Chino was a siamese.
Chino was one of several animals I took from a girl who lived near me. I also took Leila along with Chino, see her page for their story.
When Chino arrived, he was quite urine stained, which isn't uncommon in rats kept in not so clean conditions. The pic above was taken the day he arrived, and you can clearly see the yellowing on his side. It can be hard to shift once its there, so despite many baths, the staining remained for many weeks.
Chinos previous owner claimed he was 2 years old when I picked him up, but that would have made him almost 3 and a half when he passed, which he certainly wasn't, so I suspect he was closer to 1 when he arrived here, which would have made him 2 and a half when he passed away, conservative estimate, which is really a good long life for a rat.
As Chino had always lived alone in a tiny barren cage, I wasn't sure how well he would adapt to living with other rats, but he slotted in wonderfully......intially. Chino lived happily in a group for about a year, when something strange happened.
Out of the blue, he began to pick fights with rats he'd known for ages. They started small; little nips here and there and little scuffles, but soon became more serious. On a couple of occasions, he attempted to nip me also. This was very out of character for Chino, as he'd always been the peacemaker of the group, and one of the most chilled out boys I had; he was the last rat anyone would expect to become nasty.
It got to the point where he could no longer be housed with other rats, because his nips and scuffles quickly turned into full on bites and real aggression. He would even attack rats who were minding their own business, including older, weaker boys, and was a disaster waiting to happen.
He was around 2 when this behaviour emerged, which is much older than you would expect to see hormonal aggression. Normally, you would expect to see this in a rat of about 7 or 8 months. At 2, rats dont tend to suddenly turn on their cage mates like that.
But something had obviously gone wrong, as Chino had turned from a docile, relaxed, soppy rat into a boy who went nuts at the mere smell of another buck. In fact, his name in his previous home had been 'dozy' because he was so gentle and relaxed. It was upsetting to see him so obviously upset by life all of a sudden.
I had no option but to keep him alone while I tried to work out what was bothering him.
In a younger rat displaying this behaviour, you would assume it was teenage hormones and probably opt for castration.
But Chino was an old boy by this time, and not only did I fear he wouldn't do well with surgery at this age, I felt in my heart that it may not actually solve anything.
On talking to other rat owners, ideas were tossed about including the possibility of a medical issue like a brain tumour, which can cause sudden aggression of this nature.
I was very worried for a while about what I was going to do with him. I hate to see any rat living alone, but particularly when he had lived so peacefully with other rats for over a year beforehand. It just didn't seem fair to have him living in solitary confinement after having had such a nice life with others. But I also couldn't risk my other rats being injured and I just didn't trust Chino any more.
Then Jon adopted 3 young boys from the Pets At Home adoption centre, and I wondered if Chino would react to them the same way he did to adult rats. Babies are sometimes more readily accepted by adult rats because they do not pose a threat.
But at the same time, my experience told me that adult rats that were as aggressive as Chino often didn't accept babies either. And if it were something medical, like a brain tumour, there would be no rules and his behaviour could be very unpredictable.
But we decided to try, making sure the intro was very controlled and careful so I could leap in at the first sign of any aggression from Chino.
As it was, Chino took to the babies amazingly well. I have to admit, I was not expecting it to work, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that he not only didn't act aggressively, but he allowed the babies to climb all over him, pester him, and try to wrestle with him, and took it all with good humour.
Soon, Chino was living with these three babies just as he always had with his old group.
Feeling cocky, I then attempted to intro an adult rat to the group, fully expecting that Chino would return to his old ways when faced with an older buck. To everyone's surprise, however, he accepted this boy happily too.
Long story short is that in the end, I could house Chino with any rat, young or old, and he was not at all bothered. He ended his days living happily with 7 other rats.
It is hard to say what happened with Chino, but clearly it was not a medical issue but a behavioural one. But it is still unusual for an old boy like him to suddenly become hostile to other rats after so long of living peacefully with them. And even stranger that the behaviour would disappear almost as suddenly as it came on.
It was almost as if the trio of babies taught Chino to accept other rats again. Who knows what went on in his head, but perhaps he was hurt or scared by another rat in his old group without my knowing, and it changed his view on other rats and made him defensively aggressive? Perhaps having some babies around re-taught him that there was nothing to be concerned about, and allowed him to once more accept adult rats.
I will never know, but it was very much a learning experience for me, and was something I'd not dealt with before.
I've had very nasty, aggressive rats that hated other rats, but almost always these were younger rats with hormonal surges who returned to normal after castration, or rats that had always lived alone and didn't know how to interact properly. Chino was the first that was not only past the age where you'd expect aggression, but had happily lived with other rats before! And he was also the first rat I've ever had where this type of aggression sorted itself out without needing castration.
It is also possible that his early life affected him more than we think. He spent at least his first year alone in a hamster cage that was only twice his body length, with absolutely nothing but a layer of wood shavings. If you kept a human child in a tiny room with no company or stimulation, chances are they would grow up to find it hard to form normal relationships with others.
I really like to look at Chino as being one of the reminders of why I do this: he went from living in a tiny, barren hamster cage with literally nothing but woodshavings, and barely room to move, to living in an explorer cage with loads of friends, toys, igloos and great food. It took time, and we hit obvious bumps on the way, but he finally settled and was happy.
Many people perhaps don't get the feelings of complete sadness I do when I see a lone rat kept in a tiny cage with no toys or anything to do. Its just tragic. It just makes me think of a person being locked in a barren room the size of a public toilet for life, with nothing at all to do and no contact with their own kind. Its a wonder some of these rats end up as well adjusted as they do.
Chino passed away quietly at home, with no specific signs of illness, so I just call it 'old age'. And he was certainly an old boy. He did suffer a small facial abscess before he passed, but it was almost completely healed at the time of his death, so probably unrelated.
Why Chino? After Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno.