Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Terrified Rat and Critter Camp

So, to not rehash the whole story of terrified rat, let me just make this really simple by copying and pasting (and annotating, in italics) what I sent to Beth at Critter Camp (a sanctuary for unadoptable animals) today. 

Here goes:

Hi Beth,

I have been talking with T (T, as we and everyone else knows her, is my rat guru, a rat rescuer in the Chicagoland area) about a rat that we have here at the rescue -- she believe it has come down to the point where this rat would benefit more from a sanctuary than from being here. Let me tell you about him.

First, I do think it is a him, but in all honesty I cannot get the thing to sit still long enough for me to get a good look.

Little background -- I run a chinchilla & small animal rescue, and one of the "other" animals that I take in are rats. I had someone bring in a litter of babies at 5 weeks old - this was, about 3 months ago. For the first few days I had them all in a 20g tank, with the intent to separate when I got a chance. Before that time came, I opened the lid to refill food and water, and one of the rats hopped out, onto the table, and by the time I could back up enough to see the floor... the rat was gone.

I had traps set out for the first maybe 2 weeks, in addition to calling together volunteers and having everyone come and scour the rescue for any signs of this rat. We did not find any, and though I put out food and water, it was not touched. I assumed the rat had died.  (We've only had one other animal ever get loose and vanish -- a baby gerbil -- which was, sadly, never found.)

Wrongly, of course. At about week 7 after the rat got loose, I was deep cleaning the rescue for a girl scouts meeting, and upon moving some items that are rarely touched, I found a clear rat's nest. What gave it away that this was a recent occurrence was the fact that I had just set down a bag of lab blocks that someone donated a few days before, and this bag had been chewed through, with the lab blocks littering the nest.

So, then I knew the rat was still alive, and we set out to catch it again. Brought in all the volunteers, we never saw the rat. Set the traps again. We finally would start hearing the rat move around, and finally did see it, about a day or two before I finally caught it. Sunflower seeds and peanut butter did the trick, and I found a very unhappy rat in my trap.

I made the mistake of reaching for the rat with a bare hand and got chowed. I got the rat into one of our cages and have tried to give it time to re-learn its manners. Unfortunately, time has not improved the situation. This rat currently sits in one of the two back corners of its cage, not wanting to move. It does eat, and does drink water, but it pretty much does not leave the corners for anything else. I have tried treats, I have tried taking it out for 20 minutes for the fear response to pass, but in trying that, well, we almost put ourselves back to square one as the rat got away from us twice within the first 5 minutes, and we're lucky we caught it before having to set out the traps again.

This rat is just bug-eyed-terrified. When I was holding it (with gloves, because it will attack bare hands, unprovoked), every little sound practically made it jump out of it's skin. You'd never think this rat had been around people at all. It is very nervous and it squeals to high heaven when it gets picked up.

I have tried everything that has been suggested to help this rat come around. As I understand it, most rats in a situation like this do come around... but this one seems to be the exception. Maybe because it had not been handled much prior to being brought to the rescue, so it does not have "good manners" to remember. I'm not sure. I just know that this rat is clearly terrified of humans.

From a rescue perspective, it's definitely not adoptable. In terms of rats, I only have three rat cages that I use to take in rescue rats, and this rat is currently in one of them. If I need to keep it, I will, but that means my rescue would be able to help less rats for the next three years, as one of our cages would be out of commission until this rat was to pass. If there is a way you would be able to take this boy in at Critter Camp, that would be ideal. If you could message me back about this, that would be great. Thank you.

-Ashley Gajda
NWI Chinchilla Rescue


Happily, Beth said that they can take our boy in.   Now, just the task of getting him there.


On an unrelated note, I forgot to put this in the previous blog post, but our abscessed rat is currently abscess free!!  If he can manage to stay that way for a week or two, he may be able to go back up for adoption! 

...and that finally ends all the news for today.

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