Loki

Today I want to talk about my rat, Loki. Loki is the reason I even still have rats at this point. I heard about two martens (a rare colouring involving a black/grey coat and red eyes, aka ‘black devils’) who’d been rescued from a pet shop with a bunch of other rats. All the rats were underweight and had patchy fur from mites. When I got Loki and his brothers, they definitely weren’t underweight any more. They were the biggest rats I’d ever seen! And although Loki isn’t a particularly good marten (he looks more white than grey now), he’s still super pretty ❤

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Loki had a pretty bad start in life. His brothers hated him. I’ve never seen a rat be so badly bullied. I tried everything to sort this out (mainly sticking them all together in hamster cages over and over to ‘bond’) but nothing worked. This was one occasion where the ‘no blood, no foul’ rule of rat keeping turned out to be total bullshit. Loki was a nervous wreck. I’d often hear him screaming as his brother chased him, and during free roam he would hide behind the sofa and to get him back I’d have to tip the sofa onto its back and grab him with a towel before he could find something else to hide under (luckily he couldn’t fit underneath the fridge). Despite his fear of being touched, he never actually bit me.

After splitting him and his brothers up, and after neutering him, I tried Loki with my two girls, and he seemed to like them well enough, but nothing really changed in him until I partnered him up with my baby rats, Odin and Tyr (who are definitely not babies anymore and who make Loki look like a small rat), along with Mercury. All three boys are super friendly and cuddly, and Loki seemed to soak up their confidence like a sponge. I was able to train him to jump onto a tool box if I tapped it, and I could use that like a lift to get Loki to and from his cage. Eventually, Loki started letting me pick him up. After that, and not really all that long ago, Loki started jumping on my lap with the other boys. I was able to get in quick cuddles with him whenever I picked him up. He no longer runs away from me. He still has off days where he doesn’t want to be touched, and on those days I leave him alone, but the majority of the time he acts like any normal rat.

The change in him has been so wonderful to see. He’s no longer scared of his own shadow. He’s no longer scared of me. That’s taught me a lot about rats, and about their friendships. He loves his new brothers. If we go to the vet, I always take Tyr along with us, because he’s the most confident and he makes things a lot less scary for Loki.

I’m writing this because Loki is an old man now, and his body is starting to shut down. I’m trying to feed him up, but he can’t keep weight on and he’s tired. Still, he seems happy cuddling with his brothers after a good meal, and that makes me happy, because I know how miserable he was when he first came here, and the contrast is so good to see.

Loki

Heatwave

So I’ve done what most British people do when exposed to the slightest bit of sun: gotten burnt. I did it for a good cause, though. I was too busy listening to speeches at an animal rights protest rally to go home and put suncream on. Strange, but it seems like more people are dicks about animal rights protests. I’ve been to a few anti-austerity protests before this one, and maybe it was the size of the protest or something, because it was about 40-50 people instead of several hundred, but a good half dozen people or more were happily shouting ‘meat is normal’ and ‘I love bacon’ at us. One man did come up to bitch about Jeremy Corbyn though… Wrong protest, but nice try. Maybe people get offended and defensive because we’re not just asking for slaughterhouses to be closed, we’re asking the people we pass by to reconsider their diet, the way they live; we’re telling them outright that what they’re doing is wrong. Or maybe they’re just dicks and like to wind up the ‘snowflakes’. But eating meat isn’t normal. Not the way we do it in this country. There’s no love or respect in it. Animals are abused, they’re scared, they don’t want to die. If you wouldn’t eat your dog, why eat a pig? For survival, I get. But it’s not something to be proud of.

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An interesting sentiment hit home with me during the speeches. That just being vegan isn’t enough. Being vegan is saying ‘I want nothing to do with this cruelty, I’ll have no part in it’. It’s passive. Vegan activism is doing something to stop it. That said, I do think just the act of being vegan does something. People ask you about it, because it’s a ‘weird thing’ and they’re curious, and you can show people that you don’t just eat rabbit food, that on the weekend you’re out eating pizza and burgers and cake and ice cream (although probably not all at once). There’s a need to talk about it, to talk about what goes on and to explain your decisions, because animals have no voice of their own to speak with. I worry – I don’t want to ruin peoples’ dinner, but then maybe it should be ruined. Because what went into that dinner is grim as fuck. Most people, if they had to see all that, they wouldn’t want to eat it. At least I don’t think they would. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing though. Sometimes it’s easier to go on deceiving yourself than to acknowledge brutal truths. People don’t want to know. I think that applies to anything, really. If I want a smart phone, or a new laptop, is it easier to live without one or to just not think about the fact that child slaves are used to mine the elements that go into making them?

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Odin and Tyr’s first time pea fishing.

It’s hot again today, maybe even hotter than it was yesterday, because I woke at 9am thinking it was midday. I’m thinking up ways to keep my rats cool over the summer. This heatwave is going to last all week, so I’ve ordered some ice pods for them. Today we’ve all moved down from the attic to the living room as it’s cooler here. They’re not happy about being in their hamster cages/carriers, but needs must. I’ve got plastic tubs of water chilling in the freezer to put in the cages. Every evening free roam is occupied with pea fishing. Frozen strawberries, peas, and sweetcorn are dropped into their cages every few hours (less so on the strawberries – too high in sugar) so they’ve something cold. I’m glad of my old stone flat in weather like this – it keeps the cold in. It’s still hot, but not as hot as it could be. My rats aren’t happily running about, but they’re not about to keel over.

The other problem is the flies. I don’t know if it’s just something about living in the city centre, or if it’s because we’re fairly close to the river, but there are like twenty or more flies buzzing around our living room. In a vegan household it’s not so easy to get rid of them, either. I’ve put basil in the window, and we’ll be adding mint and cloth strips dipped in eucalyptus oil come payday, but in the meantime we just have to put up with it. They’re not harming anything, they’re just annoying as fuck. If anyone has any other cheap, cruelty-free tips, we’ll take them.

 

Further Resources:

Viva – articles and resources on farming conditions and veganism.

How to keep pets cool on hot days

How to keep rats cool in the summer 1

How to keep rats cool in the summer 2

Heatwave

Rats are Bastards

Male rat intros are hard. I’ve always just dumped new girls in the same carrier or small hamster cage as the residents and the most aggro I’ve ever had was from Ren, who looked annoyed and fluffy for an entire afternoon until she finally relented and accepted the new rats. A little bit of pushing and shoving, but nothing more than that. This is the first time I’ve ever had to introduce boys. I’ve read up on it, got advice from a few long time rat keepers, and thought I had found the best solution. They were getting on fine in a bathtub filled with an inch of water – Hati even seemed a little protective of Odin, one of my new babies. Odin kept squeaking and trying to jump out of the bath, and Hati took lead from him. So I moved them into a carrier thinking it would be fine, and after only a second there was squealing as Hati jumped on Odin. I fiddled with the latch of the carrier, grabbed Hati and shoved him straight back into his cage, but in the maybe twenty seconds it took me to do that, he’d torn a huge chunk out of Odin.

It was horrible, a big open wound and I’ve never seen anything like it before. Cue me crying down the phone to the emergency vet receptionist, who I called twice just to make sure I was doing the right things. She told me not to bring him in, just to keep an eye on him. It didn’t make me feel better, but it did save me spending the rest of my meagre savings. Apparently, according to my rat keeping friends, boys do this a lot. So I waited, and yesterday it was already healing, half of it closed up. Odin didn’t even flinch when I went to clean it. He just sat there and let me bathe it in a salt solution, which couldn’t have been comfortable. He’s only known me two weeks, but he seems to trust me already, even though in his mind I’ve tried to drown him several times and set a giant angry rat on him. I don’t know if I’ll keep going with this intro. I probably moved too fast with it, so I might, and take it extra slow, or I might neuter Hati and try again in 8 weeks. We’ll see. As lovely and cuddly as these boys are, I might stick to girls next time.

Luckily my own introduction to my new housemate was not quite so violent. It all seems to be going okay at the moment, and although we’re different in some ways we do have a fair bit in common. We went on a walk that I swear wasn’t meant to be six miles long but somehow ended up that way, checked out Cabot Tower to see Bristol from up high, the Bristol Suspension Bridge which was much nicer than it looks from below, and Ashton Court deer park. On the way home we stopped at VX, the best vegan junk food shop of all time, just before closing, and might have gotten the bus the rest of the way home because our legs wouldn’t work anymore.

Jay has now moved all her things out (except little things that I keep finding everywhere – mostly sewing needles that have embedded themselves into the carpet), but it’s been quite a gradual change, and not the dramatic ‘bye forever’ that was my last big move as she’s only moving a forty minute walk away (I’ll probably still catch the bus).

We’re starting to get the house more as we want it now. I’ve moved into the attic and the rats have their own little room which is an absolute godsend, as is their new two storey cage which is so much easier to clean. I spent three hours putting that thing together, and now I’ve realised I have to take half of it apart again to make it more secure for the girls (if I don’t, there’s a risk of them worming their way into the boys’ half of the cage, which would obviously not be good). It’ll be worth the effort though.

Rats are Bastards

Rat Updates: The Boys Arrive

It’s highly likely that few people care much about my rats except me (well, me and the rescues I get them from) and that writing about them a lot is boring for people, but they take up a large chunk of my life and I like talking about them, so I will.

Mahogany had her lump removal on Friday. Her scar is going to be HUGE. It extends all the way from her front left armpit to halfway down her body. Apparently the lump we could see was only a very small portion of what was actually there. She’s just spent the last couple of days sleeping in the hamster cage and it all seems to be healing nicely. We’re back to the vet next week for her check-up.

I got my boys on Monday. They’re pretty massive. I’m continuing my theme of mythical names (Porcelain and Mahogany didn’t get them because they were meant to be here for short term fostering) and I think I’ve decided on Loki, Sköll and Hati. Sköll is a bit of a bully, Hati is the sweeter, people-friendly rat, and Loki is the nervous one who spends most of his time at the moment hiding from me and Sköll. They’re all a bit sneezey which is annoying, but I’ll give them a week’s worth of nebulising and see how that goes.

Porcelain is being rather, let’s say, amorous, towards them. She was climbing up my stack of DVDs last night to get to them, so I’m very glad rats can’t mate through bars (not that I think she could reach the cage anyway). Mahogany doesn’t seem bothered by them at all, and it’s only Sköll who seems particularly interested in the girls. I swapped a rope shelf from the girls’ cage into the boys’ since it was never used, and Sköll would not let anyone else on it. From now on, there’ll be no swapping items unless thoroughly washed first.

The cinema I used to work at had their Christmas party on Monday, and naturally I went along. I miss the people I used to work with there. It’s very different from where I work now where people are quiet and polite and correct themselves from swearing, and a night out is a quiet meal or a Mama Mia singalong (shudder). This party was loud and drunken with people interrupting each other’s games by lying on the pool tables and throwing all the balls into the pockets–these are people who work closely with each other, who know each other, and who are totally comfortable in the presence of one another. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss the job at all and really most of the people who work there now are quite a bit younger than me–at 23 I was ‘old’ when I started that job and I’m definitely not about to de-age any time soon. Also, talking to someone there made me realise I need to be more proactive about looking for the kind of job I want. I like my current job, but I’d be very much settling if I did this forever, because it’s a nice, easy job with good benefits, and maybe it’s the best job I’ve had so far, but it’s not the dream job and it only takes time away from doing what I really want to do. I tend not to go for jobs that might otherwise be perfect because it’s not the right location (i.e. they’re all in fucking London) or some excuse like that because I’m comfortable where I am, and that’s not really going to get me anywhere.

The students are starting to leave halls now, so things are quieting down a bit here. I am counting down the days until we get to leave too! I am going to savour this holiday like a fine wine (except not wine, because wine is evil).

Rat Updates: The Boys Arrive

Obsessing over Rats (again)

It’s hammering it down outside today. My clothes had only just dried after getting to work soaked when I had to leave again. When I got back, I found it was raining inside my boiler as well, meaning no heating. So my clothes are still drying five hours later and everything from the boiler cupboard is in a big sopping mess in our hallway. I’m just surprised it wasn’t the internet that broke, because that’s what usually goes.

I’m a bit stuck on the story I’ve been working on lately. I hit 40k and now I’ve stalled. It’s like I’ve dug half a pond and hit rock. Bit frustrating to be honest because I’ve no idea what to do about it. I need to sit and figure it out but I’m balking at the idea a bit because I’m worried it’ll mean starting again. I’ve restarted this story so many times! And I’ve just come way too far now to do that again. I suppose if I must, then I must, because I want to do these characters and their story justice, but… argh.

On to better things: tomorrow I’m seeing Sisters of Mercy, one of the few bands I’ve loved and listened to since I was a young teen and I’m so excited! It’s going to be pretty great, even if I can’t drink that much because school night.

This week I’m also going to be picking up my two long stay foster rats, Porcelain and Mahogany, from the rescue after their viewing last week. It didn’t go so well. Mahogany sat stuffing her face whilst ignoring everyone and Porcelain went and bit the rescuer in front of her prospective new parent and that was pretty much the end of that.

Whilst there I will hopefully get a chance to fawn over a group of boys the rescue currently has, which includes two rexes and a marten. One of my first rats was a beautiful blue rex girl and I loved her curly little whiskers. And martens… well I’ve never even seen one before. I’d love to have them but I’m late to the party as they’ve had lots of interest and really, I shouldn’t anyway. I’m meant to be taking a little ratty holiday. Plus it would mean having two separate cages and doubling the time spent free roaming them. Still, I’m probably more excited to just go and stare at this marten rat for a bit than I am to see one of my favourite bands. Here’s a picture of him – he doesn’t look happy, bless him, but I’m sure he’s settled now and been given lots of treats. The other boys below certainly look happy enough with their dinner.14918924_10154751634904644_521091455180730298_o15025268_10154758718014644_456424192634479249_o

Aren’t they gorgeous? Obviously I stole the pictures. Both images should link to the rescue facebook page in case you’re in or near south west England and want some rats – but probably not these lucky boys.

Obsessing over Rats (again)

Starting on a Down Note

Well, September has kicked off to a good start. To cut a long(ish) story short, I now have no rats of my own, and am just down to the two foster rats. I lost Ren a couple of days ago, my favourite rat probably ever, literally the day after we lost Milo, the funny little rat I took on for a friend not even three weeks before.

It’s going to be very weird when the foster rats leave. I’ve been keeping rats for four and a half continuous years now. I’m so used to having them around. Feeding them, talking to them, cuddling with them, and just having them out to run around the living room has all been part of my daily routine for a long time now. I’m used to having animals around. With the exception of my three years at university, I’ve always had animals in the house.

So I don’t know how long my pet keeping break will be. I might well get more rats in a year or so, but for now I’m tired of being constantly in and out of the vets’, tired of having to be on guard for any sign of a crackle in their breathing, or red staining around their noses. My fucking bank balance is tired. Really though I’m just tired of losing them all the time. I love rats. They’re one of my favourite animals for sure. But they only live 2 years on average. It’s not really enough time, not when you get attached to them, and there are some rats, like Ren, that you get attached to very strongly in a very short space of time.

Tomorrow I’m going in early to the tattoo studio to get something to commemorate Ren, and all of my rats. Pretty basic, just a little rat paw print. I’m a bit excited and a bit nervous. My first tattoo hurt a lot more than I expected (to everyone who ever told me they don’t really hurt, I hate you and I want your lack of nerve endings). I feel like I need it though.

I’ve got a week long holiday now and not much planned so I’m going to spend most of it writing. I’m working on a paranormal story (surprise surprise) that I really like. The characters are really jumping out at me and I find myself just wanting to sink into their heads and get their story down on paper. It still needs a bit more planning plot-wise, but everything else, all the characters and relationships and internal drama is pretty much already there with very little effort on my part. So I’m looking forward to not having to do anything else but that for a few days.

Starting on a Down Note

Bat’s Children: Release Day

Last week Bat’s Children was finally released. I celebrated with a bottle of Old Mout cider and some vegan chocolate, and revelled in the fact that I have no more blog posts to write or proofs to look over. It was also the first day I hadn’t felt like crap in about two weeks, so that was nice, too. I was able to get through a whole film without having to pause it for a coughing fit.

I’m quite nervous and excited about Bat’s Children being out there now, although so far the reviews have been lovely. I love the characters of Bat’s Children, Emyr and Tomi in particular, so I’m looking forward to seeing what people think of them. Okay, so I probably know already that very few people will like Emyr, but he was so much fun to write (let’s not focus on what that might say about me) and I really like difficult characters.

Mostly now I’m tapping out a few ideas for stories, and reading a lot of politics articles because the UK has somehow managed to tangle itself up into a bitch of a knot that’s going to take a very long time to untangle. We now have a brand new unelected Prime Minister who hates the poor, the working classes, immigrants, human rights in general (although she did stop Boris Johnson blasting people with water cannons), who is pro-hunting and shaky at best on gay rights. Fuck equality, amiright?

The Labour Party are being a great big bag of dicks right now, too. I feel like Corbyn is just about the only hope (Help me, Obi Wan Kenobe) left for mainstream politics and the party are trying to kick him out despite members voting him in only, what, nine months ago? If they succeed I’m pretty much giving up on them. Plus Jay and I have realised that our MP (labour) seems to have voted on pretty much nothing since being in office, which… how?

The good thing in the news this week is that there’s an official Evil Tory Party theme tune, courtesy of David Cameron. And… that might well be it. Unless you like sports. Or Pokemon.

After work today I’ll be heading over to my local rodent rescue to pick up some new girls who I’ll be fostering until they find their forever home. I will then have more foster animals than my own. At least this pair won’t cost me a small fortune unlike Mr. Rico, as the rescue pays their vet bills and I’m already well set up for rats.

I also have mice in my wall. They like to scratch out their tunnels right behind my head while I’m watching scary films.

Bat’s Children: Release Day

Ratties!

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Lilith and Eve snuggled up in their hammock.
Three weeks ago I picked up my rats from the breeder. They were six weeks old, tiny and completely adorable. At nine weeks, they’re still fairly small and adorable and they’ve gotten used to me now. I think they finally like me! Even if I do keep teasing them with the curtains (which they seem to be fascinated by and keep trying to grab a hold of).
Annoyingly, they’re most active just as I switch the light out and go to bed, but I’m getting used to it now and all the rattling and crashing coming from their cage doesn’t keep me up as much.

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Lilith nosing at the camera.

Lilith, the black smooth one, is a real pain to handle, because she’s so damn fast and I never know where she’s going to go next, but she’s so cute and fun. I’m certain that at some point I’m going to lose her and there’ll be a big kerfuffle moving furniture and boxes to find her. As soon as I open the cage door, she’s trying to jump out at me, which means her sister, Eve, is sometimes overlooked a little. She’s the quieter, shyer one, and I don’t think she’s entirely used to me just yet. She still gets a bit scared if I move too quickly, and tends to just huddle in the inside of my cardigan when I get her out. She likes her food though, so I figure that if I give her enough treats when I have her out, she’ll be happier with it. And then she’ll hate me when I have to put her on a diet because she’s getting too fat :p

Ratties!