Our boys are becoming such lovely little men! Honestly, when we first got them, although we got them from a breeder and they had been handled, they were on the shy, scared side and it took a while for them to become comfortable with hands coming toward them and various noises. They didn’t like to be picked up at all and got kind of spooked easily. Herman hid a lot.
However we’ve consistently spent every day with them for hours, either in the front room or up in the bedroom once we arranged them a little area, and they are really blossoming!!! They are between 3 – 4 months old now.
The bonding seems to occur in stages or levels, where there will be a particular moment where I can just feel that new closeness has been reached, and from then on there is a more connected feeling and behaviour between them and us. More warmth and interaction and openness on their side.
Herman is super affectionate and playful, he loves to be involved and often runs over to see you. He lets you nuzzle into him and is happy to be picked up and smoothed now (before he gets impatient and wants to continue his journey of exploration.) He has a penchant for getting bits of fluff/tissue/food stuck in his whiskers or on the end of his nose which is hilariously adorable.
He’s independent but very socially inclined, playful and free but also very soft, snuggly and kissable, especially when he’s tired. He’s very cheeky and emits an aura of monkey mischief. He LOOKS like a little brown monkey!
Burlington has the softest and loveliest fur I’ve ever had the joy of experiencing on a rat! Apparently there are such breeds as a ‘Teddy Rex’, however it says that these are not presently in the UK and that it would probably be seen as a bad Rex – I’m not really sure about that – all I know is his fur feels and looks just like pictures and descriptions of Teddy Rex, and it is fabulous!!! It reminds me of a thick, woolly sheep. Especially when you see his legs from behind
He’s a real sweet little boy. He makes the funniest faces and has a special relationship with his Chicken Hideout, one of the nests in their cage (See previous posts!) Wherever he sleeps, he generally likes to lean his head out and is always up for being snuggled and stroked. He really leans in toward the snuggles, and it’s such a pleasure to cuddle him because of his amazing fur.
He’s very allowing, soppier and slightly less bouncy/playful, moment to moment than Herman. But they both do bounce and play, and they both do relax and cuddle, too.
Herman likes to climb on you and sit on your shoulder, whereas Burlington doesn’t like being on the shoulder at all – he’s all about the sleeve – both love the sleeve!
They’re both comedians in their own ways – Burlington’s just extremely silly in most things he does and he doesn’t even realise it. Herman makes you laugh with his baby-like cuteness and experimental explorations.
Just a little doodle of my boys whilst I was sketching out my daydream of a desert island and meticulously selecting those who had the privilege of staying with me. (Obviously they are on the island too!)
Now the chill of winter has settled in more, I’ve been spending a lot of time with the Men upstairs in the day while G-rem works, so that we can all stay warm together in our small, cosy room, and it’s been so lovely to have them around!
Burly looking out the window earlier
We haven’t described the set-up they have in our room really, but there is a nice sized desk (made by G-rem himself) made from kitchen table top that is accessible from the bed, and I have basically donated it to become a rat-table.
They have a plastic ladder from a previous cage that reaches from the bed to the desk.
From there, they can wander into ‘The Hermburl Saloon’ for a drink and chill.
When they get hungry, their food bowl is situated just behind the Saloon in a cardboard tray to attempt to minimize spillage!
Then they can waddle over to the one and only RAT SOFA, custom built by a friend of my mum’s who had a business making natural wooden furniture. It’s over 10 years old now and has seen some wear and tear, but in the early days it used to have its own fabric seat, padded out with pure, soft fluffy cotton from a cotton pod.
This isn’t the best picture angle to demonstrate its coolness and the headboard it has is hidden underneath the beam.. but here it is anyway.
They enjoy sleeping both on it and in the space underneath.
As they make their way along to the other end of the desk, there is another small box filled with tissue bedding, that is the general sleeping box where they tend to go for longer stretches of rest. I made a silly pillar to prop the lid up but sometimes it’s nicer when the lid falls lower so it blocks out the light and makes it cosier for them when they’re deeply resting.
The Nest Box
When they wake up, as the desk reaches to the stair bannisters, they love to sit by the balcony on some fleece bedding and look out into the yonder, wondering what lays beyond-er…
I chose Burlington from the very beginning for his big, burly structure and as he continues to grow, I am continually delighted by his ever-increasing Burliness! The pictures never do him justice, but he is a rather big boy.
Weeks before our boys were due to be brought home, after scrolling through pages of Ebay listings for potential snuggly nests, finding most of them way too big for our needs, I decided to order a little cosy home from China (that has the bonus of a removable floor for easy washing…!)
They had a range of colours, but no option to specify which colour you would prefer. It was stated that unless we wrote to them to request one in particular, it would be random.
Most of them weren’t too silly looking, so I decided to just see what happened. “As long as it’s not the yellow and orange one.” I said to myself.
Weeks and weeks later, it finally arrived. As I eagerly opened the packaging, I was greeted with a bright yellow and orange fluff house.
Dubbed ‘The Chicken Hideout’, it looks like a baby chicken with a huge, hungry mouth, ready to gobble up various small animals that may wander into its tempting promise of warm, snuggly sleeps.
My little men love it and it is a daily staple in Burly’s sleep routine.
It reminds me of the diary room in the Big Brother House – a little hideaway for one to get some alone time. For a while, anyway.
Although it’s small, as is the nature of rats, they like to squeeze into it together. For now they are happy slithering around over each other until they have achieved a somewhat comfortable arrangement, although it never lasts too long.
Eeeee, I just want to tell the world how amazing my little men are!!!
They delight me to speechlessness every day with their friendliness, their bouncing and bounding around….
Yesterday we went to the pet shop to buy Burly Wurly and Herm some nesting tissue (which I know they will love when I give it to them in their next cage cleanout [scheduled today] ).
Going in there brought back pleasing memories for me, as it is the same petshop – and was the very same man behind the counter (As far as I know, the petshop is co-owned by two local men) who sold me my first ever rat, Mirral, about 13 years ago, who was to be a shining, silver-fawny beacon of amazingness.
They no longer sell any animals (which I believe is a good thing) and the area is now stocked with bags of dry animal foods and treats. So I stood there staring at the exact spot where my Mirral was located, visualizing in place of the current reality, seeing him in his little glass tank with the water bottle on the front on the day I went and picked him. I think he was the only rat there at the time and I recall him being about 8 – 9 weeks old.
He was one of those special ones that becomes extremely tame, confident and malleable – His first bout of life with us was spent humbly in the front room on top of a nice, low dressing table in his little cage. I never remember him being one for much exercise or youthful excitability. I was very excited to have him in my life and would spend most of my free time with him, from breakfast before school and then most afternoons and evenings when I got home.
Somewhere along the line as our connection developed, he was transported to my bedroom and became less and less in his cage and more free range in my room. At some point I devoted a shelf of my built-in cupboards to him (which were from the ground up,) but mostly he spent his days in and on my bed with me, morning and night, always with access to his cage for his food and water.
I was 9 – 10 at the time. We lived out of town, but I would travel into our alternative town of Glastonbury with my mum for her work at a quirky historic cafe & shop built inside an old Victorian water reservoir. During the summer I used to bring Mirral with me, comfortable and relaxed as ever, just hanging out in my sleeve or cradled in my arms, and stroll around the centre of town, charging people in the street something like 20 pence to cuddle him if they were interested!
He became very much a free range man and in the course of his life he travelled to quite a few places with us, and on various adventures – we only brought his cage with us as back-up in the car for those times where it was necessary or more convenient to keep him safe and enclosed.
There was the time where we took him on a camping trip to Avebury, where I have a memory of him crawling into my mum’s tent in the evening to steal a scone out of the packet we’d bought.
We brought him out on many long walks in different places, through woodlands and fields and by rivers, along with his water bottle and some food to make sure he stayed hydrated and happy. Just riding in my arms the whole time. Adorable!
I also used to take him with me occasionally in the cage when I went to stay in London with my dad, a few hours drive away. On an occasion where I left him at home, my mum told me the beautiful story of how he crept from my bedroom all the way down the hall and into her room in the night, owing to his loneliness! I find that so touching and I love how it demonstrates a rats’ general need for and enjoyment of connection and friendship.
To add to all of this, I fatefully met a friend in primary school two years older than myself, who also had and dearly loved rats, and together we were both very comfortable and confident with taking our rat friends out and about – we used to put them in cushioned backpacks with the zip open for air, and we’d take them all over the place on bike rides and magical walks. We even snuck them into a cafe – I remember sneaking them bits of food from under the table!
At one point we actually bred Mirral to one of her females, Mini-Brandy – all of this going very smoothly without any parental intervention – and out of that litter was produced the beautiful ‘Mini-Mirral’, spitting image of his father, amongst other delightful beings.
There was another occasion I vividly recall where she came to stay over my house (which as I mentioned, was out of town). She brought one of her female rats along with its new adorable litter, in an appropriately decked out plastic cat-caddy, only to discover she’d brought the wrong ‘mother’. This sweet champagne female was identical to HER mother, and the two had been mixed up in the moment, and so my friend devotedly cycled all the way back, and back again, to exchange them. They all took it in their stride.
I remember not a single moment of stress or confusion between any of us – rats or otherwise. It was a good rattie time!
~ Reflecting on my rat memories with my friend now, it makes me acknowledge that sometimes being young and supposedly blissfully unaware of potential ‘bad ideas’ actually has many merits, or at least something to learn from, as when we’re in that state of mind, we don’t sabotage our experience or our ability to handle things due to our minds being full of doubts or fears or what-if’s. We more often simply trust we can handle it and so we do, no second thought. These past experiences along with the way my friend and I behaved throughout our rat-era, serve not only as beautiful memories, but also as a nice reminder for me ~