Regular readers will know of our family history with rodents. A gerbil. Guinea-pigs. Rats. It is now over a year since Lawrence, the last of our rats, abandoned this vale of tears.

A year is a long time and the prospect of getting her own place energised our daughter into dreaming and searching. She located a breeder of rats. She ordered a cage. She negotiated her price. We built the cage. It only remained to drive out to the breeder's home to get them.

So we met Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the three wise rats. They are husky dumbo rats. That means they are born with husky-like markings that fade over time, and their ears are rather lower on their heads than one would usually expect. This gives them a rather goofy and endearing appearance.

The young rats came home and were placed in their cage. Disaster! They are so small that they can get through the bars. So they were put securely in a box until we could get a small mouse cage to be going on with.

Disaster again. On one of the roll-calls it was discovered that one rat was missing. A general search of the whole apartment ensued. Drawers were ransacked that had been undisturbed for a year! No rat was found.

Then, very late, he was seen scuttling from the bookcase to the piano and back. His hiding place was revealed, deep under the recesses of the bookcase. The rats were reunited once more, though they seemed unmoved by this.

Yesterday was the Feast of the Assumption, for which we get a public holiday, so the pet shop in town was closed, but the one out near Ikea was open. Ikea is normally very accessible by tram C, but the fire damage to the car park is not yet repaired and tram C is therefore not running between the station and Quinconces, so it took some jiggery pokery to get to Ikea. Not only that, but on public holidays there are fewer trams. It took a long time to get the cage. We rewarded ourselves with lunch at Ikea then wended our way home by another route, bus 15 to Victoire, then bus 1 to the station.

So the juvenile rats are now happily housed in their natty little plastic cage, with a big tunnel to hide in, a wheel to ignore and all modern conveniences. And we can sleep soundly again.


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