Taylor, my pretty strange pet rat has been put to sleep this evening.
Taylor was a rescue rat who -as far as we know- never got along with other rats very well. The problem was that he didn’t seem to understand ‘ratlish’ and, despite looking quite impressive, had some difficulty just getting along. He couldn’t jump up on the sofa like the other rats, he couldn’t jump off the sofa like the other rats. He came to live with me together with his brother (?) Jagger in January 2012, to grow old with Lancerot who was about to be left alone. The shelter thought they were around 1 year old. Taylor turned out to be around 6 months old then…
Jagger was put to sleep in the summer of 2012, after some rapidly progressing brain problem. Lancerot was put to sleep in October 2013, by TDH, and that’s actually how I met him. Taylor has been living the solo rat life ever since. Rats are social creatures, who need other rats. Taylor only became happy when he was alone; every once in a while this happens. Taylor was ‘special needs’ and just could not keep up with the others.
Taylor built massive nests out of paper… sometimes stealing my mail before I was finished with it. He insisted on using paper. No soft bedding, no hammocks, just paper. Contrary to any of the other rats I’ve owned (13 in total! he’s number 13) he did not steal random things, he did not climb and he didn’t want to be petted or cuddled. Every once and again he’d need a scritch. Special needs. Yet, he was worth my while in his own special way. Seeing him acting normal made me proud of him. And there was some real rat-human contact in the last year, which he seemed to enjoy.
His joke was to bite toes. But only if he knew you weren’t watching, and never hard enough to even cause a scratch. Just hard enough to startle you. He’d nip at your toe, immediately jump back while the signal goes to your brain, and sit there watching you be startled. I’m pretty sure he was doing the rat-equivalent of laughing. (Rats do seem to have a sense of ‘humour’. I’ve also seen them startle each other just for the hell of it. One spent a few seconds gauging how to jump from the sofa in such a way that he’d land right next to the unsuspecting other one sitting on the floor. Surprise!)
He was about 2 years and 3 months old. In the last three weeks he showed some rapid deterioration, and about a week ago I discovered he had a tumour in his ear. Given his already weakened state and the low probability of this being something that can be removed (We don’t know how deep it was spread, this would be a tricky thing to remove in humans… let alone rats!) we decided to give him ear drops to control the secondary infection, and in the last few days he happily licked up pain killers. Yesterday morning he seemed OK still. Relaxed, unless I bothered him. Yesterday evening I came home to a rat who was obviously not happy any more, and who had lost his balance.
TDH came over to my place to spare Taylor the stress of having to go in. (All others felt safe with me, and were fine as long as I kept them close to me, even at the vet) Taylor struggled against the anaesthesia, no longer understanding what went on and simply trying to scurry away. I put him in his nest, where he finally went to sleep in the place he liked most. He hadn’t shredded much paper since I cleaned his prior nest right before discovering that the ear infection I thought would heal was a tumour, but his ‘blankie’ was in there. I cried. I picked him up to say goodbye, then TDH gave him the lethal injection. Sleep tight my little one, there will be no more suffering and no more pain.
This marks the end of my rat-owning era. These little critters have meant so much to me.
There’s literally an empty spot where the cage used to be, I couldn’t stand looking at the empty cage.
It makes me sad. No more furry funnies clinging to the bars in the cage, squirming with excitement just because I came home. No more shouting ‘NO!’ at a sneaky rat who tries to chew something he shouldn’t, or steal something he shouldn’t. (They knew NO! ). No more watching them interact, and care for each other, no more cuddling or playing or teaching them new tricks.
Now it’s just me in the house.
(And I do get to keep the vet)