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Hi. We've had rats, usually solo, for many, many years. Our last buddy died in the spring of extreme old age, so now we are working with a local rescue group and have custody of three ratties that were abandoned in a cage by the side of the road. In the sun. All day. Two months ago (mid-summer). Thankfully a good Samaritan picked them up and brought them to the rescue org. It's obvious from their behavior and reaction to the sound of children playing outside that they had a bad time of it, and that children were somehow involved. The three, Mark, Dave, and Stuart, are bonded well with each other. Mark is the top rat, Stuart is the bottom rat, and poor Dave... has issues. Ok, they all have issues. It's completely understandable. Mark is wary, Stuart is timid by nature, we think, but Dave is afraid in a bad, bad way.

After using the "way to a rat's heart is through his stomach" route with spoons of sweet potato, the occasional sunflower seed, etc., and having them in a room where we spend a lot of time, we were making good progress. I was able to hold three spoons at once at the cage door and they'd come up and have their treat at the same time while we spoke to them. Then one night Mark started beating the bahookey off of Dave - we heard the screaming from another room. Came in, Dave was on his back in abject surrender, Mark was all fluffed up and angry over him. Finally got them separated, put Mark in a separate cage for the night.

Next morning we found the most dejected looking Mark... he was just miserable. Truly pathetic - if you've never seen a sad rat, you can't imagine it. He was just dripping misery. And the other two would not come out of their igloo. SO, we put Mark back in with the other two, they piled on each other in the igloo, and things improved as far as Mark's behavior. We've had no more whallopings (of which we are aware, just the usual "remember your place" issues), and we have finally this evening been able to take Mark out for a proper cuddle - he was out a good ten minutes' lap time and actually we got some bruxing out of him for a bit, before he remembered himself. Stuart will very timidly come to the door for a sunflower seed, but then run into the igloo. Dave... well, Dave doesn't want to come out of the igloo at all now, but will lap food by the door of the igloo on a spoon - just barely poking his head out. I got him coaxed all the way to his shoulders for a while tonight.

We don't have any history on these guys, other than that they are not young and they were abandoned by the side of the road. Physically they are healthy, big boys. We have all the time in the world and it does take time to undo what they've known in the past, but I'm really worried about little Dave. He's the only one who has nipped me (minor, barely broke the skin), and that was obviously out of fear early on. I don't want to push him, but that episode with Mark has set him back to how he was when we first met him a couple of weeks ago - actually, I think he's worse. He had been coming out of his shell, coming to the door to accept a treat, etc., and now he's cowering in the igloo whenever we come into the room. Not sure what else we can do for him, other than wait and keep being kind to the little guy. It's like he's been pushed over the edge and is not quite with us anymore. We can't "force cuddle" him, as he does react with his teeth. He may, of course, be so damaged we can't help him (we'll keep him safe and cared for, in that case), but as he was more outgoing before being beat up, I have to hope we can at least bring him back to that point. Any ideas?
 
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