I just wonder what those two little pigeon loft ratties have been through. Maybe this is something like their story?
Pyramus and Thisbe are born on a late September evening in the back of a pet shop, living with their tired mum and lots of siblings, playing ratty games in their tank. Then as they begin to grow older, they are separated into two different cages, just getting quick snatches of scent of each other; the opportunity for a quick touch of noses when their cages are left close together; a swift ratty kiss through the bars.
Their littermates are sold off, one by one, or if they're lucky, two by two. Finally, only Pyramus and Thisbe are left. Christmas is coming, and it looks as if they'll be left in the pet shop through the holiday. Just as they are giving up hope, they are each lifted out of their cage and put into separate cardboard boxes. They are bumped around in the dark until finally they are placed into a strange new cage together, probably far too small for them, and hidden away in a quiet place until Christmas. No-one comes to play with them, or let them out for exercise, but at least they can be together!
Christmas morning finally comes, Pyramus and Thisbe are taken into a bright, noisy place, handed over to a child who has so many other things to interest it. But then Mum says "I'm not having rats in the house! Look at those tails! What on earth did you get her those for?" "C'mon sweetheart, let them go and we'll get a hamster instead."
Out in the December weather, Pyramus and Thisbe look for a place to live. Maybe it takes them several days to find their pigeon loft, with its food and shelter. They move in and set about making a cosy nest, stealing wadding from old furniture, finding dried leaves and scrap paper. No-one knows what adventures they have setting up their home. But it's hard to blend into the background when you have a white body, so it's only a matter of time before they are seen.
The kind pigeon keeper knows they are there, and keeps an eye out for them, but they don't harm his pigeons so he lets them be. Then he gets to thinking that they may attract wild rats, or breed and produce hundreds more rats to take over his pigeon loft! He dons his thick leather gloves and gently scoops them out of their nest into a box that smells of dog food, adding a little of their nest to make them feel at home. Pyramus and Thisbe cower inside while they are placed in an empty guinea pig pen in his garden.
The pigeon keeper doesn't know what to do with them now, so he walks his dogs to the pet shop to ask their advice. There on the wall is a poster for a local rat club, so he writes down the phone number and calls it that same afternoon.
The two little ratties spend a cold night in the guinea pig pen, with pigeon food and cheese to dine on. Next morning they are lifted out, still in their box, and taken away in a carrier which smells of strange rats. They are lifted out into a wire cage in a bright, noisy house, with plenty of food and water and a cosy igloo nest which they hide away in. A short while later Thisbe is removed and placed in a different cage, leaving Pyramus alone and frightened.
Thisbe is pleased to be back with people, although she misses her brother. She lets the lady stroke her, runs up into her arms and nestles in the hair on her shoulder. Safe again!
Pyramus is more nervous, hissing at the lady and giving her a nip when she gets too close. Everywhere smells wrong, so he rubs himself along every surface, trying to make it smell of himself. The lady decides he needs to be neutered to make him feel better, and so he can rejoin his sister. He is sent away for a frightening day at the vets, who make him feel strange and do painful things to him.
Pyramus comes back again to the bright house, discovers new foods, and begins to tolerate being picked up, although it still scares him. Maybe life won't be so bad here? Time will tell.
Thisbe continues to gain confidence, but doesn't come into season during the first week in her new home. Are there still more chapters waiting to be written?
Finally after ten days in her new home, Thisbe comes into season, so she is introduced to the lady's three doe
rats, Vixen, Sophie and Lucy. Sophie is suspicious at first, and turns into a big white snowball. Lucy has a stand up fight with Thisbe. Eventually, at their third meeting, when they are getting along really well, the lady puts the girls' apartment nearby to see what will happen, and all four girls go home together. The lady didn't even need to clean it out to make it smell like neutral territory.
Video of Thisbe and Sophie
Two weeks after Pyramus is neutered, he is ready to meet the girls. He is very excited, but behaves well. The girls aren't completely happy with him being around, so the lady lets them meet each other once a day on neutral ground.
Pyramus meets the girls, part 1
Pyramus meets the girls, part 2
Pyramus meets the girls, part 3
Pyramus meets the girls, part 4
After six days they all meet on the table next to a new, bigger rat home. The young rats are eager to look inside. Vixen is an old lady and feels upset by the change, but eventually goes in to explore. After an evening of small disagreements over the new accomodation, the five ratties finally settle down.
Come the morning there are five little noses looking out of the tent at the top of the apartment.
Continued in 'Thisbe's Biggest Adventure'...
Annette, January 2007