Friday, February 24, 2017

Three shades of grey (or how Ruby made three)

I am taking a break from political commentary today to do what I have occasionally and previously done on this blog. That's right, time for a rattie update.
During my last entry on the subject, I told you about how Gwen, our Queen, had just lost her cagemates Crunchie and Twix to old age/illness. We picked up two girls, an eight-month-old named Marshmallow and an eleven-month-old called Elsa. Gwen and Marshie pretty much bonded straightaway, but Elsa was a challenger.
A week later, after Elsa had flipped the elderly Gwen on her back and slashed away at her belly, she had to live on her own. Marshie stayed in the cage with Gwen for a while, but the trauma had proven too great for our old Queen and she was uncomfortable with any rat being kept with her. Marshie went back into the smaller cage with Elsa. However, we let Marshie free range with Gwen and then Elsa would come out for her time once Gwen went back in her cage.


Gwen had to be put down on Christmas Eve day 2015. She was a real character, hard to get to know at first, although that was in no way her fault. Queen Gwen grew comfortable with her surroundings and her way of life and she was content by the time she had to be euthanized. She had loved her live-in friends, Crunchie and Twix, two of the gentlest rats anyone could have asked to have as company, and had some good rat interaction with Marshmallow.
Formerly a bit of a biter, Gwen would lick either of us copiously when she was propped up on her haunches to groom herself during her last few months of life when tumors made it too difficult to do this on her own. Gwen was a rehabilitation project, but she was entirely worth it. When she shed her earthly body for the spirit world of Rainbow Bridge, she was 2 years, 9 months old.


Elsa then inherited the mantle of Queen and Marshmallow was our little Princess. Marshie loved collecting paper at first, then it became Elsa's job. Elsa would probably stuff as many as fifty or sixty old catalog pages into their little fabric hutch every night whilst having their free range time. Both girls were spunky, mischievous, a bit easily spooked but outward and trusting.


Like Gwen, they were not very familiar with humans before they came to us. Their previous owners basically just fed them and that was all. There had been very little to no substantial interaction.
We had a wonderful Christmas with them, their third Christmas overall and their second with us. We rang the new year in with them. Then things went south. On the 23rd of January, Marshmallow's tumors had rendered her tender to the touch and not very interested in food. It was time.
Once Elsa understood what was going to happen, she let herself succumb to her own cancer. Elsa had put up a very brave front for her smaller, younger step-sister, being the one to look out for her, on the surface still physically capable. But with Marshie gone, and Elsa knowing that, she allowed the energy to drain out of herself. Elsa had to be put down later that same day. Marshmallow was 2 years, 4 months and Elsa was 2 years, 7 months old. 


Squirrel immediately contacted a local National Fancy Rat Society breeder from which to get our next rat pack. Two days after saying goodbye to Elsa and Marshmallow, we said hello to two adorable kittens, Skittle and Willow. Their personalities continue to grow the more they get used to us and their surroundings, but they're practically there already. Skittle is an Essex rat, which is basically a form of Berkshire, with silver hairs among her charcoal black fur. Willow is a chocolate rat, but can appear grey.

 
Willow and Skittle

We were originally due to get a rat called Ruby, but the breeder said that she had mated with a male and could be pregnant. We continued training Skittle and Willow and waited for news on Ruby. Finally, news came and it was good. Ruby wasn't pregnant! Squirrel collected her and we had our complete rat colony. Ruby is a Marten rat, a dark grey color pattern with red eyes.

 
Ruby

The two kittens were happy to see Ruby. It didn't take much for them to get re-acquainted with each other.
Skittle, the youngest, appears to be the most outgoing and is often the easiest to pick up and snuggle. Willow is jumpier and more commotion-prone, but is also very gentle and not that far behind Skittle in her willingness to approach us. Ruby is still a work in progress, very wild in many respects, but also very curious about us, and it is that very curiosity that will see her calm down a bit the longer she is exposed to us, especially during her free range time.
At the end of the day, all very young rats are going to be all over the place and very excited/excitable. But this is precisely when their personalities start to develop and shine through as well.

 
Ruby and Willow

 
Ruby, Willow and Skittle

As she is the oldest and seemingly the alpha, Ruby has been given the title of Queen. Skittle and Willow are Princesses. And of course, with rats of any age, they love to sleep!

 
Skittle, Willow and Ruby

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