Today has been a day

That’s for God damn sure.

(I swear, I will actually use this for educational purposes at some point, but right now it’s the only place I can vent about things without dealing with my in-laws)

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a bad mental health day where you just want to scream because you’re so damn nervous for no reason, but that’s how I’ve been. After all of that, I walked into the living room to do a quick check on the small ham-hams. When I smelled it, the reason the rats have been wigging out today: the smell of death.

Now, before anyone goes off on a tangent about how “a responsible pet owner would know right away before the smell came,” let me explain to you a thing.

We have two Robo dwarf hamsters: Mr. Squiggles and Dr. Doofinschmertz. They’re teeny tiny little balls of fluff who refuse to be socialized. Like, REFUSE. They’ve been with us for over a year now and I have tried and tried and tried everything I can find/know/try to do. Every single tutorial, blog post, instructional video, article I could find on socializing stubborn hamsters, I’ve tried it. They were in the shop so long without human interaction they just didn’t know how to handle it. So we let them be. No one but me is allowed to put their hands in the cage (they’re drawn blood before) and cage day is always a bitch because I have to stress the poor things out getting them out of their respective cages (Squiggles is an aggressive little shit) and into separate boxes or exercise balls just to scrub them out.

Both are okay with being spoken to, can handle my presence next to the cage, and love to hear someone singing to them. Just no touching. So, that’s what I do. I talk to them. I sing to them. I hang out with them. I just don’t touch them unless I absolutely have to. So, sometimes, I feel like I’m talking to an empty box because they’ve buried themselves beneath the bedding where I can’t see them.

So, no. I had no idea until I went to fiddle with the bedding and try to draw him out so I could see him. I opened the box and I knew. Mr. Squiggles had passed.

Let me tell you a little bit about Mr. Squiggles (Squiggs for short.) He’s was an aggressive shithead. He hated being handled. He hated hands in his cage. He hated toys. And he hated the bars of his original cage. I say that he hated it, but it was really an incredibly advanced state of cage boredom. And, again, I tried. I gave him plenty of toys to play with, a brand new wheel to run on, delicious food to snack on and hoard away from everything else. I soaked his toys in juice, hoping that it would encourage him to play with them. I made little treat puzzles, hoping he would start to figure out that he can chew on the cardboard. But no, he didn’t want any part of that. He couldn’t be left in a metal bar cage. All he wanted to do was chew and chew and chew on the bars. I put vinegar on them to try and discourage that behavior, but that didn’t help at all. So, we made him a brand new, beautiful bin cage. And it was beautiful. It had a big, open floor for him to run around, a brand new disc, plenty of hiding places, and I even built him a jungle gym to climb. And he seemed so happy with his new home, he even started playing with his toys.

I was so glad that finally, this little guy is starting to come around. He still wanted to chew on hands, but that didn’t matter. He was safe, he was happy, and he had a good home.

And now, he’s gone.

I found him at 1AM. I spent the next 30 minutes scrubbing out the bin, hoping to get rid of the smell before my daughter woke up.

And now, I’m sitting here, writing this. Just trying to get it off of my chest.

I don’t like it when I lose a pet, even if I never really got to hold them or be physically close to them. I don’t like having to explain this to my daughter. I don’t like that now, even as I’m writing this, I’m numb to the whole situation. I love that little guy, even though he was a jerk and the cause for several scars on my fingers. I love him.

I’m slowly coming to terms that I will eventually lose all of my beloved babies. Gerald is getting on in age, now. He’s showing plenty of signs of an elderly Syrian. Dr. Doofinschmertz sleeps all the time and I wonder how much longer he has left.

I wonder how many death posts I’ll have to go through.

How many hearts will stop in my home.

How many times mine will break.

My husband says that he’s done with rodents, that he can’t handle the pain. I can’t live in a home without animals.

I don’t know what will happen.

I’m going to go sing to Doof, now.

How was your day?

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Wow, it’s been a while

This is what happens when I try to parent and blog at the same time. Parenting always takes priority. But, an awful lot has happened in these past few months. The biggest thing that happened would be that we lost Lucy. So, if you’re interested, I’m going to tell the story of how I got her, as well as how we had to help our two little ones through that mourning period.

I got Lucy in the May of 2015. I adopted her from the PetSmart down the road from my apartment (shut up, I know) and immediately fell in love with her. She was so sweet and wanted so much attention from me I couldn’t bear it. A few days later, I went back and adopted another little girl (Ethel) to keep her company. But Lucy was always my girl.

She was a full blown adult when I got her and I knew it wouldn’t have as long with her as I wanted. When she turned 2 (ish, I have no idea how old she really was), her health declined rapidly. She lost so much weight, she didn’t want to eat or drink, she slept a lot, and started having trouble moving about the cage. In the end, we had to feed her from an infant medication syringe multiple times a day and give her bathes more often when she stopped grooming.

Then, the worst thing happened. She had a stroke. I woke up to find her laying in a puddle of water/urine with her back legs spread like a corgi laying down. She was struggling to breathe and started crying when she felt me put my hands around her body. I dried her off and held her all day. She couldn’t blink, could barely swallow when I tried to feed her, and could barely move. She passed later that night. I died a little bit. All I wanted was her to stop being in pain. We called three vets offices to discuss putting her to sleep. All that mattered was my little girl getting away from the pain.

The pain I felt was nothing compared to the look in Stormy’s eyes when she realized that Lucy, her adopted mother, was gone. When a rat dies, especially when it’s the alpha of the group, it has a big impact. The best way to let them know that their friend is gone is to leave the body in the cage. Yep, you read that right. You need to leave the body in the cage. Not for forever (the others will try to eat them) but for an hour or so to give the others a chance to understand what happened. They’ll realize that their friend is no longer with them and can begin to mourn and move past it.

Yes, rats will mourn. They feel grief. I had to help Lucy get through Ethel’s death and my babies through Lucy’s death. Yes, they feel grief and no one can convince me otherwise. With Lucy, it was different. She was suddenly all alone and the only way to help was to bring in someone new for her to befriend. With the babies, it was more along the lines of helping them get over the hump.

We found the best way to help them was to leave a blanket in the cage that smelled like Lucy. It seemed to calm them down. And after a week or so, we removed it and cleaned the whole cage. And all was well. We showered them with love and attention (and treats) and that seemed to help them get over that hump. I’m not going to lie, this isn’t meant so much as a helpful advice type of post. It’s more me getting this off my chest. There is only so much crying can do.

Human child stuff

Good afternoon! It’s been a minute since I last had a chance to post. Momming tends to take priority. Speaking of, there are a few etiquette things I want to cover. If you are an aunt, uncle, grandparent, basically anyone who is not the parent, listen up. Because, in my experience, the problem tends to revolve around lack of communication or failure to listen from their part. Just as a disclaimer, this post has no educational value. It’s simply me ranting and getting this off my chest. The names in this story have also been changed to protect my child and myself from my in-laws.

So, this story has a bit of a convoluted back story with all of the people involved. We basically have my daughter (Harley), biological mother (Shannon), Shannon’s ex-step-father (Paul), and paternal grandparents who, for the sake of my sanity, will not have real or fake names included. Now, I’ve never been a fan of Paul. I find him to be creepy as all get out, especially when he is around my daughter. He has a habit of not keeping conversations child appropriate, gives an unusual amount of attention to Harley (and only Harley, she has two other siblings), and like to go cruising around town, looking for his ex-wife. With my child in the car. Because that’s not creepy at all. Yeah, I don’t like him. Not to mention I have an awful gut feeling around him in the first place, like all of my mom instincts are screaming ABORT ABORT REMOVE CHILD FROM THE AREA!!

What has been an issue in the past is that paternal grandparents (who shall remain nameless) have a bad habit of giving people permission to take our daughter without informing or consulting with us. This includes Paul. There has been a time or two that I received a message from my husband asking if I gave permission for Paul to take Harley out to dinner or to the store or whatever. And my answer is always no. I don’t want him around, he does not have my permission to take my kid. And, on one of these occasions, I was on the verge of calling the police because I had no idea where my kid was or what this guy was doing with her. But, he dropped her off and all was well. Being the newest member of this family, I try really hard to make sure that everyone who has been in Harley’s life has a chance to still spend time with her. But, when you’re being creepy, I will tell you to stay away from my child until we can figure out the best way to approach this.

So, to the most recent incident. My husband received a text from Paul asking if he could take Harley out to dinner. I contacted Shannon to see what her thoughts were on the issue, since this is her side of the family. Which resulted in a message that made me panic.

Call me. It’s about Paul and Harley.

Oh sweet Lord. What happened? Did he take my daughter? Did he show up and freak out?

So, I called her. We talked for a good 20 minutes. She explained to me how she found out that he has been taking Harley to the graveyard to visit his dead brother, which he claims Harley knows and misses (she was three when he died), and then took her to stalk his ex-wife. So, the unanimous decision was no. Hell no. Paul has proven to me that he can not be trusted to be alone with my child. So, no. He doesn’t get to take her out to dinner.

And queue the freak out.

This lead to a lot of arguing between myself and my husband, a lot of yelling at Shannon from Paul, and a lot of yelling at my husband from Paul. Here’s the deal: I’m a big believer in being completely and totally honest. Especially when it comes to why you aren’t allowed to be around my family. I had no problem with telling Paul directly that it is NOT okay to take my child to the graveyard, it is not okay to talk for hours about your dead brother and just upset and bring her down. And it is especially not okay to take her to stalk your ex-wife. She’s 10! I’m not sure what makes you think that any of this is a good idea for an empathetic child, but your reasoning and logic are horridly flawed and no. Just no. And come what hell may come. Let me deal with it head on and get it out of the way so we can find a solution. My husband, on the other hand, tries to do as much damage control as possible and avoid the confrontation all together. He makes up an excuse as to why he can not take her and tries to leave it at that… I’m sure you can see why this would cause an argument. But, I recognize that I am not Harley’s biological mother and need to keep my mouth shut sometimes, a skill that I have never fully mastered. So I drop it.

Flash forward to today. Paul messages my husband asking if he can take Harley to dinner since she will be with my family for Thanksgiving. I say no. Husband says no. Husband also explains to me that he explained to Paul that since he has shown that he can’t be trusted to act like Harley is a child, he can’t see her without supervision until this impression of him as been changed and he’s proven that he can act like an adult. And yet, I’m still sitting here, anxious as all hell that he will try to take my child for whatever reason. It’s been decided that if he has any issues with this decision, he can contact me and I will handle it.

My only request to you, dear reader, is that if you have a similar situation or if you have a child in your life that you just adore and want to spend time with, please please please respect the parents’ wishes! If you have been told that no, you can not take the child somewhere and have been given a legitimate reason why, just say okay and drop it. And, if you’re acting creepy around kids, stop. Just stop.

 

Thank you for reading my ranting today. What about you? Do you have any parenting horror stories? Share them with us in the comments!

Time for an unpopular opinion

Good morning! Now that we’ve gotten the horror of this election mostly out of the way, let’s talk about something that most animal lovers cringe at: animal testing. Specifically, animal testing in rats and mice.

I know, I know, I speak of horrors and blasphemy. How dare I?

Well, I noticed the other day whilst browsing through a “rat fan club” type group on Facebook a picture of a blue rat with about how the blue dye from M&M’s had been found to help heal spinal injuries in rats and, subsequently, turn them blue. Now, what started as a simple question of “is this true” quickly turned into a huge debate about animal testing and the ethical side of things, most people siting the living conditions, cosmetic testing, and whatnot for their argument. But, as I read through the comments, I could only wonder if any of them really understood the importance of testing when it comes to health concerns. Let’s cover a few of them, shall we?

A big question I see a lot is why on Earth would someone test on a sweet little rat. Well, it’s pretty simple. Rats and mice have similar genetics to humans and are easy to breed in a way to strengthen similarities that need studied. Rats and mice also make it easier to observe multiple generations in a short period of time.

Now, as for the actual testing, you would be surprised at how many things are studied using rats. A big one being cancer research. This has helped researchers study dietary, genetic, and environmental components the can cause cancer and has even helped to studies on how to prevent it.

Neurology is a big area for testing as well. Since rats and mice are similar to humans, scientists believe that this sort of testing can lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of spinal injuries, strokes, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and other diseases involving nerve damage. Not to mention researchers have also began exploring ways to block the protein that is believed to contribute to Alzheimer’s, hopefully finding a way to slow or completely stop the disease. As someone who has watched some amazing people succumb to Alzheimer’s, I think this is pretty incredible.

Rats are also used is studying diabetes, dental research, reproductive biology, the connection between nutrition and aging, and transplants. They’re even a part of studies to see how genetics can effect learning and reasoning. In short, rats are freaking awesome and have been a huge part in making strides in medical science.

Basically, we wouldn’t be where we are today in the medical field if it weren’t for rats. I’m not saying it’s perfect, I’m saying it’s necessary to run trials and study these things so we can make them better. And, after doing research before writing this post, I can understand why rodents are used. I can see where they’re coming from. Again, it’s not perfect and it’s not ideal. But it works. And it helps.

 

Now, I understand that not everyone will agree with me. What are your thoughts?

 

And, for those of you who won’t believe any of this, here are my sources.

Source

Source

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This, quite literally, has nothing to do with rats.

But, I feel like this needs to be said. I know that a grand total of 3 people (maybe) will read this, but I feel like this is something that is incredibly important to say.

Donald Trump has been elected the President of the United States.

Yeah, the guy from the Apprentice.

He’s the President.

And he is… a horrific person, to say the least. Apparently, the majority of the population decided that it was okay to give power to a man who thinks it’s okay to sexually harass women because he’s rich and famous. We think it’s a good idea to give the nuclear codes to a man who couldn’t be trusted with the password to his own Twitter account. We gave power to a man who stated that Muslims should be registered and forced to carry a special ID and be monitored. We, as the American people, decided this was all a great freaking idea.

Why?

Because you were afraid of a lady taking away your big guns.

You were afraid of a lady who wanted to make the country better.

You were afraid of a lady who was proven in court to be not guilty of her scandal.

Now, I’m not a fan of either of these people. I didn’t want to vote for either of them. And it’s sad that when I walked into my polling place, I had to think “Okay, gun to my head, who would I rather be in power?”

The answer was not Donald Trump.

Now, we play the waiting game. Wait for him to flip out and ruin something. Wait for him to realize that it will be incredibly difficult for him to keep any of the promises he made. Wait for him to try to take total control. To end women’s voting rights. To end marriage equality. We wait.

And we hope.

And we love.

And we carry on.

That’s all we can do. We can carry on. We can continue to love. We can continue to try to make the world a better place. And if the worst comes for us, we will fight. We will defend ourselves, our brothers, our sisters. We will fight. If there is anything I can tell anyone who is struggling with the decision that has been made or is sitting in fear for their future, I would tell them that we will fight when we need to. We will not let this tear us down. We will not fall. We will not be torn apart. We will not be silenced.

He wanted the position. He gets everything that comes with it. Including us, the lovers and the fighters who will not stand being drug back in time.

How do I deal with people hating my rat?

This is something fun that every rodent parent has to deal with at one point or another. It sucks. Like a lot. It’s always someone going on about how disgusting they are, calling them plague carriers, just all around being rude about your tiny little ball of loving fluff. It’s infuriating. But, there are a few things I found that helps ease the anger and, in some cases, can actually stop certain people from opening their mouths.

A big one is going to be education. I had several coworkers a while back that would always give me weird looks when I mentioned my girls and even asked me why I kept pictures of rats on my desk with that disgusted tone of voice. I used to just brush it off as nothing, but when it got to the point of actually being berated for my choice of family is when I decided it was a problem that needed solved. And I love solving problems. For most, education was the solution. A lot of people don’t know how wonderful rats can be, how smart they are, or how loving and fulfilling they can make your life. If it’s not a dog or a cat, folks just don’t seem to get it. That’s easily changed with a little education and conversation. Like, did you know that rats spend about as much time grooming as a cat would? Or that rats can be trained to do tricks, the same way dogs can? Most rats learn their names quickly and will even come when called. They can be taught to use a litter box, solve puzzles, and use tools. Rats have even been trained to find landmines, help stop illegal wildlife poaching, and even sniff out tuberculosis. Rats are amazing. Rats are helping save elephants and rhinoceroses. Can your dog do that? I didn’t think so. A little education can go an awful long way.

The biggest thing that helped me get the point across was that my oldest girl, Lucy, is actually my unofficial emotional support animal. From the time that I got her, she’s always had a knack for recognizing when I need her most. When I start to get anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed she’ll squeak from the corner of her cage as if demanding to be let out. She’ll then cuddle up on my neck, give me kisses, let me fiddle with her tail, and try to play with me (like how little kids do when you’re sad.) Or she’ll slide down the front of my shirt and just lean back against my heart, lick my fingers, and squeak at people. It’s adorable. But it’s also beneficial to me. It calms me down and makes it easier to function. Most people think that only dogs can really fill a support animal position, but if the bond is there, any animal can. (There is a lot of information out there if you need an emotional support animal. But, if it’s not necessary, don’t ruin it for other people. You can find information as well as how to register here.)

But sometimes the best way to help someone understand rats is to let them interact. My ten year old has had friends come over who freaked out when they heard we had pet rats. They did what little girls typically do with long, drawn out “eww” and comments of how gross rats are. We tried talking to them, but they weren’t having it. So, I got Lucy out. I let the girls gently pet her back, a few asked if they could touch her tail, and there were so many questions about whether or not she would bite or hurt them. After a few minutes of convincing, one girl actually asked if she could hold her. And Lucy wanted to be loved on. Under strict supervision, the girls all softly cradled Lucy and let her crawl all over their arms and shoulders. I never heard a peep about her being gross from them again. One even asked where I got her because she wanted one herself! If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.

Now, granted, not everyone will be swayed by education, heartfelt stories, or playing with a fluff ball. Some people can’t be reasoned with. You really can’t argue with stupid. So, for those people, I simply ignore them. If you want to talk smack about something that is clearly having a benefit in someone’s life, then that’s your prerogative. I can’t change that. But, all I can say is I’m sorry that you are so closed minded and you have had to guard your heart so strongly that you aren’t even willing to give it a chance. I’m sorry that you will never know the immense comfort that so many others and myself feel knowing we have a little rat baby to go home to. We have someone that almost always wants to play, wrestle around, cuddle, explore, and just be there with you in a time of need. I’m sorry that you will never feel that because you’re not even willing to give it a chance. Words are just words if you don’t give them power. Wear them as your armor and no one can use them against you. I’m the crazy rat lady, the plague carrier, and the evil witch with her wicked rat sidekick. This is something we should carry proudly because no one can touch what we have.

 

What do you think? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments and if there is anything you would like more information on, please feel free to speak up.

 

 

Any links included in post are not affiliated with my blog, they’re simply where I found my information and I prefer to cite my sources.

I just got a rat! Now what?

Congratulations on your newest family member! Rats make amazing pets, but it’s not quite like having a dog or a cat. Rats do require some special care and, let’s face it, some people hear “rat” and panic a little because they’re not sure what to do. I promise, it’s not that hard. We’ll go over a few things that I would recommend as well as a few sites you could also reference for more information.

First off, you’ll probably want a cage of sorts. Even if you want your rat to free roam, having a safe space for them is always a good idea. The big question is what kind of cage. As always, it kind of depends on your plans. But, what I suggest, is a large, multilevel cage with a plastic bottom. That’s what has always worked best for me. We currently have a Critter Nation with 4 levels that’s perfect for our 3 rats.  When I was first starting out with rattys, I had bought a starter kit from the local pet store. It came with a smaller cage with multiple levels, food, a water bottle, a bedding sample, and a toy. It’s not a bad way to get going pretty quickly and it didn’t cost a whole awful lot (30 for the set, I do believe.)  I wouldn’t recommend the smaller cage for more than two rats because it’s not huge, but it will do in a pinch. It’s currently being used as a standby hospital cage. Having a separate place for a sick, injured, or pregnant rat is always a good idea. Sometimes, they need to be separated.

Then you’ll need bedding. Because not only will it make the bottom more comfortable for you little baby, it will also make cleaning much easier because there won’t be little rat turds stuck to the bottom. This is one of those things where everyone has their own opinion and own ideas as to what is best. There are a lot of options. The most popular are wood chips, paper bedding, and fleece. Each has ups and downs and it just kind of depends on what you and your babies like the most. Wood chips are really good for absorbing odors but can cause sores if you have a rat that just likes to lay in one spot all day. Paper bedding is much softer and still can absorb odors, but can be dusty (depending on the brand) and cause breathing issues. Then there’s fleece. Yep, fleece. Like blankets. This is usually really easy to clean in the washer, they’re super soft, but can start to smell if you don’t keep them clean. But, they don’t make dust. I like using fleece because they can burrow under everything and mine tend not to chew through it. Then again, mine have been litter box trained so it makes life a little easier.

Food. Food is kind of important. Again, lots of options for this one. Some people like to make their own food blends. Some people like to buy food from the store. It’s up to you! I do a bit of both. If you want to make your own food, there are a few websites that you can check out that I will include links to. Also, when it comes to giving your rats people food, that’s completely okay! If you can eat, more than likely your rat can eat it. Just avoid citrus foods and bread. Those aren’t good for tiny tummies and throats. I, personally, stick to fresh veggies and noodles with cheese. Keep anything super fatty to a minimum to avoid unhealthy amounts of weight gain. They also love cooked chicken bones! It helps keep their teeth filed down and it’s a good source of protein. Just make sure they’re completely cooled before you give them away and remove them from their cage after a few hours. The bone pieces can be sharp and no one wants internal bleeding. The other thing I definitely want to mention is make sure you read the ingredients of treats or block food BEFORE you buy it/give it to a rat. Sometimes they can contain timothy hay or alfalfa, which rats can’t have. They won’t digest it, which can lead to intestinal blockages. Rats are not bunnies, they can’t eat the same things.

This is where I found a good recipe for homemade rat food.

Toys and water are going to be added into the same paragraph because there isn’t a whole awful lot to them both. Both are very important, but there isn’t much to talk about. For water, you can use the standard small animal bottle that you hook to the side of the cage or a bowl of water like you would give a puppy. Both will work, but pay attention to which your rat seems to like the most. My girls grew up using a bottle and refuse to drink from a bowl. Just make sure they’ve got something they’ll use. Toys are important for preventing cage boredom and for keeping little brains occupied. These can also be homemade or store-bought and, again, I use a mixture of both. Just make sure you keep an eye on tiny teeth with homemade toys. A lot of them you can make out of cardboard but once they’ve been chewed up, get them out so no one tries to eat them. If you decide to just purchase toys, I actually recommend checking out the bird toys as well as the rodent stuff. Bird toys are made to last and (mostly) are made from wood, which is good for teeth. Plus, they might like the bells to keep you up at night or annoy the dog. And, of course, they’ll want places to snuggle up in. Small houses, hammocks, even the little plastic balls hamsters run around in can be turned into beds. These are easy to make, if you would like to be all DIY about it. You can also buy them from online vendors on Etsy or through Instagram to help support another rat owner! A lot of these places also make wearable snuggle sacks to help with bonding, so don’t be afraid to get that really cute scarf with a hole in it for you and your little one. Bonding, fashion, and cuddles all in one. What’s not to love?

You can find some DIY toy instructions here

This goes to BitsOHeaven’s shop. It’s so cute.

Menagerie Collections makes awesome cage sets and bonding scarves. I highly recommend.

But, the most important thing for a new baby is going to be you! Work on trust training your new baby, bond and spend time with them. You’re the best jungle gym a little rat could ask for. You’re one of the best playmates, best snuggle buddies, best mommy/daddy, best friend a rat can have. Give them lots of love, attention, and of course treats and they will love you until the end of their days. Just make sure to start slow. Socialization takes a while. We’ll cover that some other time.

Here’s just the basics for you. There is a lot more that goes into it, but this covers the very basics. What do you think? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments if there’s anything else you want more information about!

 

Any links included in the post are not affiliated in any way, shape, or form. These are just sites that I’ve personally used and felt the information was legit. I’m not working with anyone from the shops, they don’t even know I linked them here. But I think their stuff is fabulous and they deserve some recognition for that. Go show them some love.