Thank you very much. It's good to hear that. I'm handling him every 2-4 hours, depending on a few different factors (when he last ate, when he'll next eat, if he seems gassy, if he's just squeaked for my attention, if I'm checking on him).
I'm definitely not prepared for what a hand reared wild rat means, but I respect wild animals and know enough about them to give it the college try. I've found that since no one else was willing to take him, I was unable to back away and that won't be changed once he's big enough to be bitey. If I can find a vet to do the neutering procedure for around $50, then I'll be more than happy to get him neutered when the time comes. Maybe if I had more experience or felt more confidently about being able to give him a good home once he reaches a later life stage, I wouldn't feel the need to neuter him - but reality checks tell me to listen to all of those who've come before me when it comes to raising wild babies.
I don't want him unhappy and I certainly don't want myself at risk.
I've heard mixed results about wild and domestic rats living together so I'm hesitant to think that I would want to introduce any rat to him. If he grows up to be exactly like he is right now, I will be the proud father of an unapologetic and frisky wild animal. He loves me (or maybe just the formula) and constantly mouths at my fingers when they're available, climbs all over my hand, snugs against my chest and arms... But he is full of a crazed kind of energy that I think will only get worse as he gets older. It's an energy that needs to be respected.
Every time I feed him, he turns into a squirming, frenzied ball. He bites at the syringe and has a scarily strong grip with those teeth already. I'm not afraid of him, but I do doubt my ability to contain such a force when it's more matured. I don't like the idea of either one of us ending up unhappy with the arrangement so I've begun to seek information about other hand-reared wild babies and what they were like for their owners, and what being a wild rat parent entails.
Other than the wild factor, he is exceptionally sweet (if demanding) and I don't regret the lost sleep or the time put in even if I'm unsure about all of it being the best thing for myself. Just can't give up, you know?
Back to the subject of gas -
I've found that each time he eats, he ends up with a bubble no matter what feeding method I use. Thankfully I managed to get my hands on Little Tummys Gas Relief Drops, so if the gas becomes too uncomfortable for him or he is somehow unable to evacuate it himself (he's figured out how to wriggle and stretch to relieve it after I massage him) I will be able to have that on-hand.
I prefer to use my finger tip warmed with water to prompt his belly and nether regions to relieve themselves, and when finished with that I massage his sides and stroke his back to settle him. He likes to give a very long stretch to try and relieve gas pressure, and our combined methods appear to be working. Crisis averted. I've begun to think that gal5051 is correct and that the site I found was talking about milk fermentation bubbles.
Or maybe air pockets are simply more dangerous to younger rats than him, because if he were younger I doubt he would have been able to stretch in the way that gas demands. Either way, his health is looking very good.
My one concern: He seems to sniff and sneeze a lot when he gets hungry, but his nose - despite all the tiny accidental milk inhalations (which I always clean up as soon as possible) - is still light pink and totally clean looking. It may be that he starts huffing in breath trying to hunt down where the food is and is overwhelmed by scents. At least, I'm hoping that's it.
Otherwise he is extremely squirmy and watching him eat is kind of like watching a berserker fight in an MMO video game. It's an all out FRENZY! I'm actually glad I didn't find two of them. Sites for feeding guides of pups have said that it should take about 10-20 minutes to feed them, but the whole process takes me about an hour and a half from preparation, cleaning/massaging him (before and after), to the actual feeding (which is where all the time is really spent since I have to wrestle him - gently - into a hold he'll stay in long enough to feed without jamming the syringe down his throat too far). Maybe part of the success so far is that I take my time with him instead of forcing him to stick to a schedule that would be better for me, but whatever it is, feeding usually turns into an hour and a half long affair.
That I repeat every 3-4 hours. Even through nights. I haven't slept very well in days, LOL.
Also I couldn't believe it when the man at the center told me that he'd become food for the other animals... I mean, I know they're rats and that people don't see a need to rehabilitate animals that are in abundance, but come on! That's just awful to tell someone who has hopes riding on his survival. He did follow it up by saying, "Which I'm guessing isn't something you'd want" ...but it still was really awful. Sigh, people.
I'm telling you guys, this pup is a warrior - not only does he eat and wiggle around, he's impossible to feed without a wrestling match. If his behavior now is an indication of his overall temperament as an adult, then there is NO WAY that I'll be able to handle him intact. He'll definitely have to be neutered. I have a video up on youtube right now of what he's like during feeding times.
Keep in mind, I don't really feed him like this (in terms of how I was holding the syringe), I just wanted to capture on video what it's like when he can smell the formula I use. Imagine trying to hold him as he squirms around and goes crazy like that, no wonder it keeps taking me an hour just to get it into him.
EDIT: Also, the amount of formula in the syringe was not all going into him in one sitting, don't worry. I mix up a bunch at once and then end up having to throw out what he doesn't use (guides tell me to - is it really that bad to use formula that you just made 4 hours ago?) because if I mix any less I can't get the air out and still have anything in the syringe. It seems like no matter how little I start with, mixing it in the bowl, it always ends up to be a lot more food than I should waste.
Okay, guys.. I've run into a serious problem. Every time I try and feed him, he squirms so much that he invariably inhales milk through his nose. He's started to sneeze a bunch and while his nose seems okay and there's no wheezing or clicky noise (other than when there's something in his nose at that moment), I've got really frayed nerves from lack of sleep...
He's squirmy and he does everything nose-first. I'm very concerned that he's going to get himself an infection in the lungs. I don't know how to effectively feed him and prevent this from happening because he will not sit still. I've tried the towel measure, I've tried different methods of delivery but everything gets into his nose. Help. I really don't want to lose him now, it's been over 72 hours and I've been giving it my all. His eyes are blinking and moving underneath the sealed lids and I know that them opening is about a full day away if not less.
Thank you. I truly hope it doesn't develop into something serious. My last hand-reared baby (admittedly not a rat but a wild rabbit discovered orphaned) inhaled milk in the same manner and died of a stealth infection before I could raise a single hand to stop it.
It surprises me that people have been following my updates, though. I must seem like one completely crazy guy to have taken on an infant and to be taking him so seriously when I know what the odds are for hand rearing.
On the up side to all of this, he's started to show more signs of the autonomous grooming behavior that rats will do. He came to me with a mild desire to scratch his nose, but now he licks his paws and wipes from his ears all the way down his face. I've even seen him balance (wobbly) on his hind feet and wipe his face like this. His eyes will be opening any time now, I can see him blinking and moving them beneath the lid.
It's exciting though worrying at the same time. He's more baby than I can really handle, but his will to live and his ability to take on things that should be handicaps are really remarkable. I'm wondering if all wild rat babies aren't just little ninja warriors, or if I got the luck of the draw.
I'll post pictures when his eyes open, but last night I was going through the photos I took when I first found him and along the hours of feeding him and showing him to my friends. You all may be interested in the before/after going on, here: