The end of an Era.

04 Sep

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)


Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Dear Diary


Tags: , , ,

10 responses to “The end of an Era.

  1. moleculefest

    September 6, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I think I can sympathize. I’ve owned rats and hamsters. I love both species so much. I had a hamster named Archbishop Coconut a few years ago. He was so peculiar. He had both long and short hair. He was super cuddly, he would wait at the edge of his cage when I came back from school, just so I could play with him. He would sit and watch when I played guitar. He had the cutest, most curious little face.

    During a heat wave two summers ago, his demeanour changed rapidly. Instead of curious and inquisitive, he was evasive, quiet and sluggish. He would barely drink water. His eyes were empty. One day, I saw him crawling slowly out of his nest. I knew it was the end. I stayed by the cage for hours, making sure he had fresh water close by, talking to him. He stopped breathing in the evening.

    Even now, two years later, I still get emotional when I think about it, about him and the way he was and the way he died. I never knew such a little critter could make a dent that large in my heart. I haven’t acquired another pet since then. I’m not ready. I do want the companionship, but I don’t want to have to say goodbye again.

    • busydarling

      September 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      Thank you for your wonderful response!!! It’s so sad when they die… and I understand when you say you’re not ready.
      And sorry you had to go through this too!

  2. Zest

    September 6, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    I’m sorry for your loss 😦 He sounds like a sweetie! Why does it have to be the end of your rat-owning era? Is that by choice? They are wonderful creatures and it’s lovely that you’ve enjoyed a lucky 13 of them already! 🙂

    • busydarling

      September 7, 2013 at 9:34 pm

      Well, at this moment the time just isn’t right, I think. I miss him.
      I have no cage left for ratties, the old cage broke in a move, a week after moving Lancerot was put to sleep. Taylor was more or less a free-range rat.

      I miss him!

      • Zest

        September 8, 2013 at 6:04 am

        Aww, I can understand that 😦

  3. Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC

    September 11, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    A former student & client (now friend) has also been “addicted” to what she calls “Rat Love.” With conversations with her as background, I offer my sincere condolences.

    Check out Jaak Panskepp – fascinating neuroscientist & long-time animal rights activist dubbed “the rat tickler” by the popular press. Rats DO laugh. (More in article in Activation Series on my blog entitled, Is Activation “Seeking System” Dependent?)

    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    • busydarling

      September 14, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      Thank you. I miss my furry friends!! And yes, rats are addictive!

  4. Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC

    September 12, 2014 at 1:17 am

    btw- I share your “not ready yet” response. Especially for a pet whose lifespan is so short.

    A ShihTzu Mom for almost 40 years now, due to allergies to almost everything else and they have a relatively long life expectancy. Several years ago I felt “forced” to put my last ShihTzu Tabitha “to sleep” (GOD how I hate that phrase, but I can’t use any other without tears) – at the ripe old age of 19.

    Since my first, that I had to put to sleep as a young puppy due to seizures from encephalitus — I swore I never wanted to go through the stillness of death in my home again. After that time I made sure I had 2 at once, and most recently I had 3.

    Tabi was like a puppy for the majority of her life. She went downhill rapidly once Bandit and Tuxedo died. I didn’t get her another companion because I felt she was too old to have to deal with “puppy energy” (my then fiance and I rescued a Shih-Tzu who seemed to be little more than a nuisance to her).

    As I watched Tabitha-Jane age (a nickname poking gentle fun at the Southern US double-names – both used most often when chastising), I swore to myself and to her that I would take care of her for as long as she wanted to be here – right up to the point where her quality of life balance tipped considerably.

    Blind, hard of hearing, and arthritic, she always seemed tail-waggedly eager to engage in any means left to her (like barking for me to come rescue her when she, literally, explored herself into a corner she couldn’t get out of).

    UNTIL the day I woke up and she seemed to have contracted a cold – runny nose and all. It darned near KILLED me to let her go, but I knew that pulling her through would be selfish. I’m only NOW considering getting another ShihTzu.

    I simply haven’t been ready to face that kind of loss again until now, when everything becomes more complex since I must get serious about planning for the care of what may become my last pet — planning for what happens if this pup outlives me.

    Truly – my heart goes out to you for pain so fresh. Mine still feels fresh to me.
    xx, mgh

    • busydarling

      September 14, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      So sorry for your loss too, and yes, it takes time!
      Didn’t know ShihTzu’s get that old! hugs.

      • Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC

        September 14, 2014 at 10:41 pm

        Thanks. ShihTzus don’t ALL live that long, but they are a long-lived species, given careful care and feeding (and a bit of luck!)

        Great Danes have an average life expectancy of half that, for example. The average for rats is two years – which breaks my heart too much to even THINK about one as a pet until I am much closer to the end of my own life expectancy.
        xx, mgh


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