Throwback Thursday: Merv Edition

October 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

Today I was thinking about my old pet rat, Mervy.  Mervy passed away in January 2013, so this definitely counts as a throwback.  I wrote about him here when that happened.  He was the most affectionate rat and the friendliest one out of the 6 that I’ve owned.  (Charlie was the sweetest to me, but he wasn’t as good with other people, so Mervy gets the crowd-pleaser title.)

But today I was really just remembering one Merv incident in particular, the one that makes me so glad I have pet rats, because they’re smart and hilarious and sneaky.  It was mid-December of 2011, and I was still living at home with the rat cage in my bedroom.  I had a box of Gertrude Hawk chocolate Jordan Crackers in my closet, to keep it safe from the rats. (Yes, I keep snacks in my bedroom.  No, those snacks are never healthy.)  One day, I let the rats (Bob, Merv, and Willy at the time) out of the cage in my room to have some play time, as usual.  I left the room for a few minutes, shutting the door tightly behind me, and went to grab some laundry downstairs.  Mom distracted me on that fateful day, asking me a few questions in the kitchen, so that it was about half an hour before I made it back upstairs.  I went back in the room and immediately saw that my closet door was open.  When I poked my head inside, Mervy came scampering out of the closet, right between my feet, a Jordan Cracker firmly held in his mouth, and sticking out both sides.  “MERVY!” I exclaimed in horror and pounced on him.  He squirmed in my grasp, trying desperately not to relinquish his forbidden treat.  I pried it out of his mouth and then promptly popped him into the cage and latched the door.  Turning back to the closet, I saw he had chewed a hole through the bottom of the Jordan Cracker box and left cardboard pieces scattered around. I picked a few up and turned back around to laughingly scold him again.

And there he was, sitting in a corner of the cage, gnawing happily on ANOTHER Jordan Cracker!!  “Mervy!” I yelled again, and reached in and tugged the second one from his greedy little paws. I turned around and dropped both chocolates in the trash, picked up more cardboard and threw that out, and then spun back to properly scold my sneaky little rat again. And there he was, eating A THIRD JORDAN CRACKER.

“WHERE ARE YOU GETTING THESE FROM!?” I shrieked, feeling baffled and dismayed. Mervy’s twinkling black eyes laughed at me as he eagerly nibbled the chocolate treat that was bigger than his face. On a hunch, I reached into the cage and lifted up their little sleep hut.  Sure enough, there they were, a whole treasure trove of chocolate goodness.  Mervy had hoarded at least fifteen Jordan Crackers inside the opaque walls of the sleep hut.  He must have ferried them each individually into the cage from the closet while I was downstairs.  In half an hour! I started laughing so hard I cried. The image of him trotting back and forth across my room with these giant chocolates sticking out of his mouth was too much.  Then I took them all out and told Mervy he was a hilariously, adorably misbehaving sneak of a rat.

I don’t keep snacks in my room anymore.

420440_10150598663629142_440461058_nMervy on Rich’s shoulder

598822_10151118246189142_715515034_nMervy just wants some of Jill’s beer

snuggled up

Mervy snuggled up with Fred and Bob

Little Heart Stealers

February 27, 2015 § 1 Comment

These are the things I remember and love about my pet rats who have passed away:

Bob was a skulker, always lurking around the edges of the room and under the corners of the bed.  He always had a bit of a head tilt, and it gave him a comical, inquisitive look.  He was a strong rat, the first rat, he cowered in a lonely little corner of the cage for the first few nights alone until I brought home Merv.  That was an instant rattie friendship.

Mervy Rat was the sweetheart rat, a snifflebug, a dark brown darling of a pet.  He was small and fast and he loved to be cuddled.  He sneezed a lot and I called him Sneezles Rat because of it.  Merv was the ambassador: everyone loved him once they saw his sweet little brown eyes and how happy he was when you gave him a treat.  He made you understand that rats are just soft, cuddly, sweet pancakes sometimes. He had the biggest heart too. When I brought Willie Rat home, Bob tried to bully him, but Mervy literally stood in between them and protected Willie.

William Rat was the only albino I had.  His eyesight was pretty poor but he made up for it in intelligence and energy.  He was the escape rat, the one who squeezed right through the bars of the cage late one night and scampered under the bed.  He lived the longest of all my rats.

Freddy Rat was so handsome.  He was a hooded rat, which means he had a dark hood over his face and a white body.  Freddy was so tiny when we first got him, and then I fattened him up to a plump and roly-poly chunkster.  He was pretty lazy, Freddy was.  He didn’t scamper around as much, he preferred to curl up in a nook and watch his brothers bounce around the room.  He loved grapes, blueberries, and strawberries.  Really, he just loved food in general.

Charles and Fred

Fred on top, Charlie on the bottom.

Charlie Rat just passed away, and that’s what prompted this post.  I had to make the decision to put him down on Wednesday, and it killed me inside.  Charles was the cuddliest, snuggliest rattie I ever owned.  Everyone knows I love to read, and one of my favorite things to do was to take Charlie and Henry out of the cage and let them run around while I laid on my bed and read books.  Charlie would do a little sniffing around the room and then jump up on the bed and curl up on my shoulder.  He would groom himself or just lie quietly there while I read my books and occasionally rubbed his ears.  He was not a handsome rat, looking more like the sewer type, but his heart was all in his eyes when he looked at me.  Mervy let anyone pet him, he was a sweet little attention hog.  Charlie was my rat.  He loved me so much.  Maybe it was because I rescued him from a stupid pet store where they kept him in a terrible aquarium cage.  I’ll never forget the look of gratitude in his eyes when I picked him up from that cage and took him with me.  When I brought him home and let him run around my room for the first few times, he was weak and couldn’t jump very high at all.  Rats are great jumpers, like cats, but he had been cooped up in a tiny little cage for so long, his leg muscles were poorly developed.  But after enough of a good diet and steady love and time in my room to stretch his legs, he caught up to the other rats.  He had a poor first few months of life, my Charlie bear did, and then I brought him home and he lived the best life a rattie could want.  When I held him at the vet’s office on Wednesday, after they gave him the shot, I rubbed his ears and he looked up at me and bruxed one last time for me.  I think he did it to give me one last piece of his heart.

I love you, Charlie.  I miss you every day.

I miss all my ratties.

Fredster tedster

Handsome Fred

william

Willie snacks

Mervy

My Mervy

the little trio!

William, white-bellied Merv, and Bob: the original 3!

bobberton

Bob is silly

Bobbers

Bobbers

 

Wintertime News

January 15, 2015 § 2 Comments

Here’s some lighter blogging material, complete with Caps Lock and way too many parenthetical clauses:

I am going out to Michigan next week, from Friday the 23rd through Tuesday the 27th, and I cannot wait.  Even though the absolute best part of visiting MI is seeing my family: Jul, Daniel, the dynamic duo of Leo and Lucy, and now my sister Cathy as well, there’s also all the friends I’ve made over the years from that flat, windy state.  Especially Veronica.  (I only refer to her as my friend because I don’t like to swear on my blog.  And because I need to stay on her good side for the next two weeks.)  Veronica and I have a baffling, discourteous, constructed on an elaborate mountain of lies, friendship in which she is a jerk to me and I am a spotless victim.  Basically she’s awesome.  Anyway, she’s promised to bring her laptop over so we can watch the 3rd (and inconsolably final) season of The Newsroom.  YAY VERONICA I LOVE YOUUUUUUUUUU!  I watched the first two seasons with my ex-boyfriend, but wasn’t able to watch the third because I don’t have HBO.  Enter Vee, with her Superwoman cape firmly in place and a (few dozen) bottle(s) of wine, and I’m finally getting to ogle Jim Harper again.

 

WP_20150104_15_19_37_ProIt’s been too long since I blogged about how wonderful my pet rats are.  (I consider myself something of a rat apologist.) Charles is the dark rat in the pictures, and he’s my snugglebug.  His favorite thing to do once I let him out of the cage is to jump up on my bed next to me and curl up against my arm.  He knows if he stays there, I won’t be able to resist, and instead of putting laundry away or something, I’ll give him a good ear rub every time.  Charlie isn’t the most handsome rat but he’s definitely the cuddliest rat I’ve ever owned, even more than my Mervy.  Charlie loves sleeping, and is losing a little weight (and fur unfortunately) now that he’s older, but he still hops around my room with plenty of energy.
WP_20150113_2900Henry is the other rat, the younger one with the white and brown coloring.  He is ridiculously funny.  He does the silliest things like dragging around sheets of tissue paper that are three times as long as his own body, shredding holes in the hammocks in the cage, hopping from corner to corner of my room.  He plays Tag with me: he’ll run up to my hand, lick it, wait for me to tickle him and flip him over, run away for about 15 seconds, and then come back and lick me again.  My little Hen is the cutest rat ever.

 

I’ve been rewatching Arrested Development on Netflix and I laugh out loud every single episode.  I also just finished watching Sherlock as well, and it hooked me from the beginning.  I can’t wait for the next season? episode? whatever is coming.  #Sherlolly for life

 

Back when I worked at the elementary school (wow, 8 years ago already!?) we offered a yoga class for a while, that began right after classes ended for the day.  I did yoga for almost a year and loved it.  I haven’t done it since, just because of conflicting work schedules and other things taking up importance, but last night I finally felt the burn of high plank pose again.  Man, it’s been too long.  My friend Erica offered to introduce me to the delights of hot yoga at Melt in Edwardsville and to my surprise (being one of those annoying winter lovers through and through!) I really enjoyed it.  The room was about 95 degrees and I was sweating like a prize racehorse.  But it felt good, really really good, to stretch my body and move through the different yoga poses again.  I never felt faint or like I couldn’t breathe, it was my muscles that were the problem.  My arms were shaking by the end.  I can’t wait to go back.

 

And because this is the internet in 2015, I leave you with An Inspiring Quote that I discovered recently: “Goodness is diffusive of itself.” – Aquinas.  I like that.  I like to ponder that.  Goodness is beautiful.

 

 

Guest Post: The Iditarod

March 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

Many of you may or may not know about the GREATEST SPORT IN HISTORY! If you said football, no, if you said soccer, no, if you said volleyball, NO!

DOG MUSHING!

Every year, there is a race called Iditarod, named after a place in Alaska: This ghost town, once a bustling community of over 10,000, was the heart of the Iditarod Mining District, from whence the trail got its name. Dog teams hauled supplies and mail into this area and were laden with gold for their return trip out. Between 1908 and 1925, about $35 million in gold was taken from this area.

Anyhow, the Iditarod is a great race that is 1,012 miles long. A fun fact is that the trail changes depending on if the year is an odd number or an even number. They took the South Route since its 2013. The top five mushers who won were:

Mitch Seavey

Aliy Zirkle

Jeff King

Dallas Seavey

Ray Redington Jr.

The sport is really terrific and I hope it never disappears, it is truly something that I am determined to do or at least watch when I grow up and get some $$$$$$$$$$. (If you’d like to donate, just call Rose and she’ll give you my address and you can make a face-to-face donate, but don’t give the money to Rose, she hangs around with rats!) The Iditarod is officially over when the Red Lantern, or Widow Lantern, is turned off by the last musher to come in. That musher was Christine Roalofs. It is a beautiful thing, seeing a team of eleven to fifteen dogs pull into Nome, Alaska.

They jump in joy at seeing people, they wag their tails in happiness, and some fall over on their side to get their paws checked or because they’re exhausted.

It is beautiful when the musher scratches because they lose a dog and cannot find them. (this actually happened)

It is beautiful when the musher does not really care about winning, but about their precious dogs.

It is beautiful when I see videos of the dogs resting under a beautiful purple or yellow sky, or perhaps under low gray clouds, but at least their musher rests them.

It is a marvelous sport and I hope you all enjoyed my blog post.

P.S: If you’d like to learn more about the racers, go to this site: http://iditarod.com/

Guest Post: Meet Henry

February 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is a story about a rat…

Throughout my life, my love for animals, especially rodents and dogs (thanks Rose), has grown more than I can measure. My rodent love started with Robert, or Bob, the rat. His bully personality and his brown head and brown stripe really did charm me, as did Merv and his white belly. Next it was Willy, the albino, and many more months later it was Freddy, the little rascal. His mentor was the diseased Bob, and by mentor I mean Freddy followed Bob around everywhere when they would scurry around Rose’s room and usually, when Bob would fight, so would Freddy. Too bad Merv didn’t have a mentor, because the mentor would’ve been proud of his apprentice, but sadly Merv is not here to meet Freddy and Willy’s new cage-mate, Henry!?!?!?!

Henry

Another rat’s personality to learn, another small body scurrying up my arm, (hope his claws aren’t as sharp as Freddy’s) and alas, another rat to be made fun of. Look at that adorable face!  Look at those long whiskers, those small but cute eyes, those cute ears and small legs and body, aren’t they so awesome? Yet they are called creepy and strange.  I say, NO!  Welcome this new rat and the old ones, even the dead ones, into your heart!  If I may say so:

WELCOME, HENRY!

– Genevieve

Sweetheart

February 13, 2013 § 4 Comments

mervy post 2It took me almost two weeks to write this and that seems fitting for my topic.  Mervy, my sweetheart rat, one of our original three rats, died a few days before I went to Mexico.  I know he would have understood my tardiness with this tribute because that’s just how sweet he was.  He died the way he lived, without fuss and without causing me undue pain.  I think he knew he was secretly my favorite rat.  Mervy was always a little smaller than the rest, and he sneezed a lot.  Danny and I called him Sneezles Rat because of it.  In fact, he was the rattie of a thousand nicknames: Sweetheart Rat, Cuddly Rat, Sneezles Rat, Mervytown Rat, Bumbler, Mervster Pervster, White-Bellied Merv, Sweet-faced Merv, Sewer Rat, Ambassador Rat.  Mervy was the rat who won the hearts of even the most hardened rat haters.  Everyone loved him.  That sweet little face would squint up at you until you gave him a treat, and once you saw his delight when munching on a goldfish cracker or a peanut, you’d fall in love too.  You’d have a lot of time to fall in love, because he was also the slowest eater I’ve met since my sister Juliana.  He could nibble away at a peanut for ten minutes.  When we bought Willy, we had already owned Bob and Merv for about a month.  Bob tried to bully Willy, to establish that he was the dominant male in the cage, but Mervy wouldn’t let him.  He blocked Willy from Bob and kept him safe.  Merv was the cuddly rat, the one who liked to snuggle even before he grew older and slower.  He’d hop up to my bed when I was lying there reading, and settle down on my shoulder for a lengthy grooming session.  He had the cutest little move when he groomed himself.  He’d run his little paws from back to front over his ears and down his face to his mouth.  Then he’d lick his paws clean and do it again, quicker than a cat.  I never saw another rat do that.  Even when his tumor began to grow, he was still bumbling around my room and cuddling up in my lap, just hoping for a good ear-rub.  This is a shorter and much less harrowing tribute to write than Bob’s, and that fits Merv’s gentle, simple personality.  I knew he was going to die soon, and I’m so glad Danny and I were able to give him as much love and affection as we could before he slipped away in his sleep.  I know he is with Bob in rattie heaven now, snacking on Cheese-Its and yogies and just being a sweet, lazy rat.

Mervy post

me with mervy

Genevieve’s Guest Post: Bob

November 29, 2012 § 4 Comments

It was a bitter cold Sunday day when news came before church that Bob was having health issues. If I remember correctly it was that he really couldn’t use his hinds and he couldn’t walk right and he wanted to curl up in a corner. Many said that if he was trying to do that, he was going to die. I was waiting for the miracle of life to be shot into him so that he would live, but sadly it did not happen. I was told that Bob had passed away at exactly… okay I don’t know what time. (Rose help me out here). I will always remember feeding him (before Rose moved) at 12:00-3:00 in the afternoon and when I took them out Bob would scurry off and hide. I’d call but never get his attention until I searched everywhere. I remember how we had to remove Merv from his cage because Bob would steal his food. Yea, good times.

Now he is buried out by Rose’s strawberry garden so that when she works there, his spirit will be with her at all times.

Oh God, why couldn’t I have held his twitching and long body one more time and feel his rough fur and study the stripe down his back.

I love you Bob and I miss you.

R.I.P

How A Pet Rat Taught Me To Love

November 27, 2012 § 10 Comments

We buried Robert Rat in the backyard of my family’s house, right next to my much-loved strawberry garden.  I’m glad the snow that’s coated the world outside now held off long enough for us to do that.  Thinking about Bob lying there in the frozen cold ground makes me cry again.  I know I’m being stupidly sentimental and foolish but I can’t stop myself.  I’ve never had a pet of my own before.  I’ve never had to deal with this.  The lyrics from Coldplay’s The Scientist keep running through my mind: “Nobody said it was easy, nobody ever said it would be this hard.”  Why didn’t someone warn me?  Is it because we don’t like to speak of death?  Or because we can’t describe the sword-sharp grief that pierces our heart, or the emptiness that we are utterly helpless to fill?

It might not have crushed me so hard if his death hadn’t been so visceral, so sudden and quick.  He was at my house with the other rats for Thanksgiving, and Leo was playing with them and saying “ratties” in his little baby voice.  And then Sunday came and Bob was gone before I could wrap my mind around the hastening shadow of death.  He died in my hands, lying along my forearm.  He had a stroke on Sunday morning that caused his back legs and tail to stop functioning correctly, and the only vet in our area who examines rats wasn’t open.  I stayed home from church; I couldn’t leave him.  Danny came over for a little while to see him.  Bob wouldn’t eat or drink all day, instead he hid in corners of the room when me and Danny would try to hold him.  I finally put him back in the cage and he lurched over to their cardboard box hideout, to lay down on his side with the other rats snuggled up against him.

It was a long day.

At 7:30, I took him out of the cage to see if I could get him to drink from a little Dixie cup of water, but he wouldn’t. I carried him into the living room, and settled him in my arms to pet him as I watched TV.  He just lay there with me, quiet and resting, for at least two hours.  I rubbed his ears and his back and told him all my favorite things about him.  At 9:30, I went into my room and that’s when he started dying in earnest.  His heart was beating so strongly it was moving his head.  I could feel it.  His back legs started twitching.  He didn’t yelp or squeal; I honestly don’t think he felt any pain.  I think the stroke had paralyzed his nerves.  I was frantic and sobbing because I couldn’t make it stop.  When I realized I couldn’t even see my rat through my tears, I stopped crying and took a deep breath.  I started praying Hail Mary’s as I sank onto my knees in my bedroom, cupping Bob in my hands, and rubbing his head.  The prayer was so automatic, I was saying it in my mind even as I was saying out loud Please Mary, please St. Francis, just take him, please just let this end.  It’s okay, Bob, you can go, you can stop now, I love you.”  Immediately, his legs stopped moving.  His body started vibrating in my hands, like the way a computer feels when you put your hand against it and it’s whirring busily.  His whole body vibrated for only a few seconds, and then everything inside him relaxed.  He moved his head against my hands one last time and then he just let go.  I felt his heart stop, I felt it against my fingers, I can still feel it right now.  He died curled up in the palms of my hands.  He never even made a sound.

It is my own helplessness that has shattered me.

The kindness of humanity has touched me in the two days since Bob died.  I was a little worried that people would treat it lightly: a rat’s death.  Sometimes people make fun of them or act like they don’t deserve the same love and attention as a dog or cat.  But I find I have- to my detriment- underestimated the goodness of man.  People have called me, texted me, written on Facebook and Twitter to let me know they understand what it’s like to lose a pet.  They share their own stories of grief, or just give me a hug.  Rats are gentle, sociable, incredibly intelligent, and most of all, loving.  Bob loved me and Danny, and we gave him love back, the same kind of love you shower on a ‘normal’ pet.  Bob liked to snuggle up in the hammock in the cage and only peek his head out when we entered the room.  He had a way of sitting on the shelf and looking at us with his head cocked almost upside-down, and this endearing, quizzical expression on his face.  He was the only rat brave (or greedy) enough to dive into a bowl of water to get the peas at the bottom.  He was the original, the first rat.  He hated baths and loved yogurt drops.  Danny and I called him “Indignant Bob” because that was exactly how he looked whenever something happened that startled him.  He grew cuddlier as he aged, slowing down, not jumping around as much.  Instead, he’d crawl into my lap and let me rub behind his ears.  Most people don’t know this, but rats make a noise called “bruxing.”  It’s like a cat’s purr; they make it when they are very happy and relaxed.  It comes from them grinding their teeth together, and Bob would brux all the time when I gave him an especially long ear rub.

John Donne said “every man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind.” But what about pets, and what about pet rats?  I do not claim that my grief is as great as man’s death- a mother losing her child, or a husband losing his wife.  But love exists in the shape of the cross, lines stretching into infinity, tying us to the things we cherish.  Love is always a sacrifice, an offering up of yourself to someone or something.  Danny and I knew that rats only live for about three years, and we could see the signs of age in our Bob.  We loved him anyway, with all our hearts, and were rewarded with his innocent trust.    And when a person, or a dog, or even a rat, offers to you the gift of their trust, you take it without hesitation because love is never far behind.

 

“Nobody said it was easy.  Nobody ever said it would be this hard.”

We will always love you, Bob!

Guest Post: Feeding Frenzy

May 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

If you have never met Rose’s rats, they’re quite fat. You will understand why in my next sentence. We feed them salad, some ham, pellets, peanuts, cheese, American cheese, just about everything a rat can have. They get VERY excited every day for lunch. At 12:30 every afternoon, I feed them their lunch. I go into the room, and they’re all curled up in their hammock, but then when they hear me, they scurry out and look at me expectantly.

I pull out the drawer where the pellets are kept and the wrapper of the pellet bag makes a crackling noise and they go CRAZY!!!!! If you look up Bob is biting the cage bars, Will is going crazy looking out the cage bars, Merv is hanging on to the cage bars and he’s sticking his one little arm out (Rose will have to get a picture of that and post it) and Freddy just scurries to a spot where he can get food.

Now, rats have very poor eyesight, so when you feed them a pellet they get it stuck between the bars. Sometimes if you push the pellet, they get it, but other times the pellet falls… and they mistake your finger for food.  Anyway, it is a frenzy! Also because Merv is a slow eater, we take him out and let him eat on the bed, but sometimes when I open the cage door while Freddy and Merv are on it, Merv sees my hand and gets so excited he jumps, but his back feet stay attached to the last bar of the cage door and he swings to the bottom of the cage door, like a monkey…

Then he falls about two and half feet and lands perfectly fine. I give them their pellets and they scurry away and I go do whatever, then I come back seven minutes later and they’re all done.

A Rat’s Home Is His Castle

April 4, 2012 § 3 Comments

Let me give you a little background on the reason I am writing this post, because there is a specific reason.  Back in the summer of 2010, Danny decided to get rats, in what I am positive was a move made simply to irritate me.  It wasn’t like he knew anyone else with pet rats and was familiar with them.  Also, he already had a dog, Abby, so he wasn’t suffering from a lack of furry beasts in his life.  But decide to get rats is what he did, and when he saw that I found the idea of rats repellent, he kept on it.  “Rats!” He’d text me.  “Let’s get a rat!”  I’d get an email randomly: “I want a pet rat to sit on my shoulder!”   “Gross,” I would reply.  “You are disgusting.  Stop it.  I’m not holding a rat.  Ever.”

Famous last words.  One fateful day, we went to PetSmart to get Abby’s food and Danny dragged me over to the small animal cages and showed me the two rats.  They were sneakingly cute, I had to admit.  They sat up and stared at us through the glass, whiskers twitching.  I liked their tiny pink paws.  I did not like their tails.  But still, I guessed they weren’t as bad as I’d thought.  That day started me thinking about rats as pets, and so of course, I turned to Google.  I started reading online about pet rats, their good qualities and bad, their diet, maintenance, health, everything.  I saw the crazy cages that some rat owners built and I found pictures of the cutest, fuzziest, most adorable baby rats.  Every site I went to said one thing in common: Once you have pet rats, you fall in love.

In the middle of November 2010, I made up my mind.  I was going to buy Danny rats for Christmas.  Of course, there was the small problem of trying to keep him from buying them himself before Christmas.  I kept pretending like I didn’t really think it was a good idea, and threw out tons of lame excuses and reasons not to get them.  The whole time, I was shopping online for a cage and buying food and toys and bedding.  Suffice it to say that I did manage to keep him from purchasing rats (he loves to pretend he is the boss in our relationship but he totally isn’t).  And on the day after Christmas, we went to PetSmart and purchased our first rat: Robert.

Well, this turned into a longer explanation than I thought, but in case you haven’t noticed, I like to write.  My reason for this post is to put up pictures of our rat cage and explain how we set it up.  When I was looking into rats, I searched for stuff on cages ALL the time.  The rats spend most of their time in the cage and I wanted it to be the best for them.  Hopefully some new rat owner will research cages and land on my page and be helped by all the info and pictures.  With all that being said, here is our rat cage, right after I cleaned it:

I purchased this cage on Amazon and would recommend it highly.  It was easy to assemble, the bottom is deep and comes off for very easy cleaning, and it’s tall enough that the rats can climb all over it.  Rats love to climb and so getting a high cage was very important to me.  I also liked how the shelves were solid plastic, not wires, so that the rats’ feet wouldn’t get caught at all.  The cage came with the three blue shelves and two white ramps (you can see one behind the hammock, I only have the one in there right now).  The shelves clasp and unclasp easily, but are also strong enough that they don’t slide around when the rats are jumping.  Another good thing about this cage is that it has two doors, upper and lower.  I like having the additional access to all areas of the cage without having to contort my arm.

 

This is the bottom right of the cage.  Just a little plastic sleep hut for them to curl up in.

This is the bottom left of the cage.  I have two water bottles because we have 4 rats and they like to cluster at the bottles and try to drink at the same time.  Also, there is a small cardboard box for them to sleep in and a Lava Ledge to climb up to.  Freddy loves to perch on the ledge when I’m giving them treats through the bars.  You can also see the wooden ladder we put in there for them.

This is the top left of the rat cage.  You can see the ladder comes up right underneath the hole where you can put a food bowl.  I don’t use it, so it makes a convenient place for the rats to climb through.  The ladder was actually marketed as a pet bird toy, but our rats love it.  Oh, and that is a wine cork wedged in there, yes.  Freddy loves to gnaw on it.

This is the middle of the upper level, with the hammock and the white ramp that leads into the towel tunnel that Danny made.    

Here is a better picture of the towel tunnel.  This was all Danny’s idea and the rats love it!  He used clothespins to pin the towel into place on the wires, going around the corner of the cage.  The white ramp leads from the shelf down into the towel.  Our rat Robert loves to eat in there, where no one can see him! 

This is looking down into the towel.  You can see where one of the rats chewed the towel a little and it has holes in it now!

This is a view of the right-hand side of the upper level.  I use little tissue boxes for the rats because they LOVE to curl up inside them.  Also, the cardboard absorbs ‘liquids’, and once they get too yucky, you just toss them in the trash.  (The boxes, not the rats.)

So there you have it.  Our rat palace.  I hope this helps any new (or expert) rat owners out there!

I showed you pictures of Freddy and Robert above… I can’t leave out our other two rats!  Here is Mervy:

And Willie.  Poor Willie.  He is an albino rat with red eyes, so he always looks slightly evil in pictures.  :/  He is still handsome to me though!

 

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