September 2008 - February 2009

Our sweet rat, Twix, lounging in his hammock

A very special rat has joined the family

The RSPCA called us just over a week ago about a “problem rat” they had who needed an experienced owner – we had to go and meet him. We have adopted rats from them before and they explained they wanted some advice from an experienced rat owner.

Twix had been found abandoned, back in August, in a small hamster cage that hadn’t been cleaned out for a very long time. By the time the RSPCA called us Twix was looking a lot cleaner and happier, but he had bitten one of the RSPCA staff quite badly and they were concerned if he was suitable for rehoming.

Twix is a large agouti hooded male rat and he is absolutely gorgeous. At the time we weren’t sure what to do. Taking on any rat is a big responsibility, especially one with a history like Twix. It took one look at Twix and we were smitten, he looked so sad and lonely sitting in the corner of his cage, with his eyes half closed. There were a pair of what looked like heavy duty welding gloves beside his cage, which was a little unnerving, but there was something about Twix and so he joined our family.

Our new rat, Twix, leaning up on my leg

Twix is a very stressed and frightened rat and we are going to take things slowly with him. While he doesn’t like being handled, and he gets a bit tense if you try and touch him too much, he doesn’t mind being wrapped in a hand towel and picked up. This is very handy for getting him back in his cage. Hopefully given time and patience he will settle down and we’ll get to see Twix’s real personality.

Twix is a handful

We knew Twix was going to be a challenge when we took him on, and we are prepared to care for him for as long as he needs no matter what happens. Even so nothing could have prepared us for what a character he is.

Twix obviously had a difficult life before he joined us and, sadly, that shows in the way he acts. The most noticeable thing is his walk he hobbles like a little old rat. His back end appears very stiff when he walks and he can’t run very well. The condition of his fur has improved since we’ve had him, but he struggles to twist round to wash his sides, usually he rolls over when he tries to do this. We are keeping him in a low cage to stop him from trying to climb, when he does climb up the outside of his cage he struggles to get down and usually falls. So we feel a low cage will keep him safe.

Twix with his home and in his favourite place

Twix with his home and in his favourite place

He does enjoying coming out to play, even though he can be a bit of a naughty boy. He does not like hands and he will try and snap at them if you give him the opportunity, the same with ankles. Even so I’m not letting his bad habits stop him from enjoying out of the cage time. I usually sit on the stairs so he can’t get at my feet and I keep my hands away from him too.

Our rat, Twix, snuggled in a towel with just his head poking outI pick Twix up in an old towel, he gets quite grumpy at this, but he can’t get at me to bite and it is much friendlier than gloves. At the moment he tends to attack the towel as soon as he sees it. I think this is because he doesn’t like being touched – probably because he’s not used to it – and I use the towel to put him back in his cage. I’m hoping he will learn that coming out is something he will get to do everyday, so going in isn’t such a big deal. What makes it hard at the moment is Twix can only stay out for about 10 minutes at a time, any longer and he starts to get naughty. Once he has got over his anger at being put away he will have a large drink of water, which is probably the reason he starts to misbehave in the first place.

I want Twix to feel safe in his new home and hopefully he will learn to trust us or at least understand that we’re not going to hurt him or let him down.

Things are going really well

Cuddle time

Cuddle time

Twix is really starting to mellow and it’s great. He can stay out of his cage longer now, and will happily pop back in for a drink and something to eat before coming back out again. We leave him alone while he is out now, so he can wander around and do his own thing and generally enjoy his freedom. We do still go and see him. He likes chasing us around, especially up and down the stairs. His walk and flexibility has improved a lot he no longer hobbles around and he can run now too. He is pretty nifty at getting up and down the stairs as well. It is wonderful to see, he is like a new rat.

We have moved his cage into our dining room as well, so he gets to spend more time with us, and I think that has helped a lot. When we first go him he would get quite agitated if we hung around near his cage to long, so we kept him in a spare bedroom. We could go and say hello, but we could leave him alone when he started to get stressed.

Now he’s in the dining room we get to share our dinner with him which is great for him and us. It’s hard to believe we are now able to put our hands near him without worrying that he’s going to chomp our fingers, but he takes his food from us really gently. He is such a sweet guy.

The other great breakthrough we’ve had is being able to touch Twix, while holding him in the towel he lets me stroke him behind his ears. He still gets cross if I hold him too long, but the fact that I can touch him at all is enough for me.

Farewell to Twix

My sweet little Twix has passed away. He’d been poorly for about a week and had stopped eating and drinking. We were feeding him babyfood, which he seemed to enjoy, but he was very confused and wobbly. After talking to our vet we decided after everything Twix had been through it was best for us to say goodbye and let him be in peace.

The journey we have been on with Twix, from the large scary chap he was when he joined our family, to the cuddly frail guy he became has been incredible. And though we hope we never come across another rat who has been as badly treated as Twix was, we are glad for everyday we got to spend with him and for how much we came to love him.

Our beautiful rat Twix