Saturday, July 17, 2010

Girls Camp Out and Ratty Dilemna

My daughter had two friends over last night, and the 4 of us "girls" slept in the tent in the back yard last night.  I didn't sleep well.  Not because the girls didn't settle until close to midnight, and a robin perched in a tree in our yard and started singing loudly at 4:30am.  No, I wasn't sleeping anyhow, I was tossing and turning, and trying unsuccessfully to solve our rat dilemna.

Our first rat, Sam, is a girl.  When we bought her, we had no intention of having more than one, so didn't even think to ask about gender.  Not that it mattered, since the pet store staff may not have gotten it right anyhow.  So when we realized she was a girl, I was a bit anxious, since my friend Andrea, who is a wonderful ratsitter for Sam when we go on vacation, had in the meantime adopted 3 boy rats.  Sadly, her 3 boys caused terrible allergies, and needed to find another home.  But I was still a little anxious about having a girl rat, considering the frequency and size of litters if she were ever to become pregnant.

So when we realized that she would be happier with a companion, we set out to find her a female one.  We ended up with a sweet dumbo eared rat, Berry, and curly "Rex" rat, Jenny.  But last night we realized that Berry is now Bear, a boy rat.  Since we bought him July 6, and I'm guessing he was maybe 3 weeks old, that would make him approximately 5 weeks old.  Although not likely, females are able to become pregnant as early as 5 weeks.  So as I tossed and turned in the tent, I kept trying to work out the age of Berry.  She was probably 2 weeks old when we bought her on July 9, so she is about 3 weeks old now. Assuming she's a girl, at what point is it no longer "safe" to have Bear and Jenny together in the hamster cage?  Probably best if we sort out this living arrangement within the next week or so, just to be sure.

Bear may almost be big enough (that he can't squeeze out) to join Sam in the big cage, but that is no longer an option for us.  Jenny is probably still too little to join Sam.  But can we leave her that long with Bear, or need a separate hamster cage for her?  But then I end up with 3 rats in 3 cages, with no companions for any of them!

My first reaction last night was that clearly Bear had to find another home, and soon.  But then as I tossed and turned, I wondered, what if Jenny was actually Jimmy, a boy, too?  Even then, I couldn't bear to give him away, too.  In which case I should have kept Bear, and then we'd have 2 boys, would could be good friends, and poor Sam, who is still without a companion.  Two large rat cages in our kitchen.  Make sure we don't let the boys and girls out at the same time, but otherwise we could still play with them whenever we wanted.

Without being clear on Jenny vs Jimmy, it is hard to know what cage to buy next, or whether to start advertising to find a home for Bear.  So when the robin started singing at 4:30am, I took the opportunity to step out of the tent to scare it to a more distant tree, and search the internet for some answers.

I found many pages on "sexing rats", and the best one was this one.  But without being able to hold her side by side against similar aged rats, I am still not sure which of the photos more closely match our dear Jenny.  So even though I turned her over a number of times to look at her, I couldn't be sure one way or the other.  But I do know that I can't trust that the pet store staff thought she was female.  They thought the same of Bear.

So then I found myself reading about curly haired or "Rex" rats, with mixed result.  Although Jenny's curly whiskers will always be curly, there may be various moults and regrowths of her curly hair which may not be as curly as I had hoped.  I learned also that her colouration is actually called "bareback" instead of "hooded", since she  has the "hood" part but doesn't have the stripe running down her spine.

Then there is the sneezing.  Both Bear and Jenny sneeze a fair amount, even though they are in the recommended aspen bedding, and there are no obvious reasons why they would have allergies.  Sam, on the other hand, has never sneezed, at least not that we've noticed.  But my reading didn't answer my questions, and even the people who went to their vets didn't seem to get clear answers why their rats were sneezing when they didn't exhibit other signs of sickness.

So finally, I ended up on Craigslist, searching for another large rat cage.  Rather than a second hamster cage, this way we'd be prepared long term for whatever decision we end up making.  I found a good one at a good price, and emailed the owner about it, but just need to wait until I can follow up, since it is only 6:25am.

The 3 campers are awake now, and in the house.  They all have freshly painted fingernails and toenails.  My son just came downstairs also.  So I guess that's it for any attempts at sleeping.  I'll catch up another night.

No comments:

Blog Widget by LinkWithin