by Diana Hockley
The first time I met Cherokee–Kee for short–he was lumbering up and down on the top of the cages of his “mates,” all of whom he would have torn limb from limb if he got the chance.
A black and white hooded rat with a wide blaze down his broad snout, he had a broad, flat black back with rather a long tail and fat paws and feet. Long white whiskers sprayed rampantly from his cheeks. His fur, as befitting a male of the species, was thick and coarse. His goolies trailed importantly and obviously beneath him. Alpha bristled from every pore!
Domestic violence was part of his curriculum for marriage; his performance earned him solitary confinement for life. His first marriage, when he was a young buck, resulted in a litter of beautiful babies. The second union had to be cut short by a rescue party, who whipped his wife out of the tank before he slaughtered her. After that, his rat-mum could only let him out for a ramble when everyone else was safely in their cages, so he was constantly depressed.
The time came when my friend could no longer keep him owing to lack of room, so upon being approached for asylum, I agreed to take him. He was very friendly to humans, only fellow rodents being fair game. Had he been younger, he would have been an ideal candidate for neutering.
I brought him home in the evening and took him up to the mousery. Safely ensconced in his cage, he surveyed his surroundings with glittering, beady black eyes, clutching the bars with strong little fists, threatening all things ‘good and holy’ to the male rats whose cages were nearby.
The first morning at our mousery was a revelation. Kee trundled out of his new abode and hurled himself at the cages whereupon he trickled himself along the bars, oozing contempt, spreading buck grease on the bars in copious amounts. The inmates screamed and hissed with frustration. Kee smiled, stamped his feet and rampaged up and down in front of his audience, fur fluffed up and bristling with energy and enjoyment. Things were looking up!
From then on, he enjoyed a constitutional every morning, which consisted of tail-rattling, and screaming and stamping by all parties. This was reciprocated when his neighbors each had “time out.” Kee’s morning walk was the highlight of their day and an enjoyable time was had by all. His former mum commented when she visited him, that his spirits had picked up and he was a “new” rat!
The only time I saw Kee in any way subdued was the one time when his massive sons visited on holiday whilst my friends rented unit was undergoing landlord inspection. Placed on the top of their tank in order that he could meet them and to see what would happen–yes, I’m sadistic–he trod slowly across the lid, sniffing cautiously. The boys stood on their hind legs and sniffed his toes. Kee trod carefully indeed, keeping his goolies above the mesh. I lurked, waiting to snatch him up should the sons mount a challenge.
They were not rambunctious like their Dad. They offered no challenge and placidly watched as their sire trundled overhead, swaggering backward and forward, emitting the occasional hiss as he gathered confidence. However, I noticed that he was quite happy to go back into his cage after a few minutes, honor having been satisfied.
He lived with us for the rest of his life, approximately 18 months from the time I brought him home. Although he faded away as all old rats do, he always managed a strut along the bench, keeping excellent health right up until the end.
The hisses got fainter, the fur didn’t stand up quite as erectly, the goolies sagged and the tail didn’t swish with as much energy. The day he left us, he had his constitutional in the morning, ate a little breakfast and departed shortly after.
He was a wonderful character of a rat, loved being cuddled and scritched and will always be remembered with deep affection.