-)
Apple - the mother hen. She used to break up fights when the other two were fighting but seems to have given up now! She is a dumbo with a dark brown hood. She is not a climber but she is an eater. Always the first to the door when food arrives. :D

The girls are from an accidental litter (not a registered breeder) and we ummed and ahhed a lot about it because we knew there would be more chance of illness and that they wouldn't be as well handled. And we were right! They're all lovely, but also quite nervous. If we have our hands in the cage, Apple will come up for a play and occasionally Adeline and Angora will, but they sometimes jump if you stroke them. We've learnt pretty fast how to confidently pick them up but they don't like it. Thankfully not too much squeaking.

They were all sneezing at first and we assumed it was settling in sneezes, but it seemed to be getting worse rather than better and then Adeline started to wheeze a bit so we took them all to the vet. Angora's lungs are clear, but her nose is a bit red and she's sneezing. The other two had rattly chests. :( So they're all on doxycycline for 10 days and we'll see if that works. I'm no stranger to antibiotics or lung problems but taking my medication is a lot easier than trying to get them to take it! I tried syringing it in (it's only 0.01ml) but I have no idea whether it went in or if they rubbed it all off. So then we tried baby food but we used too much and they're not very food-motivated so only ate half of it. This morning I tried the baby food again but less and they were having none of it! Ended up resorting to mixing some Nutella in and that did the trick. My plan now is stop scatter-feeding whilst they're on the drugs and give half at a time in the bowl so by the time I come along with my spoons they're actually hungry. They're only 7 weeks so I don't want them going hungry, but equally I want them to get better. Tonight I'll try dropping the medicine onto a piece of cat food (they've had it twice before so I know they like it) and see if that works.

Our free ranging experiences have been mixed. We had made a correx "fence", designed to go around the cage (Explorer) and create a nice sized area that we could sit in. The first time we decided the overlap it so it was smaller and not near the cage. Of course they ended up finding the overlap and squeezing in, plus we couldn't even get Apple out of the cage! So then we bought some sheets of wood and made a much sturdier but smaller enclosure. We popped them in the cat carrier and tried to lure them out. They wouldn't come out. Day three we just picked them out of the cage and they parked themselves between my back and my dressing gown. Angora will sometimes explore a little, but Adeline is particularly shy and never explores. Last night I had the wise idea of trying the correx around the cage. It was all going great - they were running up to me and seemed quite confident, and then of course it was hometime and they were right at the back so I had to reach in, and they suddenly became very good at not being caught! Angora was happy to climb up a makeshift rope back home, then Apple finally decided to let me pick her up. But Adeline was in it for the long haul! Eventually a tube and some food did the trick. I hate seeing them stressed, especially when they're unwell.

Every morning I've been taking them out individually or together in a pouch I made and sitting on a chair with them for up to an hour, but they don't seem to be getting any less scared. Apple in particular poos and wees a lot when she's out of the cage. I'm wondering whether they need a gentler approach. Seeing as I'll be spoon-feeding for a while perhaps I could try to get them to stand on my hand eventually whilst eating. I know they like us as they often come to the front for sniffs and Angora is happy to climb and have her belly stroked, but maybe picking them up is too much for them at this point. On the other hand, I don't want them to miss out on free-ranging time.

This has become an essay so I better stop typing. :-)

Any suggestions welcome!

amycool
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Re: My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

Post by amycool » Sat Jul 16, 2016 4:17 pm

An update: managed to get all 3 to take their meds yesterday with the help of some chicken. This morning I dripped it onto tiny bits of bread and Angora stole Adeline's out of her mouth! I did Adeline another but slightly worried that Angora had 2 doses. Assuming it's best not to give her tonight's dose?

Last night I put some of their dry food in the palm of my hand and they all stood on my hand to eat. They also seemed marginally more brave in the enclosure so I introduced some boxes to play in, which they loved.

It was lovely last night to watch all 3 whizzing around. Angora is the only one who has ever "pinged" and now I think the other two must always have felt under the weather.

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[cub]
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Re: My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

Post by [cub] » Sat Jul 16, 2016 9:58 pm

Just a few notes – note that I'm not particularly experienced, so take everything I say with a pinch of salt...

Jumping when stroked: when does are in season, they'll generally hop away when you stroke their back. They go into season every 4-6 days, so that might be why. But it could also be that you surprised them, if they didn't see/hear your hand going up to them, or they might not be too keen on being stroked.

Medication: I wouldn't stop scatter feeding just because they're on medication, unless they're so ill that the search for food is too strenuous for them. I scatter feed, and I split each day's rations into morning and evening meals anyway. When I have someone on medication, I just medicate immediately before a meal, then scatter the food around as usual.

Interesting that you have your doxycycline in a liquid form: when my rats had it, I got it as a 20mg tablet. It was more work to prepare as I had to crush the tablet and then divide the powder into 1/16ths (!), but then it was quite easy to hide in food as there was very little powder, and it didn't appear to taste of much. So that's something to consider if/when you next have it.

I'm not sure whether it would be better to skip Angora's evening dose today or not, given that she had 2 doses this morning. I suspect another dose this evening (i.e. 3 doses total today) would be fine, given that it's a one-off and doxycycline is not very problematic in overdose anyway. (With antibiotics, it's usually underdosing rather than overdosing that's the problem.) Equally, I suspect skipping the evening dose would also be okay.

Free range and handling: Given that they've only recently moved into their new home, don't have the best background, and are currently being treated for respiratory issues, I wouldn't fuss/stress over your girls getting "enough" free ranging and handling right now. You need to convince them to take their medication twice a day which, as you've seen, is not always easy! And building/maintaining a good working relationship with them is an important part of that. So long as you can convince them to take medicated food off you, that's enough for now; focus on that, and everything else can be worked on later once they're feeling better and are more settled in their new home.

Longer term, I think your idea of setting up a pen with their cage inside it is likely to be best. Their cage is their home and where they feel safest, so from their point of view, knowing that they can always retreat back to it will help them feel more confident as they explore further out. I've seen people suggest that you have free range time just before a meal, so that at the end of free range the rats are (hopefully!) eager to return home to eat. (I've never tried this myself as the room my rat cage is in isn't rat-proofable, so they have free range in another room. So I can't vouch for the reliability of this method, but it sounds like it should work, once your rats get used to the routine.)

In general, I've found that my rats aren't thrilled with being picked up, not even the most outgoing ones. They'll put up with it, but even if you're a super-relaxed person, it must still be mildly disconcerting to be minding your own business one moment and swept up into the air the next, with no control over where you're being taken. So do work on getting them used to being picked up (though don't worry about it too much while you've still got medication to convince them to take), but your end goal is to be able to reliably pick them up and carry them elsewhere (bonus goal: to be able to haul them out of bed when they're determined to sleep but it's time to go to the vets :roll: ), not necessarily for them to hop merrily into your hands every time.

My rats are also generally not too keen on hopping onto my hand; they prefer fabric-covered body parts. (My guess is that standing on what is obviously part of another animal is probably a bit disquieting for them. Also, fabric is easier to grip than skin, so they feel more secure climbing up my sleeve than on my bare arm.) What you could do is sit in front of the cage with a door open, so that your knees are right up against the edge of the cage tray. Have some treats to hand, or even just their favourite bits from their normal food, and reward them for approaching you, for putting a paw on your knee, for putting two paws on your knee, and so forth. You can put a towel over your knees if you have a little peemonster to contend with.

If they're coming up to see you and you've got one already letting you pet her, that's great progress. The others will hopefully learn from Angora that you're not so scary after all and follow her lead.

Seems I've written a minor essay of my own now. :lol:
Poo-shoveller to: Lia and Lita.
Fondly remembering: Zephyr Delanynder the big floofy eejit (NLA28), Falere the contrary (NLA36), Mirala the best and finest (NLA36), Zephyr Opold the serene, and Rila the rodentist.
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amycool
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Re: My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

Post by amycool » Mon Jul 18, 2016 1:06 pm

Hi Cub - thanks so much for your reply. It's always good to have another opinion to put one's mind at rest.

I gave them a day off free-ranging and instead spent loads of time with my hands in the cage, feeding them by hand. It's so funny now because if a hand goes in they expect food and run all over! Last night we tried putting the pouch in the cage and let them jump in and out to get used to it. Adeline sat inside so I gave her some time on the sofa, which she seemed to like.

It was so lovely last night to see all 3 running around like crazy, like they should be doing. I now know that Apple and Adeline were sick when they got here so it turns out they're not chilled out after all! Apple has even been climbing but still looks utterly confused about how to get back down. I'm hoping to remove the "first floor" level on the next clean out and add some more hammocks and maybe a rope. I'm going to wait until they're much bigger before I open up the top half.

My daughter (5.5) was initially a bit disappointed with the rats as all they did was sleep whilst she was awake, but now they're getting better they're awake more. This weekend she got to hand-feed them (so they had to run onto her hands to get the food) and I think she quite likes them now.

This morning I covered the enclosure with a thick blanket so it was much darker than usual for free ranging. We still had lots of poos on being put in the cat carrier but this time they were all running around instead of just hunkering behind my back.

Nutella is my saviour. They get a piece of bread with a tiny bit of Nutella in the morning and then just Nutella at night. They're eating plenty of veg and their normal food too, so it can't do too much harm.

I need to weigh them again tomorrow as Adeline is feeling pretty podgy (don't know how as she hardly ever seems to eat!) whereas the other two are still quite bony.

I have had 3 nights of waking up convinced I can see a rat on the curtains/bedside cabinet. It's so weird. Must be anxiety!

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ElizabethW
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Re: My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

Post by ElizabethW » Mon Jul 18, 2016 1:47 pm

It sounds as though you're making great progress, I really hope things continue to go well for you and that they carry on being good girls and taking their meds :luck:
Perkin, Bramble, Teasel, Oswald :love:
Fizz, Cuddles, Bubbles, Horace, Ollie, Humphrey, Fergus, Max, Monty, Pootle, Roger, Marley - "All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle"

amycool
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Re: My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

Post by amycool » Tue Jul 19, 2016 12:38 pm

Thank you Elizabeth!

Their tiny bit of bread with a spread of Nutella is now an even tinier bit of bread as they were just eating the bits with Nutella on!!

We still have sneezes now and then but they've definitely reduced, and I haven't heard any more wheezing. We're also still getting porphyrin on the nose but not massive amounts.

I've filled their bowl with ice water today in case they get hot, but luckily the living room is pretty cool with the blinds shut. It does seem to have confused Angora though, who was still awake at 11am! The routine tends to be very sleepy when we get up at 7 but they come out for a hello for a bit. Then I drop DD off at school and at 9am I do the meds and morning feed so they're awake for a bit and then back to sleep.

I weighed my girls this morning and these are the results:

Apple - 128g - +16g since last week
Adeline - 136g - +24g since last week
Angora - 119g - +25g since last week

So Angora is catching up. Adeline feels podgy when you pick her up whereas the other two still feel a little bony. I'm not surprised by Angora as she seems to eat constantly but Adeline I hardly ever see eat.

I've put the "trouser leg" back in to try to encourage them to stop sleeping in the wee corner. Apple will not sleep in any of the hammocks as she still struggles with climbing but the trouser leg is almost at ground level so she will go in there.

I tried using a makeshift litter tray, which worked at first as they pooed in there, but then they realised it was more fun to knock it over and scatter it everywhere! The proper litter tray is massive and they were sleeping behind it so I had taken it out, but maybe it's time to put it back. I need loads of litter though to fill it.

Angora and Adeline came out last night for some sofa time - they're getting braver...and faster.

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Marris
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Re: My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

Post by Marris » Sun Jul 24, 2016 5:24 pm

This is so enjoyable to read, please keep posting updates :D
Want to be a ratty-mum again

amycool
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Re: My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

Post by amycool » Sun Jul 24, 2016 6:00 pm

Thank you Marris :)

I was going to update as it's been very up and down. Having adopted a child, we're well used to one step forward one step back and I think it will be like that with the girls!

I put the big litter tray in and I've seen 2 of them using it. Almost all poos seem to be going in there but not many wees. The downside is hiding behind it when I'm trying to bond! I do sometimes take it out so they can't.

They currently have 2 hammocks in there and at last all 3 are sleeping together in one so no more lying in wee! The trick was to put lots of shredded paper inside and hang it so it's less open. Definitely won't be putting the cube I made in until they are better socialised.

Occasionally they seem to suddenly be really scared for no apparent reason - very jumpy at noises despite being in the living room.

The antibiotics are now finished, which is a relief as they were getting very good at not taking it. I still hear the occasional sneeze, but it seems to be only when their noses are sniffling around for food. We're going to monitor it closely but for now they all seem healthy. I don't want to put them through the stress of the vets again if they don't really need it.

Whilst doing the weekly big clean I filled the enclosure with toys and Angora and Adeline were having a great time, running through tubes and boxes. Apple stayed in the cat carrier the whole hour as far as I know. On the plus side, it's the first time she hasn't pooed in fear in the carrier.

This morning was a disaster though! My daughter was so keen to see them running around so I set up the correx enclosure around the cage and made some stairs out of boxes so they could go in and out. Of course none of them wanted to come out so I lifted them out. They played for a bit but then found that jumping up they could find a gap!!! I decided that my little Houdini (Angora of course) should go back in the cage! Adeline wasn't too hard to catch either but Apple got stressed and started pooing everywhere. I couldn't catch her at all (easy in the wooden enclosure but far more places to hide in this one) and it took ages. It didn't help having DD saying "I want to get in!" over and over!

In better news, Angora will now climb out onto my arm and seems to quite like human company. She lets my daughter stroke her and feed her too. Adeline will come out if she has a pouch or tube to go in. We sit on the sofa and she seems confident. Very skittish in the cage though. Apple is confident in the cage and will eat from my hand and climb a bit onto my hand, but totally freaks out when out of the cage and hates the pouch. An interesting trio!

I am so in love with them. I'm already thinking how sad I will be when they die and wish they lived longer than 2-3 years!

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[cub]
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Re: My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

Post by [cub] » Mon Jul 25, 2016 2:14 pm

A few more notes from me, or that's my intention anyway; let's see how much of an essay this becomes. :lol: Again, not very experienced, pinch of salt, etc. :?

Rats are supposed to be crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk), and I've found that mine have sleep/wake patterns that roughly fit that, but their sleeping pattern is definitely flexible depending on your schedule and whatever's going on. If they know they get fed at a certain time, you can be sure they'll be up; if there's exciting stuff happening, they'll stay up past their normal bedtime; if they've had a busy day/night, they'll sleep in. I haven't noticed mine becoming more active than usual when it's unnaturally dark in the room (e.g. if I have the blinds shut and the lights off), but it's entirely possible that yours use light as a cue more than mine do. (My study window is north-facing and somewhat sheltered, so I usually have to have the light on even during the day. :roll: ) I suspect they appreciated having the blinds shut all the same; it was exceptionally hot last week and my rats were ready to melt!

Those weights look absolutely miniscule to me – do you know how old they are (or how old they're supposed to be? (Definitely not at all calling you into question, just whoever it is that accidentally bred the rats!) The littlest rat I've had was 157g when I homed her at 8 weeks, and it soon became clear (when I fed her extra and she didn't get bigger overall, just podgier :lol: ) that she was a naturally petite rat, small but perfectly formed. But I've only had 7 rats total so far, so I don't have a good grasp of what the normal range is, and it seems to be a huge range anyway, since some rats are clearly just much bigger/smaller built than others. So condition will be your main guide – podginess or boniness, as you noticed, though just as with size/weight, some rats are just naturally slight and some are naturally better padded. :lol: I've got two 27 month old half-sisters, one of whom has been skinny all her life, and one of whom has been plump all her life, and nothing I've tried has been able to change either significantly. I do need to be careful to make sure the skinny one eats well and doesn't get underweight, and that the plump one doesn't eat more than her fair share of the food and get overly plump, but they do just seem to be fundamentally differently built, even though they look like their skeletons would be the same size.

Also the roundness of their tail can be useful, as apparently a square tail is a sign of malnourishment. Don't worry about an edge to their tail as that's quite normal when they're growing, particularly if they're having a growth spurt. And if they were malnourished as infants (e.g. if their mum wasn't given enough good food while they were still suckling) then they may retain an edge to their tail all their life. If their tail is nice and round, it's a sign they're well fed – if it's always round, even while they're still growing, it might actually be a sign they're a little too well fed! It's only if they start getting really square that you should worry. (I didn't know what people meant by that until I saw some rats in adoption corner in a local pet shop. They had tails that literally had a square cross section, like big matchsticks. I've never seen anything like that, not even with my rescue girls who spent their first few weeks in pretty awful conditions and two of whom have/had edgy tails all their life.)

Up and down is, in my limited experience, very much the norm for new rats, particularly if you're a new owner and don't necessarily know what to expect, you've just made a big change in your life/schedule, and especially if the rats aren't from the best of backgrounds. So please don't worry, it does get easier, you get to know what's normal fluctuations and what's actually worrisome, what works for you and what doesn't, and it does get easier and more fun. But I'm sure you know all that already from your experiences with little ones of the human variety! :D

Rats pretty much can't be litter trained for urine: they use it to communicate, both to other rats and to themselves, so you're up against some very strong instincts if you want them to confine it just to the litter tray. They use urine to scent mark their territory: I suspect partly to say "this is my space! intruders keep out!", but also definitely to say "this is my home; if I can smell my urine, that means I'm in a safe place". So they like to pee around their cage to help them feel at home; they can't see very well, so smell is one of the main ways they navigate the world. They also pee on each other ("I know this rat and they are part of my group"), humans (I think it's the same as peeing on other rats, so take it as a compliment: you're being adopted :P ), and their food ("this is my food, and it's safe for me to eat"). Basically it's a general-purpose "I know this; I recognise this; this is safe; this is mine".

Hiding behind corner litter trays is something that a lot of rats seem to do, especially when they're small – and sometimes even when they're not-so-small and have to cram themselves in ... but they still manage somehow. :roll: A lot of people recommend using square cat litter trays instead, and making holes in them with a heated skewer so you can cable tie them to the cage, as they're bigger (some rats don't like the smallness of the corner trays) and more versatile than corner trays. (I did see a cunning photo of one with clips put through the holes, and then chains attached to the clips so that the tray could be suspended from the ceiling on the chains. And then apparently, if you get two trays the same, you can do the melting holes and attaching chains to the first one, put the second one inside the first one, so the second one lifts out easily when it needs emptying. I wish I'd thought of that!)

I must admit, though, I do still use corner trays as I find they actually suit me and my rats well, even with the occasional hiding behind them. :oops:

I also had a couple of rats with extended new-home-sneeze which required antibiotics (so I've had the same fun with dosing that you've had! :lol: ) when they first arrived; one of them had already had a flare-up while still in rescue – given the conditions they were rescued from it wasn't surprising. :( Both remained a bit sniffly and sneezy all their life, occasionally needing another course of antibiotics when it flared up. But for the most part I left them to it, only intervening if symptoms worsened and then stayed that way for a week. Often they'd have a little flare-up and it'd resolve itself within a few days. I figure it keeps their immune system well-exercised that way. :P

I did find that enrofloxacin (Baytril) and doxycycline worked better in combination than either on its own (and that combination is recommended by a few veterinary manuals I've checked) so that's something to consider if you have another flare-up. Also a 2 week course is recommended just to make sure you beat things down well, maybe as long as 4 weeks if it's clear the antibiotics are working, but it's not fully cleared up yet. (Not that you really get "fully cleared up" with mycoplasma; just cleared up enough that the immune system can more or less handle it from there. So the occasional sneeze is fine, I think; mine certainly get more sneezy/snuffly if they're excited or upset but that's usually very transient and I don't pay it much mind. Sometimes my old respy girl will start huffing and puffing just because I have a treat in my hand and IT'S SO EXCITING OMG, but she's fine once she's eaten it. :lol: :roll: )

I've had a lot of skittishness issues during out of cage time (sigh!) and at least in my quite limited experience, it is just a matter of patience. One of my rats has never actually come to enjoy it as such, but she'll tolerate it now that she's used to it, and will run around and explore so long as there's food for her to find. Staying in the carrier is normal for a nervous rat in a strange place; if the other two are running around exploring, Apple should eventually (it may be days, or weeks, or months...) take the hint and follow them. I never found forcing the issue helped, just let her draw her own conclusions from the fact that out time happens regularly and nobody's been eaten yet. :lol: I do take out things like tunnels when I've got really skitty/nervy rats though, as they do tend to just cram themselves in there and not come out. I find larger boxes work nicely: I cut holes in the side for them to use as doors, and just close the lid without taping it down, or leave the lid half-closed (one leaf down, the other leaf out). That way they have a little cover so it's not a big huge totally open space, but they don't get so much cover that they can just hide away and never come out again – or be retrieved easily. :roll:

I have found I've come to love all the different personalities I've had, even the difficult ones. Obviously the friendly, snuggly ones are lovely to have, but even the nervous (and previously aggressive) girl I have has been a genuine joy. There is a lot of frustration, and heartbreak, (and expense :roll: ) but it is absolutely worth it. And though – later on, when they get older – it feels like you're always saying goodbye to someone, you're always introducing new rats so you're always saying hello to someone and getting to know them too.

I'll stop now. :oops:
Poo-shoveller to: Lia and Lita.
Fondly remembering: Zephyr Delanynder the big floofy eejit (NLA28), Falere the contrary (NLA36), Mirala the best and finest (NLA36), Zephyr Opold the serene, and Rila the rodentist.
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amycool
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Re: My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

Post by amycool » Tue Jul 26, 2016 12:21 pm

Thanks again for all the info.

They were 7 1/2 weeks at the last weigh in. I'm due to weigh them today so hopefully they're still putting on weight. I checked their weights online and it seems within the normal range. That's how I worked out that they were only 5 weeks 6 days when they came (I was told initially that they were 8 weeks).

I think I've worked out why Apple is so thin! She's addicted to the Flying Saucer! I had thought that none of them used it, other than to climb on occasionally. But then my OH couldn't sleep and it turns out Apple is running her little legs off for hours every night! She looks hilarious on it. She's exhausted in the morning!

Their tales are very round and they're all pretty good eaters. I gave them some ratatouille this week and they loved it! They can be quite picky with fresh stuff, but I guess they have to learn what is and isn't safe to eat.

On the next clean I'm going to move the main hammock above the litter tray as they often wee and poo in the corner under the hammock now (lazy girls). I'm going to buy an extra one on my next rat rations order, along with loads more rope.

It's funny you mention yours sneezing when excited as Angora does that. If there's exciting food she will sneeze a few times but not at any other time. I'm still hearing the odd sneeze and it makes me anxious, but they all seem very healthy. I did 12 days antibiotics in the end as I had some left over. I will keep monitoring it and listening out for any wheezes. I'm tempted to buy a stethoscope. I saw a small animal one for £8.

Angora came out last night (I had my dressing gown on) and had a great explore! It felt a bit weird having a rat sat on my neck and I do worry she will run off, but she didn't. She's also pretty good now at sneaking past and climbing on the outside of the cage. :)

It's nice coming on here and reading about other people's rats as so many of my family and friends have been really quite horrible about our beautiful girls. Thankfully my daughter doesn't pay them any heed and loves our babies.

amycool
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Re: My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

Post by amycool » Thu Aug 11, 2016 4:04 pm

Hi,

Just an update on my little girls.

They are getting bigger, which makes picking them up so much easier! Still all well under 200g but gradually putting on weight and looking very healthy.

They have tried lots of new foods now and seem to like most of the vegetables but not too keen on fruit. They adore mealworms and last night I tried Cheerios and Angora couldn't get enough.

Health-wise, we are still having the occasional sneeze but not the constant sneezing we had before. We're keeping a close eye in case any of them start wheezing but so far so good.

I have one of those Savic feeding bowls, which I fill with water and they LOVE having a good wash in it! Angora also discovered the flying saucer so sometimes we see Apple and Angora on it at the same time. Adeline doesn't care for it at all.

We had a few near-escapes so all free-range time is now in the wooden enclosure. We have a nice routine now. Once my daughter is in bed they go in for about an hour to play on their own (occasionally I'll sneak in to say hi and they all stop until I leave) and then one of us gets in with them, or I take them onto the conservatory sofa (fewer places to escape) for a play. It's incredibly slow progress with Apple, who generally spends the whole time hiding, but at least she isn't weeing and pooing in fear anymore. The other two are more confident and last night had great fun with my cardigan, going in my pockets and trying to destroy my buttons.

And the exciting news (for them) is that we have opened up the whole Explorer now and they have their Sputnik, which they love. I was so nervous at first that they would fall but we used some old thick tights to tie across the middle and actually they're all amazing climbers now. We have 2 litter trays now, and they seem to be doing some wee in the upper one, which is great. Most goes in the Sputnik though, but that's so easy to clean out every day. It has massively reduced the smells in the cage.

I better go - school holidays means very little computer time for me!

Thanks everyone who has advised us so far and hopefully we won't need any more for a while!

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[cub]
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Re: My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

Post by [cub] » Mon Aug 15, 2016 10:36 am

It's great to hear that you're all doing so well. :D Even Apple definitely sounds like she's making good progress, and I'm certain she'll become less and less nervy with time. My nervy girl was at the vets last week, and the vet and vet nurses were all cooing over her, saying how easy to handle and lovely she was. It really amazed me: this is the rat who used to draw blood from me on a weekly basis! She's still skittish and shy, but she's relaxed so much over the years. Apple will relax too, in her own time. :luck:
Poo-shoveller to: Lia and Lita.
Fondly remembering: Zephyr Delanynder the big floofy eejit (NLA28), Falere the contrary (NLA36), Mirala the best and finest (NLA36), Zephyr Opold the serene, and Rila the rodentist.
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amycool
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Re: My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

Post by amycool » Wed Aug 17, 2016 2:12 pm

Thanks Cub!

We had our first big scare at the weekend. We came down on Sunday morning to find Apple in the corner of the cage, not really moving much and surrounded by her wee and poo. I put the bonding pouch in and she walked into it. She started moving a bit more but seemed very weak and in pain. So I gave her water from my finger, then thankfully she ate about 8 mealworms so I knew it wasn't life or death. I'm guessing she had an awkward fall, couldn't move and panicked. So we gave her some liquid ibuprofen and within 5 minutes she was running around again! 2 days later she was back to normal. Gave us all a fright though and I've put an old polo shirt across half of the cage in case anyone falls again.

During free range now Angora and Adeline are jumping all over me! It's so cute to watch. Apple is even climbing up as long as there's food to be had. :-)

We weighed them yesterday (Angora is the only one who will actually sit on the scales long enough to get an accurate reading) and they're all around 180g and looking nice and podgy!

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Re: My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

Post by [cub] » Wed Aug 17, 2016 4:01 pm

amycool wrote:We came down on Sunday morning to find Apple in the corner of the cage, not really moving much and surrounded by her wee and poo. I put the bonding pouch in and she walked into it. She started moving a bit more but seemed very weak and in pain. So I gave her water from my finger, then thankfully she ate about 8 mealworms so I knew it wasn't life or death. I'm guessing she had an awkward fall, couldn't move and panicked. So we gave her some liquid ibuprofen and within 5 minutes she was running around again! 2 days later she was back to normal. Gave us all a fright though and I've put an old polo shirt across half of the cage in case anyone falls again.
I still have relatively limited experience with rodent illnesses/injuries, but on reading that description it struck me that Apple might have had a seizure. I am biased, as one of my girls has epilepsy, and seizures are rare in rats (as far as I know) so I wouldn't consider my guesswork to be in any way definitive. But Apple apparently urinating and defecating where she fell, and going from weak and largely immobile to running around within a few minutes, is all sounding very familiar to me.

A drink and a high-calorie snack is the perfect seizure aftercare, and does no harm if it was just a bad fall. And given that Apple is back to normal now, a layout with more fall-breakers and close monitoring (as you're already doing) is the best thing to do regardless of what it was.
amycool wrote:We weighed them yesterday (Angora is the only one who will actually sit on the scales long enough to get an accurate reading) and they're all around 180g and looking nice and podgy!
I usually give them a treat when I'm weighing them to encourage them to stay still, though the treat does need to be quite tempting, and the newer girls are a bit reluctant to settle down (the older girls know the drill so they just sit and eat). Glad to hear they're all filling out nicely. :D
Poo-shoveller to: Lia and Lita.
Fondly remembering: Zephyr Delanynder the big floofy eejit (NLA28), Falere the contrary (NLA36), Mirala the best and finest (NLA36), Zephyr Opold the serene, and Rila the rodentist.
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amycool
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Re: My first (stressful) week as a rat owner

Post by amycool » Tue Aug 30, 2016 1:56 pm

It's taken me forever to get on here to reply!

It makes me sad to think of my poor little Apple having a seizure but it seems to make sense. Thankfully we haven't had anymore accidents or health scares. In fact, the sneezing is now very rare and they all seem very healthy.

Even treats won't make them sit still long enough to be weighed! They're all lightning fast so a dry treat will be grabbed and they run off. I tried chocolate spread but even that wouldn't tempt them. Angora is happy to be plonked in an ice cream tub and sits there for a second but the other two immediately leap out. Think I need a better receptacle! From what I've seen though, they're all putting on weight nicely.

Apple is getting very confident now and will run all over me and join the other two in the "let's try to jump out of the enclosure" game. We have plans to clear half of the conservatory and give them much more space. That way we can sit against the wall and they can climb without us panicking they're going to leap out.

A question - how do you get in and out of rat rooms/enclosures without them escaping? Before they were timid and hid when I came in, but now they're at the door!

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