One of the little boogers (Plugh, for the record) has developed a head tilt. There are a few different things this could be, but the only fixable one is 'clogged ear', so I ordered some amoxicillin on the theory it was infected. (The differential is stuff like stroke, tumor, or torticollis. The official treatment for those is 'Tylenol for discomfort, and love your slightly-tilted rat until he expires.') The MSPCA clinic has a compounding pharmacy, in case your cat needs to violently refuse liver-flavored meds instead of generic pills, but it turns out that mail-order AmoxiDrops are the exact same sugary pink bubble gum-flavored goo I got when I had ear infections as a kid.

Well, I do keep telling people the rats are basically tiny furry toddlers.

I feel like a terrible monster holding an animal down and jamming a syringe in his mouth, so I've developed a much more roundabout method for medicating small spoiled critters:

  1. Remove rat from cage.
  2. Stuff rat into front of sweater, sweatshirt, or fleece robe.
  3. Provide endless reassurances that rat is loved. (Note: 'Endless' in rat terms is maybe twenty minutes. Then they get bored.) Cuddle rat until he forgets this is part of the medicating process. 
  4. Remove rat from clothing. Squirt sticky medication onto rat. Try to pick a spot where other rats are unlikely to jam their noses -- underbelly, chest, armpit, and muzzle are all good.
  5. Reinsert rat back into a sector of his house where other rats aren't, so they don't help. Wait for rat to finish giving you dirty looks for getting glop in his fur and lick himself clean.
  6. Feed rat something wildly inappropriate as an apology, such as a chunk of cannoli-filled cake the size of his own head.
I can't tell if he's any less tilty yet, but given how fast he lunges for the apology, at least I know he's not traumatized. 

The main impediment to this process is not the cockeyed rat. Plugh is unhappy about sticky fur, but only for a moment. No, the real obstacle is His Grace, Lord Dimwit Flathead the Excessive. Most rats could be described, with a fair amount of accuracy, as attention sponges; Flathead is more of an attention ShamWow. I feed them dinner and Flathead sees the other three rats scuttling for the food as an opportunity to run the other way and stuff himself bodily under my hand. "attenshun yay i get the most petses I WIN I WIN I WIN" That's as may be, Flathead, but given that your brothers are all up to their eyeballs in the rice bowl right now, you may wish to consider that you are not all playing the same game. There's a reason you're the least corpulent.

Flathead thinks it's downright criminal that I'm singling out one rat for hugs and annoyance twice a day, and it's not him. I am seriously considering buying a can of cake frosting so I can smash some into his flat little head whenever I put the tilted rat back in his house, just so he stops feeling so left out. He's going to get it everywhere, but at least he'll be happy.

[Addendum: One of the reasons rats dislike antibiotics is that, just like humans, it tends to upset their wee little tummies. The fix is also the same, which is to add yogurt with active cultures to their diet. I tried spoon-feeding just the one rat, but that trick never works. Fortunately, Yoplait is not exactly dose-critical. I gave up and smeared peach yogurt all over everybody, then left the four of them to sort things out.]


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