One of the difficult and often frustrating parts of breeding is that hopeful moment when the female gains a bit, then stops. Unfortunately, this has happened with our most recent pairings. I have updated a few of our albums but wanted you all to know that since the pairings we had did not take, we are mixing it up a bit and doing our next planned pairs. I was not planning on them until spring/summer but am so excited to work with these pairings and their offspring.
As a smaller breeder I take my time focusing on improving our lines with around 4-6 litters a year. If you are a pre-approved adopter on our wait list, nothing has changed except the timing of our litters. I will contact you as soon as we have babies available for you. If for some reason the wait is too long, I encourage you to contact a local rescue and let me know if you would either like to be kept on the list for future ratties or be removed so I can let the pre-approved adopters after you know.
If you would like to be added to our wait list, please realize that the wait is 6-12 months.
Did you know that a Mama rat can get pregnant again right after giving birth to her babies? If the male rat is not removed from the cage PRIOR to birth, the female will deliver another litter 3-4 weeks after her first one arrives. (this could mean 25+ babies for mama) This does not give her a chance to recoup from the first litter beginning to wean and means more babies will need to find a loving home, which is not always easy.
I often get emails from new rat owners telling us they just adopted from a pet store or from a 'breeder' where they got two rats but think one is the wrong sex. I can pretty much guarantee that the female is pregnant if she is over 6 weeks of age. This is not an ideal breeding age (females should really be closer to 4-6 months/300 grams to give them the optimum health and successful litters) No matter how much you want to have them enjoy each other's company male and female rats cannot play together. (unless the male is neutered or female spayed) When rats breed they only need a few seconds, yes seconds! I often encourage those with two babies different sexes to take one or the other sex back to where they got them and get one of the correct sex as a companion.
Of course sometimes we also hear that someone adopted two females (correct sex) but one or both are pregnant and deliver 1-3 weeks after joining the family. This is not something everyone is prepared to deal with after just adding new rats to the family. Most important all babies need to be sexed correctly, especially by 4-5 weeks of age. Though the males are not always able to, they sometimes can breed their mama/sisters by 5-6 weeks. If this happens the whole crazy cycle can start again!! It is not always easy to find good homes for 'the oops! litter' babies.
What happens when people can't find homes for the babies??? This is were many rescues have stepped up to help the new rat owners and those that have gotten overwhelmed with 'oops! litters' Right now a great rescue in British Columbia has a plethora of babies. A social worker brought in two mamas and their new babies the end of November 2017. Unfortunately, the mamas had already been bred again prior to joining Small Animal Rescue Society so they have BABIES!!! LOTS OF BABIES on the way! in need of good homes.
Because we have such amazing support in the rat community Best Friends Rodent Rescue in Washington is also helping in the efforts to get the SARS babies home. What a great way to start the new year - with an new furbaby or two! Contact them at email@example.com to see if they have a sweet baby or two to join your mischief.
If you are not close to British Columbia, don't be discouraged there are so many rescues out there with babies and lovable olders in need of furever homes.
Recently I read this article about 77+ rats being abandoned in Fort Collins, Colorado. My first thought is anger, how could someone do this? My next thought was how wonderful all the people were that stepped up to help with the rescue.
This video link has a lot of great information in regards to what happens after rats mate. I have mentioned several times in previous posts about the sperm plug being seen to confirm breeding. This short video was made by "Wild Sex" on Facebook . I love sharing information and this video does a great job!
Rats Mating 'Animated' Video
A common post I often see on social media is,
“I have a small baby in this litter, could it be a dwarf?”
Most likely not. If the baby has always been small, hitting all the milestones as it’s litter mates, such as pigment showing around same day and eyes opening, you most likely have a runt on your hands. Often a dwarf rat will not slow down in growth until around weeks 3 - 4 in an average litter. (It was recently brought to my attention by someone that had a smaller litter that their difference was more obvious much earlier.) Sometimes you won’t notice a runt until the first week passes. Sometimes there are more than one in a litter. Runts will often catch up to their litter mates by weeks 9-12. However, if you have a little one that is skinnier than it's litter mates, lagging, not hitting their milestones, you may have FTT (Failure to Thrive also known as 'ill thrift' by veterinarians.) They are often very skinny and weak; not able to absorb all the nutrients needed to meet those milestones. Most often FTT will not survive into adulthood. Either the mother will push them out of the nest, sensing something not right, or they will pass on their own before 2 weeks. There are exceptions, my 939 gram boy, CRUS Bennet, being one of them. He was FTT, ½ the size of his siblings and too weak to be able to push them off so he could nurse. If his breeder didn't make sure he latched on and supplemented him with extra formula he most likely would have never survived past 2 weeks. He was one of my biggest boys and lived to just shy of his 2nd birthday.
As with CRUS Bennet (mentioned above), I have become known as 'The Collector of Runts'. I have a soft spot for the lil guy in a litter. This is simply as a pet lover, not a breeder. Wanting to keep runts or adopt runts from others, fills up the mischief rather quickly. This limits my space so I am not able to work with all the varieties I want. Often a breeder will have what they call a 'bucket list' of rats they would like to someday work with. My list of those that I would like to someday have would include: Harvel, Roan, Whiteside, & Rex. I also love a beautiful Self rat. (All one color). I am trying to get the pigment of my lines all the way down to their toes. There will sometimes be an odd recessive blaze, or variegated popping up, keeping the litters even more entertaining. The most recent marking surprise in a litter happened at the end of last year, in the 2016 Winter All Science Litter, appearing at 4 ½ weeks. OCRA Inertia was our very first Himalayan and OCRA Tesla ended up being a beautiful Burmese! Up until she showed up, I had never even seen a Burmese. WOW! I must say, my favorite look for sure. Currently we are working with Standard & Satin coats in Burmese, Himalayan, Siamese, Mink, Russian Blue, Agouti, Blue, Chocolate, Black and all of their dilutes. I also loved our pets that were Hairless and enjoy the Drex but do not want to work with those as a breeder. Hairless often have lactation issues that would mean doubling up on my breeding so I would need a foster mother for the babies. With my 2 Drex rats that I love as pets, I have found a lot of issues such as the eyelashes growing wrong and extra pory due to the irritation. The constant shedding from coarse broken hairs also drives me batty but they are worth it. I love them dearly.
So back to the dwarf question mentioned above. Did you notice dwarf was not mentioned on my bucket list? Never in my wildest dreams, had I thought I would work with dwarf. This is a tough variety to work with. The babies are often the same size as standards so a dwarf mama could have difficulty birthing. For the female dwarf that do deliver, their litters are much smaller than the standard litters in number. Often 3-6 verses 8-15 with a full-size rat. Talking with other breeders, the best option would be to breed dwarf carriers or a dwarf male to a carrier female. Even then, you are not guaranteed dwarf when working with carriers. Why all this talk about dwarf? Well.... because of our Burmese, OCRA Tesla, in the 2016 litter, we wanted to pull more Burmese out to work with. To do that we bred her back to her father OCRA Galileo. Imagine my surprise when our 2017 Summer All Science Litter v2.0 hit 3.5 weeks and 3 boys (OCRA Tesla’s Coil, OCRA Electron and OCRA Luman) slowed down. I mean WAY DOWN in their growth compared to their siblings. First thought was FTT and I hit a bit of a panic. I began supplementing them with extra goodies hoping to get them back up to their siblings’ weight. All they ended up doing was getting round. As they hit 5.5 weeks old their weigh difference was ½ their siblings, 70-79 grams verses their siblings at 140-160 grams. They continued to grow and be VERY active. Now at 5 months they weigh 132-180 grams and their siblings are over 560 grams! The two that are heavier are VERY round still but in every way, look like dwarf – looking at their little bellies they are about 25-35 grams overweight. They all live with standard size males with no issues. Well, except for the Napoleon Syndrome they seem to be expressing (in fact one was renamed Napoleon by his adopter). It is amazing when you have a litter of 12 thinking you are just working with your standard line and you get a surprise. We have no idea where they came from, since I can track my lines back to 2010 with one other breeder, 2012 & 2013 with another. I may never know where the recessive dwarf came from but will have a lot of fun testing it out with another proven dwarf to see how this new line will develop. Here is a link to the album on fb so you can follow our dwarf adventure with OCRA Tesla and her next litter!
*Male and Female rats really differ in their weight after 6 weeks, for the graph I combined the averages of both. **Dwarf weights are from breeders in the area: Little Diva's Rattery, Sith Rattery, The Breakfast Bunch Rattery, & Kobold Rattery ***Runt Weight is combined from Our Crazy Rat Adventure tracking of 15 different litters ****Several of the adult dwarf are overweight (15-50 grams) – after talking to many breeders apparently this is a common issue with them.
More info on Dwarf:
Study of growth hormone in spontaneous dwarf rat
Great pictures for comparison
More information on dwarf rats
Why all this information? Is it simply to talk about this amazing discovery in our mischief? No, it is to explain growth of babies and their hidden potential. A few breeders do not like their litters to be more than 6-8 in number, sometimes even smaller. Their theory is that it will be easier on the mama and their babies will be nice and FAT. To achieve this there are a few things they will do. If they have another nursing mom they may place a few with her. Otherwise, they may hard cull (kill) certain babies depending on size, eye colors or wait until a bit older for pigment to show before they hard cull those colors that they do not want to work with. Often the breeders that do this are multipurpose breeders as well, called Feeder Breeders. They breed to feed animals for other owners and their own pets. Though I can't imagine doing this personally, I accept that other animals need to eat. Unfortunately, some breeders that do not have to feed other animals, will still hard cull down their littler size simply because they think it is the only way to get fat healthy baby rats. I have chosen not to do this, after years of tracking their weights, I feel confident that our females have done a fabulous job with their litters no matter what size. Mama's should always keep their weight without struggles and bouncing back to post pregnancy weight by weaning is an important goal I have for all of the mama's. Over the years, there have been a few times I have had to increase fat offered in hopes to help with dryer skin in the babies. Another time, we did need to give mama a bit extra from the beginning – she had 18 babies! Over the years a baby has passed in the first few days and only a few times have we lost one after the first week. It is a very difficult choice to have babies euthanized. One had an umbilical hernia that did not get better and another that had a skull injury. Both of those became FTT due to their injuries. We also lost on baby to megacolon (in a line I immediately took out of my program). After several years of breeding and tracking weights weekly, I have shown that the babies of larger litters (up to 18) have all gained and are around the same size as those of litters that are as small as 2. In fact, some of my smallest babies were from a litter of 2. Their genetics were simply for a more petite rat. Thankfully we allow our litters to develop naturally, if we didn’t, we may never had known about our Burmese or the Dwarf Boys.
Below are a few interesting things I have found online about overweight babies and basic litter size. (Warning some of the scientific studies can get graphic in their descriptions of their testing and how they cull) Often in scientific studies they will want to have same numbers of offspring and equal sex ratio to help them get to the outcomes for their studies. As a pet breeder I do not see the necessity to do this. Though I love a squishy fat baby, I do not want to simply focus on having equal sized litters to have the fat babies but rather overall healthy babies thinking of the long term health of the rat.
Many of you have asked if we will be selling our fun toys, hammocks and other rat goodies at the 2017 Fall Show. For this show I wanted to volunteer where needed and with daughters now working and into horses, looks like I will not have anyone to run the table. However, I can promise you there will be tons of other great rat goodies there along with some rescues for adoption.
Here is the new link for the show information and registration.
15th Annual RatsPacNW Fall Rat Show
If you have not entered before and are thinking about it, I encourage you to go for it! I have linked a few posts about past shows on here.
Our First Rat Show part 1
Our First Rat Show part 2
Our First Rat Show part 3
Our Second Rat Show
Our Third Rat Show Part 1
Our Third Rat Show Part 2
Our Fourth Rat Show
This is such a touchy subject for so many. When is it time? There are a lot of resources out there to give you information on when quality of life is harder on our pets than allowing them to cross the rainbow bridge. Here is one I have seen shared on many of the rat groups I follow on facebook - Quality of Life Scale. Here is one more - Quality of Life Questionnaire. Often we have to make a hard decision for our furbabies. Do we allow them to continue to suffer or do we choose to euthanize? We have had to make this decision more times than I ever thought I would. That is what happens when you have 42 rats plus many babies over the years. It does not get easier over time. Here is a letter written by Veterinarian Anthony A Pilny - When it comes to euthanasia, the hardest part is deciding when.
Some vets will offer to euthanize an ill rat but the cost may be prohibitive to some. We have found out that the local humane society offers several options which include receiving either their body or ashes for home burial. When I called them a few weeks ago to find out their prices The Oregon Humane Society charges $5.00 for euthanasia of a rat and will give you their body to bury at home. The will charge $25 for you to receive their ashes back with options in between for them to dispose of the body. For some this may be a cheaper option than the vet. One thing you must ask is how they will do it? You have to make sure they do not do intracardiac (IC; in the heart) injection on a conscious rat. This is extremely painful for the rat and illegal in some states.
So often we do not know what to do with our beloved pets when they pass away. Many live in apartments or rent and do not have a resting place for their ratties once they crossed the rainbow bridge. Whether you choose to bury or have ashes to scatter there are a couple options I have heard a few do.
Since we have chosen to bury our beloved pets we have been looking for the right marker where they are buried. About a month ago we found a great site Hatchet Creek Pet Memorials that will actually engrave on a small marker. They have rat images (or any other pet you could imagine) to chose from or they can try to do a custom image from a photo you submit. We just received ours today. They were great to work with, sending us proofs and changing our little requests over 5 times. They were very patient and wanted to get it right for us. I highly recommend this company.
Our rats used to waste so much food. I would find it in their toys, hammocks, under the fleece liners and even in their litter boxes. (ewwww!) We started using a homemade mix and found that the food isn't wasted anymore. However, I still have several people who want to use just block, ask me how to stop the food hoarding. Many breeders use food hoppers. These are not too hard to make. There are a lot of examples on line how to make them. That said, I am still one who likes simple! I saw this idea on line and thought I would give it a try to at least show you how simple it is. The best part about having a hopper, it will make the rats have to work for their food offering them mental stimulation.
Do not use food hoppers for ill, or disabled rats. Make sure to offer them food and water that is easy to access.
Take a container, cut one side off and place against cage that has 1/2" bar spacing. Simple!!! You now have a food hopper. I recommend you using a clip under the container to keep it from slipping down. *** (We placed a cup inside to move food forward because we did not have thinner container here in the house. I know the Dollar Tree and even Wal-mart have several slender containers that will work great!)
I am stuck inside due to terribly air quality, and overall hot temps. So I thought I would share some of the fun rat memes I have made over the years with those 'perfect' shots.
I didn't realize until yesterday that it was going to hit 100*+ here this week for a couple days. A couple years ago another owner actually lost her rats due to the heat that was in her home. This is why I wanted to give you a couple ideas on how to keep your furbabies cool during the intense heat.
First and foremost you have to make sure what ever you use to help keep them cool will not be toxic or a danger to them in any way.
What we do:
Signs of heatstroke in small animals
To begin with, rats cannot sweat nor do they pant to release heat. They actually use their tails as a thermal-regulator. Here is a great link that talks about how that works. The rats will begin to show signs of being too hot at around 80*+ This is when they start to lay flat on the shelves spreading out to help cool themselves. At above 90* the rats will be extremely uncomfortable and will need you to provide extra cooling relief. If your home hits above 104* the rats could actually die from the heat. These are in the case of a healthy rat. If you have a rat that is older, obese or struggling with URIs they will be even more sensitive to the temperature fluctuations.
Things to look for:
A rat's condition can turn quickly. If your rat actually goes unconscious from heat stroke, this is considered an EMERGENCY, your rat can die! You will need to immediately cool it off and call your vet for EMERGENCY help. To cool it off, I have read first thing to do is to immerse the rat up to its neck in cool water (NOT ICE). Do not submerge it's head.
I hope NO ONE has go through this, which is why I am also including a few links and other ideas I have seen online to help keep the rats cool!
Other suggestions we have seen in facebook groups/ or online
*Keep your rats on the lower levels of your home*
This goes almost without saying. However, the lady I mentioned above had her rats in the upper story of her home. If it is too hot for you it is WAY too hot for them!
*Fans are great but do not blow them directly on the rats cage*
Rats have very sensitive respiratory systems, the constant air on them may dry out their nasal passages and/or stir up excessive debris in their cage that can get into their lungs.
*Make a rat air conditioner over a shelf or hammock (According to several people this works well)*
Ice Packs (if above the cage out of their reach)
IF doing this on a shelf in the cage make sure to use glass jar of frozen water
A smaller mixing bowl or small plate
A larger mixing bowl
Put ice container in small bowl/or small plate
Set small bowl over cage (or on shelf) where there is a hammock below it.
Place the larger bowl upside down over the smaller bowl/plate. This allows the cool air trapped in the larger bowl to flow down to the hammock directly beneath it.
*A link to make your own A.C. for around $8.00*
*Cover your cage with towels and keep them wet (warning they will get chewed and pulled in)*
Hope this all gives you some ideas on how to keep your furbabies cool!
Our Crazy Rat Adventure Blog is small glimpse into our little menagerie. We never intended to, but we ended helping others fall in love with the little vermin.