Month: December 2014
So we got rats yesterday 🙂 I don’t know what go into me but for last few weeks I was obsessed with rats and I could not let go.
For some reason my partner allowed my madness to develop and somehow I made him believe that getting two new pets is a good idea. As a kid I kept all sorts of animals from mice to oysters (yes I had pet oysters… and snails and spiders). I got my first rat when I was in primary school, I bought him behind me parents back and kept him under my bed for the first week (it was a high bed so he had enough space). His name was Mati and he was a hooded rat with serious skin problems. He was allergic to dairy and animal protein. Back then vets didn’t really know much about rat health so I looked for specialists but special diet was the only remedy. He was a nice rat, would travel on my shoulder and learned how to open every cage. he also hated men and my dog but was really sweet to women.
And now 17 years later I have rats again. Now I know that they are very social and should live with another rat ( I do feel bad about keeping Mati alone). We have to 4 months old males Edward Lee Thorndike (who is more outgoing) and B. F. Skinner (who is a bit shy). In short we refer to them as Eddy and Freddy 😉
It hasn’t been 24 hours since they are here so we are giving them space to get used to their new home. For now they are in the bedroom and they haven’t met our dogs yet (dogs got their box to smell). I’m already slowly working on their trust, yesterday with pink grape (works good against cancer) and today with small piece of broccoli which Eddy took from my hand 🙂
Yesterday night I was reading out loud to Jochem with rats in the room, they were eating at that moment so I’m hoping that they will associate my voice with food (through classical conditioning).
I’m so excited to ge to know those little guys.
Chili’s fear of vets got stronger (no wonder as I didn’t have any time to desensitise her) and now when I’m finally about to start working on it she has an ear problem again. It’s really bad luck. Changing the way she feels about vets will take really long time either way and now on top of this we will have to take her to the vet to get her ears checked first. I made an appointment on a day when a female doctor is working and in early morning so there are not too many people and Jochem can come with me. Hopefully she will feel more secure with both of us there. We will carry her in the exam room as last time she didn’t want to walk in there and I don’t want to struggle with her more than necessary.
Once this visit is done I will start behaviour modification plan based mostly on systematic desensitisation and counterconditioning. As she is generally anxious (in novel situations) I will have to start with working on our way to the clinic. We have to walk there (she is afraid of cars and we don’t have one, and she gets over aroused in trams) and when she has a worse day she will become anxious already on the way. So I will have to make sure that we are working under the threshold which means before she starts to show any signs of stress or anxiety. The next step will be getting her feeling relaxed by the door of the clinic (as she refused to go inside last time), then the reception area (slowly each part will be worked on separately) and eventually the exam room but I think it will take at least two months before we get to that stage. It will all depend on Chili and how she is dealing with it.
The important part is to not get her too aroused and stressed as in this situation her learning will be compromised. Additionally if she has other stressful experiences they might add up together and make her react faster and stronger than she normally would. It’s called trigger stacking. It is really easy to understand from a human perspective. Last week I was flying back from the UK, I didn’t get enough sleep (one trigger), I lost my phone (another trigger) I could not fin my boyfriend at the airport (trigger as I was really tired and wanted to go home) by that time I was ready to explode even in situations that normally wouldn’t make me feel edgy. The same happens with dogs, and anxious dogs like Chili will be more sensitive to everyday life stressors. (For more info see “Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for dogs and cats” by Karen Overall).