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The Big Cage, with Miranda and Harpo visible on the middle shelf.
The cage began life as a birdcage, three feet high. Only the front doors are original. There are four levels of hammock-shelves (the top floor is the bedroom, the second from the top is the toilet—rats’ own choice) linked by wooden parakeet ladders. In Harpo’s day there was a downstairs litter box too, now replaced by the biggest possible exercise wheel. (Cinnamon was the only one to use it. After she died, Nelly has kept it going.) There is also a chinchilla bath house filled with garden soil. The rats love making a mess of this. It was Franny’s special spot, though others have now stepped in to fill the gap.
The Ramp. Onward, upward from near the backup cage, along the
top of the door, and across to a shelf the cats seldom use. Hanging on the back of the door, behind a quilted robe (it was in the laundry at the time I took this picture, but see above), is the sleeping bag. In her younger days Zuzu always slept here, often joined by Nelly and—tagging along after her—Xena.
This group of unedited pictures was taken on a single day from about the same location. A neighbor said that my house looks like a pet store, and I wanted to show that it’s a base canard.
Where, you ask, is the couch and associated human stuff? It’s next to where I was standing with the camera. You didn’t come to this page to look at my couch, did you?
The first thing you see as you step in the door: litter box, scratching post . . . Well, even before you open the door you will have seen evidence that at least one cat has strong opinions about doors that are not left open 24 hours a day!
In the background is the goldfish tank (20 Long). It was the rats’ home when I had the Original Four (Miranda, Winnie, Franny and Zuzu), who have all now crossed the bridge. Beyond that is the quarantine tank, formerly the tetra tank, untenanted at the time of this picture due to Ant Problem. (They had established a nest in the lighting fixture, and something about them was leading to mass die-offs around midweek. Yuk. But at least it provided an excuse for my absolute inability to keep neon tetras alive for more than a couple of months.)
You can just see the goldfish in the lower right corner of the tank. The girl is the solid gold one; the boy turned mostly silver when he grew up. She later died of a lingering illness, possibly fish tuberculosis. The survivor was alone for months until I bought him a new roommate; he was so happy and excited, he did everything but jump out of the tank.
If you look very closely you will see part of a hamster cage behind the tank and hanging plant. I fostered three young hamsters from the humane society: a cute little black boy, a “standard” golden girl who looked just like her mama, and a plump squashy dilute-beige girl who looked like her daddy. The little boy went back to the humane society when it turned out that my own Puddles also thought he was extremely cute. (I thought we were safe because she was two years old. Wrong!) Then the golden girl went back after she had to be separated from her sister. So that left Pumpkin, a sort of hamster version of dear Winnie.
Tetra tank, Backup Cage and part of the Big Cage. The ramp debouches in a length of cardboard tubing so the rats feel safer as they head for home. The cats happened not to be around when I took these pictures, but Smokey and Dixie both like napping on top of the rat cages. To help keep everyone safe and comfortable, each cage is topped with a double layer of window screening and a knitted cover. That way the rats can’t bite the cats’ whiskers or take swipes at visible paw pads.
The cages were connected by a flexible rope perch which touched in at all available doors (two side doors in the Big Cage, side door and front door of Backup Cage). I later found that these perches aren’t made to be unscrewed repeatedly, as for weekly cleaning, so now I use it as a bridge from cage-top to Giant Aquarium.
The Big Cage and the New Aquarium—75 gallon! At the time of the picture I was champing at the bit, waiting for my insurance to kick in so I could fill it and start stocking it. There was nothing in it but gravel and a few gallons of water to get rid of the new-gravel acetone smell. It’s now filling up with groups of small fish: two kinds of tetras (but no neons!), mollies, angelfish . . .
The colorful thing hanging on the lamp is a parrot toy which I sometimes use in the cage as a treat dispenser. The white plastic chest of drawers is, of course, filled with animal stuff: treats, medications, spare water bottles. Smokey—who is ten but doesn’t look it—recognizes the sound of these drawers being opened, and comes running for her Hip Action glucosamine-chondroitin treats. The rats know the sound too, but don’t have as far to run.
Look! No animal stuff whatsoever! I said my neighbor
Well, er, the sewing machine (wood cabinet) hardly ever gets used for anything but patching rat hammocks, and the rack by the sink is filled with hamster tunnels, and that would appear to be an aquarium net hanging up to dry, but . . .
Look! No animal stuff whatsoever!
I had to move a filing cabinet and one bookcase to make room
for the New Aquarium, leaving nowhere but the big table to set up
Puddles’s mansion. Well, the table was just covered with papers
and clutter anyway.
Oh. Dining? Some people eat at tables? Hm. That’s an interesting idea. I’ll give it further thought.
Afterword: Eventually I caved in, went to the hardware store and mounted a wide shelf above the table. The hamster cages are there now, leaving the table free to collect papers once more.
Look! No animal stuff whatso . . .
Uh, yeah, I guess that is Smokey’s window seat at center front. And if you know where to look—and if you have that kind of a mind—you’ll see a piece of paper graced with a big drop of blood from where I had to break up a hamster fight. (I got bitten right where the nail meets the fingertip. I could not believe how much this hurt. I almost passed out. Literally.)
But that’s all!