Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Baby Rat Invasion!

RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch's Animal Welfare Assistant Michelle writes about this summer's new arrivals at the branch and what we've learned whilst they've been in our care.
Back in July RSPCA inspectors collected 53 rats that had been set loose, over 2 nights, in a park in West Yorkshire. The rats had clearly been kept together in large groups where they had sustained injuries and infections and inevitably breeding had become out of control.
Recently rescued rats
Our branch took in as many rats as we could accommodate (we had to beg borrow and steal extra cages from kindly branch supporters) and found ourselves, amongst many others, with five females, all of whom could be pregnant. As a branch we had only started rehoming rats in February and we had never cared for newborn babies, so a bit of research was in order.

The first thing we learnt was that the gestation period for a rat is 21 – 24 days, so we had to keep all the girls for 3 weeks before we would know for sure that they weren’t pregnant. We had mixed feelings about the potential of baby rats appearing: on one hand baby animals are always a delight and we love to learn about and take care of new species. One the other hand, with so many rats being rescued from the same case and being cared for by RSPCA branches in the area, there was the very real possibility that there would be so many ratties looking for homes that it would be difficult to rehome them all.

On the 30th of July the stork must have been very busy as 2 litters of babies arrived overnight. One mum (Joanna) had given birth to litter of 10, and a second (Dawn) had produced 8 babies. The number of rats in our care had almost trebled in one night!
We set up individual cages to separate the new families (up until this point our 5 girls had lived together quite happily) but as females will aggressively defend their young for several days after birth. Carefully we scooped the mums, the beds they had given birth in, and the babies in into their new, private accommodation. At this stage the babies looked like little more than large, pink sweeties, so they were nick-named the Jellybeans.

Jellybeans a few days old

The next two things were learnt was that the babies should be left well alone for the first 5 days of life and that baby rats are called pups. After a week or so it became clear why. The pups had got a bit of colour and were looking a bit like puppies - much cuter than Jellybeans! We started to handle the rats once they were a week old, to get them socialised and used to human company.

10 day old pups

A week after the first 2 litters arrived, a third was born. We were quite relieved when Edina rat only had 2 pups!

At around 2 weeks old the 18 baby rats had started to be mobile and were appearing outside their nests. They were growing very quickly! 
16 days old
So quickly, in fact, that we had a bit of an accident at 16 days old when one pup popped their head through a hole in the wooden shelter that was their nest and got firmly stuck. Presumably they’d fitted with no problem a few days before, but with a bit of a growth spurt those ears weren’t going anywhere. 
Rat: Trapped
Luckily I was cleaning out the cages when this happened and spotted the trapped rat quickly. After a failed attempt to free the rat myself, and much to mirth of Susie our branch manager, I got him to our vets for an emergency rescue operation involving sawing, oxygen and a team of nurses. They did an amazing job to free the tiny pup and within an hour it was back  with its family as if nothing had happened. Phew!

Not quite weaned
After learning that rats grow in size very quickly, we also found out that they developed rapidly too. Pups are weaned around 3 weeks and need to be separated into same-sex groups before they are 5 weeks old, as females can get pregnant aged 6 weeks. It is easy to see how breeding can quickly get out of control but it is also easy to see (to put it nicely) which are boy rats and which are girl rats, so sexing them isn’t tricky.

After 20 babies we were very pleased when our remaining two females sailed through the 3 week “pregnancy watch” without any more new arrivals. Now at 6 weeks old the babies (and their mums) are ready to be rehomed and are up for adoption. 


Next time our Branch Manager says yes to lots of rats we will know what we are letting ourselves in for! But until we find homes for lots of the ratties it will be a while until we can say 'yes' again.

If you would like to adopt baby rats take a look at our adoption page for further information. We have pairs, trios and quads!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Buddy's Story

One of our amazing volunteers EJ, tells the story of Buddy and his three month long journey of recovery following his rescue by National RSPCA officers from terrible neglect

Meeting my new foster Bunny

When RSPCA Manchester & Salford branch called to say they had a very special rabbit that needed a foster home I jumped at the chance. When I saw Buddy’s photos I knew the poor boy had had a rough start in life. He had been kept with many other rabbits in poor conditions. There were multiple abscesses on his back end and they had been left untreated. This must have been very painful for him. 
When he arrived he was surprisingly bright and alert. The vets had cleaned out his wounds and prescribed some medication to make him feel better. To make sure the wounds healed properly they had to be cleaned twice a day and a soothing cream applied. 

The first thing I noticed about buddy was how confident he was, considering all he had been through. He had a good nosey around his new room, giving everything a good sniff. He found his food in next to no time, settled down and happily began munching away. He even met one of the resident cats. They were very curious about each other and many sniffs were exchanged.


The road to recovery

Gradually, poor Buddy’s wounds began to heal. It took two different types of antibiotics to get rid of the infection. The sores on his body began to close over and even patches of fur began to grow back.  Just as we thought he was on the mend we had a bit of a setback in his recovery. 

As his back was healing, the skin around the wounds became very tight and itchy. This began to irritate Buddy, so he chewed a large flap of skin loose and reopened the wound. This meant a trip back to the vets. The vet thought the safest option was to put a cone on Buddy so he wouldn’t be tempted to chew at his wound. Buddy had other ideas...

He did not enjoy wearing his cone and its destruction quickly became his sole mission in life. He achieved this mission within the first 24 hours of wearing it. Buddy, being a very resourceful boy, discovered that if he pressed his cone against something solid he could then reach it with his teeth. The cone was quickly shredded! It may have just been my imagination, but Buddy seemed very smug indeed to have done away with the dreaded cone. Thankfully there were no further setbacks on Buddy’s road to recovery. The wounds healed really well and his lovely glossy fur returned.

Meeting the real Buddy

I was constantly amazed at Buddy and his abundance of confidence. 

Little did I know that while he was ill he was only showing me a small part of his wonderful (and quite unique) personality. Healthy, recovered Buddy, was a whole new rabbit, full of mischief and fun. One of his first tricks was managing to completely clear the baby gate in one jump. After a few unsupervised, cheeky adventures around the house I had to upgrade to a higher gate. The cat was never far behind, it was as if they had become mischievous partners in crime. 

Now he is better he makes good use of every one of his chew toys and is constantly looking for more to do and see. He often runs around the room at full pelt, jumping in the air, binking happily. I have even found him in the cat’s radiator bed, which he has now claimed as his own. This boy really can jump! 

I began to let Buddy have supervised time outside in a run. He was so excited by all the new sights, sounds and smells. He did a few more binkies to let me know he was having fun. Buddy then settled down and began to help me in my efforts to rid my lawn of pesky dandelions. Buddy is a very clean rabbit. He always keeps himself immaculately groomed and is excellent at using his litter tray. 

Buddy has had such an amazing journey and I am so pleased he is finally ready to find his forever home. 

Foster carers like EJ provide care for some of our most sick and abused animals like Buddy. 

Without them we could not help the most vulnerable animals that come into our care. If you are interested in becoming a foster carer & live in South Manchester/Salford why not get in touch? 

Call 0161 882 0680 option 4 or email us on rspcamcr_salford@btconnect.com