Pepper & Pippin

December 2007 - July 2009

My two ratttie boys, Pepper and Pippin, playing on a bean bag

Two new rats have joined the family

Pippin & Pepper

Pippin & Pepper

Ooops we did it again! Another trip down the pet shop, for supplies, and we came back with more than we bargained for. The pet store need to take some of the blame for these additions too. We are normally very good at not looking at the baby animals when we go to the pet shop, but they had moved the baby rats to where the hamsters are normally kept and Derek caught a glimpse, then I had to look, then we had to go and see them, then a gorgeous little guy, Pepper, came up to see us and that was it.

There were loads of tiny little baby ratties in the tank, along with five slightly larger guys. Pepper was one of the older boys. Of course we weren’t just going to get Pepper on his own, but as soon as I saw one of the bigger boys was agouti, there was no question who was coming home with Pepper. Our first rat, Crunchie, was agouti and so wild looking rats will always hold a very special place in our hearts.

As Pepper and Pippin were not tiny little babies they were able to go straight into our big rat cage. It is a really nice cage, but the bars are spaced a bit to far apart to keep baby rats in as they can just squeeze their way out. Our new guys were a bit overwhelmed, by their new surroundings, but as with all ratties naughtiness will soon take over.

An operation for Pepper

Pepper has had a little lump on his right shoulder for some time. The size and shape of the lump has never changed since we first discovered it, and so we decided to leave it alone and see what happened. A few days ago we noticed the lump had increased in size, not by much, but enough to make us take notice.

Yesterday we took Pepper to our vet and got him checked over. Our vet agreed with us, that while the lump looked and felt quite innocent – most likely a cyst or fatty lump rather than a tumour – as it had increased in size it was best to remove. Pepper was booked in for surgery the next day.

Even though Pepper and Pippin are both large rats, they are very gentle guys. Pepper was upset enough going to the vet to be checked over, so taking him and leaving him for his operation was very hard on all of us.

Brave Pippin

Brave Pippin

We were very happy to go and collect Pepper. He was fully recovered from his anaesthetic and once home only interested in eating. Pippin was fascinated by Pepper’s wound, but he only sniffed at it so we don’t have to worry about him chewing Pepper’s stitches. He has to go back in 10 days to have a check-up and his stitches out, but that’s routine.

Now he’s home Pepper doesn’t seem any the worse for his ordeal. I wish the same could be said for Derek and me.

Pepper's had his check-up

Two rat noses peeking out of their hammock bedWe took Pepper to the vet today to have his stitches removed. What a big baby he was, he squeaked when we put him in the pet carrier, wriggled and squirmed for the vet. Then the big baby squeaked when we put him back in his cage with Pippin.

I don’t blame him really; having an operation is a big deal for anyone especially a little animal who doesn’t understand what’s going on. It’s funny, he is such a large rat and both he and Pippin are such softies.

Its pretty safe to say we are all glad its over and Pepper is okay and he can go back to being a big cuddly baby.

Pippin has a lump

Our rat, pippin, sitting on my backLast night we noticed a lump on Pippin’s tummy. I’m a bit concerned that it seemed to come up very quickly. Derek and I often role both Pepper and Pippin onto their backs and tickle their tummies. They squirm about a pretend they don’t like it, but they never try and get away. Anyway I thought I noticed something a week ago, but when I looked properly I couldn’t find anything. Pippin is quite a squishy rat and the lump moves quite freely, so if it was still fairly small that may be why I didn’t find it.

We took him to the vet this morning and he has been booked in for surgery next Monday. Normally we get to book operations for the next day, but for some reason they are really busy this week, so we will have to wait. There is no urgency for him to have the surgery, but I would feel better if it was just done and out of the way.

Poor little Pippin was exhausted when we brought him home from his appointment. I’ve said before that he and Pepper are very soft guys. They have lead such a safe and cosy life, that a trip to the vet is very upsetting for them. He’s having a good sleep right now, so hopefully he’ll feel better when he wakes up.

Pippin's home safe

Pippin had the operation on his lump yesterday and everything went smoothly. We picked him yesterday afternoon and the poor little guy was still a bit wobbly. He was very glad to be back in his home and hid himself away for a good sleep. Come the evening he was looking a lot brighter and had some food. And when we checked on him this morning he’d climbed up to one of his favourite beds higher up in the cage and even came out for a little play.

The lump was an abscess so I’m very pleased we chose to have it removed so quickly. That also explains why it had grown so fast. Pippin is now on Baytril to help him fight any infections, and whatever caused the abscess in the first place.

Two happy rats side-by-side in their hammock

We are so happy to have him home and, apart from his bald tummy, looking like his old self.

A scary day

Pepper gave us the fright of our lives last Thursday. We played with him and Pippin in the morning, as usual, and he was happy and bouncy, climbing on us and generally being his mischievous self. When they both started to slow down we popped them in so they could get a drink and some food. They are both terrible for not going in by themselves when they’re hungry or thirsty, they just start doing naughty things so we’ll put them away.

Pepper the rat siting on a bead bagAnyway, we popped them in and they had some food and water and settled down for a nap. It was barely fifteen minutes later and Pepper started making this terrible sound. He was gasping for breath and this horrible stuff seemed to be coming out of his mouth. We grabbed Pepper, put him in a pet carrier and took him straight to the vet. When we got there we handed him over to a nurse, who took him straight through to the back to see a vet, and we had to wait in the waiting area while they helped him.

It seemed like forever until someone came to talk to us, but they did. The vet explained that because he is a small animal there isn’t much they could do, but they had him on oxygen and all we could do was see if it would help. I hate leaving the animals at the vet, but it was obviously the best thing for Pepper as there was nothing we could do for him at home.

We picked him up at about four that afternoon, after the vet called us to say Pepper was doing a lot better and had been off the oxygen for a couple of hours. It was lovely to see Pepper again. When we took him to the vet he was in such a state I really didn’t know if he would make it and though he was obviously still weak and upset from his ordeal, I can’t describe what a relief it was to see him again. Our vet explained to us that he was still bringing up some bloody/snotty discharge through his nose, but it was no longer causing him any distress.

We took him straight home and put him back in his cage with his brother, Pippin. Pepper wasn’t interested in very much and he disappeared into their plastic igloo and Pippin being the good brother he is knew to leave him alone.

About nine o’clock that night Pepper’s breathing became laboured again and he started gasping though his mouth. It wasn’t as bad as it had been that morning, as he could still breath, but the problem with rats is they don’t like to breath through their mouths so that alone can cause them distress. Fortunately I was able to sit and hold Pepper and calm him down and after a couple of hours his breathing did settle again. The poor little guy looked shattered, so I popped him back in his cage and let him sleep.

The next morning Pepper was a lot brighter, while he didn’t want to leave the igloo he’d been sleeping in, he did take some small bits of cereal from me. He was obviously still feeling a bit rough, but we got his medicine (Baytril) into him after mixing it with a small amount of baby food and he did want to come out for a little run on the floor. I guess after all the gasping from the night before his throat was feeling a little sore and was putting him off his food.

We let him rest most of the day and by tea time, when we came up to give them some bread, Pepper surprised us by snatching it out of Derek’s hands. We had brought the bread up for Pippin and only had a bit for Pepper out of habit. After that we knew Pepper had fully recovered his strength, by the end of Friday you would not have believed he’d been ill at all.

Holding my two rats, Pepper and Pippin, in my arms

He had a check up at the vets on Monday and even the vet was surprised with how well he was doing. We have no idea what happened to Pepper or, more scarily, if it will happen again. When the vet listened to his chest and lungs they sounded clear and there has been no sign of any respiratory illness. While we are so happy that Pepper is back to his old troublesome self, we can only wait and hope that whatever made him so ill has gone away for good.

Pippin's lump is back

Pippin enjoying a treat

Pippin enjoying a treat

Everything seemed to have gone well after Pippin’s last operation. We were relieved when the vet told us his previous lump had been an abscess and once his wound had healed up we thought that was the end of it. Unfortunately another lump has come up, pretty much in the same place as the last one.

We talked our options through with the vet and have decided to put Pippin through another surgery. We could have had the abscess lanced, but the vet explained that their is a risk with small animals that the infection from the abscess will leak into the surrounding tissue once it has been punctured. If they operate they should be able to get all the infected tissue out without bursting the sack the puss is in. It all sounds really disgusting.

It is hard to know what to do for the best as they operated the first time and the abscess, if that’s what this second lump is, has returned. So, Pippin is booked in for the end of the week and we’re going to spoil him rotten until then and then spoil him even more once he’s had his operation.

Pepper has just finished his course of antibiotics after his horrible chest infection. We still have no clue what caused Pepper’s illness and can only hope it never returns and now Pippin is poorly again. We love our two rattie boys so very much and it is going to be a difficult couple of weeks, hoping they are both going to be all right.

Little Pippin has been having a rough time

It has been a difficult couple of weeks with Pippin and a few times we were really scared we were going to lose him. I’m pleased to say now though that he has made an excellent recovery and we are very hopeful that he is going to be all right.

My beautiful rattie boys out playing

Pippin’s abscess operation

Our rat Pippin sitting in a plastic containerTo start with, Pippin’s operation to remove his second rather large abscess had to be brought forward when it became apparent that the abscess was going to burst. The lump had developed a large black spot on it, which meant that the skin was dieing and the infection inside would escape. We called our vets and they told us to bring him in immediately to have it removed, which we did.

The operation went well and the abscess was removed in tact. Because of the size of the abscess and its proximity to Pippin’s urethra it was a very long and difficult operation. Understandably Pippin was not very happy after having a second operation, but he was glad to be home and after a sleep seemed to be getting back to his old self. Unfortunately the day after his surgery we noticed Pippin had yet another lump, just below the site of his last surgery. As we were not going to put Pippin through another surgery, we decided to let nature take its course.

Pippin had a follow up appointment with our vet for Friday 17th April, 10 days after his surgery. Our vet agreed that while the site of his operation was healing well, it would be unwise to remove the second abscess surgically. The abscess was already turning black so we knew it wouldn’t be long before it burst.

Things got surprisingly worse

That night we had a terrible shock when we got Pippin out to play, we noticed that not only did he have a third abscess forming, but his tail also appeared to be dieing. A two-inch section of Pippin’s tail had started to shrivel and go stiff.

Saturday morning we took him to the vet again to see if they could help with his tail. The vet we saw speculated that there might be another abscess at the base of Pippin’s tail, which was cutting off the supply of blood, but as we suspected there was nothing that could be done to help.

Over the next few days Pippin’s tail got worse and presented us with another problem. His tail had curled over into a hook and it was dragging on the ground and a couple of times it got caught in his cage. Derek found him with it hooked through the bars and then on a rope hammock.

Pippins tail starting to die (left) and the hook that formed

Pippins tail starting to die (left) and the hook that formed

The road to recovery for Pippin

The first of Pippin’s new abscesses burst on Monday and this obviously gave Pippin some relief from the pressure on his tummy and he brightened up a lot. We bathed the wound in salt water, as directed by our vet, to keep it clean and prevent the risk of further infection.

Pippin was so happy afterwards and he even started bouncing around when we got him out to play. Unfortunately this increased activity presented us with a second problem, because his tail had formed into a hook it was dragging behind him when he ran and getting caught on things he jumped over. It was obvious Pippin was finding it very confusing, we were sure he wasn’t feeling any pain from his tail but the sensation of it dragging must have been very strange.

Another trip to the vets, but good news

Pippin was due for another check up for his abscess surgery, seven days after his last one, on Friday 24th April. We had time to play with him before we had to take him to his appointment and we found that his fourth abscess had burst sometime in the night. We bathed it with salt water and he still seemed very happy, apart from the problem with his tail.

Our vet was very pleased with how clean both of Pippin’s burst abscess looked and that they appeared to be healing well.

Pippin's new and improved stubby tail

Pippin's new and improved stubby tail

As Pippin was showing no signs of any new abscess forming we were very keen to do something about his tail, before he seriously hurt himself. We didn’t want to put Pippin through another operation, especially as we didn’t know what was causing his tail to die and more surgery may have made things worse. Derek had been thinking about what was best to do for Pippin to keep him happy and safe. He had come up with the idea of chopping off only part of his dead tail, just enough to remove the hook. This way no live tissue would be exposed, so there would be no risk of infection, and the danger of Pippin injuring himself would be gone. The vet was surprised by our request, but he couldn’t see any reason not to do it.

Our vet wanted to lightly anesthetise Pippin, as we couldn’t be 100% sure the tail was completely dead and if there were any blood vessels or nerves still present it would be incredibly painful for Pippin for it to be simply chopped off. We agreed, because if everything went according to plan Pippin would only be unconscious for a few minutes and if it did go wrong it was better for everyone that Pippin was asleep than to be afraid and in pain. It was scary but we left Pippin at the vet again, but as expected we got a call an hour later to tell us Pippin was ready to come home.

Our happy Pippin is back

While Pippin’s new stubby tail does look a little strange, he isn’t the least bit worried about it and neither are we. Our bouncy little Pippin is back and we are over the moon.

The wounds from all of Pippin’s abscess are almost completely healed and there are no signs of anymore. Only time will tell if Pippin’s tail will be all right, but we are not going to worry about it. Pippin is back to his happy self and once again squabbling and playing with his brother.

All better

All better

A double blow for our family



A few weeks ago we lost our big cuddly baby, Pepper. It was very sudden and we were totally unprepared for it. He and Pippin had come out to play at night like they always do, and while Pepper was his usually naughty attention seeking self, we noticed there was some blood in his urine. Pepper was a very naughty rat and he alway liked to pee on things when he was out, so we knew he hadn’t been bleeding when he was out earlier in the day. There was no sign of blood in his cage, and because it was gone 9 o’clock at night we decided to leave him and see how he was the next day.

When we got up the next morning we found Pepper had passed away in the night. It was a devastating day for us, Pepper was still young and with everything he and his brother had survived the last few months we thought we were through the worst of things.

I was aware there was a chance that whatever had caused Pepper’s breathing difficulties from before was something serious, and I guess now I know that it was. Even though were devastated to lose Pepper, things got worse for our family.



Pippin’s condition immediately started to deteriorate after the death of his brother. He stopped washing himself and didn’t want to play with us very much. We tried very hard to entertain him and lift his spirits and I even gave him some baths to keep his fur in good condition, but it wasn’t working and he stopped eating and drinking completely. He just lay around his cage and didn’t even bother to look up when we spoke to him. If we tried t pick him up he’d become agitated. We stated trying to give him baby food and syringe water into his mouth, but it didn’t have much of an effect.

It was obvious our poor little Pippin’s heart was broken. Despite their large size Pepper and Pippin were big babies and even thought they played with us, they depended very on each other and it was too much for Pippin without his big cuddly brother.

Knowing Pippin was lonely and he was slipping away from us, we went up to the RSPCA, who had two gorgeous boys looking for a new home. As soon as they were home we put them in with Pippin, in a hope to lift his spirits. The new guys took to him straight away and before we knew it they were cuddling up to him. It took a while but Pippin did seem to respond to them and although he was very weak he picked up. The new guys also took to grooming Pippin so the condition of his fur also improved, which no doubt made him feel better.

It was lovely to see Pippin brighten up with his new companions and his appetite return and he even wanted to come out of his cage for a little walk around. He really seemed to be getting better, but sadly it only lasted a few days before his condition began to rapidly decline again. We tried to get him to eat and drink again, but sadly he passed away on Tuesday afternoon.

Derek and I are devastated, we loved our two cuddly boys so much and after we had got through all their previous health issues, we’d been hopeful we had plenty more time to enjoy our time together.

My lovely boys enjoying some treats

My lovely boys enjoying some treats