Cane



Cane was an agouti self.

Cane arrived here with his two companions, Murdoc and Beau from another rescuer.
She had taken in these three boys, but found them very diffiult as they were seemingly petrified of people. This rescuer had, in turn, gotten them from yet another rescuer originally, and I don't really know where these three rats began their life, or what made them so fearful of people.

The lady who rescued these 3 was concerned that they would not find a home as they were so difficult. Its hard enough to find good homes for rats, let alone homes that are willing to take on rats with behavioural problems.
Fortunately, these are the kinds of rat I specialise in, and prefer to work with, so I offered these three a home.

There was a fair bit of travel involved in getting them here, but eventually, they arrived safe and sound. The rescuer had done some work on these boys while they were with her, and they'd improved somewhat, but they still needed some on-going work on trusting humans.
I was told Cane was the most difficult of the three, and that the other two had potential to become 'normal' rats with enough work.
But it was felt that Cane may never be a well adjusted rat, and even that he wasn't opposed to biting if pushed too far. He was just reported to be extremely scared of people, to the point he'd dash off and hide in an igloo if someone even walked in the room.

My first meet and greet with Cane, once he was home and settled, showed that he was indeed very nervous of people. The other two lads seemed that bit more comfortable; still nervous, but not terrified.
While Cane wasn't as bad as I was expecting, he was clearly in need of some trust building with humans.
Being picked up was the biggest thing for Cane, as even the sight of humans scared him, so being touched by one really made him unhappy.
However, with this kind of rat, often the best thing to do is to just bite the bullet and pick them up. Rats learn to overcome fear of handling more quickly if they are pushed into it, and shown clearly that there is nothing to worry about.
Unfortunately, the softly-softly approach of gradually coaxing them toward you with treats over a course of weeks/months often does no good with scared rats, since if they are allowed to continue being scared and avoiding people, they will.
They may eventually be brave enough to take a treat from you, but actually picking the rat up is something that has to just be done sooner or later, and, in my experience, a 'baptism of fire' approach works better for them.
It only takes a couple of sessions of gentle, calm, quiet handling by a person for a rat to learn that it presents no threat. They are intelligent animals, and they learn quickly, and the best way for them to learn is to actually experience what they're afraid of and realise it is nothing to worry about, otherwise they can tend to practise avoidance for the rest of their lives.

So I handled Cane as soon as he'd settled into his new cage and new home. I picked him up with a blanket to start with, more to protect my hands. Of course he struggled, squeaked, and didn't like it one bit.
But after 20 minutes of being on my lap, being stroked, and being offered treats, he calmed down. He even took a treat from me on his first handling sessions, albeit tentatively.
I repeated these 20 minute sessions daily, and it didn't take him long to learn that nothing bad happened when he was picked up. The more you handle a rat like this, the quicker it learns that handling is ok, and not something to be scared of.

Within a week, Cane was able to be picked up without much protest, and was clearly more comfortable in human company.

He never became a 'bomb-proof' rat, was still warey of people, particularly people that weren't me! But I never expected, nor wanted, him to be an 'in your face' kind of rat. I just wanted him to be more settled and comfortable around people.
And he eventually was.
Sometimes, even rats raised perfectly from day one do not become 'cuddly' or 'outgoing', this is just down to individual personalities, just like with people.
I do not have 'expectations' of my rats, or demand that they be a certain way. They are rescues, and have usually had hard enough lives as it is. I am simply happy if the rat is happy, and the rat can be handled when necessary without stressing it out too much.

If one were taking on a well bred rat as a pet only, one would perhaps not be unreasonable to expect a certain level of confidence and friendliness from that rat.
But most of my rats were not taken on because I wanted a nice new pet; they were taken on because they needed a home and their lives were in danger. As such, they do not have to adore me or bend to my every whim, or match the criteria for 'amazing pet'. They just have to be happy in themselves, and live out life the way they want to. I do not rescue for me, I rescue for them.
And as long as they are happy, they can be whatever they want to be, whether thats a rat that isn't keen on being handled and just prefers to be with other rats, or a rat that adores me and clings to me like superglue all day. All are loved and welcome here.

As he aged, Cane began to show signs of testicular cancer. This was my first experience of this issue. I was then facing the decision about whether to castrate him, or have him put to sleep. He had never had great lungs, and was crackly off and on. He was also looking quite old by the time this problem appeared.
After some thought, I opted to go ahead with a surgery for him. He had his op (and apparently bit the vet!) but his recovery was fairly slow compared to other rats I've had castrated. I did, at one point, wonder if I'd done the right thing as he really did look dreadful following his op. His respiratory crackles were in full force, and he was quite lethargic.
Fortunately, he did make a good recovery, and went on to live many more healthy months afterwards.

Cane died of what I usually just term 'old age' in a rat. In reality, there is no such thing as a death from just 'old age'; there is always something that fails with the body. But I use the term to describe rats who are simply old, begin to wind down yet show no specific signs of illness, and eventually pass peacefully.
Cane lost the usage of his hind legs a few weeks before he died, but managed to get about well, as most rats with this problem do.
He was found dead in his igloo one morning.


Why Cane? Cane was named after the Neil Young song 'Like a hurricane', as he was somewhat when he first arrived!

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