Thursday, 12 March 2009

Vet Visits

Last week we took Reya degu and Gilly and Simon the mice to see our specialist vet, Rob at Seers Croft. Reya developed a lump under her jaw which Rob believed was tooth related. Gilly is one of the welsh mice who had mammary tumours. Her tumours had gotten very big so I wanted Rob to check and see if she was ok to carry on. He agreed that she was still comfortable although he didn't think it would be too long for her. Simon had two of the blocked sebaceous glands that the welshies have issues with. In general Rob has recommended against removing them but Simon had developed one in the middle of his back and was worrying at it. He also had one on his ear. So yesterday we took Simon to have his lumps removed and to be neutered at the same time, we took Reya to have her abcess removed and teeth trimmed and we also took Reya's sister Kandi to have her teeth as well. Simon, I'm delighted to say since he's a bit of a fave of mine, coped brilliantly with his surgeries. Kandi's teeth were pretty bad but all went well for her. We were a little concerned about Reya as she refused to eat initially but she's looking fine again this morning (if a bit bald, bless her). While that lot were off having their bits done, I cleaned out Gilly's group and gave Gilly her daily check over. The sparkle had gone from her eyes and she had started to look uncomfortable. It was time :(

When I spoke to Rob to see how everyone else was I asked if he was consulting that evening to see Gilly. He wasn't but he stayed behind especially to see her. He could so easily have referred us to one of the other vets in the surgery to perform the simple task of sending Gilly on her way but he didn't. He likes to see things through. This is what makes Rob so special (as well as his incredible knowledge). There are pictures of him examining Rhino's in the surgery yet he shows the same level of care and respect for what most people would call vermin as he would for an endangered species. And what is more, he didn't even charge us a penny for the times he examined Gilly and for letting her go. He just wrapped her carefully in a little tissue shroud and treated her with amazing care. We are so incredbly lucky to have found him.

Run free Gilly bean. It was an honour and an inspiration to have known you.

Friday, 6 March 2009

We're One Year Old!!!

STAR is a year old today and to celebrate we've written our first newsletter. You can download it from here

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Ratty Reshuffle

I decided to have a little move round this morning. Bianca was looking much brighter so I decided to see about putting her back in with Linette and Shalina. They were all delighted to see each other! I was worried about the other two bothering her wound and Shalina was a little over interested at first but then seemed to settle down. I'll keep a very very close eye on them but Bianca is so much happier to be home with her friends. Once she is healed I'll introduce the three of them to the resident girls so that Bianca can bond with them and Shalina and Linette can (hopefully) find a home together.

Earlier on there was a kerfuffle in the rodent room and I found Edwina being a bit mean to Blue again. I think she is probably a bit bored with staying in a single level hospital cage when she's young and healthy. So I decided to try something else I've been pondering too. Deanna the trekkie has recurring respiratory issues which have flared up again so I decided to try her with Blue in the hospital cage to make treating her easier and give Edwina a break. Well intros between Blue and Dee went without a hitch so they are now happily together. I'm so amazingly proud of Blue, she really is doing brilliantly at the moment.

So then I introduced Edwina back to the other girls which also went very well so now everyone is back where they belong which is fab :)

Friday, 20 February 2009


Yesterday Bianca rat went to the vets to have a mammary lump removed. She was joined there by Barry the mouse and Foxy the rat who both went in to have their little man lumps removed! Happily both coped very well and are home and recovering nicely. Bianca on the other hand has been a nightmare. The op went well but when we went to collect her I noticed that she had removed her stitches. And boy had she been thorough, leaving a huge gaping hole in her groin! So she stayed in overnight and was put back under anaesthetic to be restitched. But she did the same again in the night. So this morning she was knocked out again and this time she was stitched, glued and stapled back together! She is home now and so far everything is still where it should be. She looks a bit tired and battered poor girl so lots of spoiling is in order. I've kept her separate from her cagemates Linette and Shalina for now because last time one of that group, Brooke, had a lump removal the others chewed at the wound when I put her back in.

Things aren't going so well for that group. They were rescued from a home in Warwickshire where there were loads of animals who hadn't been cleaned for months and had been allowed to interbreed. The conditions were bad enough to make an experienced rescuer vomit. We took in Bianca along with 11 other girls and 3 boys. The three boys were Harry, Fred (now Angus) and Robson. Harry died a few weeks ago of tumours, Angus has a suspected brain problem and Robson has chronic respiratory problems despite them being only a little over a year old. Of the twelve girls 8 have been homed. Two of those has passed on and one has suspected kidney problems. Both Brooke and Bianca have now had lumps removed. Tonight I've heard that Maiya (now Tansy) has an ear infection which has led to a head tilt. To have so many health problems in such young rats cannot be a coincidence and must be related either to their poor genetics or the lack of care they suffered previously. I can only hope that their daughters, the trekkies, benefit from their better care although Deanna already has chronic respiratory issues herself.

Anyway the long and short of it is that we have decided that Bianca will remain here. I must admit I'm a bit downhearted tonight. This group of rats are very special to me having arrived here very scared and blossomed into confident, loving rats. They don't deserve so many problems so young :(

Monday, 16 February 2009


Finally, after nearly two years, Harry and Munchkin the spiny mice have been offered a home! Together! With someone who already has experience of spiny mice.

Pinch me someone, quick!!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Run free Harry & Rhona

Poor Harry took a sharp decline and we had to let him go to the bridge on Thursday. It's awfully tragic that he should leave us so young and when he was really just starting his new life.

And last night Rhona the mouse took herself to the bridge. Rhona was one of the welsh mice we took in who developed tumours. I made the decision over the weekend that it was time to let her go but she passed away peacefully in her sleep last night.

In happier news the three mice we had neutered a couple of weeks ago have now all been introduced to some ladies and are very happy boys! Peter has already journeyed to his new home with his two new girlfriends. Despite all the recent sadness and upheaval with the boy mice falling out, I did spend Saturday with a huge grin on my face watching the boys enjoying company again.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The wonders of Snow

The sad times are continuing here unfortunately. No updates on the poorly people here but there's been a flurry of sad updates from past residents of late. Rest in peace Charm, Oliver, Naboo, Snippet, Sprite, Ana, Svetlana, Squiggles & Shadow who have all left us for the bridge this month. Even when they're not here any more I still feel each and every loss. I'm just grateful to their lovely new owners who gave them all such nice lives and who kept in touch to let me know when their time came.

So anyway with snow bringing Wallington to a halt, no trains, no buses and roads covered in 8 inches of snow, a couple of days off work have been a godsend. I've been able to catch up with the cleaning out, get a few bits and pieces done and I even took a bit of time to enjoy the snow! With the sprog dogs of course!!

It has also meant I've had time to spend with our new arrival! This is Foxy. Born in a rodent farm where rats are intensively and indiscriminately bred just as dogs are in the more well known puppy farms, he ended up in the Reading branch of a well known national chain of pet shops. Whilst on sale he developed an abcess and was separated from his siblings while he underwent treatment. Being away from other rats at such a young age and a critical stage in his development has left him unsure of other rats. Consequently he was put into their adoption centre and advertised as needing a home where he would live alone. A rat that cannot live with others is incredibly rare (I've know two in almost 500) and I was sure all he needed was a home willing to try. He was collected from there by one of our adopters and handed in to us for rehoming. Buuutttt, as it happened I had just, a few days before, come up with a possible solution to a problem which had been troubling me. Quest and Tim are now 14 months old and living as a pair. The plan had been to neuter them to live with the girls but, to be honest, after losing their brother Skip I lost my nerve and I couldn't bring myself to do it. And now all of a sudden they're a bit old for an elective neuter but i have to face facts that one day one of them will go and leave the other alone. I realised the solution could be to mix another younger male with them and have him neutered so that he can stay with them until they leave us and then move in with the girls. And then I heard about Foxy and then I saw his picture and it was like it was fate. So we are now on day three of introductions and we're making slow progress. I'm incredibly proud of Quest and Tim who have been good as gold with their rather mixed up new friend and aproached intros with their usual vigour and enthusiasm (as you can see!). At the moment Foxy is quite scared of them but I'm sure we'll get there before very long.

In other happy news, Fred the neutered boy rat went to his new home on Sunday with Becky who adopted another grumpy neutered boy Barney from us last year. Note the matching names! They were also very similar looking so perhaps another example of fate intervening there? Either way Fred is very much enjoying his new home already (even if he is a little confused as to why that biting thing doesn't work with Becky).

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Sad times

I guess we've gotten off fairly lightly in terms of poorly people of late. Of course they always wait to get ill in batches.

One of the groups of baby boy mice started fighting so I was faced with the dilemma of separating them. I wanted to try to make sure I split off the right mice to minimise the risk of them being left on their own. Well I got it wrong. Arnie and Biffy were both guilty of attacking the others so I decided to split them off together and then separate them into singles if needed. The other 5 boys in the cage were clearly exhausted from being chased around so I wanted to get both the bullies out and give them a break. Well in the night Arnie attacked Biffy really badly, leaving Biffy with wounds to his backside and in shock. I had Biffy on a hot water bottle syringing him fluids but, when I got up at 3am to redo his bottle he'd passed in his sleep :(

Added to that, this week Harry, Fred and Robson came back to stay for their holidays. I noticed that Harry had a bit of a tummy on him and thought he'd just been enjoying the good life. However, when I handled him his tummy felt really hard. So he went to the vets last night and it looks like he has a tumour in his abdomen. He is having a scan on Tuesday to see exactly what is going on. It's too awful to contemplate that we might lose him. He is not much more than a year old and when he arrived he was terribly nervous and then became hormonal and aggressive. We had him neutered and he became the loveliest rat, the difference it made to him was really amazing. So he's really one of my special ones and I'm desperately praying for a miracle.

And finally I mentioned last time about Dexter who was here to see our specialist vet. Well the news wasn't good and it looks as though Dex's lumps are cancerous growths on his sebaceous glands. In the few days he was here new lumps developed and the existing ones grew so the poor lamb probably won't be with us much longer. He may not be one of my rats but I have gotten to know him over the years and he's a real sweetie so I couldn't help shedding a tear when the vet gave us the prognosis.

So all in all I'm rather :( at the moment and generally a bit frustrated as I just don't seem to be able to keep up with things. I'm trying to reduce numbers but it is yet to have any real effect. Still we should have about 9 mice going to homes soon so that will certainly help.

On a happier note we have three more rats going to their new home this weekend - Scott, Austin and Eoghan from the batch of babies that came in before Christmas.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

A busy day

We've had a very busy and productive day today. I'm exhausted but very pleased.

First of all two of the baby boy rats who came in just after Christmas - Rhydian and Leon - went to their new home in Poole. Then their sister Alexandra and her friend Haarla went to their new home. Haarla had been purchased from a pet shop as a "treat" for someone's pet snake. Thankfully the snake appeared to find a live rat intimidating rather than attractive and she survived and was abandoned at another pet shop. Then Danielle the hamster left to live with her new family. And finally, after 14 months here, Dre and Eminem the degus have left for their new home near the coast! I shall miss them lots! Dre in particular had made progress recently and finally seemed to quite like us. It's so great to know they'll finally have the home they deserve though.

We also have a new addition in the form of Fred, a 15 month old boy who was rescued from a home where he'd been kept alone in a small cage. This has left the poor boy with some issues and after suffering several nasty bites his rescuer realised he was more than they could handle and asked us to help. He has already been neutered so once he has settled in I'll see what he thinks of sharing his life with some girls.

As usual we owe a big thank you to Sylvia for her help in transporting Rhydian, Leon, Dre and Eminem to their new homes and delivering Fred to us.

We also have some temporary lodgers in the form of Jake (who was born here in Nov 06 and homed to Amanda who runs and his friend Dexter. Dex has a skin problem which several vets have so far failed to diagnose so we're going to see if the wonderful Rob at Seers Croft in Horsham can help. He's booked in for Monday evening so fingers crossed Rob can get to the bottom of what is going on and help him out.

So that's been our day so far...quite exhausting, but very productive!

Monday, 19 January 2009

The plan for 2009

I've been thinking a lot recently about how we can improve things in the future. In all honesty the last few months have been a real struggle. Well you only need to look back through the blog to see its been one crisis after another really. Obviously we always prioritise caring for the animals and a lot of the time that has left us with no time at all for looking at homing applications. We've missed out on a lot of homes cos they've, understandably, gone elsewhere while waiting to hear back from us. Of course its a vicious circle cos if we don't find time to home animals the numbers will never decrease!

So my plan for the future is to reduce the number of animals we have here at any one time considerably. My hope is that we'll still be able to help a similar number of animals. But having fewer in at any one time should leave me more time to advertise them for homing and then process the homing applications, thereby reducing the length of time they spend here and having a higher "turnover" for want of a better word. Last year animals were here for an average of 78 days before they found a home - that's almost three months. I'd like that to be more like one month really. In animals with a lifespan of 24 months, spending three of them in rescue isn't good. Currently we have several animals here who have been in rescue for getting on for a year, some have been here even longer. I really want to have more time to work hard on finding the right home for them.

Realistically it's going to be a while before this new way of doing things kicks in. I want to get to a maximum of 15 cages here at any one time and at the moment we have 25 so we have a fair bit of homing to do before we're at our target level. Hopefully this time next year we'll be able to report a difference though :)

In other news, we've had a very kind offer of help with the website. I've had a sneak preview this evening and I can't tell you how excited I am! Hopefully before too long we'll be unveiling a snazzy new look website which will also do some clever things behind the scenes to make keeping it updated easier :D

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Review of 2008

Well it's annual review time! This year is an odd one as we switched in March to fostering for Furry Friends to opening Starlight Trust Animal Rescue. I couldn't decide whether to record all together or separately. In the end I decided that the usual graph on the right records the STAR stuff so for the review I'd do everything. Then I got carried away and decided to put everything since we started fostering into tables. I do like my tables and stats I'm afraid!!!

So this is a complete record of our "intake" - this includes animals we have adopted, animals we fostered and animals we took is as STAR.


I can't quite believe that we have just taken in our 1000th animal! And nearly half of them were rats.

You can see on here this pattern we've had of one (or two) species dominating a year. In 05 it was rats, as we'd just started fostering and looked after several litters of babies.

In 06 you can see we took in a huge number of Russian Hamsters, far more than all the other years combined. This was a huge batch of mixed sex animals who were abandoned in a rescue, many of whom were pregnant. Rat numbers were also particularly high that year because of the "maskies" - who came from a family who didn't realise that boy rat plus girls rats equalled vast quantities of baby rats.

In 07 the big intakes were the Spiny Mice and Degus, both of which were rescued in large numbers from homes where animals had been left to breed out of control and were living in shocking conditions. And this year it was Fancy Mice from the same sort of situation. All in all these big rescues from one awful home seem to account for about a third of our annual intake :/ Where on earth, one has to wonder, are families and bodies such as social services in these situations? They tend to come from homes where the owner has a mental health issue so why does no-one step in earlier before it becomes such a huge issue?

So what happened to all these animals? I also did a table for all of the outcomes...


The animals are recorded by the year they came in on this table. Again it includes animals from all sources. It's odd how the number of animals who died is so consistent. These of course include our own pets so many are those who just reached the end of their days here as opposed to rescue animals who died before they could find a home. Still it shows why we get so emotionally exhausted sometimes with an average of about 2 friends a month leaving us for the bridge :(

It's lovely to think that we have now found new homes for 624 animals! I'm very proud of that figure. If you include the animals we released (wildlife being returned to the wild), passed to other rescues (this also refers to wildlife, 2 were passed elsewhere for release and 2 for permanent sanctuary) and passed back to Furry Friends for homing then that's 740 happy outcomes we've been involved in which is really pleasing.

It's a shame to see that 4 animals who arrived in 2007 are still waiting for a home :( That's Harry and Muchkin the two spiny mice who I'm beginning to think are going to end up spending their lives here, and Dre and Eminem the degus. Since their cagemate Smokey passed away I'm pondering having them neutered and adding them into our cage. I'm concerned about adding more girl goos into that cage since Naomi killed Fudge so perhaps neutered boys would be a safer introduction and ensure that we don't end up with too few in there. Reya and Kandi aren't spring chickens any more and I don't want them to get down to two cos then you risk a deep depression if one gets left alone.

Anyway 2008 was a quieter year for intake (until the mice came along) largely because homing was slow which meant we didn't have much room for new animals. Almost a third of the animals we took in during 08 are still here and the figures don't reflect those 2007 animals who didnt find a home into well into 08 as well.

Still, all in all I'm pretty pleased with our first year (ish) as STAR. Here's hoping for an even better 2009 :)