Monday, December 14, 2015

Life with Rats

Over the summer we started to get some pressure from Robert to get a pet. We're not too sure where it originated - school probably - but he was sufficently persistant that we started to have some confidence that it wasn't a passing fad, and so looked into it a bit. Our two-jobs-two-kids lifestyle isn't good for dogs, and whilst we've had cats in the past the house is now a little bit small for us, and has no catflap, so that seemed out too. Also, our last two cats were living with my parents, and were now too old and spoiled to come home. So small pets - you'd have to be nuts to believe any child will really pull much weight in looking after them, so it would be down to us, and ideally something (bluntly) doesn't live too long but is still lively and interesting and fun to be around. Somehow Zoe and Robert put their heads together and came up with...Rats!  And a lot of people said "What? Rats?!!" but thats what we went with. So here is a brief summary of our first month with our furry nutters; Nibbles, Curious, and  Cheeky. 

Yes, we let Robert name them. 

So a lot of reading later and we got on a waiting list for a Leeds-Based Rat Breeder with a cool name, and tried to work out how we could rearrange the furniture to get a cage in the lounge. Actually that was pretty straightforward, and the large cage they spend most of their time in sits in a quiet alcoved corner where they can choose their own level of involvement. This mostly means clustering around the top corner of the cage everytime a new smell comes into the room, which is constantly the most exciting thing since the last new smell. Otherwise they spend their time hanging around in a big furry pile on the hammock, or chasing each other through the increasingly complex network of tubes and tnnels we're adding to the cage to keep them entertained. 

Rats are, it turns out, pretty cute. They love to explore, they love new things, they love being hndled and played with. They've already got discreet personalities, too. Nibbles likes climbing and jumping, and my arm can attest to his tendancy to use it as a ladder the moment it gets within reach. Cheeky is the most cuddly, and we think most likely to settle to be a "shoulder rat". Curious is the alpha, which means he's generally first to do anything, and spends a good chunk of his time wrestling with the others if they get out of line. 

In terms of upkeep, they've been pretty low maintainance - daily food and water, obviously, and a once-a-week full cage clean, You can litter train rats, which is a mixed success but we're persevering with it. Probably the biggest thing we have to do is "playtime" - it's important to get them out and about and I've rigged up a "playpen" out of perspex sheets and bulldog clips, which gives a big runspace on the floor, and only takes a couple of minutes to setup. Add toys, rats, and on a couple of occassions, closely supervised children, and away you go. All that said, so far evidence indicates that what they really, really, like, is an old cereal box stuffed with paper that they can dismantle,which is both fun for them and hilarious to watch.

So that's the rats so far - Robert thinks they're great, although is still a little too excitable about them to handle them safely. But we're working on that (both from Rat-side and Robert-side) too. Welcome to the family, furry nutters!