Goodbye 2007!

January 3, 2008

A year ago yesterday I bought my first two girly rats – Treacle and Charlotte. A year on and I own 15 of them, have my own rat room, have been to a rat show, raised a litter and am planning on getting two more hooligans.

There is a thread on the NFRS forum about ratty wishes and dreams for 2008, so thought i’d put mine here as well.

But first to finish off 2007!

Those of you that can keep track may be wondering why I said I have 15 rats and not 12. The reason is the guy who was going to have the last of Sugar’s litter change his mind and decided to get some closer to him, so the 3 girls are still here. I have got really attached to them and they are so lovely, I just don’t want to part with them. I have changed Marzipan’s name to Fudge in honour of Charlotte who she is the spitting image of! I named Charlotte Fudge when I got her, but Steve decided she would be ‘his’ rat and changed her name. So, Fudge, Saffron and Nutmeg are now permanent residents. They are living in the Jenny with Burmickity, Sugar and Fogwatt and seem to be getting on fine with only a few minor scuffles every so often.

I am free-ranging all 12 girls together, so they get more time out now I only have two groups to free-range separately. They’re all getting on fine – just Pepper and Fogwatt still squabbling and an occasional little scuffle if someone gets over-enthusiastic about the humping and/or grooming!! Sugar’s babies have really grown in confidence since being out in the big group. They would run and hide before creeping back out slowly when I got into the play pen with them when it was just the three of them, but now they don’t worry at all, just come straight over. I guess they feel safer in a big group as well as following the big girl’s example.

I extended the boy’s cage slightly by putting one cage top on top of another (oh, the miracle that is cable ties!) so it’s slightly taller and they are still soft and soppy. Charlie is the smallest at 430g with Jools and Rupert weighing in at 460g ish. They spend most of their time when out free-ranging beating each other up.

I am adding two more boys to the numbers soon. They’re coming from work. They’ve been there several months and have recently been taken off sale and put in the isolation room (sick bay) due to one having chewed his fur off his front legs and the other has a bald spot on top of his head at the base of his ear. They’ve been treated for mites and the fur has started growing back on the one’s front legs but the other still has his bald spot. I wonder if it’s simply barbering through boredom. I can’t bring them home yet as we have to sort out adoption paperwork with the Inverness branch. I wouldn’t have taken them if i’d had to pay the store for them, but the money will go to the charitable foundation which is slightly better – though I still feel i’m letting down my ethics slightly! They are lovely boys – one is an agouti hoody and an adventurous hooligan, the other a champagne berkshire and he is softer and cuddlier. In the past i’ve been able to resist boys due to only having girls but now I have boys too it’s harder. Steve didn’t help by declaring that they had to come home with us the minute he laid eyes on them! The bloke I had to bribe into getting the first two this time last year!!

So there you have it – the end of my first ratty year – and here’s to another one! Cheers!!

Hussy rats!

November 14, 2007

My third tale of weekend woe is technically my first, as it all started last Sunday – however, it was only a potential tale of woe last weekend, it was confirmed as such this Sunday….

But first…. last Sunday I went out to the rat room to find two out of the six baby boys in their cage. I knew they could escape, so i’d put padlocks on the side doors, however, they’d managed to wriggle out of the gap created when the door opened but the padlock stopped it from completely opening. Mink roan boy was happily wandering round the table the cage is on, so I scooped him up and put him back in. I found silver fawn hoody and black hoody curled up in my spare hammocks then searched for mink hoody. It dawned on me as I searched the whole room that there may have been a disaster.

Charlotte, Tinkerbell and Mustard peered innocently out of their house at me, wondering what all the fuss was about, until I picked the house up and there, curled up at the back looking veeery happy was a little mink hooded boy! So there it was – potentially 9 pregnant does! In a panic I posted a thread on the NFRS forum and was advised that it’s actually quite rare for a 6.5 week old buck to ‘manage it’ with adult girlies, so I calmed down slightly and made some decisions.

There was no way I was having any more babies – to take in a rescue doe, then allow more babies to be born as a result was just ludicrous. I spoke to the vet who kindly agreed to allow me to pay for spaying in installments if neccessary, and he looked for some information about medication to get rid of unwanted babies instead of surgery. I wasn’t surprised when he found out that spaying was recomended over a medication route, as most of the injections used for aborting unwanted pregnancies need to be taken the day after. I’d never heard any mention of a medication mentioned on FR and there are enough ‘oh my god, my doe is pregnant topics’ on there for it to have come up!! The guys on the NFRS forum recomended that I weigh all the girls then weigh them in a weeks time and spay those that had put on weight, if any.

I am obviously going through a bad luck phase – both Tinkerbell and Sugar had put on over 40g each, so they are going to be spayed tommorrow. Spaying to get rid of unwanted babies is an issue that has been argued on FR. I know any operation on an animal so small is risky, and they would both cope fine with babies and motherhood. However – I don’t want any more babies at the moment- they take up an extraordinary amount of time, space and money. But more than that is the ethical implications – to take in a pregnant rescue doe to help out the rat rescue situation, then add to the situation by allowing her to go on and have yet another litter (fathered by her own son) is just wrong. There are enough unwanted rats in the country already and there is no need to add to that situation. Both girls are healthy, big girls and should have no problem going through surgery. In some ways it was a hard decision to make – but in this situation it’s the right one.

Rat breeding ethics

August 20, 2007

Firstly, the definition of ethics: is the study of values and customs of a person or group. It covers the analysis and employment of concepts such as right and wrong, good and evil, and responsibility.

Obviously everyone has different ideas of right and wrong and different things are more important to some people than others. On the fancy-rats thread someone was talking about a gauge of ‘ethicalness’, ie: this particular person graded breeding healthy rats above breeding healthy attractive rats. A person doing the former would get a (virtual) ‘score’ of 100, whereas the latter would get 96 for instance. I think is quite a good way of looking at it, rather than a black and white right or wrong, good or bad attitude.

Here are some of the things I feel are important and I would look for in a rat breeder and what my standards will be when / if I ever breed myself:

  • Rats are looked after correctly. They are kept in suitable cages, cleaned regularly and don’t smell, fed on an optimum diet with life stages, health etc taken into account when feeding. This obviously goes without saying, yet I feel it is important to include the simple things as they are so often overlooked when researching into something.
  • Rats are provided with mental stimulation and regular time out free-ranging and daily handling. This was an issue discussed on the forum and to me it is important all the rats are at least handled daily, even if daily free-ranging isn’t practicle. If daily free-ranging wasn’t provided I would need reassurance that the rat’s regular environment was interesting enough for it not to become bored and that free-range was provided, at least a couple of times a week.
  • There are not too many rats to cope with. This is pretty much tied in with the previous point. Personally, for me, too many rats would be when I didn’t have time to let them out and give them individual attention daily or keep the cages clean enough, or funds were stretched meaning healthcare could suffer. My maximum number will be different to another persons.
  • Care and attention is given to finding homes. This may be through adoption questionnaires, meeting people, talking on the phone or a combination. The person supplying the rats should ensure the rats they have bred will go to good homes. To me, this means not supplying pet shops and using pet only contracts unless providing specifically for breeding. Kittens should also not be homed singly unless proof can be supplied that they will be going to live with similar aged rats.
  • Aftercare. Once kittens are placed in a new home the breeder  should provide support and aftercare throughout the life of the rats. This includes taking them back should they ever need re-homing. In fact, in my opinion, an ethical breeder would insist on this.
  • Records should be kept on the history of current and previous rats. This is particularly important to determine the health of a line. Kittens placed in other homes need to be checked on throughout their lives. Breeders should also be happy to share this information. I would be suspicious of a breeder who was unwilling or unable to discuss the history and health of their lines.
  • Temperment and health should be bred for before colour and type. Type and colour is important, after all a rat should look and behave like a rat! However, to me, there seems no reason to be breeding lovely coloured rats that are sickly and grumpy, hence why temperment and health should come first.
  • Rats should only be bred from known, healthy, friendly lines. Rats should not be bred purely to supply a demand, they should be bred to improve the breeders lines and to produce better rats. A breeder should also have homes lined up or know they will be able to home their rats or be prepared to keep them all if homes do not materialise. Each litter should be carefully thought about and planned with specific aims.

As I said, those things are important to me, and may be completely different to another person’s ethics. They may well also change. I think it is important to discuss issues such as ethics, so breeders are aware of what people expect and discussion may also raise an issue that a breeder or potential owner hasn’t thought about.

Ethical questions

August 18, 2007

There have been some really interesting posts crop up recently on both the NFRS forum and fancy-rats concerning breeding ethics and the disadvantages of certain varieties. I haven’t contributed to any of the threads, just read all the opinions slowly and carefully to learn from people’s views. I have been thinking about some of these things though and will add my thoughts here soon.