The Good Life: Protecting the Babbits

Rabbits have long since been considered a pest in Australia. I mean, the longest unbroken fence in the world was built in the country to keep the rabbits out of precious farming territory.


The Greater Bilby, endangered in Queensland.  Photo courtesy of DHP

Besides, there’s well documented evidence that the introduction of rabbits can vastly alter the ecosystem. Heck, the adorable little rabbit is believed to be responsible for the decline of several Australian native species such as the Greater Bilby through habitat destruction.

It is no surprise that the Australian government works to control the feral rabbit population through regular releases of biological agents like the Calicivirus[1] (aka Rabbit Haemorrhagic Diseases). In fact, a planned release of the virus is happening across 1,000 sites across Australia as we speak!

For those of you not in the know, the Calicivirus is a very nasty killer. It basically makes your rabbit bleed out internally, until it finally dies from the stress. BUT! A vaccination for this horrible disease does exist and is available at most local vet clinics! Both Bonnie and Clyde are regularly vaccinated against Calicivirus, so they’re covered in the event of a planned release.


Bonnie and Clyde after being vaccinated.  They’re very upset about the whole situation, but it’s for their own good!

That being said, it doesn’t hurt to take extra precautions to protect the rabbits from the dangers of horrible diseases. Both Calicivirus and Myxamatosis are spread by flies and mosquitoes, so you should take steps to insect-proof any rabbit play areas.

To protect our precious bunnies, The Boobook and I lined Bonnie and Clyde’s outdoor hutch with UV protected mosquito netting. It’s a little bit expensive, but at least it’ll keep them safe.  Plus, we’ve lined the bottom with thick gauge chicken wire so that they can’t dig their way to freedom and get themselves hurt.


Mosquito-proofed babbit home!

So, now our babbits are free to dance and play in the sun and are safe from the virus come rain or shine!  If you’d like more information on how to protect your rabbits during this viral release, RSPCA Australia has some very useful information and advice available.

[1]Calicivirus is pronounced Khaleesi-virus, but doesn’t have anything to do with dragons, unless you count the fact that it kills kinda messily.

Crazy Tales from my Old Apartment: Sky Cat from the Sky

So, the other day, I was relating a past experience to a coworker when she turned to me and said, “Y’know, you have some really strange things happen to you.”

I thought about this and I realised that yes, I have had a very interesting life.  For some inexplicable reason, some very strange things have happened to me over the past 15 years of my life.

I attribute this to the fact that I moved to Australia, land of crazy animals and crazier people, about 15 years ago.  Still, I can’t deny the fact that most of the craziest things that happened to me happened while I was still living in my old apartment.

One evening, as I was cooking dinner[1], I heard a loud thump outside.  Being the kaypoh person that I was, I decided to look out onto the balcony, mostly because the thump sounded uncomfortably close.

As soon as I opened the balcony door, there was a loud yowling noise and a huge black cat flew past my face and into the house.  This was particularly strange because:

a) There was a ‘no pets’ clause in my apartment building;

b) My apartment balcony isn’t connected to any other balconies in the building, and;

c) I live on the 13th floor in a 16 floor building.

The cat made a beeline for my sofa and dived underneath it.  It stared at me with glittering eyes from the darkness under the sofa.  So, I did the only sensible thing I could do.  I ensured the safety of my pet mice by placing them in one of the cabinets and shutting the door.  Then I called Debs G for advice.

A Becky Lee: Debs, there’s a cat in my house.

Debs G:  WHAT?! I know you wanted a cat, but the Aged Ps are going to be SOOOOOO CROSS with you. You don’t even have a steady job and you’re studying! How could you buy a cat?  DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THEY COST?!  HOW MUCH DID IT COST?!

A Becky Lee:  It came from the sky.

Debs G: Don’t talk rubbish!  Cats don’t come from the sky!  If you’re going to make up stories, at least make up plausible ones!

A Becky Lee:  I’m going to see if I can pull it out from under the couch.

This proved to be an immeasurably stupid idea because the cat, being both upset and possibly quite angry about having fallen from the sky, clawed my arm into ribbons.  So, owtch.  I returned to my phone call.

A Becky Lee: It just clawed my arm.  What am I going to do with it?

Debs G:   Maybe you can return it to the pet shop.

A Becky Lee:  My arm, you doofus!  What am I going to do about my ARM?!

At this point, I noticed something white fluttering in the breeze somewhere just over my balcony.  It was a photograph of the cat, tied to some fishing line, which was being slowly lowered down from above.

A Becky Lee:  Hang on, there’s a message coming down from the sky.

Debs G:  What?!

The message read, and I quote, “Have you seen this cat?” followed by a picture of a rather familiar black shadow from under my couch.  I grabbed the message and fed the string onto my balcony, then I went inside for a pen.

Debs G, by the way, was yelling incoherently for this whole exchange, which was fantastic medical advice, so I hung up on her.

I found a black marker and wrote: IT’S IN MY HOUSE.  <HOUSE NUMBER>

Then, I tugged on the line.  It started rolling back up.

About 15 minutes later, my doorbell went off.  The cat’s owners arrived, a young couple. The woman had been crying – her mascara was running down her face.  The guy was sweaty and panting, but otherwise calm. They lived on the top floor.  Apparently, they brought their cat out onto the balcony and it took a leaping dive off the edge.  Thankfully, the wind managed to blow it back onto my balcony.

They were really relieved that it had survived the trip.

They took it home with them and advised me to wash my arm and put some Savlon cream on it.

And that, my friends, is how I almost owned a cat, but didn’t.  The moral of this story is, don’t bring your cat out onto the balcony.

Seriously, don’t do it.  Cats get disoriented by heights and often test them by jumping.

Also, never call Debs G for medical advice when a skycat is involved because she is a meanie pants.


[1] Chicken stir fry with green beans and almonds.

Going Over the Rainbow Bridge

When I was on holiday, I received a message from the pet care facility where I’d boarded my rats.  Clio, my black berkshire rat with the sweet personality, was losing condition and wasn’t responding to antibiotics.  The owner of the facility was very apologetic and warned me that Clio did not look anything like she did when she first went to boarding.

Clio greeted me happily upon my return, but she was a lot worse for wear.  The facility owner and I discussed her symptoms and agreed that it was highly likely that she didn’t have a viral condition, but a neurological one – possibly a stroke.  She’d developed a head tilt and could no longer walk straight.  Still, as Clio nuzzled my fingers, I thought that since she was still eating and making happy rat sounds (bruxing), that perhaps we could get her back to her old condition through good feeding and careful care.

Over the next few days, Clio would greet me happily whenever I went to the cage.  She still ate and drank, though her fur remained raggedy and her eyes were often crusted with porphyrin[1].  Every morning, I would clean her eyes and feed her by hand.  When I did so, she always rewarded me by bruxing and nuzzling my fingers.

…But her condition didn’t change.  In fact, she worsened.  She spent more and more time asleep.  When she was awake, she would toddle in circles and fall over.  Sometimes, she would attempt to climb the cage walls to greet me, but would always fall over after the third or fourth rung.  After a while, she would stretch out her legs involuntarily whenever she was picked up because of her balance issues and possibly because she was having difficulty breathing.  But… she always nuzzled my fingers and bruxed, as if to show willing.

On Thursday, two weeks after I took her home, I realised that Clio wasn’t going to improve.  She was getting worse every day, slowing down and sleeping more.  Some mornings, the porphyrin crusting was so bad that she couldn’t open her eyes.  It was clear that she was dying… and that she was in a lot of pain.

So, we decided to have her put down.  We took her to the vet who told us that yes, Clio wasn’t going to improve, but that putting her to sleep was a difficult decision.  She gave us two options:

  1. Bring Clio home and manage her pain until she died naturally.
  2. Have her put down immediately.

Making the decision to put an animal to sleep is very difficult.  Generally, there’s a gut feeling when it’s time to say goodbye to an animal.  Most of the time, your pet’s behaviour will clue you into how they’re feeling, especially if you’re close to them.  Clio stopped playing with her cagemate and spent most of her days asleep.  Towards the end, she was really slowing down and though she would rouse herself and eat, it took her a long time to wake up.  Though Clio never lost interest in her food or water (something I always take as a sign that an animal is dying, as once they stop eating, the end is almost certainly near), it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to get the food she wanted.

If you’re already asking yourself whether or not you should be putting your pet to sleep, in a way, you sort of know if you should.

However, you should always speak to your vet about your pet’s condition before making any serious decisions.  Sometimes, a pet in a great deal of pain can be treated with hard work.  If your vet is only offering pain management options and has let you know that the disease is terminal, then it’s up to you.  Euthanasia isn’t for everyone, which is why our vet gave us the option of managing her pain until she died naturally.

Either way, losing a pet is hard, so always give it lots of thought before you decide for or against putting your pet to sleep.

Since I couldn’t bear to see Clio suffer anymore, I made the decision to have her put to sleep.  The vet took her away, then brought her back in a little box.

I cried a little.


Clio’s gravesite.  RIP Clio.

We buried the box in our backyard and planted a blueberry bush over it as a memorial.  Clio had expensive taste and she always loved blueberries.

[1] A reddish oil produced by rats naturally to soften their fur.  A sick rat often overproduces this oil and can’t groom it through the fur properly, leading to it crusting around the eyes and nose.

June Holiday Excursions 2015: A Visit to the SPCA

Today, J was very busy with Other Things, so I had the opportunity to spend some time with Little E!

Now that Thumper has arrived, she has been such a great big sister to him, but I still want to show her that having a small baby around does not mean that she will not be receiving any attention from me. This is why I planned a little excursion just for her!

We started out by having a Very Leisurely Breakfast at the Ya Kun Kaya Toast branch down at Holland Village. I ordered a set of steamed bread with kaya which came with a nice cup of tea (for me) as well as soft boiled eggs in a dish. Little E had a cup of Milo to herself and happily ate the runny eggs with a spoon, occasionally taking a mouthful of fluffy steamed bread.

Tasty soft boiled eggs with soya sauce

Tasty soft boiled eggs with soya sauce, steamed bread and hot drinks!

Afterwards, we drove down to the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). The Barn Owl and I want to teach the children to respect nature and be kind to animals, and we have always said that if we ever decide to welcome a dog or a cat into our family, we would probably adopt one from a rescue shelter.

This was Little E’s first visit to the SPCA animal shelter so along the way, I talked to her about why animal shelters exist and the responsibility that pet owners have towards their pets.

She was very impressed by the idea that people would buy pets on impulse only to abandon them later on, and she was shocked that there were people who would actively abuse animals.

At the SPCA

At the SPCA

It was pretty busy down at the SPCA, much busier than I expected. There were volunteers taking the dogs for walks or bathing them, and others in the cattery grooming the cats.

Exploring the SPCA

Exploring the SPCA

The dogs got a little overexcited when we approached and started up a real hullabaloo which put Little E off visiting with them, so she decided to stay within the cattery, which was much more quiet.

There were some helpful volunteers who encouraged Little E to handle the animals gently and took the time to talk to her about the challenges of rehoming and rehabilitating animals who have been abused or neglected.

In the cattery

In the cattery

We found out that the SPCA is moving from their current premises at Mt Vernon, to a much larger facility located in Sungei Tengah. The new animal shelter will have much more room to house more animals, and will include a rehabilitation centre as well as an exercise and agility course.

When Little E heard about this, she said that she wanted to help build more homes for stray animals – so I took her to the SPCA shop and she bought a little bracelet for herself and a yellow button for J. She also dropped some of her angpow money into the donations box! Yay, Little E!

Support the SPCA!

Support the SPCA!

SPCA Singapore

31 Mt Vernon Road, Singapore 368054

Opening hours are from 11am – 4pm daily (closed on Thursdays)

If you would like to make a donation towards the new animal shelter, you can do so here.

Waste Not, Want Not

It occurs to me that I’ve thrown away a lot of things.  With three rats and all, I now throw away a large garbage bag of trash every week.  This is slightly unacceptable for a single person.  I understand a family needing to throw away that much trash, but little ol’ me by herself shouldn’t be producing that much waste.  Just this morning, I lugged out a bag filled with:

  • Rat bedding and litter
  • Pile of carrot tops that didn’t get fed to rats because they had too many treats and looked a little fat
  • A pile of apple cores.
  • One empty paper tub of ice cream.
  • A sheaf of study notes that I no longer need.
  • A pile of eggshells
  • Bones left over from a chicken carcass
  • Some food that got thawed out in the fridge for a while, but turned out bad so it had to go
  • Vegetables that went manky because I bought them on a bargain sale and they rotted in my fridge overnight
  • Dried lettuce leaves

I admit that some of this waste is due to my having ADD and forgetting that I had food in my fridge, but most of it is stuff I can’t eat to begin with anyway.  Plus, with three rats, the litter tray fills out a lot faster with waste which has to be carted out of my house before it gets stinky.

Happy Strawberries in the sun!

Happy Strawberries in the sun! The yellow stuff is the litter.

But then, it occurred to me: If you’ve got rat poop and said rat poop sits on litter that comes in big baggies that are labelled 100% garden safe!  Why not use said rat poop to fertilise your plants?

So I did.  And the plants (a few strawberries) were happy for a while, at least.

It turns out that garden friendly rat litter is also made of rice husks, which have a habit of drawing nitrates from the soil before finally breaking down, stealing precious nitrates from the plants for a long time before it actually gives the plants any benefits.  It also turns out that rat poop takes like, three to six months to break down, which meant that for three months, every time I went out to water my plants, I got a good look at the unslightly rat pellets just sitting there atop the soil my plants.  Plus, rats produce more poop every week, which meant that while this poop was breaking down, I was still busily throwing away a whole bunch of it and more stuff too, since rat poop isn’t the only organic waste that’s being tossed out of my place.

Bucket o' worms 'n bucket o' pickles

Bucket o’ worms ‘n bucket o’ pickles

So, I’ve decided to become all green and ecofriendly – reducing the amount of organic waste in my home by fermenting all my organic rubbish in a bokashi bucket and then feeding it to a nice, friendly worm farm.  The great thing about worm farms is that worms are much faster with their breakdown of organic waste into useful compost.  They also produce a whole bunch of liquid fertiliser that doesn’t burn your soil (provided you dilute it properly), meaning that your plants get a whole bunch of nutrients and stay happy for a long time.  The compost the worms produce also makes an excellent potting mix, which means I don’t have to buy any potting mix anymore and I have good organic potting mix to sell to people with gardens.

Red wriggler worms eating paper trash and a carrot

Red wriggler worms eating paper trash and a carrot. There was litter in there yesterday, but it looks like they ate it all.

I’ve filled my farm with little red wriggler worms, which are apparently the best worms for composting because they don’t get too upset if it’s too hot outside, they reproduce very quickly and aren’t too fussy about what they eat.  As an added bonus, I get to feed the worms to my rats when they reproduce!

I’ll keep you posted on how things go with the worm farm when my first lot of potting mix is created and I can start my garden anew!

The Brief Visit of Turnwise and Widdershins

This. Is. Horrible. Simply horrible. In all my years of rodent keeping, I have never seen an attack as vicious as this.

A while ago, Alarum’s cagemate, Nimhe, had to be put down because of a severe respiratory disease that left her on her last legs. Nimhe and Alarum were pretty much best friends, so Alarum became very lonely and despondent at the loss of her roommate.

Nomnomnom yummy!

RIP Nimhe. Minestrone soup was always her favourite food.

In order to make her feel more at home, I purchased a pair of juvenile rats from the local pet shop to keep her company. The girls were named Turnwise and Widdershins because they were twins. They were a little bit skittish, but nothing I haven’t handled before. Alarum took to them very well and started treating them as if they were her own babies, cleaning them and even sitting on them to keep them warm. They tamed down quite a bit as well, eating from my hand and cuddling my tummy when handled.

Until yesterday, that is.

Last night, I was sitting quietly in my house when I suddenly heard an awful screech from the cage. When I got over to the cage, Alarum was bleeding all over the place and the two little ungrateful brats were tearing at her head. I managed to get them off, but they’ve ripped a good hole in the back of Alarum’s neck. I pulled her out immediately and put her in a recovery cage while I checked the two.

From the evidence, it looks like Turnwise decided that she wanted to be the dominant one in the cage. Since she didn’t have a hope of winning a dominance fight against Alarum, she decided she’d wait until Alarum was asleep before ripping her a new one.

Alarum is doing fine now, by the way. I disinfected the wounds and gave them a good wash. The wound seems scabbed over and I think she’ll heal from it. She’s eating a whole bunch more than usual and sleeping a whole bunch more than usual, but I think she’ll recover.

Alarum sleeping on her favourite naptime pillow

Rest well and heal up, little Alarum

As for the little monsters, I’ve returned them to the pet shop. Normally, I’d advocate putting down unruly and vicious rats, but Turnwise and Widdershins are still young and they have shown no signs of aggression towards humans, which means they’re still keepable.