Turns out that our favorite maternal candidate, Jadzia, just doesn't like boys that way (she likes them in the way where she gets to kick them in the face a lot), but the other two like boys just fine. We had numerous pregnancy-free incidents of boy rats Porthos and Spot (who have free reign of our living room most of the time) discovering that my bedroom door doesn't latch properly, and paying the girls some long visits while we were out, and then all the times Gira said "let's put them together and play Next* and get rat babies!" (Despite the general overpopulation of domestic animals in the world, it was decided that it would be better for all concerned if the rats had babies rather than me going out and getting myself knocked up in order to fill the house with the pitter-patter of tiny feet, since it is legal to leave baby rats all day without paying for daycare.)
*Next, for the uninformed, is a rather ridiculous dating show on MTV where, because the reality TV Gods have seen fit to grant me one post-Temptation Island show I can truly appreciate, you get to put bad first dates on the next bus out and they're not allowed to argue and stalk you and send you letters of rage. Brilliant!
I have been far more interested in nesting than either Lela or Ezri, our rat mamas, so I took them out of the girls' usual gigantic cage (no, really, it's like five feet tall and 3x3 around) since I didn't trust them not to give birth on the highest shelf, and set up their old cage as a maternity ward. And ripped up little shreds of paper and cloth for them. And spoon-fed them kitten formula. And today, babies!
Pregnancy: A Brief Run-Down
After three weeks of observation, I believe rat thoughts on the topic of pregnancy can be summed up with the rat equivalent of "FUCK. YOU." Ezri and Lela have both been mighty irked that shelves previously jump-on-able have resulted in lots of undignified landings, that they're no longer fast enough to keep wiry little non-pregnant Jadzia from yanking food and toys away and dashing off, and that Gira won't play their favorite game with them (the "favorite game" involves being thrown up in the air and/or tossed bowling-ball style across the floor. Something tells me that one doesn't show up in pet-care manuals too often, but I swear they beg to be flung and will come running if Gira even says the word). And moody! Lela is every bit as much of a stubborn, troublemaking wench as ever (little brat likes to break into my closet and pull shirts off shelves to arrange them in piles she thinks are more orderly), but has suddenly become very cuddly.
Jadzia, the non-pregnant girl rat, has gone flat-out bonkers -- hyperactive and aggressive one minute, hiding by herself for the next few hours and refusing to come play. Hormones by osmosis?
And a few introductions, with pictures taken two days ago. Pictures of daddy rats to come tomorrow!
Ezri Dax. My digital camera has the most ridiculous delay, resulting in lots of pictures of rat tails instead of whole rats as they move out of the frame, so I shared my muffin with her to keep her in one place. Isn't she darling? "She looks like a rat," you say. "Whatever." Shush, you who have not yet been converted! Anyway, Ezri was w0lfstar's favorite until Sheryl became tragically allergic. Ezri is the biggest sweetie of the lot, very cuddly, and not always so bright (high on EQ, not so much on IQ). She hasn't gotten her head stuck in an electric socket or anything, but we had to train her that it's okay to climb down things if one has climbed up. She wouldn't survive long in an urban dumpster, but because she's always the rat preening everybody else (humans included) and is a big freaking lovebug, I suspect she will be a good mama. Provided she doesn't forget half the litter under a napkin somewhere.
Lela Dax. Yes, we named our girl rats after Dax's various hosts. I have always had a soft spot for Lela, whose fault it is that we actually have girl rats at all. I spied her in PetCo with an eye infection and the heartstrings got pulled and in the pet-store-employee-induced melee, we came home with two girl rats (Jadzia and Ezri) who were not the little rat with the eye infection. One sleepless night later, I properly rescued her from a life of snakefood and inadequate veterinary care (not necessarily in that order). While she recovered, she was a cuddly, good, sweet little ball of fur. This did not last, but fortunately for her, my soft spot did. ;) She's always the first and last into everything, and somehow, the fact that she's the most stubborn is actually endearing, probably because it perpetually amazes me that rats have personalities that are so individual and so well-defined.
Day One, A Story In Pikshurz: Be Warned For Things Like Blood And Images And Stuff
I have been out
Ezri gives birth to pink squirmy things! Now, believe me, I think baby rats look just as alien and bizarre and fetal as the rest of you, and am not sure how nature decided that this was the appropriate point in rat development for them to be born (eyeless, furless, see-through, etc). However, you must believe me that these ugly little things are REALLY CUTE in person, because they lie on their backs and kick their feet and attempt to crawl around. They are little tiny living things and you can see them breathing and they have wee tiny fingers! Oh, whatever, check back in two weeks when they have fur and open their eyes.
Just born! Just to increase your ick factor! The rat birthing experience didn't seem to be painful for Ezri, since she didn't squeak or complain, only looked rather surprised every time a new baby popped out, as if to say what the heck is this thing that squeaks when I step on it and does not remain where I put it? Some of them took their time, enabling her to come share Gira's croissant mid-whelping. In all the confusion, she misplaced a few of the babies, and didn't mind our meddling human hands in her nest at all as we brought them home (she actually nuzzled and licked my fingers, as per Ezri usual, which amazes me. I TOLD YOU SHE WAS SWEET!). Gira thought the whole business of rat!mamas eating the placentas was disgusting in the highest degree, so we kept chanting "Nature wastes nothing, nature wastes nothing," to keep her from running out of the room.
Ezri's litter! Well, almost the whole litter. I counted eleven, then located one squeaking from inside a paper towel elsewhere in the cage. A dozen little alienz! The white bands on their bellies are milk bands and shows they're getting food. Again, nature, THEIR SKIN IS SEE-THROUGH!
A quarter for size comparison!
Me next, me next! Actually, I think Lela's a little daunted by all of this, or, as much as Lela is ever daunted by anything. She keeps sticking her nose through the cage bars to get pet (and then lightly chews on my finger, which she doesn't normally do -- our rats are very good at the whole distinction between food and people, except when it comes to toes in socks -- so I wonder if it's one of those "squeeze my hand how much it hurts!"). Smart money says that she'll give birth tonight, and that she'll probably give birth on a shelf just to stress me out.
Auntie Jadzia. She's stuck in the big gigantic cage all by herself, and is not happy about it. Normal people are probably not emotionally affected by rats begging. I am not normal people.
So yay! I will report tomorrow with more terrible photography and will properly count and try to sex the babies so we can get on with the all-important business of naming them! Gira seems to have vetoed the idea of naming them after CSI folk just so that I can call them lab rats, so the front-running themes seem to be 1) continuing with the DS9 naming theme or 2) naming them after light-rail stations of the Portland public transportation system.
Regarding naming the rat babies...