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Mind you, I still don't have all the items which I intend to carry. The near-total non-appearance of American tourists at the Edinburgh Festival since the 11/09/2001 bombings has left my main business (and many other small businesses in Edinburgh) floundering, so I haven't had enough capital to put much into getting stock for RatLines. But there are still several interesting new things here.
In the interim, ordering is by e-mail and payment by UK-compatible cheque or money-order, or through PayPal. PayPal payments should be made to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don't have a PayPal account you can set one up by going to www.paypal.com: it's a useful thing to have, as it enables one to transfer money freely between currencies.
Second-class post to addresses within the UK is free for orders of £50 or more: for p&p charges for other orders, send me your order and your address and I'll work it out and let you know.
Don't forget to specify the size (usually XL or M) and weight (heavyweight or lightweight) on T-shirt orders, and the colour of other items where relevant.
Rat Napping - cartoon of sleeping rats piled up in a precarious pyramid
Rattus don't-mess-wiv-me-icus - cartoon of irate, spike-furred buck with bloodshot eyes
"Repeat after me: 'Loo rolls are for gerbils!'" - cartoon of exasperated adult doe scolding a young rat who is stuck in a cardboard tube, with the feet sticking out at one end and the eyes at the other
"If I never see another buck again, it'll be too soon!" - cartoon of weary-looking and very pregnant doe, with back-ache, surrounded by kits
Babies on board - caricature of hugely pregnant doe seen head-on
Born aloft by the crowd - caricature of doe lifted off the ground by her nursing kits
Poetry in motion - series of caricatures of rat leaping onto a perch, falling off and landing on her back
An opening in textiles - shows two rats picking holes in the shirt and peering out, one on the front and one on the back (no caption on shirt itself, in order not to spoil the illusion)
Games ship rats play:
Polar exploration - caricature of ship rat climbing a broomstick-handle and peering round it
Rodent kung-fu - caricature of two buck ship rats kick-boxing
All shirts are 100%-pure unbleached cotton, available in lightweight or heavyweight - prices £10 for heavyweight and £9 for lightweight. [Confusingly, all the shirts say "Heavyweight" on the label - but the ones which are also labelled "Ultra Cotton" are a lot heavier, and hotter, than the ones labelled "Famous-T Cotton".] Shirts are available all the time in sizes M and XL; sizes XXL, L, S, Child and Baby can be arranged but will take up to four weeks to obtain.
Rope-bridges for rats to gnaw, swing and sleep on. These are marketed under the name “Workout” but should more properly be called “Flakeout”, as my rats tend to use them as couches rather than gymnastic equipment. They consist of a platform about 13” by 3”, plaited from thick cotton rope and suspended from pairs of long ropes at either end. Rats seem to like the texture, which is knotty enough to get a good grip on yet soft enough to lie on comfortably.
They serve a similar purpose to rat hammocks, but are more durable. With an averagely destructive rat-pack they should last a good six months, and even if they chew off the suspension-ropes (the first thing to go) the bridge can be re-hung on a piece of chain and will then last many more months.
Available in yellow or red, for £10 each.
Live-traps - for humanely removing unwanted wild rats, or catching bloody-minded pet ones. With long entrance-section and gap under door, to ensure that no little bums get bruised or tails pinched. £25.
I make these up myself, to a pattern adapted from one designed by Roger Branton. I am currently waiting to get hold of the springs for the closing mechanism, and also they take a while to do: so 'phone or e-mail me to check on availability before ordering.
Shell mice - deeply cute and surprizingly realistic. £2.50 large (adult mouse size) or £2 small (baby mouse size). Shape and markings will vary slightly from mouse to mouse.
Toy rats which run about the floor realistically on the end of a yoyo-like string-and-rubber-band mechanism. £4.50 each, available in plain grey or ship rat steel (grey shading to black on the back).
These are not very realistic in appearance - just a tear-drop shape made of foam-rubber, with a tail at one end and ears and sequin eyes at the other. But the action as they scamper hither and yon is wonderfully ratty.
Wire-sculpture rat, approx. 8½" long including tail, £5.50.
Irish love-token, copied from part of the carving on the staff of the Cross of Cong - a symbol of "love always watching, ever caring". This is described by the manufacturers, Wild Goose, just as an "animal" but it is less nondescript than most Celtic creatures, and is very clearly a rat or mouse - possibly a harvest mouse, since the original is arranged as if climbing the staff. It is said that "Whoever carries it has a promise of love in their arms." P>The Cong animal is cast in resin (but with such a high metal-content that it does look like solid metal), covered with low-relief Celtic knotwork, and is about 4½" long, with a leather loop to hang it up by. The bronze version is £12 and the iron is £11. Check availability when you order, as I have to import them from Eire, and if they are out of stock there may be a delay of a few weeks while I order more.
Janet Girard makes necklaces of glass beads, with a central pendant in the form of a rat made out of fused glass, with a curly silver-wire tail. She will adjust the details of the rat's colour and markings, type of necklace etc. to suit your individual preferences. She also makes jewellery decorated with solid silver casts of rat-droppings...
The Winking Cavy Store carries a wide range of guinea-pig-related items, and also some good rat stuff - mugs, calendars, jewellery etc..
The water-fountain sold by The Hatchwell Co. Ltd, Rishton, Blackburn, UK is in my opinion preferable to bottles, except in a moving vehicle: like a bottle it can be placed inches above the floor so it doesn't get buried in shavings, but unlike a bottle it doesn't leak/drip, and is easy for the rat to drink from without turning its head nearly upside-down.
The disadvantages are that it requires both vertical bars to clip on to and a horizontal slot for the dish to stick into the cage through, so you will probably have to cut a slot in the bars for it and do quite a lot of adaptation - and some rats chew the edge of the dish. It's made of very tough plastic, so it takes them months to do it much damage; but eventually they'll probably gnaw the edge to below water-level and you'll have to get a new water-fountain. However, it's not expensive to replace.
For a detailed description of how the fountain works, see section on diet.
The Carousel Treat Dispenser, made by JungleTalk International, P.O. 111, Lafayette, CO 80026, USA, is a hard plastic mini-cage a few inches tall. Small treats such as peanuts or grapes are placed in the carousel, which can either be rolled about on the cage floor or suspended from a chain (supplied with the carousel), providing exercise and interest as your animals fish the treats out through the bars.
[N.B. I confess I've never actually tried one of these with my rats - but my chipmunks have one, and it's a big success, so I mean to get some more for the rats the next time I see them on sale.]
Terenziani and SuperPet both make large wire-mesh collapsible rat-cages. These are ideal for people who routinely wish to transport their rats from one home to another: just pop the rats into a carrying-box, fold the cage flat for the journey and reassemble it at the other end. Martin's Cages make similar multi-storey cages in a variety of sizes and shapes, although I don't know if theirs are collapsible.
All these cages are excellent in that they are multi-level and very roomy, providing lots of space and exercise, and are also fairly easy to get into and to keep clean. One fault they all share, however, is that the upper floors are made of plastic-coated wire-mesh. It is widely believed that such mesh floors increase the risk of rats developing pododermatitis or "bumblefoot", a spongy inflammation of the heels - and they certainly look uncomfortable and draughty. However it is a simple matter to cover the wire tray with e.g. a piece of lino or, better still, with a small cat-litter tray of wood-shavings.
I would not, however, recommend any of these cages for ship rats. They are made in such a way that the upper shelves occupy almost the whole of whatever level they're at, with just a big hole for the ladder to the other floor(s). For ship rats it is better to maximize climbing-space by taking a large bird or chinchilla cage and fitting upper shelves which occupy only part of each level, leaving clear space at one or both ends of the shelf so the occupants can climb straight up the side of the cage from bottom to top. Martin's Cages do do a version with partial "balconies" rather than full upper floors, but it isn't really big enough for shippies. You could, however, buy any of these cages and then fit new, partial upper floors yourself: but since they are all rather expensive it would be better to stick with a cheaper standard chinchilla cage, unless you really need a cage that folds down flat.