This week’s developments: Pepper is a total camera whore. I barely get any photos of Salt these days. I’m going to put up some before and after photos of their behaviour soon (as soon as I can be bothered with all the image processing faff) simply because the change is so striking. The clicker training’s revolutionised Pepper, he seems to have finally realised he can interact with me as if I were another rat and is suddenly all confidence and affection. It’s lovely. I also heartily recommend Karen Pryor’s “Don’t Shoot the Dog” if you’re at all interested in this style of training.
Pep is also a fast learner – “come here” is more or less established and will even tempt him out from under cushions, although I need to polish it up and get him responding a bit quicker. Continue reading
No photo today because it’s One Of Those Weeks in my life, but I’m delighted to say that this morning’s visit to the vet after another bout of sneezing and whistling from poor Salty was very positive. I’d already guessed from their increased liveliness and improved condition that they were doing well – they’ve now got proper, full-length muscle in their tails which they didn’t have when they first arrived. The way they curl their tails up when they’re foraging is making me laugh – two little pink serpents poke out above the cage base and scurry around.
So when I first got rats, I was partly influenced by the fact that they’re intelligent and trainable – they’re sometimes called pocket dogs, pretty much for exactly that reason. And a couple of days ago I spent £2 in a fit of late-night enthusiasm on a clicker in the hope of beng able to train them to do a few things. (I’m a little bit sore at discovering that one of those jam jar lids with a button would do just as well, but I also admit I’m rather less likely to throw out a colourful plastic knick-knack by accident!) I’m not hoping for anything as amazing as the stuff in this video:
But it would be great if they’d come when called, and the one where they’ll jump into your hand looks pretty useful as well. And I’m sure I’ll have some creative ideas along the way. Who knows? I have Karen Pryor’s “Don’t Shoot the Dog” on request at the library for some insight about methodology and there are lots of helpful Youtube videos and forum folk about – wish me luck 🙂
Oh dear oh dear. You know you’ve become a rataholic when.
Here in Cambs our local rat stud is the redoubtable Zephyr Rats, producer of some of the friendliest and most outgoing rats I’ve met in my short career. Mary of Zephyr was the first person I contacted hoping to get rats, but like many successful breeders she has a busy waiting list and I eventually took in Salt and Pepper as rescues so that I had some company and some fuzzies to care for to ease the wait. From the forums I find I’m not by any means alone – the Zephyr stalkers club is a grand tradition, apparently, as hopeful future Zephyr owners obsessively follow Mary’s mums-to-be and get absurdly excited over photos of babies that resemble nothing more than the mutant offspring of a raw cocktail sausage and a hippo. I am embarrassed to admit that I have now become one of them – I remind myself of the endless stream of new parents on my thirty-something Facebook news feed who flock to photographs of yet another small, red, squashed Winston Churchill clone and extol the aesthetic perfection of its tiny form. They’re not sausages, they’re beautiful. Mmkay?
And Camp Stalker is out in force at the moment, too. Mary’s been trying for some winter/spring litters, in theory three although she thinks one of them may not have taken at all. She informs me that to make all of her current list of hopeful owners happy she’ll need her three mums to produce ten boys. The first litter (pictured) turned out to only be five strong, and of those five only one is a boy! So if Mum no. 2 does indeed prove not to be pregnant, poor old Mum no. 3 would have to produce a whopping litter containing nine boys to satisfy us all. I have a terrible feeling I’m going to be waiting again!
Today is the boys’ first day off their Baytril (antibiotics, for the uninitiated). This is when I get to see if I’ve really made a difference to their health.
I’m also getting absurdly excited about the fact that the local breeder from whom I’m hoping to get a babies to boost up the group size has not one but three litters on the way – they’re due between the 10th and 19th of March and I’m waiting with bated breath for the photos of little pink sausages to start appearing online. She’s already said she doesn’t mind S&P having myco as she trusts her rats to be healthy as horses (and with good reason, all the Zephyr rats I’ve met have been huge, friendly and glossy as you like). So if we’re lucky and she doesn’t get litterloads of girls, there might be some new faces to introduce soon!
Today S&P met two more of my friends, who’d come over to teach me about the noble art of LARPing. They were beautifully behaved, amazed me with their confidence exploring, and made a very good impression generally. Ben knew about rats; his partner didn’t though she was delighted by them, and they were very much fussed and told how lovely they were. I of course made a complete nitwit of myself by losing my keys and having to ask my friends if I could phone them back when I’d found then so I could actually let them in. Oh well; at least the rats are doing better than they were!
In other news, I had this vague idea that having rats would be a good way to use up all the odd bits of random fabric I have lying about. It looks rather as though I was right. As a writer and avid reader I’ve heard the term ‘slightly foxed’ – I think you could describe the fabric in today’s photo as ‘severely ratted’!