With my latest piece of art being of my own rats, I think it's about time I properly introduced them (since this blog is both rodent and art related!)
Firstly on the picture front, it's an A3 watercolour piece. However, it didn't really come out like I'd wanted it to. I think the background was where it all went wrong, I wanted a smoother, darker background but was too lazy to mask off the rats first which made it quite difficult to get round their shapes and maintain a flatness of colour (I failed at that!) I wanted to make it darker but was afraid of actually making the whole thing worse, so I left it as it was. Shading mainly white rats was also a bit of a pain, I didn't want them to appear too dark and I haven't really figured out a good way of handling fur in watercolours. Ah well, it's all practice!
Onto the real subject, rats!
I've kept rats since about 2003. I've only kept males (not for any particular reason, it just so happens that all the rats I've ever had have been males). But onto my current boys...
Arrow (black capped):
Arrow is my oldest boy, bought in March 2010 with his brother Splodge. When I first bought him and his brother, neither would come out of their cage for freeranging time for almost a whole month despite lots of encouragement! However, once they got over that they were fine, hyper active typical young rats. Unfortunately Splodge didn't live very long, I guessed he may have had some sort of problem as he slept very heavily for a rat at times. However, I'll never know for certain what was the matter, I just remember the terrible shock to have a rat die so suddenly and so young.
Because of Splodge's untimely death I decided Arrow would need some more, younger company. My other current rats at the time were old and had had numerous problems in their later life so I went out to find Arrow some little friends. Thus Levi and Seth came into Arrow's life.
...Little did I know that Arrow did not like friends. Fortunately he seems to be more accepting of them these days but I'm sure if there was ever a rat who wanted to be a lone rat it would be him! As I type this he sleeps next to me in his little soft igloo-rat-slipper whilst his friends are locked away in the cage.
Levi and Seth (white and white with grey patch):
Bought as companions for Arrow, I acquired them from a pet shop about half an hour away from me in another town. The people that work there always seem nice and the pets always seem well handled there. Levi and Seth had been there a while, they were older than the typical rats I had got before. Initially I didn't buy them. One of the worker's said it would be difficult to introduce them to my others at their age. However, overnight all I could do was think about these poor rats who'd never had a proper freerange time whilst being stuck in the pet shop for however many months. So the next day I rushed back to get them before work (luckily my shift didn't start until 12 that day!)
I must also say that the first time I looked at these boys one of them bit me. I didn't think much of it at the time, passing it off as just frustration of being locked up for so long. (Although looking back at it, I think it must have happened to the staff as they were very relutant just to scoop them up, they wanted the rats to climb on them rather than pick them up which wasn't happened when I did go back to get them!)
When I got them home for the first few months I never saw this behaviour again so I forgot about it. Then Levi became a proper 'rat teenager' and my hands became useful for biting. I'd be watching a DVD and he'd sneak up and bite my hands if I didn't notice and move very quickly. He was a very dominant aggressive rat, displaying behaviour I'd never seen before in any of my past rats. He'd rub his paws on everything (which I read up later is to do with scent marking). I've lost count of the times it happened. Despite the many times he drew blood (perhaps 'vampire rat' would be a better nickname) I wouldn't swap him for anything. As he's aged he is more predictable and less prone to random attacks. Basically as long as you don't pick him up or stroke his head (his back is fine) he'll be fine. Seth on the other hand has never displayed any tendancy to bite and is a very relaxed, happy-go-lucky sort of character.
Fergus (faded husky rat):
I think I bought Fergus because the introduction of Seth and Levi had made Arrow the odd one out. I think I thought they'd turn their attention to a newcomer and cut the older Arrow a bit of slack. I hoped Arrow would find a friend in Fergus and they'd 'hang out' together as Levi and Seth did.
Strangely it seemed to have an odd effect now all of them are older. Usually Seth and Fergus sleep in the same area and Levi and Arrow together.
Fergus typically will do anything for food. His favourite by far is dried pasta. As long as there's food he's a happy boy, although a rather big happy boy!
Jasper (grey hooded):
I can't really write much about Jasper yet. At the moment introductions are a little shakey. He tends to wind up the older rats which they dislike. Sometimes he likes to curl up with Arrow (perhaps the similiar face marking makes him feel some sort of connection with him?! Who knows!) He's very, very hyper... I forget how hyper young rats are (and secretly can't wait for him to calm down and get too fat to fit under the bed, last night I 'lost' him under there and that was a nightmare as it's too small to fit my hand under!)
And that's my boys for you.
Other than that I took both Seth and Arrow to the vet today. Seth has been a lot due to respiratory problems in the past. Last week the vet asked us to bring him back in a week (today) so I took Arrow along too (as he's growing weaker in his back legs, typical of old age in rats but I wondered if there was any thing that could potentially halt the problem). I'm a lot of money poorer and I'm meant to take them back in a couple of weeks to see their progress. If anyone thinks rats are 'cheap pets' let me assure you, they're not!!! The moment I heard the cost I was reminded of this great picture I found on the internet a while back. I'm not sure who originally created it so unfortunately can't give credit where it's due (unless someone knows?) but I have to share it again!:
- The Blogging Rat