Dara was a siamese hooded
Dara came to me via another work colleague who had a friend with an unwanted rat.
She had previously owned more than one, but the others had died and she was not in a position to get any more. So, not wanting Dara to have to be alone for the rest of his life, she rehomed him to me.
Unusually for one of my rescues, Dara had a pretty good life. He had a wonderful cage, was kept on the proper litter, had toys, and, until recently, had companionship. The only thing lacking was his handling. He remained a very nervous rat, and was quite distrusting of humans for his whole life. He never enjoyed being handled, merely tolerated it. He was also quite a submissive boy with other rats.
It was hard to get inside his head and find out what he was all about, as he was fearful in lots of situations. He did sleep with the other rats all the time, but he was never seen grooming them or playing. He was never aggressive in any way, just seemingly very uncomfortable being handled, and very fearful. He would come to the bars to greet people, so was not scared of humans as such, just of being touched by them. If I got him out and tried to spend one on one quality time with him, he'd bury his head in the nearest dark place and freeze up there for the duration. I accepted that he was simply not a cuddly rat. However, he was otherwise a happy boy; just more of a rat's rat than a people's rat.
According to his past owner, he had been this way since the day she got him.
Dara's death was one of those times when a rat dies without showing any former health problems, and leaves no clue as to how it happened. I simply found him dead in his cage one night. He'd not been at all ill, and he was laying comfortably as if he'd died in his sleep. He was not a young rat when he passed, so it wasn't a huge surprise, but he'd been so healthy his whole life and I can't imagine what caused his death. He was always overweight so I suppose he could have just had a heart attack in his sleep. Whatever happened, he died peacefully.
However, Dara's death allowed me to witness first hand a piece of rat behaviour that I'd previously only heard about.
When I found Dara's body, the other rats had partially eaten him.
I've always known rats can do this, but had never witnessed it in any of mine. Horrible as it may seem to us, it is actually a pretty good survival strategy.
In the wild, a dead body laying around the rat's home would attract predators. It would also potentially be a health risk when it began to decay. Rats have no other way of disposing of a body, so they eat it.
Vile as we may find it, it is an instinct our pet rats retain, and makes perfect sense from the point of view of a wild animal.
Why Dara? After comedian Dara O' Briain.