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The BugFord Files

Bug and Ilford are complete opposites...

Bug is a little rampaging beast.  Ilford is sweet, charming and innocent.

Here are some tales of this ratty odd couple.

Early signs

At only a few weeks of age, it was already blatantly obvious what we were in for...

Early signs of badness in Bug:

1.  He's an exasperatingly determined rodentist.
2.  To him, shirt diving is essential play.
3.  He acts like I've got RedBull in his water bottle.
4.  He mercilessly power grooms the older, larger Ilford.
5.  Hair = rat food.
6.  He crams his nose in eye sockets.
7.  Any human food or drink is his to take at will.
8.  He never sleeps.
9.  He pesters... he's in your face 24/7.
10.  He's fast!  Too fast to catch if he doesn't want you to.

Early signs of goodness in Ilford:

1.  He's calm and dignified.
2.  He never grabs food, accepting treats with decorous charm.
3.  He gently whiskers my face and doesn't intrude in orifices.
4.  He is calm and sensible when being held.
5.  He always uses his litter tray.
7.  He doesn't demand attention 24/7.
8.  His fur is incredibly soft and he grooms incessantly.
9.  He's submissive with Bug, lying on his back long after he's been power groomed.
10.  He has an angelic face and sweet nature.

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Bonding moments

A glimpse into one of those special bonding moments...

Hi BuggyBear!  Oh, you're such a cute little thing!  Aww... you're climbing to my shoulder!  <snuggles into my neck>  Oh, you're so soft and squirmy!  Hey!  Out of my ear!  And don't chew on my earring!  Noooo... don't eat my hair!  Arrggh!  Get your wet nose out of my eye socket!  I really don't need you up my nose!  Ouch!  Claws out of my lip, you're NOT doing rodentistry!  Not my nose!  Not my nose!  <nip>  When did Uncle Grub teach you that?  Awww... you're grooming my eyebrows... ouch!  Not the eye lashes! <shaking head>  Noooo.... I told you, I don't need you up my nose!  Get off me!  Get off me you beast!  Shoo!  <Bug bounces off across the room at joyous speed>  Awww... he's so adorable!

Hi Ilfie Rat!  Oh, you're such a cute little thing!  Awww... you're climbing to my shoulder <snuggles into my neck>  Oh, you're so soft and cuddly!  Oh!  That tickles!  <softly snuffling my ear>  What a calm good little rat!  Can I have a kiss?  <lick>  Oh, what a sweetie!  Here, let me hold you upside down and rub your soft white belly.  <lies there limp and licks my fingers> You're too cute for words!  Ok, Ilf, off you go and play!    <Ilford bounces off in a circle and lands back on my lap>  Awww... he's so adorable!

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Rat Room Pinball

The fuzzlets had their first run in the rat room a few days ago.  Both had such a wonderful time exploring all of their new toys and all that *space*!  Ilford has this adorable way of cruising about steadily, covering a lot of ground and ensuring he doesn't miss anything.  Bug, on the other hand, just goes ballistic!

I've never met a rat with this much absolute JOY for running since Bokeh.  But Bug is like Bokeh on caffeine!  He zooms about so fast that you can hear this galloping sound wherever he goes.  And he's obviously over-awed by all the space to run as he goes in just about every direction and with no particular destination.  He just runs.  And runs.  When he eventually runs into something he literally bounces off it and heads off in another direction without a pause or loss of speed.  It's like rat room pinball with little Bug bouncing back and forth all over the place.

This rat seems to have endless energy... I'm glad we've finally found a way for him to drain some of it daily, as he was starting
to drive Ilford crazy in the cage.

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Bug never sleeps

The other boys have settled down for the day... they've been snoozing in their hammocks for 2 1/2 hours now.  But Bug is *still* awake.  He's at the wire begging for attention every time I go past the cage.  He's flinging toys about noisily.  He's ripping paper towels.  He's extreme doming (i.e. rolling his foofferdome off the shelf and down the ladder while he's inside it).  I keep hearing annoyed squeaks as he pounces on the sleepy Ilford.  He's climbing the cage wire.  And flinging his dry mix all over the place.  He's jumping in the air for no apparent reason.

I get him out and give him a cuddle and speak quietly and calmly to him, telling him it's sleep time now, and then place him in his
favourite snoozing pot. Before I can close the door, he leaps out of the pot and sticks his head out of the cage hopefully.

<sigh> Does this rat *ever* sleep?!

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Reverse psychology backfires

Bug is completely fascinated by my mouth.  If he gets within range he immediately grabs my lips with his claws and rips them open to get his head in there.  I don't want him doing this all the time as his sharp little claws give me allergy lumps on my skin.

After shooing him off for the fooffteenth time last night, I decided to try reverse psychology on him.  I figured if I *let* him explore my mouth for a short while he'd overcome his fascination for the unknown, get bored with it, and give up attacking my lips every chance he got.  I smiled smugly at my cleverness.

And so Bug was given free range for rodentistry.  I opened my mouth and in he went with enthusiastic chattering glee.  There was licking and nibbling and shoving and sniffing and more licking and claws and whiskers and snuffling.  Knowing Bug's attention span, I figured I'd only need to endure this for about 30 seconds.  But he didn't stop.  He wouldn't stop.  He just kept on exploring.  Argghhh!   Eventually I had to forcibly remove him when I nearly choked on his furry head.  As soon as he was out, he grabbed onto my lips and tried to get back in.

<sigh>  The reverse psychology plan didn't change anything... on the contrary, now he *knows* what delights lie in my mouth and
wants them even more!

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A miracle in The Grotto!

A miracle has happened in The Grotto!  See this amazing photo of something probably never to be seen again...

Yes, that's Bug and he's *asleep*!  I thought I'd never see the day where I would actually catch Bug sleeping... he's usually always awake and doing something naughty or begging for attention when I get anywhere near the cage.

Unfortunately the photo is blurred, as in my excitement I forgot to switch the macro setting on and he woke up instantly and nosed
the camera lens so I couldn't get another shot.  <sigh>

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The Anti-Bug

Ilford is "The Anti-Bug". Complete opposites those two.  Ilford is so perfect it's hard to believe he's real sometimes.  He's sweet and soft and adorable and so very good.  He never gets in trouble.  He's quiet.  When he gets near my face he just leans in and licks my lips.  He uses his litter tray every single time.  He sleeps.  He will go limp at the mercy of my hands.  I can kiss his belly without sustaining facial wounds.  He spends his free range time playing joyfully around me as I hand wrestle him and tickle him.  He has a cheerfully innocent bouncing stride.  He never grabs treats.  He comes to me when he's called.  He loves a cuddle.  He's pure, cheerful innocence in a cute little furry black hooded package.

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Nicknames say a lot about a rat's personality.  Here's a few that the boys have acquired...

Ilford - IlfieRat, Ilford The Adorable,  Ilford The Soft, Little Ilf, GoodFord
Bug - BugBeast, The BeastieBug, BadBug, Bugalugs, Bugger!, BadFord

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I'm allergic to my rats.  Usually, I can avoid the sneezing and nasal itching as I use a preventative nasal spray.  And I can endure the itchy bumps on my skin where they've walked on me by rubbing in some anaesthetic cream.  But until now I've never had to deal with The Bug.  <sigh>

I've already mentioned how he has a joyous fascination with my face... biting my lips, forceful rodentistry, cramming his fuzzy muzzle up my nose, snuffling in my ears, grabbing at eyelashes, tugging on my earrings, etc.  It's bad enough having to endure the little furry allergen doing this to my face daily, but last night he decided to poke his ever curious wet nose right in my eye socket!  Arrgghh!  I don't need Bug trying to steal my eyeball!  Of course, within seconds my eye becomes watery... and then itchy... and then itchier... and then swollen... and then red and sore and itchy in nightmarish proportions!  Arrgghh!

I'm clinging desperately to the hope that Bug will mellow with age. <wry smile>

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Table manners

At a recent birthday party (Lamington's 2nd - more photos here) it was blatantly obvious that Bug and Ilford's personalities shine through in their table manners...

Ilford daintily nibbles on the muffin
Bug mauls the candle

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110% Bug

Bug is one of those rats who have too much energy to handle with any kind of dignity.  He is always ready for a run, or at least some boisterous naughtiness.  You open the cage and he immediately flops out onto the floor, ready for action.

Bug isn't one of those rats who will just go off and explore.  You can't just leave him to have a quite stroll about, or sleep in a corner.  Bug demands to be played with.  Bug is in-your-face up-your-nose non-stop hands-on interaction.  Forget watching TV while he has his free range time... Bug is the entertainment.

He starts by sauntering about in the open, suavely scouting for action.  When he finds you (takes about 2 seconds) he's already warmed up and ready to play.  One touch on the head and he leaps madly into the air with a silly hop.  That's his specialty... he's a bouncer.  He's so cute doing this, that you can't help but ruffle him over the head a few more times, laughing as he bounces crazily about in a manic circle.  But this is just the early twitches of his madness.  You pick him up and manhandle him a bit, squishing and tickling and flipping him upside down to rub his belly.  [You've kissed his belly when he's in this state once before.  Once was enough.]  Then when he's squirming so much you can't hold him anymore, you place him on the floor.  He sits there frozen for a split second.  You lightly pinch his furry rump.  He launches himself in an explosive leap and performs the most boisterously silly gymnastic tumble run the full length of the livingroom.  If Ilford is so unlucky as to have just nosed out from under the sofa at that moment, he cops the full brunt of Berserker Bug.

This kind of high energy playfulness goes on for about 20 minutes before Bug finally calms down to sensible levels.  Then he parks himself in the Fisher-Price castle door and lies completely flat, exhausted.  "We have a Flat Bug!" you exclaim with delight!  It's always a feeling of accomplishment when you manage to outlast the Bug.

But he's not finished yet.  You lie down on the floor to talk to him.  "Poor Flat Bug!" you say as you stroke him calmly.  Then the second stage of Bug Entertainment starts.  The second stage is exhausting too, but this time for you rather than for Bug.  He wanders over to you to play.  Bug has no concept of personal space and your face interests him.  He is always leaning in close with all those whiskers and that manic cross-eyed look he has up close.  He shoves his nose in your eyeball.  You shoo him away.  He shoves his nose in your eyeball.  You shoo him away.  He shoves his nose up your nostril.  You squirm and shake your head.  He finds your ear.  You shoo him away.  After about 30 seconds of this, you've had enough.  You sit up, pick him up, and hold him in front of your face.  "Bug! You're a beast!" you scold.  He smiles at you insolently, but adorably.  "I love you, Bugaboo!".  He leans in and grabs your lower lip between his teeth... a Buggy love nip.  You squish him and place him on the floor.  You pinch his furry rump and off his bounces, on his second wind.

By the end of the free range time, you're exhausted.  And hopefully Bug is too.  He's a very full-on rat, the Bug.  He's one of the most comically entertaining rats we've had in our lives.  He's boisterous.  He's naughty.  He's exasperating.  He's always in your face.  He's shameless.  He's a shocking scent marker.  He's hilarious.  He's suavely handsome.  He's exhaustingly demanding.  He's 110% Bug.  And we love him dearly.

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The Squish

Everyone should have a Squish in their life.

Our Squish is Ilford... often referred to as SquishFord or PlushFord.

Ilford is one of those rats that when you even glance at him, you simply MUST pick him up for a cuddle.  And when you pick him up your fingers sink deeply into his thick, soft, fluffy fur and you let out an involuntary "awwww".  He's all warm and floppy in your hands, so you're compelled to hold him against your neck, where his warm furriness will be enjoyed to it's fullest.  He's not completely limp and floppy though... he does squirm about, but just enough so you both enjoy the cuddle more.  You massage your fingers in his fur.  He reaches up and licks you on the lips, or nuzzles your ear.  You kiss him on his black furry head and place him back in the cage, but not before one last little squish and an exclamation of contentment.

Yes.  Everyone needs a Squish in their life.

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Waiter!  There's a Bug in my drink!

Every night I let the boys out for their run.  And every night I have a drink with me, usually some gourmet cordial with a slice of lime.  After all, running rats is thirsty work!

Bug, having scent marked everything in the room to the point of dehydration, inevitably ends up at my glass to "re-fuel".  A normal rat, such as Ilford, would perch sensibly on the edge of the glass and enjoy a few licks.  But Bug is not a normal rat.  Bug leaps on in as though my glass is his personal washing basin!  His head goes under, his arms wave about, he lifts his head out and shakes cordial all over the place.  Then he'll groom for awhile... cordial is sticky stuff!  Then once he's suitably re-fueled, he's back in for the slice of lime.  Arms wave about searchingly, the lime slice is located, his head dives in and the lime slice and Bug are soon racing across the room together.   A few days later there is a squeaking fight under the sofa between Ilford and Bug.  As I separate them I find the dessicated remains of the lime slice wedged firmly in Bug's mouth.

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Who's smarter?

Bug and Ilford were out enjoying their play time in the rat room this morning.  They'd climbed up to the top of the dresser and were avidly investigating (in Ilford's case) and peeing on (in Bug's case) everything I keep up there... rubbish bin, litter bin, food jars, paper towels, etc.  Bug soon found the plastic yogurt drop jar.  I always give Scrambler a yogurt drop as he goes home after his run, so I'd left the lid just leaning on top rather than screwed on.  Ilford watched calmly as Bug frantically nosed and shoved and wandered around and jumped on top of the jar.  Finally he discovered the gap in the lid where the delectable aroma wafted up his nose and whet a determined appetite. 

In one swift movement he grabbed the edge of the lid in his teeth and flipped it off the jar!  I was quite amazed at his dexterity!  And then stunned by his silliness, as he leapt upon the lid and madly sniffed it, flipping it over and shoving it about trying fruitlessly to find the hidden yogurt drop stash within it.  Meanwhile Ilford waddled forward, leaned into the jar, grabbed a mouthful of yogies, sat down and proceeded to munch on them.  It wasn't long before Bug abandoned the empty lid and discovered Ilford's stash.  Much squeaking ensued.  I removed Bug from the melee and placed him on the edge of the jar.  The realisation on his face was priceless!  With enthusiasm he dived in, tipping the jar toward him, and scooped yogurt drops into his mouth and grabbed yet more with his hands.  He yielded about 5 of them to me rather unwillingly when he realised he couldn't run away with them in his hands, but was still pleased with his stash.

I have to wonder who the smarter rat is...  Bug for being so determined and enthusiastic and being able to remove the lid from the jar.  Or Ilford for sitting there calmly and waiting for Bug to go to the effort of opening the lid for him so he could enjoy a quiet feast.

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What you see...

What you see a fooffteenth of a second before Bug bites you on the nose:

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Bug, Remote Slayer

Bug has a lot of determination.  And no remorse whatsoever.

Every single night Bug's aim is to pee on everything he can hike his furry butt over.  It always amazes me that even after he's been roaming and peeing for an hour, he still manages
to have some pee left in him to mark me when I carry him back to the cage.  <sigh>  He's basically just a fur-covered bladder with a cute face.

When he plays with us on the sofas and coffee table one of his main targets, as with all rats, are the TV remotes.  He will literally run from one to the other, lifting a leg and leaving a
perfect long pee trail the length of each remote.  Aware of his habits, we usually flip the remotes over so they're easy to wipe down.  But... sometimes we forget.

Last night we were watching TV while Bug and Ilfie wandered about on sofa with me.  Bug decided to leap onto the coffee table and like a waddling furry arrow shot straight for the TV
remote.  He managed to pee on it and change the channel at the same time, before wandering off to claim the DVD remote nearby.  I rescued the DVD remote and then grabbed the TV remote and wiped it dry, grumbling loudly about our house being infested by disgusting pesty beasts.

When I tried ineffectually to change the channel back, we noticed the manically flashing red light on the TV.  Bug's efforts had seized the remote.  If we pressed any button on it, it would just show us the clock set feature on the TV.  Bug sauntered over to see what we were playing with, looking completely innocent, and peed in my lap.  In the end Al had to pull the remote apart and clean it out... it was thoroughly gummed up with dried pee and fur and who knows what else!

Living with rats is certainly entertaining.

Living with Bug is a challenge.

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The Underwater Squeak

If you've already read Waiter! There's a Bug in my drink! then you'll know that Bug loves sharing my drink.  That is, if I have a glass of drink anywhere when he's out playing, he will be in it.  Up to his armpits in it.  With his head in it.  It's rather amusing to watch him dunk, then shake his head madly, then discover to his horror that he's all sticky, and then have a frantic groom.  Followed by another dunk, shake, groom and another dunk, shake, groom for most of the evening.

Last night Ilford found my glass first and looked interested, so I encouraged him to have a drink.  He perched politely on the rim of the glass and had a few delicate licks.  Then he did that adorable little raised-head lick-smacking thing they do with an appreciative look on his sweet dignified face.  He leaned in for another lick... unfortunately, it was just at that moment that Bug discovered the glass.  The Bug dived on in with his usual enthusiasm, only to find Ilford's head blocking his way!  Not one to let anything stop him getting what he wants, he put both hands on Ilford's head and shoved his head under the drink so he could have a lick!  It was then that I heard one of the funniest sounds in the rat world... the gurgly bubbly squeo-ol-ol-ol-ol-ook of an underwater squeak!  In one explosive move, two rats were flung, dripping, sticky and stunned from the glass.  A peeved Ilford shook himself and stalked off for a consoling cuddle with mum.  Bug merely leapt back into the glass.

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