Thisbe and Pyramus joined Ratty Corner in January - here's the story of their arrival. They moved in with Vixen, Lucy and Sophie. We now rejoin Pyramus and Thisbe the following May. They are living with Sophie, as Vixen has died of old age and Lucy of what I believe was pyometra.
Pyramus continues to live a fairly reserved life, avoiding too much contact with me, but enjoying climbing around the cage and exploring their play area every day. Thisbe, on the other hand, is a continual pest, staging daring escapes, running rings round me, barbering Sophie to the stage where she is covered in bald patches, and earning the nickname 'Tizzy' for herself.
On the boys' cage
When Pyramus and I move in with the three girls, I is thinking I is in heaven. Lots of lovely food, a warm bed, plenty of company and water close by. Then Pyramus is beginning to lose the smell of boy rat, and is not beings nearly as much fun to play with. I is not minding too much - I is smelling other boys close by. I am sure they is wanting to play with me, and I is keeping busy by pulling chunks of fur out of Sophie's back. It is make her squeal most wonderfully, you know.
I discovers that I can opens the doors to my cage - is very useful and let me visit the boys lots, but Mummy doesn't like and puts extra clips on the doors. So I has to waits until our cage is moved onto the table for playtime. I discovers that I can jump from the table back to the shelf where our cage usually sits! Yeeee!
Those little boys really loves me! Their names is Babbage, Brunel and Otis. They may be a bit young for me, but they is well bred hunks so I do my best to put on a display for them. I parade up and down on top of their cage, fluttering my ears and wiggling my bum in the most seductive way. They tell me how sexy I is, but I never manages to meet them outside the cage.
Then one wonderful day I leaps across to the shelves and find that the side door of their cage isn't shutted. That's my story and I is sticking to it. I is not figured out how to opens it from outside, honest! (Is only needs a little tug anyway.)
Brunel is feels poorly because he has hurted his leg, and is not smell nearly as interestings as he used to, but Babbage and Otis is really pleased to come out to play on the shelves. Then I gets tired of chasings around, and goes back up the cage to visit Brunel. I sends Babbage and Otis away to explore - you know, they is never living outside! What housies they is!
When Mummy is coming back into the room she is seem very upset to find the boys out of the cage. She is turn a very funny colour when she sees me inside with Brunel, and is saying some words I is not hearing her use before.
Four days later my Mummy is still acting strange. She is keeping tickling my back to see if my ears will flutter. Silly Mummy, I only does that when I want to attract the boys, and I is not feeling like that any more. Mummy is try to weigh me every evening, but I not want to sit still for her. She is sounding cross when I is bounce up and down on the scales, but I knows she is loving me so I is not taking any notice.
After another week I is beginning to feel a bit cross with Sophie for being in my cage. She is not as good as Pyramus at keeping out of my way. Sophie keeps sleepings in my bed, eatings my food, and even runnings through my tunnel! She is making me so mad that I is chase her away and pulls even more fur out of her back. Mummy says if I is not behaving she is move me out of the cage early, but I is not thinking she means it!
The girls and Py were out on the table for their playtime. The other two stay on the table, but Thisbe was out exploring the room as usual. I left them to it, blocking off the door so I wouldn't lose Thisbe completely, though I don't always find her when I want to. Coming back into the room later, I found Thisbe in the boys' cage with Brunel, who is neutered. On the shelf was Otis, an intact male, and on the floor was Babbage, also intact.
How had they got out? I truly do not know. Possibly I hadn't shut their side door, but I hadn't opened it since that morning. Maybe Thisbe told them how to open it? Maybe she can open doors from the outside as well as from inside her own cage?
I panicked and posted a 'Should I spay' question to the rat club forum, to which the answer was YES... OK. It's a bank holiday, so I can't get her to the vet for a non-emergency until Tuesday. If she's not pregnant she will come in season on Monday evening. I'll have her spayed if she's pregnant.
Come Monday evening, Tizzy's not in season. She's put on 15 grams and now weighs 345 grams. Trouble is, I've had the weekend to chumble it all round in my brain, asked a few friends who are also respected breeders, and no-one can tell me that it's safer to spay Tiz than to let her have the babies. She's around seven or eight months old. She's in good health. Both of the possible dads are breeder rats with good ancestry. Hmm. She's a bit old for being spayed to make a difference with mammary lumps, and it's more risky while she's pregnant. How can I do that to her without a good medical reason? OK, and I admit really don't feel happy about aborting her babies.
I'm starting to get into gear. I have a large hamster tank in the attic which would be good for the birth. I have a silly number of spare cages up there. I need to get in plenty of high protein food. I need to start increasing Thisbe's intake of greens.
Thisbe is beginning to look slightly chunkier. She now weighs 356 grams. I probably wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't been looking, but something is definitely happening.
Mating date was 24th May, D day should be around 15th June.
Thisbe is a mink mismarked hooded/bareback, depending on how you look at it. Her ancestry is completely unknown.
Otis, black 'baldie' with mink, russian blue, black and agouti in his ancestry.
Babbage, agouti rex with cinnamon, agouti, mink, cream and ivory in his ancestry.
I'm no expert on genetics, but I know that cinnamon, agouti and mink are related colours. I imagine Tiz should have a little bit of a mixture of colours, which will be useful for telling them apart in the future. I can't see any of them leaving here. I'm getting possessive of them already and they're only twinkles.
I went to a rat show today. A good opportunity to buy some Nature Diet dog food and some EMP for Tiz and the babies. It was my first time ever pet judging too. Such a cuddle fest!
Tizzy now weighs 360 grams.
I cleaned out the girls today, but didn't manage to weigh Tiz. She's looking much chunkier now, though. I finally confessed to my OH that she is pregnant - no big fuss. I think he's getting used to such things.
Not much to say, but I did get a good photo of Tiz. I think I'm going to have to move her out early, as she's being really horrid to Sophie. Weight is now 365 grams.
I had a slow breakfast with the girls helping me to eat my muesli this morning. Their cage was still on the table from last night, along with the birthing cage. It's a large plastic hamster tank with a grille in the ceiling. I've put a ladder running down from the top door, so they can get in and out and so it will be familiar to Tiz when she moves in. I put in a layer of their usual cardboard substrate, then a pile of the shredded j-cloth type bedding which I usually use for our remaining dwarf hamster. It's not going to stay separate, though. Tiz and Sophie discovered that they could push it around and make channels in the bedding, then started burrowing right into it like little moles. They were actually getting along at that point; They've been squabbling most of the time since Tiz got pregnant! I think it's partly because Sophie keeps trying to sniff Thisbe's bum trying to work out what's going on, and it annoys Tiz. I tried to weigh Tizzy, but she was way too bouncy this morning.
I got Tiz weighed this evening. 373 grams, still a steady gain. Her nipples are becoming more obvious too.
Thisbe: We gots a new cage to explore at play time! It has a ladder down from the top, and it's got lots of soft stuff inside. Me an' Sophie played bulldozers, then we played submarines! Mummy says I can have it for my own soon.
I've got the birth cage all set up with food, water and veggies, and left it next to their big cage so they can move back and forth. Sophie, Tiz and Py have all investigated it thoroughly. I think I'll pop Tiz in there tonight, as I could hear the girls squabbling during the night but they seem fine at the moment with plenty of space to avoid one another.
Thisbe: Mummy! Sophie keeps fighting with me! I don't know why she gets in my way so much now. She keeps taking things that are mine and sleeping in places that are mine! Make her stop, Mummy!
Later: Well, that plan didn't work. Tiz is staying well inside the big cage, where I can't reach her without major upheaval. That's the big problem with the Cavia Hotel - access to the back corners.
Thisbe: This is my new cage. Mum says I will lives here soon. Not today though, I like it where I is.
I've been letting them have an open cage most of the day, and that seems to relieve the tension. Thankfully Tiz doesn't seem interested in taking any great leaps to explore the world right now. I got a couple more bump pics - she's been building a nest on the top shelf of their cage. She's going to be very miffed when I move her into the little cage later on!
Onto the expected bubs. I've been told that if Babbage is the dad we could possibly have agouti, cinnamon, mink and black berkshires, half rex. If it's Otis then black and mink baldies and hoodies. Of course, it's quite likely that they'll both be daddies, in which case I'll be trying to guess for each kitten. If there are no rexes it's a fair bet they're all Otis's. If there are some it gets more tricky.
OH says 'Does it really matter?', but I think it's interesting to work out. I need to start getting my head round the genetics so I can understand it.
Finally got Tizzy weighed. 381 grams.
I'm doing my best to work out the genetics. You'll have to bear with me, as I'm taking baby steps here. I messed up the first time I tried to work this out, but I think I'm close this time, though with a lot of assumptions that may not be correct.
The colours we're dealing with are:
|Agouti||AA or Aa|
Coat patterns are:
Coat types are:
Thisbe is a mink hooded-ish, assume aammhh
Otis is a black baldie with a mink mother, aaMmHroh
Babbage is an agouti rex, so could be AAMMHHRere or AaMMHHRere or AAMmHHRere or AaMmHHRere.
|Thisbe x Otis possibilities|
|Thisbe x Babbage possibilities|
|(Not knowing if Babbage is AA or Aa, and MM or Mm)|
|AaMmHhRere||agouti berkshire rex|
|AammHhRere||cinnamon berkshire rex|
|aaMmHhRere||black berkshire rex|
|aammHhRere||mink berkshire rex|
Sooo, even if Tiz has a mixture of Babbage's and Otis' babies, we should be able to tell whose is whose unless they're somewhere between berkie and hoodie. If I've got this right. Sheesh. This would be another reason why I shouldn't breed, in addition to my inability to part with my ratlets.
Tizzy's in a tizzy again! I cleaned the girls and Py's cage out this morning, and Tiz went walkabout again. I finally caught her, put her back in the cage and she went manic trying to find a way out. So like an idiot I let her out to film her, and lost her again. I think she's looking for a nice place to set up home to have her babies. She seems to favour the cardboard box full of clean hammocks.
Only four or five days to go!
We did weighing by stealth this evening, with the pea fishing bowl sat on the scales.
Then there's today's tummy pic.
Thisbe: Mummy is beings really annoying. She keeps taking me back to the cage while I looks for a nice place to nest, and she keeps flashing the camera at me. I is trying to be patient, I only took her hand in my teeth two times, but she really is beings very funny these days. Maybe she will grow out of it?
I hope I've done the right thing. I caught Thisbe pushing Sophie off the top shelf today, presumably because that's where Thisbe has made her nest and she didn't want anyone else in it. It's a good job there was a hammock beneath. So I've moved Tizzy into the birthing cage three days early. She is NOT happy. She went berserk trying to find a way out of the cage, and now she's sitting in the corner sulking with her ears back. I do hope she will settle down. :-\
Update: She's busy now trying to pull in the fleece I put over one end of the cage. I thought she would like to have a darker area, but I suppose shredded fleece will make a nice addition to her nest.
Thisbe: Mummy shut me in the play cage. Is I naughty? I wanting to go home!
Tizzy came out to play on the table with Sophie and Py this evening, but spent the whole time trying to jump home. She really didn't want to go back into the tank. She has only put on one gram today - I'm wondering if it's the stress of being moved.
I've been told today that I shouldn't have been letting her climb around and jump like that. I've got to keep her in the tank if she won't stop jumping. No-one said that before. I thought if she felt well enough to do it then she was OK. I'm really scared now that I've hurt her babies. She's going to hate staying in the tank all the time too. How on Earth am I going to feed her without her getting out? If there's something wrong it will be MY fault. I feel sick. This is worse than expecting my OWN children!
OK. OH has restored a semblance of sanity by pointing out that if the pregnancy was that fragile there would be no rat infestations in the world. I've still got a headache though.
I've weighed Tiz this evening and got her at 376. Either she's lost some weight or it was a bad reading - something which isn't uncommon with such a bouncy girl.
I don't know. Some angles she looks big, others she doesn't. Her weight is definitely down. Is she reabsorbing? I suppose we really just have to wait and see. It would be so like my little Tizzy to get me all excited over baby rats and then change her mind. I just hope she'll be OK whatever happens.
No big enormous tum. I don't think we're going to have babies. I'll wait until Monday just to make sure, then let her go home to the others. She'll need weighing though, to make sure she's losing weight properly. I'm positive that it was going into the nursery tank that did it. She hated it so much, and the weight loss started right after that. Don't know what else I could have done though.
Now I don't know again. Tiz came out to play with her cagemates and was aggressive to them. What does that mean? I wish they made a pregnancy test for rats!
It's all a big joke.
I think the rats are laughing at us.
So far I've discovered that pregnant rats can
- suspend implantation/pregnancy
- reabsorb the babies
- have phantom pregnancies
So how do they expect anyone ever to know if they're pregnant?
How do I know if Tizzy's strange weight chart means she's not pregnant any more? Or never was?
If she doesn't give birth by day 24, is it safe to put her home in the big cage?
Bother it all. I can't believe how upset I am that we're not getting bubs. I keep going to check that she hasn't had any after all. This is the best way for it to turn out, but it truly doesn't feel like it. Now I've got all the extra food I got in for the babies lying around.
Sigh. We have a nest. No bubs, but a nest.
This experience hasn't been a loss at all, even if we don't get any kittens out of it. I've been spending time with just Tiz, rather than with her and her cagemates, and we understand one another better now. She's happy to climb up into my hands and sit on my shoulder, whereas before she was always just that little bit wary of being held.
I love that she's such a little character. It makes you wonder if having lived wild while young has developed her mind more, made her a more complex creature.
Stand down troops. Thisbe is utterly, insanely and most gloriously in season this evening.
She's obviously trying to send me even further along the path to insanity than I had already achieved on my own.
(start weight is taken as her usual non-pregnant weight)
Footnote: Thisbe's adventure forced me to consider the logistics of housing and caring for a litter, and eventually brought me to the decision to begin breeding in a more considered way than she would have hoped for.