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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sociable Sammy

"Little Sammy," is what I call him, never by his name, "Sammy." Sammy never grew, like the other rats did. He stopped growing at about 4 months old. He is even smaller than some of the girls. I was concerned about him. He never learned to climb on my shoulder and seemed a little slow on the uptake. He even looked like he didn't get it...wasn't sure what being a rat was all about, wasn't even sure what he was doing here on earth, in this house.

When Sammy looks out over the room, he tilts his head, curious. Head tilt usually would be a sign of something wrong, but he doesn't do it all the time...just when he looks out over the room from his table.

Sammy never seemed particularly attached to me, or interested, but I recently had to start medicating I had a chance to bond with him, but he took awhile.

My method of giving meds is to bring them to my chair, put a towel in my lap for them to rest on, then let them lick the meds from a dish in my lap. Most rats take a couple of feedings, with me letting them lick meds off of my finger, before they can relax and eat on their own. But Sammy took a couple of weeks, where he would huddle in one spot on my chest and shiver, licking medicine occasionally. The whole process took 15 to 20 minutes to get him through 1ml of medication (amoxicillin in cream, which every rat loves).

At first, I felt impatient. I wanted to put it in a syringe and force it in, but I felt like that might just break his spirit, though I've successfully done it with others. As I held him, wading through the tediously long feeding, I tried to recall my original affection for him. I am very attracted to intelligence and thinking of him as "slow" was a turn off.

Finally, this morning, he eagerly clambered down onto the towel and started licking the meds on his own! I was shocked. He didn't shiver or shake or take long at all. It was as if a "sociable" switch had been turned on!

I think Sammy is thoughtful, not slow. I have not spent much time with him, one-on-one and where that might be okay with other rats, he apparently needs more of my time. I had a volunteer like that...she was slow to respond, but clearly intelligent. I felt impatient with her, too, at first. But the more time I spent with her, the more I connected. As I have come to know rats better, I realize how much like us they are. Sociable Sammy might be considered to be a "nerd" were he a human...and, as we all know, nerds are pretty smart.

Domino Passes Muster

Today was the first day Domino allowed me to pick him up with my bare hands...not only allowed me, but came to me when I called!

The last few days have been trust training as follows: I hold a handful of cereal in my left hand; as he comes to pick out some pieces, I pet him with my right hand; he runs with the cereal then repeat; when my left hand is empty, I invite him into my lap; I do not pet him while he is in my lap, but let my hands brush against his sides; he nibbles my fingers, then leaves.

While volunteers were here today, Domino needed to be moved. I had planned the next step to be picking him up, but it happened unexpectedly. I just tried scooping him up with both hands and he complied. Later, when I called him, he came to be picked up again.

I told my husband earlier today that Domino's whole demeanor has changed. His look is softer...loving and affectionate, like the other rats. When I carried him to my husband this afternoon, to show him the miracle, he said, "He is looking at you like he adores you." Food definitely works, but with Domino, as with Bear, there is more. These are the rats that will be forever loyal, that will have a very deep bond with me. They bit me and I loved them anyway...eventually loving them out of it.

This is my first experience like this and I will do it again. I've never trust-trained biting rats before. I have Debbie Ducommun and Debra Mendelsohn to thank for this. Debbie writes a basic trust-training guide, which I always use. Watching Debra's videos helped me develop a method to add to Debbie's. Bear took 1 month and being neutered to train. Domino took two months and being neutered. They both behaved completely different, having come from different backgrounds. As Debra said, I had to watch their body language. Also, I've learned to communicate with them, which has helped a lot. Debbie says that once they lick food off your fingers, they are unlikely to bite, but Domino did not follow this scenario. He bit anyway, even when I did not try to touch him.

Before writing this, I took Domino to the sofa with me, for the first time since he came here, on September 29, 2012. We watched an hour of tv. He seemed amazed to find himself sitting beside me. We shared pudding, then I let him run in and out from under a blanket while I stretched out.

What truly amazes me is that I have only spent about 20 minutes a day with Domino...all the time I had for him. Even with that small amount of time, I know his heart forever belongs to me...such a small sacrifice, for such a large gift.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tugging Behavior

Domino is finally getting to be trust trained to the point of grooming me. According to one rat expert, he should have been at that point long ago. He licked food off of me fingers, though, following it with bites.

Once visitors were witness to him grabbing the skin of my hand and pulling, tearing long gouges in my skin.

He was neutered two weeks ago, which has calmed him somewhat, but he still tugs on my clothes. I've noticed several rats doing that, though. Sometimes, I know they want the fabric of my clothes for nesting. Sometimes, I know they are enticing me to play. But, Domino, I am not sure of. I've been bitten by him about 6 times now and may just be gun-shy.

I tried to play with him once, and he took offense. Just now, he will let me touch him briefly, without biting.

Finally, today, he sat in my lap and nibbled my fingernails...clear grooming. And when he tugged on my shirt, he was careful not to get skin. But I don't know what it means. And I wonder if I will ever completely trust him.

My closest guess is that rats use their teeth like hands in some ways. Know how you may playfully pull at a loved ones clothes? Or tug on a sleeve to get someone's attention? That's what this feels like to me.

Something I read recently said to give your animals a job, so that they feel useful. I asked Domino to bring in new volunteers, so I always thank him when we get a new one. Maybe that is what the tugging behavior is...he's letting me know he's pulling in a new one!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Security in Rituals

Bernadette has to have her teeth trimmed every two weeks, due to a malocclusion. She has become so used to it that she sits calmly on my lap at the vet, admired by all who come in.

Today she had a lot of anxiety. She climbed all over me, digging in her nails. She could not stay still except to climb under my arm to urinate...very unusual for her.

At first I thought it was because I was tense...the holidays, the traffic, forgetting the office would be closed until the last minute and having to rush.

I was really concerned. She is almost two and her brother died of bone cancer. Anything off in her makes me antsy.

Then I realized my behavior in the office was different. Instead of sitting on the bench in front of the front desk, I sat in a chair and looked at a magazine. Change can be enough to throw any of us off, especially in a potentially scary situation.

Over and over again, I have noticed how important ritual is to least to rescued rats. The only change they seem to enjoy is new toys and a clean cage.

Anything new in Bear's routine takes him until the second time to become comfortable with. The first time I put him in my lap to tickle him, he was confused. The second time, he got it...we can also do tickles in mommy's lap. When I let him run around in the bathroom while I dress or bathe, he knows exactly what my last move will be before time to leave. Right beforehand, he will clamber to get up my leg and onto my I don't leave him behind? All of them seem to be as relieved to go back to their tables as they do to get off of them.

Though sometimes I'm off with the timing of meds or dinner, I make sure to do everything in the same order right down to who gets their dinner bowl first. I can feel the anxiety in the room, if I don't. Bless their hearts...born into lives of chaos and danger, they cling to every measure of security and safety. Don't we all?

Next time I take Bernadette, forget the pleasure of People magazine and a plush chair. I will take my seat on the bench, where everyone who comes in can see her, and she them...where she will feel safe.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Here, I was given an opportunity to speak for 5 minutes in front of an audience of 800 people. One month later, it was on youtube.

Watching this today, for the first time, and listening to the audience's response...well no wonder I cried. How difficult to be right in the midst of a rescue it and breathing it every day, then trying to talk about it to unsympathetic listeners.

If it weren't for Sara, this may not have been received well at all. I knew her brief life was for a purpose...this was it. The audience turned when I cried on stage.

All the discussions us "rat people" have about which antibiotic to use first and which diet is best fades in importance when so many are being put to their cruel deaths every day.

Last night, I read accounts of how rats suffer when strangled to death by snakes and how, because we have minimized the importance of their lives, they are treated with unimaginable cruelty in the name of fun.

As I held the soft, warm bodies to administer medication, I could not fathom how or why a human could bash one of these bodies against a wall to knock him out...or step on him in order to crush him to death. But then, we know the same atrocities have been committed against our own kind, so why not these helpless creatures?

I think what we do to small animals is symptomatic of the big problem. As long as we think there are people or animals that are lesser than ourselves...less worthy...less deserving...we will not have peace. We will not have peace in this world until we learn to treat our littlest creatures with care and realize that every living being has a right to be here and to be treated with respect.

I don't encourage everyone to have a companion rat, but, I encourage everyone who wants a healthy world for themselves and their progeny to have respect enough for every living creature to speak out against tortuous and barbaric behavior of every kind.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Senior Living

Cleaning Bernadette's cage today put me in a reflective mood. I filled her area with warm hammocks, interesting places to climb and fresh toys. Six people live on this 5' banquet table with 2 open cages. Every time I clean a cage, I change things a little.

When I finished, Bernadette was at the end of the sofa, waiting. Some of them know when I've finished and they wait, eagerly, to see the changes.

I sat and watched her check out every toy, climb through every tunnel and test the beds. Twice she came back to me to thank me and offer her approval.

Next was little Sammy, then Jack Frost and Bartholomew. Each of them spent a good 10 minutes exploring.

Last I went to get Irene and Mocha. I found them together, under a blanket, Irene lying across Mocha's back...a young boy making a soft place for a senior. I sat and watched them for a few minutes, remembering. Bernadette and Irene are nearly 2 years old. When they arrived, they were with 2 cage mates, who later died. Then they were introduced to Buddy, who also died. Then they lived with Tot and Pongo, who were adopted.

Finally, I chose four "sanctuary" rats to stay and be their companions, because Bernadette and Irene are permanent residents. Bernadette wanted nothing to do with anyone else. Now she can be found curling up with each boy, in turn, on any given day.

Irene has always loved everyone else. She came from a very sad took months to get her to trust us enough to let us pick her up. To see her contentedly snuggled with her young companions and know that she will have companionship for the rest of her life is such a comfort, as it is to be able to give her a good life in many other ways.

I would be happy to live out my last days with the kind of life these older rats have...surrounded by friends, caretakers, entertainment, warmth and good food. May every senior citizen of every species have opportunity for similar blessings!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Healthy Bear, Healthy Me

I've witnessed karma in action with Bear. Bear bear, baby boo, baby names for a rat that wiggled his butt so that he could sink his teeth into my arm on the first day we met. The bruise took nearly two weeks to heal.

This morning, we use every excuse to touch each other gently...him rubbing against my hands, nose to my face, reaching to be picked up...and I tickle or touch him each time he passes me. I adore him and know he loves me deeply.

Love is a given after trust-training. I've never trust-trained a rat and not had a mutual bond form. But Bear and his biting brought an extra blessing of laughter.

I don't laugh much. This business is too sad; I don't always feel so good; and I don't work very hard to bring laughter into my life. But Bear...well, Bear has me giggling twice a day.

I guess it's his huge, muscle-packed enthusiasm. Everything is great fun to him and his whole body shows it. Most of his movements are hops, leaps, bounds or running. He is excited about: my peeling an orange, the smell of an apple, the smell of other rats on the sofa, the possibility of a hidden rat in the blanket, getting a piece of orange, getting a peanut, finding an M&M and being tickled.

He lets me know when he is ready for tickling by leaping toward my hand and doing a 180 degree turn. Then he grabs my finger (gently) and wrestles a bit.

He's ready for any new game. I pat my lap, wanting him to hop up and roll over so I can rub his belly. He eagerly hops onto my lap and looks at me...not sure what I want, but ready to try.

He appears to be trying to squeeze in all the happy moments he missed in his previous life, into this life. Everything I do, everything I give him delights him.

And even when he has kept me laughing for 30 minutes straight, when I put him back on his table this morning, he has one more trick. He picks up a toy, carries it to the edge and drops it on the floor right in front of me. He looks very pleased as I burst into laughter one more time this morning.

I have often sensed that when we laugh, our rats enjoy the sound. Our laughter seems to increase their antics. Bear works twice as hard as any other rat I've known, to keep me laughing. The bite didn't even leave a mark, but the laughter is carving some deep grooves into my marred soul.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

From Buddy to Bear to Domino

If you've kept up with The Rat Retreat, you'll know Buddy passed away. He became fully trust-trained, was introduced to and lived with two girls, one of whom he dearly loved, had a huge tumor removed and recovered to live several more months. Every moment of working with him was worth it as I witnessed him living a life of joy. When a second tumor formed and attached, he was put to sleep. He had not been eating well for two days. He had spent enough of his life suffering.

The next rat that required a lot of work was Bear. His success story and the details of trust-training a biting rat, are documented on The Rat Retreat Facebook page.

Now I am working with Domino. I will not repeat his history, also documented on The Rat Retreat Facebook page, but will start with today.

He was neutered about 4 days ago. Yesterday, in front of a visiting group, he grabbed the skin on my wrist and tried to pull me that way. When I got my arm away, he lunged and caught my hand in his teeth. I was quicker! I only got deep scratches, but everyone gasped and exclaimed. I saw this morning that Domino was suffering the rat's equivalent of embarrassment over that incident.

Every morning I trust train him, leading him into my lap with food, waiting for the hormone-inspired, territorial impulses to die out. After yesterday, I decided to keep some distance. I brought my bowl of cereal to the end of the table and offered to share. Domino just looked at me...sad and puzzled. I realized that he himself did not understand why he had bitten me yesterday, and was unhappy about it. I explained to him that it was just hormones...part of his nature...and that he would begin to feel calmer and less territorial. I took him a piece of cereal and told him I was not mad at him.

After eating the cereal, he slowly crept across the table. I felt so sad that this beloved creature didn't come to me boldly. I have only worked with him and spoken softly to him, hand-feeding him tidbits to let him know that I want peace with him. Perhaps my having to wrap him in a towel to return him to his table after biting, was causing him to feel less than loved. I know he must have felt some kind of sting yesterday, too, as our 9 visitors played and laughed with the other rats, while avoiding him.

I encouraged him to come to my bowl and share my breakfast. He finally took a mouthful of banana and cereal and went back to his hiding place. After he finished that, I carried to him the last two bits of cereal and waited for him to finish those and return to the bowl. He drank some soymilk from the bowl, but refused my offer to climb into my lap. At least when he walked away this time, he did not cower. He had a return of some pride...knowing he is loved. I took the last of the bowl and lay it in front of him...a hopeful offering for a better day tomorrow.

I have noticed that we both have to take a few steps backwards after a bite. I have to relearn to trust him and he to trust himself. Tomorrow will be 6 days since neutering. If he starts to pull on my clothing with his teeth, I will quickly wrap him in a towel and remove him from my lap, again. Better to risk embarrassment than the setback of another bite.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Update on Buddy

I won Buddy’s trust with ice cream after the last time I posted.  I used about 1 tablespoon of ice cream divided into 10 dabs.  When he smelled the ice cream he came out quickly.  After serving him nine of those little dabs, one at a time over a period of about three sessions, he accepted my picking him up.  I called and, no ice cream with me, he sat in front of me and waited.  He wiggled a little bit after I picked him up but there was no squeaking.  We watched ½ hour of TV together then I gave him the last               of the ice cream after I put him back, to reinforce our new relationship!
I realized his trust was firmly established when the following days he came out when called.  Occasionally he changes his position to be picked up by turning his back to me, but he only sits right in front of me very still until I pick him up.
One night I tried to take a shortcut for introducing him to a friend.  I had Weinstein on the sofa, scattered a lot of treats around and put Buddy there too, watching them carefully.  Weinstein stayed behind the blanket eating his treats.  Buddy ran back and forth up and down the sofa looking for Weinstein.  When he found him behind the blanket he gave him a phantom bite (which is a sign of annoyance).  I immediately put Weinstein back deciding that I will have to take the long slow way of introductions by starting with their cages side by side.  His owner will be over to help me with that on Saturday.
After I removed Weinstein, Buddy crawled in and out of my lap allowing himself to be petted and eating some treats.  It was very easy to pick him up and put him back.  He seems to look forward to his timeout with me and even knows when it’s his turn.
I was eventually able to take the caliper and measure his tumor.  My measurement was not perfect but it looks like around 50 mm in height.  The width is even longer.  The next day I was able to get my fingers around the tumor and it feels to me like it is attached.  Buddy’s body is about one 6th tumor.
Once I realized it was attached I added Carcinosin to his treatment.  This is a homeopathic treatment for cancer.  I have also considered prednisone, but with his weight would be concerned about his blood sugar.  Thank God for homeopathy.  I don’t know whether the spiritual intention of Buddy’s being here is for hospice care or for healing.  Either way I am very grateful to be a part of him getting to experience plenty of touch.  Increasingly everyday he seems to enjoy his head being rubbed more and more and occasionally allows me to stroke his back.  His climbing on my lap and putting his hands on my arms let me know he is enjoying the affection.  I’m blessed to be a part of his life.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Buddy's New Setup

The table I wanted to bring in is too buried but I did run across a very large cage that would be perfect for Buddy and a new friend. The ramps are wider so that he can get up and down more comfortably and the width and depth of the cage is more suitable for such a large rat. Also important is that I can sit up to the cage and trust train him out into my lap.  I again realized the importance of this when I set up a makeshift cage for him today.

His owner will be here later in the week to help me get the cage inside. 

We use the online rat cage calculator to estimate whether a cage will hold one, two or more rats.  One thing that should be taken into account though is the size of the rat. I realize the cages are crazy expensive.  They aren't always well made either because I've had several that have rusted. That is where a homemade or makeshift cage comes in handy.  Several times I have dismantled old cages, saved the still usable sides and connected them with J clips, cage clips or even zip ties to make what I need.  Just try to avoid having anything with rust near the rat because that could be poisonous.  This is where having the cage open on a table, with ledges, is perfect because the cage does not have to be completely closed in.

Surprisingly rats seem to prefer to have some kind of cage than none at all.  Dr. Koob pointed out, when I said I went cage-less, that they need a place to hide.  So a roof (even if it's just an old sheet) and a few walls is important.

I put Buddy's old cage bottom on the sofa, with him in it, while I set up a makeshift cage.  He didn't seem to mind this because he's used to the sofa smells.  Once I finish setting up his cage I was able to scoot up a stool next to the sofa and he actually came out of the igloo. He wandered around a little bit and then went back in, but when I lifted the igloo, picked him up and put him on my lap, he did not squeak!  A clear victory!

The new setup only affords Buddy about five extra inches of depth and width but considering that he is almost 5 inches wide that's a big difference.

After I held him on my lap for a few minutes I picked him up, held him close to me and carried him to his new setup.  When I put him down he was very excited! He did not run straight into the igloo, but made the rounds of everything---his bulletproof paper roll, his wheel, his hiding/chew log, his Ka-bob and then he went and sat in his litter pan. I was so proud of him, I praised him over and over.  He seemed to wonder where the ramp was, but definitely wasn't bothered by its lack.  He had not visited the top of his cage since he's been here. I'll never know for sure but my best guess is that he could no longer get up the ramp but really wanted to move around.  He did come out of the cage last night to get his food block that I left out for him.  But there had been no signs of him coming out and staying out.  I hope now that everything is enclosed in one area he will keep moving.

His igloo is rearranged now so that I can easily hold a spoon a distance away from it and he can move toward it while still staying under cover.  I think this will make trust-training more effective.

If anyone is interested in making a cage, there are several sites online that have instructions: the rat fan club and the dapper rat are two. I would be happy to email photos of our set-ups if you request them at I got the idea for ledges on the tables from a rat rescue in Pennsylvania.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fresh Start With Buddy

I felt a little lost with Buddy tonight.  I didn't get home until afternoon, so started trust-training late.  He just wouldn't come out of the igloo any further than his shoulders.  I think last night scared him or maybe the applesauce wasn't incentive enough.  He wouldn't come all the way out for dinner, though, either.

I took a break from holding the rats tonight; watched tv alone. Then before bed sat in one of the many chairs in front of the rats' tables because a girl drew my attention. As I sat there letting her and her roommate crawl on me, I asked the room of rats, "What should we do about Buddy? I feel sad about him being alone all day."  Suddenly I had a mind picture of a low table for him, like the rest of the rats. (We only had a tall cabinet left to put him on.)

I decided to pull in a banquet table from the shop and put his cage on that tomorrow. Ideally trust-training should end with the rat crawling into your lap, anyway, which he can't do from that height. I may even remove him from his cage and set up a makeshift cage. He is not using the top floor at all.

I am excited about a new set-up for him tomorrow and, hopefully, a fresh start on trust-training. Meanwhile, I asked all the other rats to chat with him tonight and explained the situation to him. Pray for Buddy! Pray for me to make a good decision about introductions, too. I would really like for him to have a friend sooner rather than later.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Buddy Comes Out

Buddy went outside of his cage last night on his own because his food block was gone. I gave him four little dabs of the applesauce this morning and he came all the way out of his igloo for the last two!

Early this afternoon I installed a Ka-bob in his cage.  I carried all the little pieces over to the door of his cage to put it together and he came out to watch with great interest.  He could hardly wait for me to hang it before he started chowing on the birch.

Later this afternoon I took him some homemade vegetable stew and he came all the way out of his igloo for each little dab. When I brought him a second serving later, he came all the way out of the cage to get it.  He was waiting for me by the time I got into the room. A third time I put some of the stew on my fingers and let him lick it off.  Each time I felt teeth, I squealed.  He quickly understood to lick instead of grab, though he was a obviously very hungry.

When his TV time came tonight, all that trust-training paid off because he came out all the way out of his igloo as soon as I called his name.  I picked him up and he wiggled a little bit but stopped when I put him against my chest. He ran back and forth on the sofa, clearly a little anxious (he did a lot of pooping), but he did eat the first treat I gave him. When the show ended 22 minutes later though, he was pretty stressed.  He squeaked when my husband patted him and he squeaked a lot when I picked him up to put him back.

I rewarded him for his bravery by praising him and giving him a treat in his igloo.  He eagerly took that as well as taking his dinner when it was served.  Good signs because if he was seriously stressed, he would've gone to the back of his igloo and not come out for anything.  I've seen really shy rats do that.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Good Friday for Buddy

Buddy make good progress today despite my not having as much time as yesterday. I used applesauce for trust-training again.  For the first session he came out with his head and shoulders.  For the second session he completely climbed out of the igloo. He was awake more of the day today and seemed to look forward to visits.

I was talking to him about the wheel today and one of those things happened that makes me so sure that rats understand me. I told him that I wanted him to use the wheel but that he would not yet fit into the opening.  He then backed into the igloo, bringing my attention to the doorway.  I told him, "I think you're right.  The wheel opening is the same size." I got a clean igloo and took it up to the wheel to compare the shapes and realized that the wheel opening is actually a little bit wider. Go figure. I know what I know.

Before I started taking rats out tonight I sat down on the sofa to peel an orange.  For the first time that I observed, Buddy came out of his igloo and stuck his head out the door of the cage which is right across from where I was sitting. A little while later I noticed that he was struggling to get food from the new feeder I installed in his cage.  I wanted him to work for it but after several attempts he was unsuccessful. When I went to help him he came out of his igloo and stood very eagerly knowing that I was going to help.  He seemed very grateful when he took the food block from me.

I pulled two extra food blocks out and put one on the top floor of his cage and another outside of his cage on the table.  I hope this gets him moving around more tonight. That will also help me track whether he is coming out or not.

I did not force Buddy out of the cage and onto the sofa again tonight, but he was very bold twice more about coming out of his igloo. Once was when I was eating a piece of Chocolate Levain bread on the sofa.  Buddy loved that smell and again stuck his head out of the cage. I tried giving him one of the regular treats, a little piece of rice cake, but he snatched that out of my fingers, tossed it to the floor of the cage and took my fingers in his teeth (without breaking the skin). I had to laugh and went to break him off a small piece of the bread that he obviously wanted.  He sure worked for it!

When I served dinner tonight (produce) I put it all the way across the cage hoping to get him out of the igloo so I could change his bedding. I was so proud of him for standing by while I lifted the igloo and switched his bedding.  The food didn't distract him, but he seemed to know I was helping. After I put his igloo back, rather than running back into it he casually went over to check out his dinner.  It was a good day for Buddy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thursday with Buddy

Turned on Pandora for the rats today.  I think Buddy really likes the music.  He stuck his head out more and appeared to be engaged. I visited his cage about every 30 minutes during the morning.  During the last visit of the morning he started chattering at me. Before I leave the house I always say goodbye to the rats.  When I came back today I went straight to Buddy's cage after saying, "I'm back." He again had his head out and appeared interested.  Definitely a social guy.

Early this evening I needed to clean out his cage.  His cage sits on the top of the table.  I started with a session of trust-training.  I used applesauce putting a dab on the end of a spoon.  With each bite he came out a little further, but once his body was about one 3rd out of the igloo he stopped advancing. I maneuvered the cage with him in it so that it was half off the table. Then I lifted his igloo and tried to encourage him to climb out of the cage.  He was too afraid.  I had arranged an area about a foot away from the cage on the table so that he would have another hiding spot.  I picked him up and put him in the new spot. He was obviously nervous about being picked up, but then I was nervous about picking him up, so that was totally expected.

Once I finish cleaning the cage he did not go back into it on his own.  I am not sure if he just was too scared to come out of his hiding space or he was unable to climb up to the door of his cage.

Everyone gets 30 minutes out of the cage areas to watch TV with me.  When Buddy's turn came, I covered him up with a blanket to pick him up.  He was still afraid, but I held him very close to me and he did not try to get away once I picked him up. I lightly ran my hands over his sides because he appeared to have a tumor.  I did discover a large tumor on his left flank.

We stayed on the sofa for about 20 minutes.  He explored the sofa, picking up on everyone else's smells, but would not eat his treat.  He finally settled in a corner and I rubbed his head.  He closed his eyes for a couple of minutes.  When I started to rub his ear he squeaked. It was such a little squeak I could hardly tell that was coming from him.  I quit rubbing his head and laid on the sofa row where I was facing him, close but not touching.  I just gazed into his eyes and talked to him. Eventually he approached me, sniffing my face and climbing under my arm.  This time when I rubbed his ear he did not squeak, but he only tolerated being touched for a few more minutes before he began to squeak again. His squeaks seem to be coming from fear not pain.

To put him back in his cage I convinced him to climb into a soft carrier for transport.  He still did not like being carried but I believe the firm surface underneath him made it less threatening.

He received a dose of tumor suppressor along with his dinner tonight.  We have a 90% cure rate with the tumor suppressor but we usually catch them earlier.  If it doesn't shrink the tumor, it should at least stop it from growing.  Because of his difficulty with being touched I could not tell if the tumor was attached or not.

To potentially save his life I'm going to practice what I see the vets do and handle him as much as possible even though he doesn't like it.  Normally I would take things a lot more slowly, but between his weight and his tumor I don't think we can afford to do that with Buddy.

Rats and children

For the second time in a few months, I received a call about the death of a rat at the hands of a child. A two-year-old got hold of a rat while mother was sleeping, and killed it.

A child under 8 rarely has the manual dexterity to understand how gently a rat must be held. Please don't buy rats for young children.


The Creative Power Of God is individualized in every soul.

Please pray for Buddy and E, his generous owner. She has left Buddy with me until she finds a home that she can bring him to. Buddy is a huge rat, over 2 pounds. E rescued him from a Zamzow's feeder tank where his plight was a obviously going to be dinner for a snake. E has been afraid to hold him because he has bitten a few people, but she has faithfully cleaned his cage kept him fed and kept him housed in places where she is able to get him back when she's ready. Buddy has already come out of his cage for me and allowed me to pet him but runs like the wind I try to pick him up! He is too large to fit in the opening of even our largest rat wheel. So our prayer requests are as follows: that Buddy makes use of all the ramps and exercise areas we have installed for him, that he overcomes his shyness and allows himself to be held and played with and that E is comfortable reaching into his cage and picking him up.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

For the past several weeks, we've tried the new (to us) King Bio products on our rats: Aqua Flora Hi Potency 9, Pro biotic Restorer, Constitutional Enhancer and Lung and Bronchial Relief. There has been a gradual reduction in wheezing, except in our 3 year old Zoe. The only thing I hear now is a nasal sound like a stuffy nose and excessive sneezing in a few of the 1-year-old boys. I'm going to take them off of the Lung and Bronchial Relief and put them on something else from King Bio, for nasal or cold symptoms. We give them their supplements in their water when we change it each week. The Rat Retreat, Inc.