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Question About Wet Preservation of Rats & Other Small Animals?

Discussion in 'Beginners' started by Morti_Macabre, May 30, 2012.

  1. Morti_Macabre

    Morti_Macabre Suburban Rat


    I'm a long time lurker-- just joined today because I've been itching to get into wet preservation. Ever since I was a small girl and saw a deer fetus at the local state park, I've been fascinated by critters in jars.

    I'm looking to try my hand at it on a frozen feeder rat I will be purchasing from the local pet store.
    My goal is to get good enough to preserve my personal pet rats once they pass, simply because I cannot bare the thought of them being put into the ground. I move too much these days and due to personal and spiritual reasons, I do not feel any place is suitable.

    Now, as I've said-- I've done some research from various sources around the net (including this forum) and I think I have a basic grasp on what I need.
    However, I have a few questions:

    1.) Will the frozen state of the rat be a problem? I assume I should let it thaw before I submerge it? Is there a limit for an animal to be in a freezer before it turns "bad", per se?

    2.) I have read from a few sources that 70% Rubbing Alcohol works best for long term storage?

    3.) Rats are on the large end of small animals-- would it be pertinent of me to make sure alcohol gets into the body cavities? I may be able to procure a needle for injection, but does cutting a slit into the animal work as well? What area of the body would be best for this? Would it also work to put alcohol down the throat with a syringe?

    4.) I have read Rittel's Preservz-It is a great substitute for Formalin. Is this true? Would it be wise of me to purchase some of this first for the initial positioning and then transfer it to alcohol, or does a small animal not require this step?

    5.) Flushing the animal... how important is this? And if it's recommended (I didn't find too much about this, so I'm not sure) how do I go about doing it? (Cleaning the bowels and such, I mean-- if it won't leak too much I won't bother with it.)

    Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate the help this community has brought to me so far.

    I am by no means trained or learned in any of this. I've simply been a life-long admirer of taxidermy and preservation, and I'd love to try my hand at wet preservation to start off with since it seems like a fairly simple thing to at least make an attempt at. :)
  2. Morti_Macabre

    Morti_Macabre Suburban Rat

    Surely someone knows?


    SWIFFY Member

    Many here could give great advice on how to preserve the animals skin and give artistic insight as to how to make it look "alive" again.

    Id love to help but have no idea what to tell you about "above ground burials"??? Sorry.

    Formaldehyde(sp?) maybe ????.... Perhaps you could get a better answer from a Science teacher or a funeral home.
  4. I usually inject formalin, then soak in denatured alcohol/formalin mix.
    For rats, it helps if you can take some of the guts out, then replace with filler, before submerging. Sort of 'Egyptian mummy' style.
    Thaw before submerging. Works great.

    Make sure to seal in a tight container with a rubber gasket, to prevent evaporation.
  5. Morti_Macabre

    Morti_Macabre Suburban Rat

    Thank you, first and foremost. I've been dying for replies!

    Secondly, I was wondering if I could use Preservz-It instead of Formalin? I'd rather not handle a hazardous material if I can help it.

    Is removing the guts absolutely necessary? I've never done such a thing-- I'm sure I could figure it out. I live in an area filled with hunters and the like, so I'm sure someone could fill me in-- I just wouldn't know what to take out. Haha.
  6. It's not absolutely necessary, it can just help.
    I've never had to flush the systems before. I've done both whole, and gutted rats, and I just prefer the gutted ones because they require less time to become preserved.

    I have not used preservz-it before, I would email the company, and send them your questions about its use. :)
  7. Morti_Macabre

    Morti_Macabre Suburban Rat

    Okay, thank you so much. I really super appreciate all your help. I don't know why I didn't think about emailing them... xD Duh.
    Anyway, one final question...

    When I inject, will a regular hypodermic needle work? And what areas of the body are best for this?

    Sorry to ask so much-- I just want to make sure I do this right. :D
  8. Regular hypodermic needles work fine. I use needles from the vet, meant for small mammals. I actually get them free for my rodents (live), to administer antibiotics etc. People donate allergy trays back to the vet, when they don't need all the needles, and then the vet hands them out free. You can re-use the needles for injecting preservatives for a long time. :)

    Also keep in mind, the animal will pretty much get stuck in whatever position you put it in. Generally, the eyes turn white, also. So be sure to put it in a large enough jar so that the ears won't be bent, the fur won't be bend, etc. If the fur is pushed into an awkward position as it pickles, then it will be stuck that way permanently, and cannot be fixed to my knowledge. Same with the ears, if they are folded while in the pickling solution, they will be stuck that way.

    If you are doing your pets, I might suggest sewing their eyelids shut before preserving.
  9. Morti_Macabre

    Morti_Macabre Suburban Rat

    Okay, thank you very much for all your help. I appreciate it so much. :)
  10. Welcome! :)
  11. lizardguts

    lizardguts skull collector

    Check this URL out, it's the most information I've found on wet preservation online:

  12. Morti_Macabre

    Morti_Macabre Suburban Rat

    Yeah, I've scrolled through this. It's helpful, but there's just some little details I want to make sure I can get right.
    Thank you so much. :)
  13. RageofAnath

    RageofAnath Will make art for money or dead things.

    1) As Rhasputin said, the formalin will fix the animal in a certain position so it is best to let it thaw first so that you can make sure its in the position you want. I find that the animals tend to curl up into a fetal position if left to their own devices but you can use wire to hold them in a different position while they fix. Freezer burn is really only an issue if you're going to be skinning the animal.

    2/4) Alcohol is good to store the animal but it will not fix the tissues. The animal will still decay in alcohol, just a lot more slowly. This is why we usually fix the tissues in formalin first and then store in alcohol. I have tried out Preservz-it as a formalin replacement and while it seems to work as desired, it turns everything orangey-red. So if you're not too attached to the fur color...

    3) Yes you will need to inject or cut a hole. The best place is obviously into the main body cavities in the belly. It is possible to cut the hole and loosely sew it up so the guts don't come out, or cut a few very small holes in multiple locations, but injecting is pretty easy, too. It would probably not work to put the preservative down the throat with the syringe because it needs to be in BETWEEN the organs rather than sitting in the stomach where it is less likely to disperse evenly.

    5) I don't do this in any systematized way but frequently there will be feces or urine that will need to be cleaned up anyway, so I usually just use a paper towel to remove any poops that come out during handling, sometimes lightly pressing the tail region to force out the poops closest to the end (so they don't come out later), and wash the fur out with clean water and a little soap if urine has leaked onto the belly.
  14. Morti_Macabre

    Morti_Macabre Suburban Rat

    Thank you SO SO MUCH. You have no idea what a help this has been. I finally feel comfortable trying it, and I guess I'm going to have to purchase some Formalin. Thank you, again. I appreciate your time! I'll make sure to share when I've got something to show. :)
  15. RageofAnath

    RageofAnath Will make art for money or dead things.

    No problem. I found that formalin is easy to find in places that sell tropical fish supplies. Apparently two drops in the tank is a cure for some parasite problem. I ordered some online, now I constantly get flyers about caring for my (nonexistent) tropical fish. :p
  16. Morti_Macabre

    Morti_Macabre Suburban Rat

    Yeah, I'm seeing that too looking around to buy it. XD Maybe I'll check down the street at the pet store that has a plethora of fish in stock. If not, I'll have to order some online. Shame it's so darn expensive.