Sunday, 18 March 2012

A Rude Awakening

The usual Project 365+1 picture post has been delayed due to an unexpected visitor in our bedroom last night. It'll be posted as normal tomorrow (I'm writing it ahead of time now that I've solved the problem with the scheduled posts), in the meantime I'll share a little story about our rats.

I've never really written a post about the girls. They've cropped up in my photo posts and I've been planning a post about them for ages, but never gotten around to writing it.

When we got them, we never really intended to come away with four girlie rats. We'd wanted some company for Mikey and planned to get a couple of little boys who could live next door and come out for cuddles at the same time. We considered the possibility of getting three, if there were three needing a new home. So when we saw three snuggled up together, we knew it was meant to be. Until a fourth little baby rat popped up. By that point we'd fallen in love with the three and couldn't pick just two out of four. So they all came home.

I'm so glad we got them when we did, we lost Mikey a couple of weeks later and they filled the hole that he left. My first rats were girls, but I don't think they were ever anywhere near as crazy as these girls are now. Right from the start they've had really distinctive little personalities.
We've got Holly, she's our little fatty. She's white with a little orangey-tan coloured head but without a stripe extending down her back. She's got pink eyes and can be quite nervous of loud noises. She loves her food. She's inclined to nip through the bars occasionally and likes going up/down your top, but doesn't understand that it's not acceptable to dig skin out of the way when you get to an obstruction, like an armpit! Considering her size, she's very agile and likes getting up onto the back of the sofa and snuggling up in the hammock at the top of the cage.
Ivy looks very similar to Holly and when viewing them both front on (i.e. when they're just a little head peaking out of a tunnel) it can be tricky to tell them apart. Ivy is much skinnier than Holly, in fact, since Bell has bulked out a bit, Ivy's probably the smallest of the four now. She's got a tan head but she also has a little broken stripe down her back. Her eyes are pinker than Holly's and she's even more nervy of loud noises. She also hates the flash on my camera which means I don't have many photos of her because I hate to stress her out. She's a proper shoulder rat though, of the four, she favours the shoulder most and will happily sit up there when we get her out. The slight downside is that she usually gets tangled in my hair and needs help getting out.
Bell is the pretty rat. I feel mean singling out one rat over the others for being pretty, but everyone who sees Bell's marking comments on how pretty she is. She's white with a grey stripe down her back which forks at her head (it's also got a slight hint of brown in it as well). She used to be our tiny rat but a recent growth spurt has taken her into third place and she was also, like our old Mikey, a mousey rat; she looked more like a little mouse than a rat. Her face has filled out now and she'd adopted a grown up ratty walk now. She doesn't nip fingers through the bars (though she might give them a taste, just to check) and she likes to climb up your shirt and give you kisses (or lick your lips if she thinks you've been eating something nice and should share).
And lastly, there's Carol... Carol... Carol... Carol. What can I say about this little girl. She's white all over with a little patch of grey just in front of her ear (which you can kind of see in the picture above). She's always been the most forward of the girls. Right from the first day we had them, she mastered the art of jumping in and out of the cage. She likes to have her nose rubbed through the bars of the cage and she has amazing strength in her little legs - she's able to hang upside down and travel from one side of the cage to the other. She normally appears half asleep in the hammock, just a little white ball of fluff; she's the last to the food bowl in the morning because she's always so sleepy. She seems to think that she's a little person, right down to the way she stands upright on her back legs and watches the world going by. She's not quite like the others, though it's hard to say exactly why, she just isn't quite as 'rattie' as they are.

In the early hours of this morning our little Carol provided us with a rather rude awakening. I was woken at around 3:20am by Mr. Click anouncing "There's a rat in the bed!" The covers were thrown back and by the time I'd pulled myself upright (mumbling "what?!" and "is this a dream?") he'd switched the light on.

He then announced that it was Carol and that the cage was open. The whole thing felt very surreal and I was convinced I was dreaming. I frequently have very vivid dreams which feature our girls so I decided that this was clearly not real and all I needed to do was wake up. In the following hour I must have told Mr. Click that I didn't like this dream and that I wanted to wake up about a dozen times!

When I heard that the cage door was open I immediately panicked, with good reason. Bell was the only one with the sense to stay home. Carol had managed to get into bed with us, pretty amazing considering the fact that their cage is in a little alcove in the hallway between the bedroom and living room and to get onto Mr. Click's chest she'd had to scale the duvet where it hangs onto the floor. When he woke she'd been on his chest, but I suspect that she may have run down the bed because I vaguely remember the sensation of something moving alongside my back, presumably before she woke Mr. Click up.

Carol was rather unceremoniously dumped back in the cage and once Bell was located (and Mr. Click had searched inside the cage for Holly and Ivy) the door was shut. He looked behind the cage, no sign of the girls. We both set about searching, calling their names and (in my case) crawling along the living room carpet looking under the sofa, behind bags and units. I checked the kitchen and had moved on to the bedroom when Mr. Click called that he'd found them.

Now we are very lucky in that as far as we're aware, there are no holes or boards they could have gotten under. It's highly unlikely they would have been able to leave the house and my main worry was that they would be under the bedroom furniture, which would be awkward to move without injuring them.

It turned out that they were in fact in the first place we'd looked. Hiding down the back of the cage. They point blank refused to come out, in the end it took some maneuvering of the cage before Mr. Click could grab Holly and I could grab Ivy and after a quick once over we popped them back into the cage. I should note here that crawling around on the floor and grabbing terrified rats before 4am when you've got stitches in your tummy is a little bit uncomfortable. Of course, at the time I felt nothing because I was panicking about my ratlets, by the time I got back to bed, I was really feeling it!

We sat and watched to make sure that no one was too traumatised by the events. Gave them a bit of cracker each and decided that obviously, when the cage was closed up it hadn't latched properly and so when one of the girls had climbed up the bars it had fallen open. When the door is open, it's an invitation to come out as far as they're concerned. As we watched Carol decided to show us her latest party trick, and it's a pretty good thing she picked then to do it because otherwise we might have had to go through the same routine at 6am!

Carol's latest trick involves climbing onto the front door of the cage (her prime position for begging to come out; she knows if she chews on the bars there for long enough I'll freak out about her teeth and get them out for cuddles). Now what she does is sticks her nose through the bars at a particular spot, and wiggles, and chews, and wiggles a bit more. And the then cage door pops open with her on it and she's able to waddle off to ratty freedom... or our bed... whichever.

We closed the cage up and she did it again. Not just a fluke. Not a problem with the door. It was perfectly secure, it's just that the rat has figured out what to do to open it!

I tried hooking one of the shower curtain rings onto the door, normally use them for hanging things in their cage as they're plastic and fairly durable against rattie teeth. No use, she once again demonstrated her little trick. By this point I was having visions of one of us having to sit up next to the cage all night making sure that she didn't keep popping the door open.

Then I hit on the idea of using a ring from a key ring. It worked to a point. We got back into bed. Lay there nervously waiting to hear if the door popped open again. Five minutes, ten minutes, nothing. I began to think about dozing off, by this time it was after all getting on for 4:30am - a full hour after the initial visit from Carol. And then, DING cage door opened again.

This time I got out and we fastened up the door with cable-ties, put a heavy transporting case on top and went back to bed. It was not a good night's sleep. We both kept dreaming that the rats were out. This morning I was kind of surprised to see them all curled up in the hammock, fast asleep. I counted them about three or four times. We managed to make it through the night with four rats!

Once I'd gotten over the shock I cable-tied up the back door and as soon as I got online I asked around and it was suggested that we use some metal clips and maybe modify the door clip slightly to foil any further plans Carol has for late night escapades.

One thing that I can't help but think of is the fact that Carol, the sleepiest rat in the world, when faced with freedom ended up going to bed. I just hope if she does it again, she doesn't encourage her sisters to go exploring with her. Finding one rat in your bed is quite enough excitement for one lifetime, thank you very much!
Carol, several weeks ago, plotting her breakout while waiting for a cage clean

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