Friday, August 31, 2012

Video - Mabel Spinning on Request & Some Health Updates

Mabel can spin on request.  She's so cute.

Check her out.

(Note:  Mabel is a rat with the rex mutation which gives her curly whiskers and fur, but she also has hair loss.  Her fur grows in and then, falls out in patches.)

By the way, I'd been working with her on charging the clicker for several days.  And, unfortunately, she had a lung exacerbation, so she took a break from training for a few days.  So, the first part of the video is from her first session after she returned to training, and the next day, she was just an extremely bright pupil and learned the spin, which is what you see in the second part of the video.

Also, Mabel saw her doctor yesterday.  The doctor was thrilled that she's gained 50 grams since her pneumonia, but she still has lung issues, so she's going to be on theophylline for the rest of her life which reallybums me out.  But, we just will have to deal with it.  At least, she likes the taste of theophylline.

And, on the subject of medicating rats, Dean has just been started on Bactrim for a secondary infection of contact dermatitis.  And, Skip Lee was thrilled to report (Skip is just amazing at medicating rats, so he gets to do all of it  --grins-- )  that Dean avidly reached for the syringe when he clicked, and Dean drank all of his Bactrim quick as can be.  A  couple of weeks ago, I'd done a few clicker training sessions with him.  This is a wonderful consequence of clicker training, easy medication administration.

Now, I need to figure out what Dean is allergic to.  Hopefully, it was a one time issue.  My rats are all on a gluten free diet because of Rose's sensitivity, so it's not wheat.

Does anyone know what the most prevalent rat allergies are other than wheat?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Anticipating Halloween

Last year, Halloween was cancelled due to a city wide power outage that took days to resolve. My house was without power for 7 days. That in itself was an adventure. But, the sad part was getting all ready for Halloween and no trick-or-treaters.

Our town had rescheduled Halloween, but Halloween occurs on October 31st no matter what a politician says. So, I put up all of my decorations, but no trick-or-treaters.

And, we usually have the rats greet the trick-or-treaters as tolerated. But, instead, they went on a big adventure and lived in a hotel for a week.

Here my rats are hanging out while their cage is being cleaned Halloween 2011 in a hotel. Note: this was our evacuation cage. And, the cage and rats handled the adventure very well.

I'm really looking forward to Halloween 2012, and I have more plans for decorations.

On a more somber note, my thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives are currently disrupted by Hurricane Isaac.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Patches - Our Foodaholic

Patches loves anything and everything that she can eat.  And, she loves hunting for new yummy morsels.

So, here's an old video of Patches' enjoying the chocolate she found.

Please note:  Chocolate is NOT poisonous for rats.  I will concede that chocolate is NOT good for Patches' waistline, and in excessive quantities they could have problems from the stimulant effect.  But, they sure love chocolate.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More Rat Food

I've recently been taking photos of rat snacks.

I found Baby Bananas on sale, and I know ten rats who love bananas. Initially, I'd carefully peeled their wee bananas, and then, it dawned on my.... What's the fun in that???

Baby Bananas minimally prepared for my bananaholics.

Jimmy snagging herself some Nana.

Doctor perusing what's left.

Funner Food. a little salad with leftover crockpotted pork, not much of the pork is left. But, you can see Patches eyeing some pork.

Lily snagging the olive.

I went a little crazy with all of the pictures, but I do hope you enjoy.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Cucumber Slices Make Delightful "Watermelon" Slices For Rats

Here's Doctor eating a cucumber as if it's a watermelon slice.

And, another picture because he was just so cute.

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Blue Plaid Picnic Blanket Hammocks - NOW on sale At My Etsy Shop

I have a double decker and a set of 2 currently on sale at my Etsy Shop.

Check them out. They would be awesome for a cage of boy rats.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Doctor Undergoes Clicker Indoctrination, er, Training

Here is a short video of The Doctor's clicker training.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

This Week In The Critter Nation

Upstairs has a "new" item. Slytail thinks it initially was a record holder, but now it's functioning as the frame for our new triple decker. We obtained it from a Yard Sale for almost nothing.

Below, you can see a close-up with Lily and Doc modeling the two hammocks suspended from it.

Downstairs, a few things have been moved around, but nothing all that special.

Below, you can see a rat pile inside the log cabin.

Hopefully, next week, they will have new liners. But, I still have to decide which fabric to use. And, I'm still finishing up with the blue plaid picnic blanket projects.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Diet and the Fat Rat

I have ten rats, and only one of them is fat, Walter. But, he definitely does fat well.

The 1.99 displayed on the scale means that Walter is almost 2 pounds.

Walter squeaks, "I'm round like a pancake. Gimme more pancakes. I need them for my handsome figure."
From wikipedia,
Zucker rats were bred to be a genetic model for research on obesity and hypertension. They are named after Lois M. Zucker and Theodore F. Zucker, pioneer researchers in the study of the genetics of obesity. There are two types of Zucker rat: a lean Zucker rat, denoted as the dominant trait (Fa/Fa) or (Fa/fa); and the characteristically obese (or fatty) Zucker rat, which is actually a recessive trait (fa/fa) of the leptin receptor, capable of weighing up to 1 kilogram (2.2 lb)—more than twice the average weight.[17][18][19]
Obese Zucker rats have high levels of lipids and cholesterol in their blood, are resistant to insulin without being hyperglycemic, and gain weight from an increase in both the size and number of fat cells.[20] Obesity in Zucker rats is primarily linked to their hyperphagic nature, and excessive hunger; however, food intake does not fully explain the hyperlipidemia or overall body composition.[18][20]

So, I'm thinking that my round rat, Walter, is likely related to the Zucker rats. He eats the same food as my other rats, yet he is rotund.

I, initially, thought we could get him to lose weight by exercising him. We tried arranging the cage to be more conducive for exercise, but um have you ever tried to get a rat to exercise??? I even looked at a research article in which they exercised Zucker rats. They encouraged them, and they did lose weight, but the question is how? The article detailed all sorts of encouragement which were cute and sweet, but if that didn't worked, they resorted to an electrical shock. Hmmm. Nope. Exercising Walter does not sound workable.

And, anyways, from what I've read on human weight loss. Most of weight loss is achieved through diet.


Walter and my rats eat a modified Sue Bee Diet. (Rose is allergic to wheat, so none of them get wheat).

For humans, a low glycemic diet helps with weight loss and simultaneously promotes satiety. I not only have read about this, but I'm on a low glycemic diet and have lost 50 pounds. So.. would this diet work for Walter? Of course, a lot of the research studies were done on rats. And, I've been reading them.... very frustrating to find out how simplistic the rat research diets are. I'm also interested in Paleo diet, but I can't seem to find research involving Zucker rats and the Paleo diet.

I'm trying to decide between two choices.

1. Put the rats on the Harlan Teklad low glycemic lab blocks. I will have to find out how to order them and whether they contain wheat. (Rose is allergic to wheat, the poor thing.)

2. Put the rats on my diet, and just provide them with a portion of every meal that I eat. (They already get snacks from my meals, but this would entail providing all of their food from my food.)

Maybe, some day, I will be able to Walter to lose some weight.
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Monday, August 20, 2012

How I Ended Up Using a Chocolate Filled Syringe for Rat Training

I obtained the idea for using a syringe for rat training from this

When you watch the video,the first thing you will hear is a high-pitched beeping sound. This is actually the sound of the clicker the trainer is using. My rats would be shivering in fear with such a loud bleep, but it makes me wonder if using my iPhone to beep might not be a good option as a clicker.

Above picture is from and depicts baby African Giant Pouched Rats being socialized.

The video is from a wonderful organization, APOPO aka Hero Rats. They use African Giant Pouched Rats for mine detection and tuberculosis detection. Apparently, they are working on using rats for finding human victims of disasters (CameRats).

My rats are Rattus Norwegicus (Norway Rats) and, of course, are much smaller and sadly, mine have a shorter life span. But, my little guys should definitely be able to learn a few tricks, if their big cousins can learn how to find a mine and save lives.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

MABS Is Charged to the Clicker!!!!!

Mabel figured it out. She is now distinctly looking for her chocolate reward when she hears a click. I am so proud of her.

So, after her training this morning, I gave her a really big test by having Slytail give her the commands (working on generalization). In the above photo, Slytail is rewarding her for coming when called. Slytail called her and scratched the comforter and gave her the "kissy sound" (she ran for the scratched spot) then he clicked and she beelined for the reward.

My next step will be attempting to shape a spin.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Clicker Training Progress Report

I think Mabel is starting to understand that she's gets chocolate when she hears a click.

It seems that my clickers are too loud as Mabel and Dean were shivering whenever they heard the click, so I've switched to just making a click with my mouth. However, my timing is lousy with my mouth clicks. I wish there was a real soft clicker.

Mabel has a good "come", so I'm thinking of pairing that with the click and a treat, and then, to teach her to spin on command.

Mabel Update- If you've read my other posts, you may know that Mabel recently had pneumonia which almost took her life. Now, she's doing awesome as you can see in her above picture.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

This Week in the Critter Nation

I'm so excited, which is quite sad when you think about it. BUT, it's...
A new linens week.

Here's Doctor modeling the new linens, a blue plaid picnic blanket upcycled to a cage liner. The marble blocks, which Doc is standing on, are our current line of defense against rats who remodel cage liners. We put them in the corners of the cage on top of the liner as weights. They are working pretty well.

The below picture shows the marble blocks weighing down the corners.

By the way, keep an eye on my Etsy Shop. Coming soon should be several blue plaid upcycled picnic blanket hammocks including a couple of double decker hammocks.

Sigh, my own rats don't appreciate double decker hammocks. The hammock on the top left used to be a double decker but my rats have remodeled it into a plain ole flat. Yes, they completely removed a floor of the hammock.

Downstairs has a "Long and Skinny" Hammock near its top. And, you can see the large ceramic tiles that we are using under the wooden house in an attempt to protect the cage liner from bored rats nibbling. Now, they have hard rock flooring. Let's see if they can chew through that.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Reattempting Clicker Training

I stumbled across this blog, and it has motivated me to restart clicker training.

Here's Doctor getting his chocolate fix during training.

In my previous clicker training attempt, I'd found that the syringe worked for providing a very small reward. I'd struggled with the food reward for such a long time that it essentially turned me off clicker training. For awhile, I'd use a chocolate bar with Patches until she figured out how to bite big pieces. Then, it would take minutes for her to finish it, and just don't even think about taking chocolate from a rat. Anyways, waiting for a rat to finish their treat just ruins training.

So, I'm using Hershey's chocolate sauce in a syringe and just giving them a drip of it. Ok, it's not the healthiest, but it's BIG on the motivation.

Also, rats are really really smart. Training them is so similar to when I trained my Australian Cattle Dog, Throck. Throck, once he figured something out, would start testing it. This meant I had to really pay attention, because I may only get one perfect response, and then, he would start modifying his response.

I'm also used to using a lot of visual cues. Hmmm. Has anyone heard the nursery rhyme, Three Blind Mice? Well, they ain't kidding. Rats, also, are essentially blind.

My big take home message from my previous rat clicker training experience is that the individual making mistakes is always me. So, it can be very frustrating, but I'm going to try again. This time, I will try to "Be in the moment" and really listen to the rats (not watch, listen).

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

How the Critter Nation Looks This Week

This is definitely NOT a color coordinated week. There's Walter looking like a pancake.

By the way, that's a pile of "blankies" (fleece scraps) that the rats can chew on, hopefully instead of chewing on the liners. Oh, and the blue super hammock is hanging soooo low because most of the rats are tucked inside.

I've cut out new liners and several hammocks. So, hopefully, new stuff next week.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

London Olympics, Rats, and a Torch Relay. What an awesome combination.

I stumbled across this awesome video, and I just wanted to share.

(The above photo is only a screen capture from Vimeo. Please click on "video" in the above paragraph that will take you to the webpage.)

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