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In the beginning there was Willow, who died at one year of age. Then came Starr and Belle. Belle died when she was only ten months old, and Starr lived on. Then came Jazmyn, and also Sage, who was pregnant when I bought her from the pet store. Sage's babies were born and grew, and it was a good thing.

Thus, the Spaz Rats Empire was born.

(I have to write a few reports by hand because the RATLIST did not exist between Dec. 14 1999 and Jan. 13 2000.)

Sun. 09 Jan 2000

Sometime, late last night, something told me that I had better put Sage into the aquarium. Actually, the aquarium had been cleaned out and prepped for my older rat Starr, who was not in great health, but, I couldn't bring myself to separate her when she seemed to be feeling so much better being with Jaz and Sage. Anyway, my timing was right on the nose, it seems. We were up very late last night. At 2:00am I went in to say good night to the ratty girls. Jaz and Starr were poking their little noses through the bars of the guinea pig cage, begging for just one more yogurt drop. There's Sage, crouching on the brick, breathing hard, and not moving. She looked only slightly uncomfortable. As she was sitting there, I could see babies, one on either side of her body, doing the jitter-bug under her skin. First one would move, and then the other. I'm wondering if she's hurting because they are so active! It was time to get Sage into that aquarium.

Cagney, my dog, woke me up at 9:00am this morning, and I forced myself out of bed to take care of the cats and dog before I went into the dining room to greet the ratties.

WE HAVE BABIES!!!!!!!! WHOOHOO!!!!!!! And, for my delight, Sage has had the babies in an open nest so that I can sit and watch them. Looks like 6 pinkies, wriggling around and peeping like baby birds. One already has a dark spot on it's face.......Whoa! That better be the afterbirth that Sage is eating......It is! That means the babies have been born within the last two hours. See, I've been a Ratlister since Feb. '99. I know this stuff now.

It's 10:30am and Sage is sound asleep on top of her brood. Tiny peeps continue to come out from under her belly.

I am awed at how fast the last week of pregnancy goes. When I bought Sage home from the pet store on Dec. 28, she was a svelt little rat. Five days ago I noticed she was getting "fat". Yesterday, she was nest-building. Today, babies.......WOW! If the gestation period is 21 to 23 days.....Oh, my goodness. That means that Sage got pregnant by one of her brothers when they were only 6 weeks old!!

I think the common practice is to leave mom and babies alone for 3 days, right? Aw, come on. I wanna touch a pinky.....I wanna touch a pinky!

Somewhere, in that little rat pile, is my Marjorie. Yea, I know the rules. I named her, now I gotta keep her.

I have put my hand in the aquarium three times today and Sage has done no more then to sniff it, so I figure she's going to be ok with me touching the pups. It's to her benefit because, each time I put my hand in, Sage gets a treat of cooked egg, tofu, sunflower seeds, or yogurt drops.

At 10:30pm I was enjoying yet another nursing session. Suddenly, Sage left the nest, dragging two babies with her who still attached to the nipples. They fell off and crawled back into the warmth of their siblings. Sage laid, stretched out, with only her tail still in the nest and draped around her brood. Her nose twitching, she looked up at me with a tired expression as if to say "I had no idea it was going to be such hard work".

Then she was off and running, having regained her strength I guess. This is the first time I have seen Sage off the nest all day. But, she never has to leave if she doesn't want to because I have been feeding her while she has been on the nest.

Sage seems to be torn between wanting to come out and play or staying with her babies. She would crawl onto my hand, and then up my arm, but then she would turn around and race back to the aquarium. The babies are real squeekers and they keep calling her back to them.

Finally, play wins out and Sage went to join the girls. Now is my chance to weigh the pups. I have a set of small kitchen scales that weighs out in grams. I bought it for the sole purpose of weighing rats. So.....this baby weighs ten grams! I thought it should weigh less so I weighed another pup. This one, too, weighs ten grams! Pups are supposed to weigh five to six grams when they are born. Would these pups have gained four grams in just fourteen hours? Is it because Sage only had six pups? They look big, about one and a quarter inches long, including the tail. Maybe Sage's diet contributed to the robustness of these babies? Since Sage has come to live with me she has gotten Debbie D.'s Gourmet Diet, lots of fruits and vegetables, assorted treats, cooked cereals, canned beans, extra vitamins and Nu-Greens. I only fed her this way because the rats just got that pathetic hamster seed mix in the pet store. I had no idea that Sage was pregnant until the last five days before she gave birth.

Uh-oh, Sage is back, and she doesn't look too happy about me handling her babies. She was kind of huffy as she snatched a baby away from me and carried it back to the nest. After tucking them in where they were safe and sound Sage comes back for one more look around. I guess my hands smelled like her pups and she thought she had one more to take back to the nest. She gently took my finger between her teeth and tried to take my hand to the nest.

Well, that was fun, but it's time to leave mom and babies alone and go play with Starr and Jazmyn.

Oh, and by the way, Sage is back to her old, sleek, self. No baby fat, no stretch marks, nothin'.