Thursday 26 July 2007

Rats and rashes

Alas and alack - I have made a rather upsetting discovery. I seem to have become allergic to my two rats. I have had my two boys, Len and Sid, for around two years now and have never had any problems with them at all – apart from a nip here and there, but I like to think of them as playful, loving nips rather than an all-out blood lust on their part. After saying that, however, I think Oll may have other ideas, as one of them did give him a nasty bite a few weeks ago – the air was blue, the floor was daubed with red splodges and the sink was splattered with Oll’s lifeblood (well not quite, but it does sound a lot more dramatic put like that).

Anyway, back to my alarming discovery. I have noticed recently that after I have touched them I come out in a rash on my hands and my eyes start to sting. What shall I do now, for it seems I cannot touch my little rat boys? I suppose I could try some of those rather disturbing-looking disposable gloves, but it won’t be the same. I am sad now :o(. They are getting rather old, but they are good rats.

However, it will not deter me from making them a picnic of cheese sandwiches now and then, or giving them treats of leftover meals – they adore cold pasta! I know lots of people detest rats, but if they knew Len and Sid I am sure they would change their minds – they kept me company after the girls left home and the cats had moved to Devon in that time before I moved down here too. I used to have quite meaningful chats with them in the early hours when I couldn’t sleep and they were always attentive, especially when there was food around! Bless their cotton socks.

The Great Escape and degus in bags

The degus, on the other hand, albeit just as sweet, are little buggers. Taylor and Edgar belong to Olivia really, but as she is away at the moment she cannot have pets, so they live here at the cottage temporarily until she gets somewhere more permanent to house them after leaving university. Taylor is named after the front-man of Slipknot and Stone Sour - Corey Taylor - and Edgar is a pun on the name of the artist Edgar Degas. Odd names I grant you, but I am sure the degus do not mind in the slightest.

Anyone who has kept degus will know that they are quick little so and sos. They are supposed to be quite easy to hand tame but Olivia never had any luck in that department. They are also great gnawers – they have chewed their merry way through two wheels, a wooden ladder and other amusement aids since we have had them. Talking of wheels – it was rather funny when we gave them their first one. Degus are meant to have these in their cages as they are active little creatures and need the exercise. As soon as it had been fitted to their sumptuous three storey abode, one of them jumped in and started to run earnestly round and round. He was getting along marvellously, until the other one decided to join him and started to run in unison. The trouble was, he was running in the opposite direction!

At present they are kept in our makeshift ‘rodent room’ which is, in fact, the other bathroom! The other week I went in to answer a call of nature to see, out of the corner of my eye, something scoot across the floor. I was amazed when I saw it was Edgar. He had somehow managed to get out of the cage and was taking a constitutional around the bathroom floor. Catching the little sod - oops sorry, the little sweetie - was interesting. The bathroom floor is not made up of many square feet, but my actions were somewhat hampered by the obvious fixtures and fittings in place there, so it took me about 10 minutes to get him, and for my trouble he gave me a nip on the finger which hurt like hell.

Smiling ever so sweetly, despite my pain, and clucking ‘sweet’ words to the captured animal (it is all in the tone of voice you know, not what you actually say >wink<) I checked over the degu dwelling, but could not find any obvious escape routes. I had no idea how he had got out but had to assume that it was ‘one of those things’ and left it at that. However … about half an hour later I heard some more scuffling, and gingerly opening the door, put my head round to investigate to find that the little bugger had got out again!

How did he do that?!

Taking heed from my previous scuffles behind the toilet and bidet, this time I enlisted the help of Mark as I thought it may be a little easier to catch the escapee with two pairs of hands. Two fielders are better than one after all. Alas, after bumping our heads together on several occasions in an attempt to catch the offender we looked around for a suitable aid of capture. The only receptacle to hand was an empty food bag so we corralled the little beastie into that. None the worse for wear, Edgar was duly returned – again – to his home.

A closer inspection was clearly needed to ensure that the bid for freedom did not occur again – and it became apparent that they had chewed off one of the metal rings that secured the lid of the cage. Yes, degus chew through metal! Now you can appreciate, perhaps, why having a set of degu teeth plunged into your flesh may hurt – just a tad. Anyway, a ‘Heath Robinson’ repair job was carried out and all was well.


Last Friday - the day that Olivia was due down for the wedding.

It was Peter Channon, this time, who reported that one of the degus had escaped. You may remember that he had been staying with us last week doing some electrical work in the museum, and plumbing for the washing machine.

Groaning, I entered the scene of the crime and noticed that it was Edgar, again, who was doing his born free act on the bathroom floor. Muttering under my breath that the name, Houdini, may have well been more apt, I closed the door and went downstairs to enlist the help of another pair of hands once more.

Once again a plastic bag was used to good effect and he was returned, relatively promptly, to his home. It was then that I espied the escape route and quickly fixed the problem. It was then, also, that I realised that, unlike on the previous occasions, Taylor had not come out to greet his housemate. Oh no! Seemingly, not to be outdone by ‘Houdini’, Taylor had decided it was his turn to prove himself as much of a 'Capt. Hilts' as his companion.

This was when the panic set in. What if he had got out of the bathroom when the door had been opened? What if one of the five cats had espied his little bottom scooting along the floor? Would we ever find him? If he had decided to delve into the darkness of the under-the-bed area that could prove a huge problem. You do not want to know what lies beneath the bed and it is not the easiest place to look for such a small creature with fur almost the colour of the carpet.

Olivia was due to arrive at any minute and it would not have been a very good welcome for her to find out that one of her degus had disappeared into one of the cats. “Hello dear, hope you had a good journey. By the way, Taylor is, as we speak, being digested by Spider” (my orange cat, not the tarantula, who is only about half an inch long).

But, thankfully, after hearing a few scuffles behind some boxes, Taylor was located and we managed to detain him quite easily. The cage is now secured with trip-wire, padlocks, barbed wire, rope, pegs – the lot. If nothing else, for their own safety in a house of five cats, the degus will not make an un-chaperoned great escape again!

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