Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Rat Infestation of NYC Subways

The NYC budget cutbacks has meant less garbage removal in the subway stations and lo and behold more rats. So, the MTA employees want to work and clean up the stations. They have concocted a photo contest and the winner of the nastiest rat gets a metrocard. This is to gain public support for them to get more work.

I find it fascinating that Washington DC's subway doesn't have a rodent infestation and NYC's does. What is the difference? DC prohibits food or beverages in the subways, and they will ticket you for violations. DC's subways are much cleaner than NYC. And, that simple as it is, is the solution to rat infestation. Don't feed them and they won't hang out.

Honestly, NYC has a bigger problem than just starving the rats out of the subways. Apparently, the underground of NYC is a great maze of abandoned areas and even if they cleared the subways of food, they likely would still have a rat problem, but it would be smaller. Also, I have yet to see a rat in the NYC subways, but I've seen loads of trash, and there is always food trash on the rails.

As for the contest, I like how they are emphasizing clean up rather than extermination. Exterminating rats is not a solution. It results in only temporary reductions in rat population.

And, of course, wild rats are not pet rats. My rats have been selectively bred for generations to be friendly, domesticated, to not bite, to not be skittish, etc. Domesticated rats die when they are set "free" in the wild.

On a related subject, I live near NYC, and it is fascinating to see the response of New Yorkers to my rats. New Yorkers tend to have intense extreme dislike of rats. One of my friends from New York City so dislikes rats, he becomes physically disturbed to even talk about them. He can handle seeing pictures of my partly white rats as they don't remind him of a sewer rat, but Mabel and Doctor are just too close. He calls them battleship grey which is apparently the color of a NYC rat. Every picture of a NYC rat, to me, looks like an agouti. So, poor little Doctor gets discriminated against despite his legitimate domesticity.

Anyways, I cheer the MTA workers on. They want to work more and clean up the subways, and if public support gained through the fear of rats works. Awesome.

But pet rats are cute, not nasty.

Baby Mabel. This is her picture from her Mainely Rat Rescue adoption paperwork

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Werewolf Paws

Here's Doctor demonstrating ..... Werewolf Paws. Since he's our only rat that is a self pattern, he's our only rat with dark fur on his paws. All of our other rats have "white gloves." He's in mid wash if you are trying to figure out what he's doing.
He also has the cutest belly. I will need to get a photo of that cute belly. Since he's self pattern, his belly is a continuation of the rest of his coloring except its lighter.

Mabel has a similar belly, since she barely has any of her white pattern being the Irish pattern that she is. She just has a patch of white fur on her belly.

This is a baby picture of Mabel's Irish pattern.

And, here's Mabel demanding to have some soda. (We actually don't let her drink soda for concern that she may get an upset tummy from being unable to belch being a rat and all.) And, you can sort of see her cute little "white gloves" and her colored belly. No werewolf paws on Mabel.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Playing in the Snow

I'm not brave enough to toss a couple of rats out into the snow, but I did bring in a taste of the snow this last weekend.

Here's Doctor playing in the snow. Jumpy and Walter are being blurry. And, please ignore the rest of the cage because it's in need of cleaning.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

More Paws

I found a picture of Walter on his back with his hands and fingers visible. Most likely, Lily had taken exception to something that Walter had done and he was being reminded that she is in charge. So, here he is lying on his back not moving. When they really get a talking to from a more dominant rat, they may end up "playing dead" for minutes at a time.

Anyways, the arrow is pointing to the thumblike appendage that rats have. And, yes, they do grip on to things using that thumblike thing.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rat Paws

I'm trying to get a good picture of rat paws. Here is Jumpy eating a chocolate chip.

This is her right front paw with chocolate stain on her pinky.
(4 fingers)

This is someone's rear paw with their 5 toes.

If rats could count, their numbering system would be base 8. I'm still trying to get a good picture of how they have a little projection where their thumb would be. And, I also need to get a picture of them cleaning the inside of their ears; that's hilarious.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review of Nova, Rat Attack

Yesterday, I'd mentioned a video that I'd mistakenly attributed to National Geographic. It is the Nova show from 2008 called Rat Attack.

For a show with the name Rat Attack, I would expect it to be full of the myths of rats depicting them as evil creatures that if they look at you, your hair will fall out and blood will drip from your fingers. However, Rat Attack only minimally feeds on people's fears. Rather, it presents a fascinating story about a once in a lifetime event in India in which the bamboo dies off while flowering which provides a bounty of food for the rats whose population skyrockets and then leads to the destruction of the rice crop with the subsequent issues for the people who live there. But, rather than just presenting a knee jerk reflex of nuke the rats, they present how understanding what is going on allows the people to avoid crop destruction and the rat population naturally reverts to normal.

The rats aren't the same species as my pet rats. Mine are Rattus Norwegicus, and the show's rats are Rattus Rattus. It's fun to see all those rats skampering around and they didn't do any pretending that a pet rat is a wild rat. A big pet peeve of mine is Hollywood substituting obvious pet rats for wild rats. Here, though, they were all Rattus Rattus. And, they were cute. Well, they did have several shots of dead rats but those weren't gratuitous shots. They had good reason for collecting dead rats. They were trying to determine where they were in the rat population explosion and they were confirming that the Rattus Rattus population was skyrocketing.

Interestingly, Rattus Rattus has different physiology from my pet rats which contributes to the ability of Rattus Rattus to sky rocket their population numbers even greater than Rattus Norwegicus can, apparently. I'd been impressed with 10-12 babies every month that pet rats can achieve.

So, here's a show that at times can be icky, dead rats, dead rat tails, rat autopsy, etc., but the show is fascinating and even-handed in its treatment of rats. The show really demonstrates well the interrelatedness of the species in an eco-system.

Here's a picture of the first Doctor grasping Patches with a whole bunch of Blondies snuggling behind them. Patches would give Rat Attack 2 thumbs up, but alas, she has no thumbs. Check the picture. They actually have a little bump on the side of their wrists that they use to help grasp, but not an actual opposable thumb.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Researchers Bemoan Having to Upgrade Their Rat Cages or What? We Can't Just Leave Daddy Rat in with the Mommy Rat Forever

Today, NPR reported about new NIH guidelines for laboratory animals care and use.

So, how do these new guidelines fit with my pet rats' accommodations. I have 9 rats, and they live in a Double Critter Nation (DCN) 24" by 36" by 4 feet. That's the external dimensions, so.. being cautious. They have 2347 square inches. (It has 2 floors (one of which has a 6"x9" cutout) and 2 half floors) They also have 12 inches between each floor which gives them 5 more inches of headroom than the NIH guidelines request.

This is an excerpt from our spreadsheet on our rats' weights.

NIH guidelines excerpt

... Now for some more math
I have 4 rats that require more than 70 square inches, 3 rats need 60 square inches, and two rats need 40 square inches. So, my rats need 540 square inches.

Hmmm... They have 2347 square inches. I do believe by NIH standards I can get a LOT MORE RATS. LOL.

By the way the DCN by the pet rat community is considered adequate for 10-12 rats. 10 rats if they are male, and 12 rats if they are female. Which means by the pet rat community, I am getting close to the max occupancy, but by the NIH guidelines, I could get 24 more rats.

But, when I was reading the NPR article, my gut was saying that something was fishy. And, I read another blog that commented that the NIH was puzzled that the researchers were upset because NIH thought everyone essentially was following the guidelines already. I reperused the NPR article and looked at the 2 cages.

HAH There it is. The old cages are 140 square inches which fits perfectly into the requirement for a mother rat and litter. The new cage is 210 inches which not surprisingly is 70 inches larger or rather the space a male rat needs. The average male rat is over 500gms, and therefore they need 70 square inches. Indeed, Doctor and Walter are both easily over 500 grams. (ok, Walter is overweight, but Doctor is a small male and weight 607 gms)

So, the researchers are leaving the Daddy Rats in with the Mommy Rats and Babies which on first glance may not be too horrible. In general though, you don't want to do back to back breeding because it is physically too demanding on the mother, but in rats, their physiology makes it even more an issue.

Female rats can have a litter every month. They can become pregnant right after giving birth. And, their baby girls can become pregnant at 4 weeks when they are still nursing. Indeed, I was recently reading on rat forums that rat breeders don't have to worry about separating the sexes of a litter so much at 4 weeks because the baby boys are unlikely to inseminate the baby girls or mother rat, but that an adult male can inseminate a baby girl rat at 4 weeks.

Rats breed when they have an adequate food supply. There's an excellent National Geographic Special about this. When rats are kept in captivity, their owners become responsible for their care and that includes birth control. If you feed them adequately, they are going to breed if you do not manage it. My 2 males are neutered, otherwise, I would never have introduced them to my cage of 7 girls.

It looks to me that the issue the researchers are having is that they don't want to have to remove an adult male rat from a mother rat and her babies.

On that note, I shall leave with a picture of my small boy rat, Doctor

Oh, and this is my set up for weighing the rats. Bittle is in her usual spot on the couch looking totally ridiculous.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Anniversary of the Boston Molasses Tsunami

Today, we honor the anniversary of the Boston Molasses Tsunami. The first time I heard about it, I thought it was a joke, but it really happened. 93 years ago on January 15, a molasses storage tank failed, unleashing a couple million gallons of molasses inundating a portion of Boston's North End to a depth of 2 - 3 feet, killing 21 people and injuring 150 people.


To me, it puts a different aspect on last year's, Japanese tsunami. The immensity of the Japanese tsunami is difficult to grasp, and although youtube videos help, and of course, the Boston tsunami was a dwarf compared to the Japanese tsunami. The photographs from 93 years ago are strikingly similar to the Japanese youtube videos. They both help me to understand the disaster, and the science and nature behind it.

Aftermath of the disaster; photo by Globe Newspaper Co. (Boston Public Library

Wikipedia article on the Boston Molasses Tsunami

So... I baked gingerbread cookies. Why? Because gingerbread cookies are made with molasses. In this case a whopping 2/3 cup of molasses. hmmmm. ok, my molasses is definitely not tsunami worthy. Regardless, I shall be respectful of the energy that large bodies of liquid (I was going to say water, but molasses is not water) can transmit.

Gingerbread cookie being prepared for sharing. By the way, all of the humans loved the cookies, too.

Mabel and Doctor munching on Gingerbread cookies.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Introducing- Bittles

I've mentioned a lot about the rittles but who is Bittle. Bittle is our Catahoulan Leopard Dog who loves the rats. Her full name is Little Bit but we often call her, Bittle.

I guess I should get a picture of her with her head in it. That's Doctor, by the way, standing next to her. Oh, she's 65 pounds of doggy goodness.

Jumpy backseat driving Bittle as Bittle goes for a walk.

Bittle being a horse for Patches.

One of my favorite photos of Bittle. Sigh, I have somehow neglected to show you a pretty picture of her face.

Yes, those are Bittle's beautiful blue eyes, and one of her favorite squeaky toys. She likes them small. Having rats and dogs and letting them to play together is without a doubt risky, but it can be done depending on the dog and always with close supervision.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Christmas Photos Finally

Oh, the rittles had a most excellent Christmas this year. The theme was traditional red/green for the top section of their cage, and Winter Wonderland for the bottom section. We'd given them a box of kleenex wrapped in tissue paper of course and that was a hit, given the glee with which they emptied and papered their home with it. There's an ice skating rink with red/green peppers and peas frozen within it in the bottom section. I had also made them Christmas shapes of dog/rat bisquits. Those disappeared like magic. Oh, and there were presents under their tree. The little origami boxes were filled with yogies, chocolate chips and a wooden block.

I am looking forward to next year's Christmas already which is kind of scary. But, it was so fun that I'm thinking about themes already.

Doctor is investigating the wrapped box of kleenex, and one of the gingerbread dog/rat bisquits is nearby.

Mabel munching on a cranberry from their popcorn garland. This is definitely going to be done again as they devoured the whole thing, and stringing popcorn garland for a cage is much easier than for a tree.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blogpress is back

Finally, Blogpress is back up and running. Apparently, they had a bug with the new ios, and instead of just submitting a bugfix, they submitted a whole bunch of improvements, and Apple responded by moving as slow as molasses.

So, here is Doctor snoozing in his "banana hammock." very poor joke but he IS a boy rat. Anyways, I made the hammock using a Christmas themed panel, and it really needs a tad of border to make it rat-sized.

And, if the photo is properly sized, I will be happy bloggin.

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