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.
It turns out that my suspicions as to why Salt had the sneezes again were right – Salt hadn’t put any weight on at all because Pepper, who’s gone from 513g last weigh-in to a rotund 540g pudding in a couple of weeks, has been eating all the pies. I thought something a bit suspicious was going on when I realised that Pepper is so uptight about getting enough food (probably thanks to a horrible rat-mill youth) that not even scatter feeding was working to make them share. Pepper simply declared the entire cage floor and all the food his property and smacked Salt around for daring to forage at all. So poor Salt, who is actually bigger in terms of his nose-to-tail length, wasn’t getting enough of the goodies and filling out. Mad Aunt Gill pronounced them far healthier than they’d been when I first brought them in; this is a very minor relapse according to her, and the regime from now on is one week’s Baytril now, and then five days of it once a month for three months if they don’t have symptoms – that should beat the back general level of myco they carry around. She thinks they’ll likely be back come November when the central heating goes back on, but all in all we’ve done the job pretty well 🙂
As for the mealtime stress problem, Pepper is now looking like nothing so much as an oversized pool ball with a little pointy nose on it, and after consulting the FancyRats folk I’ve taken to taking him out for click training and cuddles and then sneaking the food bowl in there while he’s away. So Salt gets first crack at the good stuff, and Pepper gets his exercise! So far it seems to be working, both of them are already calmer about meals, and the really unexpected bonus is that both the click training and the extra attention are revolutionising the way Pepper interacts with me. I’m learning as much as he is and I’m really starting to respect the social intelligence of these little guys. Pepper’s had a habit of sitting watching me ever since I brought the two of them home; it’s taken me this long to realise that he wants a way to interact with me as part of his notional tribe. Part of his fear of me was that I wasn’t offering him a social role he could understand, so he couldn’t figure out how to give me something I want. Little sweetie! The click training seems to be really rewarding to him just for the interaction between us. He’s nearly got “come here” figured out after four days, although it still takes a couple of tries sometimes, and most adorably, he’s now taken to sleeping beside me on the sofa instead of under the nearest cushion he can find.
So I’m loving this. I really feel that their liveliness and condition is a reward in itself for the effort I’ve put in, and now that they’re healthy and lively and full of personality i’m falling for them more and more every time. Rats; they’re awesome 🙂