by Rebecca McLeod
Rebecca shares with KRL another fun story about her pet rats.
Old Man Rodent came to us as a rescue from another rescue that had become overwhelmed with animals and financial difficulties and had had to close its doors. He was described as “rat aggressive”, which meant that he could not be housed with any of our other male rats, but needed his own cage. Skinny, partially bald from a wicked case of mites, and so dirty that I couldn’t figure out what color to enter into our records, he joined the crew at Bec and Matt’s Rats around Halloween with twelve other ratties. His unfortunate name, was Ashtray.
This was the first thing I changed. He immediately became Old Man Rodent, or Mr. Ashton as I felt his self-esteem needed all the help it could get.
Mr. Ashton had never seen a hammock before (it took weeks before he trusted them), and was unfamiliar with fruit and vegetables. One of the first things I offered him was cat food, a good source of high protein for rehabilitating underweight animals. I was lowering the can to the floor of his cage when he caught the smell of the gravy. His ruby eyes shone and he leapt for the can, grabbing in his paws and shoving his face into the Chicken Feast up to his eyebrows. His cage was always kept supplied with kibble and a few veggies or wet food, but he persisted in hiding all of it in a stash to ensure that he never ran out again. Quickly he gained back a healthy amount of weight, especially after being treated for the mites which were eating him alive.
Provided with a water bowl, he also groomed himself to a respectable level of cleanliness, and I discovered that he was a beautiful shade of pale gray that I had never seen before. I’m still not sure what to call it, whether he is platinum or a very pale mink. Matched with his deep ruby eyes, I informed him that he was a heartbreaker and that all the does likely wanted some of his action. He gave me a very dubious look and went to hide under his log hut.
Mr. Ashton was definitely rat aggressive to male rats, as I found out by placing his cage next to my big lazy boys. Blue2 looked on with interest as the older male fluffed and hissed at him from the next cage.
Mr. Ashton was also fairly nervous about humans. I could hold him, but he would be tense, waiting for an opportunity to escape. I hated to see him by himself, sitting like a lump under his log hut, but there was no way I was going to risk my boys getting injured in a rat duel. We had vet bills aplenty already, and it just wasn’t worth it.Then Gonzo got injured. A hairless hermaphrodite rat, she/he was convinced that she deserved to rule her cage (The Horde’s cage) and her co-worker, Willow, mother of the Blue Horde, disagreed. Gonzo ended up injuring her right eye so badly that we took her in to the vet hospital to have it removed, deciding that it would be better to house Gonzo and her babies separately from the others. That way, Gonzo could have a little horde of her own to rule, but not aggravate Willow who had quite a short fuse for people who messed with her babies. While she was in recovery, Gonzo was housed in a single cage next to Mr. Ashton.
When Mr. Ashton walked out of his log hut and saw the new girl next door, he was smitten. He sat down at the cage wall, transfixed by her nekkid beauty. She was groggy from surgery and had Frankenstein-ish stitches closing her eyelid. Reverently he stuck his nose through the bars and inhaled her scent. He had never seen such a vision.
He sat there for most of the day, watching her go about her business, bruxxing at her occasionally to let her know how he felt. In return, she threw bedding and poop at him and told him to get lost. He found this adorable and maintained his watch. Gonzo slept with her back emphatically turned toward him; he thought her coy modesty was refreshing in such a jaded time. She hissed rat curses at him; he composed a sonnet to her tail.
It was then that the idea came to us that we should find a female friend for Old Man Rodent. A lady friend who was not fertile. We had our girl Inkling, the Rat Who Lived, who had survived the first emergency hysterectomy that our vet hospital had ever performed on a rat. She was a demure little black Berkshire with white gloves. Her sisters Oracle Rat and White Baby were also suitable candidates, being past menopause at nearly two years of age.
On intro night, I poured a big bowl of soy milk for them, let the girls out to start in on it, and went to get Old Man Rodent. He was watching Gonzo take a bath and was reluctant to leave the cage. I told him I was about to make his dreams come true, and set him down by the three does. He stared at me incredulously, something like a lottery winner who realizes that the winning ticket is in his paw, and then sallied forth. He trotted up to White Baby, put a tender paw on her flank, and did a quick check under her tail. Not fertile. Okay, next doe. He checked Inkling. Same deal. He checked Oracle, who shot him a look of annoyance. Same thing. He went around the circle several times before realizing that the winning ticket was for a booby prize.
He gave me a disgusted look, but came to his senses and joined the girls in drinking soy milk. He moved in with them that night, power cuddling Oracle and snuggling up to the others as often as he could corner them. They eventually accepted him, though they were not above giving him a kick to the face when he would check them, hoping against hope, that one of them had somehow gone into heat. They refused to allow him to run things, but groomed him within an inch of his life, causing his fur to grow back in just as thick as if he’d never had mites.
I believe he and Gonzo are still friends (as much as they ever were), and he looks forward to the day when she joins the Retirement Cage.
Check out more of Rebecca’s rat stories in KRL’s rodent ramblings section.