Javert was a black hoodie dumbo.
Javert came to me after someone contacted me to say her other rats were bullying him. She didn't have the space for two seperate cages, so opted to rehome Javert.
When I went to collect him, the first thing I noticed was how old he was. The owner hadn't been able to give me an age when she first contacted me, as she had gotten the rat as a rescue to start with, so had no idea of how old he might be. I was not expecting a rat of his advanced age! He was patchy, and his hind legs had given out (common in older rats). The owner had thought his back legs had simply become weak because he was fat, and was surprised when I told her he was likely to be very old. He had been alone for several months at that point.
However, the first thing he did was to cover me in licks, and it became apparent very quickly that he was exceptionally friendly. He was, to date, one of the most loving rats I have owned. He would give kisses to anyone, any time, without any persuasion!
As well as his back legs, which did not work, Javert also had bald patches on his belly, and a strange bald growth on his front leg. I supected the bald patches were from where he had been barbering himself. Barbering is a term for when rats pull or bite off their own fur, and is linked to stress sometimes.
When Javert had settled a little, I decided to try him with another rat. The owner had attempted intros with him and her younger boys, but said they never worked out, as the younger rats would bully Javert, or Javert would react defensively and attack them.
Its rare for a rat of his age, and in his physical condition, to be bothered with hormonal posturing, so I assumed Javert's problem was simply being introduced to the wrong rats.
I decided to try him with George, as George was a very mellow, quiet, friendly rat who had some neurological issues. In short, he was one of the least threatening boys I had!
Javert's demeanour changed as soon as he saw George. He went from happy and relaxed, to nervous and on edge. It was only a matter of minutes before he tried to attack George. It was not a serious attack, there was virtually no wound, and Javert really was too frail and immobile to do anyone much harm.
But I didn't want him to become too stressed at his age, so removed George. I began to wonder if Javert would ever be able to live with others, and that perhaps he would need to be a lone rat for the remainder of his days, which upset me as I hate to see rats living alone.
I tried a couple of other intros with selected other docile and non-threatening rats I had, and they always ended the same way. Javert was simply very defensive. It wasn't that he had any kind of malice toward other rats, he just found them very scary, which made him behave defensively, ie, I'll get them before they can get me.
It was likely that he had experienced some kind of trauma in a previous intro, and had simply learned that other rats were bad news. He also perhaps felt a little vulnerable as he knew he lacked the mobility to escape if he was attacked.
I had all but given up with trying him with others at this point. Had he been a younger rat, it might have been different as we would have had the option of neutering, and he would have been more able to stand up to the stress of intros. But I couldn't ignore his advanced age and fragility; having had an elderly rat die through the stress of an intro in the past, I am always very careful when it comes to senior rats.
Then we got Valjean.
Valjean was a 'I really shouldn't, but I am going to anyway' adoption from the Pets At Home adoption centre. He was in there alone, and was only a baby, and I can't stand to see baby rats on their own. So I adopted him, not really thinking about Javert at this point.
But something struck me one day and I decided to see how Javert would take to Valjean. Valjean had an odd temperament. It was rather a 'leave me alone, I wanna do my own thing' surly glare in my direction. He was very quiet, very serious, and clearly somewhat affected by being housed alone, as he had the timid, flighty nature I often see in baby rats that live solitary lives.
Javert and Valjean met, and this was the first time I saw Javert ever interact with another rat positively. At first, he reacted much the same to Valjean as he had to every other rat: stiff, nervous, ready to lunge if need be.
But the more it became apparent that Valjean had no interest in him, the more he relaxed. It took about 45 minutes, and there were a few little cross words (all from Javert) but when I saw Javert shuffle up and lick Valjean, then begin grooming him with real excitement, I knew I'd cracked it.
Javert and Valjean went on to become best friends. Later on, I added another two youngsters, Russell and Dali. Javert accepted them with open arms, too.
His fur mostly grew back in the months he was here, and he did not appear to barber himself any more. Javert was a genuinely lovely rat, and everyone who met him was smitten with him. I have never met a rat so affectonate toward people.
He had a good retirement here with friends and as much lovely food as he could eat.
I had Javert put to sleep as he began to become very weak, and one day was no longer interested in food or interactions. His stomach also swelled somewhat, but neither me or the vet knew the exact cause of his illness, we just knew it was his time. It was possible he had an issue with his bladder, which I have seen before in rats with advanced hind leg degeneration.
Why Javert? Big Les Mis fan, particularly Javert.