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Monday, February 15, 2016

Meet Remi, Rex, and Blaze

Recently, we decided to adopt three new boys from a local rescue: Remi, Rex, and Blaze. They are all bonded boys, possibly brothers, about 7-8 months old. Their original family loved them very much but had no choice but to give them up when one of the family developed severe allergies. It was a difficult decision for their family, but I want to assure them that these boys have found a loving home and we will do everything in our power to ensure they lead happy lives.

Currently, the boys are housed in our quarantine cage (a Martins R695). Once they can join the existing mischief, we will try to integrate them into the quad Critter Nation, currently housing Hammie, Jeremy, Lilly, Max, Sam, and Gandalf. If need be, the quad can be separated into two DCNs (or the top and bottom levels can be closed off).


Remi is a gray-colored rex rat - my guess is he is a dark slate blue, but I am very bad with colors. He is darker than Gabe was (our only other blue rat), but I do not believe he is a Russian blue as he has one ruby eye (my understanding is that Russian blue only comes with black eyes). I believe he is a Berkshire, and like his two "brothers," appears to have high white markings (in Remi's case, a lightening blaze and odd eye) - although he is past the highest risk for megacolon at this age.

Remi has a head tilt. It was treated by the rescue but did not resolve after two courses of antibiotics. It is possible that there had been an ear infection and that the damage has not healed or may never heal. It is also possible that a tumor may be in play, although he is a bit young for a pituitary tumor (PT) in my experience. We will be watching him carefully for any other signs of PT and will have our vet check him out to make sure there isn't something else that should be done.

Aside from the head tilt, he acts and behaves fine and appears to be healthy.


Rex is a black Berkshire dumbo with a lightening blaze and straight (normal) coat. He loves to pose for pictures!


Blaze is a black Berkshire with a wedge blaze, normal coat, top ears. Blaze is the more timid of the three, but he is warming up to us nicely. He is a little camera shy.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Dual Critter Nation Convertible Top/Bottom Level Liner

Convertible Level Liners Used on the Left Side of the Cage

Have you ever been frustrated by the fact that the liner color you need is only available for the Top of the Critter Nation and you need it on the bottom? Or Vice Versa?

I am trying out a liner design that could be used on either the top or the bottom as needed. You basically cut the fabric like you would for the top, but only cut one edge of the ramp cutout (I will call this the "notch"), leaving the other edge attached. I cut the short edge, but you could cut the large edge if you prefer.

Sew the fleece to the U-Haul furniture pad like normal, sewing around the notch. Use a small 1/4" seam allowance along the notch (to minimize the notch gap).

Cut one side of the ramp opening, but leave the other side attached.
Sew around the notch using a small 1/4" seam allowance.

Turn the liner right side out and top stitch as desired. In the liners I did, I added top-stitching across the surface of the liners to try to discourage the rats from chewing their way in between the layers of the liner.

The finished liner should look something like mine, shown below:

Finished Top/Bottom Convertible Liner

You can now use this liner on the bottom, using a large binder clip to secure the notch closed:

The middle binder clip holds the notch closed.

Or you can use the liner on the top, folding the portion of the liner that covers the ramp opening underneath the liner and securing with a binder clip as shown:

The extra flap of liner is folded under and clipped in place.
You may not want to go this route if you move heaven and earth to keep your rats from burrowing under the liners, as they will likely be able to get under using the notch when placed on the bottom pan. My current rats have mellowed as they have aged and while they did a lot of liner diving when they were little, they are less inclined to do so now. Only time will tell if this design holds up to my current rats, although I believe it will work as well as the standard design.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Rat Room Remodel

The Remodeled Rat Room

My husband, Tom, always takes a nice two weeks off over the holidays. This year, he decided to devote a huge chunk of that time to remodeling Ratropolis (our Rat Room). Our Rat Room is in the basement and has always been a nice place for rat free range, but the room as a whole had a little bit of an unpolished basement atmosphere. For reference, below is a shot of the former Rat Room, featuring the same back wall as shown above:

The old Rat Room
The pale green walls left the room feeling rather cold, and the sump pump in the corner was loud, an eye sore, and a potential hazard. There was also a mess of cabling in the same corner that had to be kept out of the rats' reach. The floor was cold, hard, dark green concrete.

We decided it would be best to completely wall off the sump pump area of the room to create a large closet storage area and protect the rats from the hazards of the sump pump. My husband redid all the wiring and cabling back there so that everything is clean and orderly. Shown below is the new wall in the old rat room.

Wall enclosing sump pump and creating storage closet.
The rats in the old setup were limited in space by an aviary housing my remaining finches. We decided to move the last of the birds (just four left) into a flight cage (actually, a Critter Nation turned on its side) so that we could tear down the aviary and expand the rat room into the bird room territory. That effectively doubled the rat room in size.

We then decided to remove the ceiling mounted 4' shop light fixture and replace it with two LED fixtures with a dimmer switch, to give the room a classier look and to allow control over the amount of light in the room.

From there, we painted everything a nice warm happy yellow, with fresh white trim and baseboards. The yellow ended up being a little darker/brighter than I intended, but I like the way it turned out. I read once, a long time ago, about a study that showed that rats were happier and more social in a yellow environment when compared with a blue environment. I can no longer find any trace of that article, but that always stuck with me, and so when we wanted to warm the room up a bit, yellow seemed like the perfect choice.

We installed shelving for storage on the new back wall. We covered the floor with Allure Ultra waterproof laminate flooring (like Pergo, but made of vinyl so that it is waterproof). The final result is shown below.

The new wall with storage shelves and door to the closet/sump pump area.
A fan in the far left corner keeps the air circulating. 
Looking slightly to the left is the love seat for TV viewing.
The left wall with love seat and flight cage (modified DCN on its side).
The entry into the room with flight cage on one side of the door and
rat cages on the other side.
Different angle of the entry to the room.
The rat cages on the right wall.
The TV mounted to the wall.
View from the love seat.
The entire room is rat safe for supervised free range and now feels much more like a living space rather than a basement pet room.

DISCLAIMER: When I say "we" did something, I primarily mean "Tom" did it, with me sometimes being able to help as the gopher, hold this, find this tool, hand me the screws person. Tom is amazingly talented and hard working and truly amazing.