To make a very long, confusing, stressful two days into a synopsis short enough for you kind people:
The other night I discovered a 7-9 day old male rat pup in the middle of my garage floor. I wondered if I'd perhaps scared his mother off in the middle of her moving him, so I left him where he was for another hour and a half. She did not return to collect him and I was growing scared about how cold it was for him so I brought him inside, warmed him up, and a few hours later went shopping. I picked up some Kitten Replacement Formula and began to feed him every 3-4 hours because I was unsure how frequently to.
I called the local wildlife center and was told, rather unpleasantly, that no one thought it was important to rehabilitate rats and that his best bet was to be left where the colony may be able to find him. I was even told that if I were to bring him to the center, they would use him as a food source for their owls and birds of prey.
After feeding him and warming him up all that day, I attempted again to leave him where I heard squeaking babies in the garage. I put him in a nestbox that smelled like the garage (because it was made of things from it, I tried to handle it as little as possible) and left him out there for two and a half hours against the wall. It was a struggle not to go collect him immediately, but I found him there two and a half hours later, cold and confused.
I'm the only one in this little guy's corner. So I bucked up and tried several feeding solutions but EVERYTHING seemed to get way too many bubbles - qtip, paintbrush, especially the needle-less syringe I had. Today I went to my vet and begged the receptionist if they had anything that would be more suitable and I finally have a tapered syringe that has produced better results...
But I have a big issue. The air he's consumed already is in a bubble in his belly and it looks very uncomfortable. Everywhere I've read has said that either it'll be fine and eventually let up if massaged and warm, or that it's potentially deadly to the little baby. One site goes so far as to say that the only way to get rid of it is with a needle through his abdomen.
Needless to say, I don't really have a vet nearby that could do that - and even if I did, I can't justify the amount of money they may cost me if he may die anyway because he's under two weeks old. And let's face it, they have a HUGE mortality rate.
So I'm sitting here, wishing I could justify the money to take him to the vet but I really didn't plan on this little guy. I just happen to be the only one who cares if he lives or dies, his parents and colony included. But I've gotta say, the amount that it's frustrating me is unreal.
Surely baby rats are capable of passing gas even though they can't burp? Like, through the other end? Can someone explain why the air is deadly? Can it be massaged or coerced out of their bottom? What about - and hear me out, I'd never try this without asking someone (hence coming to you guys) - anything mild and over the counter for gas in human babies? Is there anything out there that you all know would help? Or even an idea? Is there something a vet could recommend, maybe, short of a needle?
I'm looking for alternatives I may be able to afford. It distresses me to have to place monetary things into this discussion but I'm jobless at the moment and any cash I have is really already spent because of the demands I have on me. I want to give him the best possible chance that I can. I read somewhere that yogurt may help and I mixed it in with the KMR-water solution I'd been feeding him. So far, I haven't seen any evidence of it helping the gas but he loves the taste...
I'll admit.. I'm not a man who really cries, but the schedule to wake up and feed him, and his dimming chances, are balancing me on a razor's edge. I cried three times this afternoon while shopping because I was trying to find something suitable for a nipple. I considered putting milk in a rubber glove and offering him it with a pinhole for him to suckle, but then remembered that the chemicals and powders in some gloves may be toxic. It's all overwhelming.
Any advice, all advice. I'll consider calling a vet to ask what he may have that I could afford. But I really don't think any of it is within my price range. Other than the gas he's healthy, squeaks when he wants attention or accidentally rolls himself over, but is happy with his water bottle and loves the KMR mix. I'll admit to being too attached for my own good at this point, but in for a penny, in for a pound.
This was a bad attempt at a brief synopsis. I'm sorry. I just woke up for his next feeding and I'm a little drained.
Thank you all for listening at the very least, especially everyone who read the whole thing. I can feel the hurdle of his eye opening being a few days away at most and I'm really hoping we can make it that far...
I've massaged him a little bit but there never seems to be any real improvement. Then again, I haven't gotten a good step-by-step guide on how to massage - so if anyone knows of a how-to guide or can explain it in steps, I'm VERY willing to do it.
I'm also going to keep up with the yogurt because he should be starting solids just a little bit here or there anyway, and he seems to go absolutely insane for it.
Here's a picture of him from the first night he came to me. He has fur, and his eyes - especially today - seem to be ready to open any day now. I'm banking on about 8 days old for when I found him, maybe 7-going-on-8. His is a wild-born Brown Rat, so I feel somewhat better than if he weren't the wild species that gave way to domesticated rats. I've been sterile in my own life (washing hands after every feeding and massage, etc) and in his feeding utensils.
I can try and get a picture of his bubble but he squirms a lot. Feisty little guy. He definitely has a will to live, I'm starting to think they may have abandoned him because he was a runt and the food is scarce since I've taken measures to protect the things of mine that they'd been eating. (Mostly bird seed.)
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If he's older, all the better! I know that their hair begins to grow in at about a week, he has quite a bit of fur while it isn't fuzzy or anything of the like. I'm told that eyes open at around 10-12 days, just before the two week mark, but he's definitely in his second week of life which makes the toll of this easier on me. (Thank the universe, because I don't think I could do a more difficult schedule.)
I've been flicking the new vet tapered syringe to get rid of bubbles and it works quite well. My biggest concern is that he may have inhaled milk earlier and I'm being super careful which can be difficult with a fussy baby. He's wanting to eat a lot more than I anticipated, VERY big appetite. He wants to eat everything and starts making suckling noises and looking for a nipple if I don't provide what he considers to be enough, or haven't hurried it up enough.
I stimulate his belly and genital/anal area before and after every meal, and sometimes during the down times between meals if it seems like he has to go. He pees on his own about half the time. I'll catch him peeing little droplets, but then later on with some stimulation more comes out. I'm taking this as a good sign.
I've heard that people use simethicone-based gas relieving baby medicines to relieve gas buildup in the belly of older rats. Would a droplet of this or so be all right with a rat baby? A former vet tech friend of mine said it should be okay, but I was just worried.
Now I'm kind of freaked that he may start sneezing or making clicky breathing noises, though, because of the milk accident. I've been so careful. I'm approaching his third 5-AM with me (I found him at around 5AM the first "night"), which will make it two full days in my care. All's good so far. Fingers crossed, right?
ALSO, I looked for an eyedropper at the store earlier today (during the cryfest I mentioned in the original post) but everything was included with a solution of some sort - no plain-old eyedroppers to be found.
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