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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi everyone! I'm a research psychologist in training (no animal research for me though) and a mommy to two wonderful rat babies in the Southern US.

My sweet ones are sisters/litter-mates whom I adopted from the local animal shelter. I think they were part of an accidental litter... as I was counting down the days until I could get them and checking on their listing, I noticed that they had a LOT of siblings available. They are my first ratties. I have lots of pictures but none on my computer right now, but they are both brownish black with white bellies and adorable white socks. Penelope is a rex, judging from her curly whiskers and "wavy" (read: constantly disheveled) fur. Evelyn is my sleek little shoulder rat girl. They were born in February and I have had them since June. They are seriously the best-- honestly they are probably the best decision I have made for my mental health in years.

Health issue with porphyrin:
A little while after I brought them home (maybe 2 weeks?) I came back from a day at my parents' and Penelope's eye was sort of crusted shut. I FREAKED out and felt SO bad since this was the first time they had been alone, but as I was frantically looking up emergency numbers (overreaction, I know-- I just felt so guilty) she somehow opened it herself. Anyway a little while later I took them to the vet just for a check-up. The vet said it just seemed like normal porphyrin but she did have a respiratory infection (made sense, she'd been sneezing) and we treated that with doxycycline for 10 days. It seemed to work. Anyway the eye crusting thing didn't really stop recurring. Maybe 3/10 days or maybe a little more I will find her with one eye sealed shut with a thick layer of porphyrin near the lash line (I can tell it's porphyrin because when I wipe it off it's definitely red). It is always the left eye. I used to just pop it open but honestly it's gotten to the point where I sometimes HAVE to moisten it because it's sealed so tight and it would definitely hurt her. Her fur is kind of thin (always has been, idk if it's just the way it looks sometimes because her rex-ness makes it go all different ways) but immediately around her eye area she has no fur really (her sister does) and the furless area is more pronounced over her left eye. Sometimes it will be her right eye too but it has never been just her right eye -- it usually seems like it's really bad on her left eye if her right eye is also affected. I have occasionally come home and found her with both eyes sealed shut and I just feel so sad for her, being blind all day. :( Her behavior hasn't changed really. I always find her curled up all sad in the hammock when her eyes are sealed, but after I pop them open she goes right back to power-grooming her sister (Penelope is def the alpha) and being playful and adventurous. So it seems like the lethargy at that time is just because she literally cannot see, haha. I do see her eat and drink and she has gotten fatter if anything. Overall seems like a happy rat except for this weirdness with her eye(s). She also doesn't seem to groom as much as her sister? Not sure if this is just her personality. It is a noticeable difference from Evelyn though -- once I was kissing Penelope's belly and she really did not smell too nice so I thought it was just that I'd been a bad mom and their cage needed cleaning, but then I smelled Evelyn for reference (haha) and she smelled great, that grape-y smell girl rats apparently have. I am almost certain Penelope just does not ever groom her tail, it has been a tiny bit gross at times.

And some other minor questions:
--So random, but is it safe to poke them with Q-tips? I have discovered that they for some reason LOVE this game where I poke their bellies through the cake with whatever I'm holding (I noticed quickly that I had to not just poke them with random things haha) and they try to grab the poking-thing and pull it into the cage. I like to let them win every once in a while but I have read bad things about rats and cotton -- I don't think they eat it (though they definitely shred the tip of the Q-tip) so is it really that dangerous every once in a while? Otherwise, does anyone have any better ideas for poking instruments? Haha.
--Is it weird that they hate toys? I bought them a bunch of cool rat / bird / cat toys when I first got them and they really don't like any of them. The only things they like are their hammock, this crinkly tunnel that is suspended from the ceiling, their foraging box, perches, and chewing on things. I can't get them to play with any more "toy"-like items. Is it okay that they constantly lounge around? It doesn't bother me, and they definitely play with me and each other, but I guess I just don't know what's a normal level of activity.
--Is there a better way to cut their nails other than to heartlessly pin them down and just do it? Their nails seem to grow so fast and as much as I like being near them it starts to hurt when they climb on me. Evelyn just sort of "takes it" but Penelope literally screams/squeaks the whole time (no fear pooping any more though) and she is so pitiful.
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