Jigsaw's true variety was never definitively identified. He was a dumbo, and most likely a buff or diluted buff.
Jigsaw, living up to his name, caused me a great deal of mental anguish and presented me with a very difficult decision to have to make.
Jigsaw came from a pet shop, the same branch of 'pets at home' as Ghengis. I have a strong moral opposition to buying rats from pet shops. The animals are usually sourced from rodent mills (The rat equivalent of a puppy farm) and are kept in poor conditions, both with the 'breeder' and once at the shop. They are treated merely as 'stock' to make money off. If it were up to me, pet shops would not be allowed to sell animals at all.
But I did not walk into the shop with the intention of buying a rat.
I first noticed Jigsaw in 'pets at home' in september when my college class went to the shop for a field trip. I noticed him because his ears were ragged and covered in blood. I alerted staff to this, telling them he most likely had mites, and they said they would treat him.
As a result, I would pop back to the shop at least once a week to check the staff were treating him. His ears did seem to improve, but they were always red and thickened. It then became a routine to go into the shop and see him, because I began to become aware of how long he'd been there. His cage mates had been and gone, but all the time he remained, growing bigger and seeming more and more depressed each time I visited.
He lived in a cage with a metal grid floor, and no bedding. He was forced to sleep on the wire, and the shop had placed a strip light above the cage so he was constantly subjected to glaring lights which, as a red eyed rat, is eqivalent to putting an albino person in a cage in the sun. He had no toys, and nothing to do but sleep all day. This was a completely unsuitable environment for a young buck to have to live in long term.
Eventually, I began to wonder if he would ever actually sell, and decided to offer my services to the shop. I told them that if they could not sell him and needed a home for him to go to, I'd happily take him on. They filed my name and address away, probably never to see the light of day again.
But the rat kept playing on my mind. By now it was mid november, and I had begun calling him 'Jigsaw', probably a fatal mistake; never name something you're trying not to get attached to. I told my mum that if he was still in the shop on christmas eve, I would buy him.
One week, I decided to try another tactic. Since my previous dealings had only been with the cashiers, I decided to go straight to the manager about the rat. I wrote her a letter stating that the rat was too old to be in that environment any longer, that he was under-stimulated and depressed and that it was quickly becoming an animal cruelty issue as rats of his age should be getting at least an hour of free ranging time each night, and should have toys/hammocks and human contact.
I also mentioned that the rat was known to suffer from mites, which can be an on-going medical issue and he needed an experienced owner. I said I'd be happy to take him, free of charge of course, and give him the home he deserved. After all, if animal welfare was their top priority, as they claimed, they would have no reason not to take me up on this. I waited for a response, but never received one.
A few days later I went back into the shop and asked to hold Jigsaw. I thought that if I could actually show the staff his medical problems, they might listen to me more than just passing letters back and forth. By this time, Jiggy also had a strange growth on his nose which the staff told me was 'a bite from another rat'. While the staff member held him, I told her that he obviously still had mites. She agreed with me, and said he'd been off sale a few weeks back because of it. I once again told them it was an on-going medical issue, and one that needed specialist care from someone who would recognise the signs of a flare up. I asked her if she would, therefore, work with me and let me take him for free, or for a reduced price. She was very firm in her reply; a curt 'no'. I then asked what if I bought him, took him to my regular vet and got him to state, in writing, that he was unwell and needed vet treatment, would they pay my vet bills? Again, a curt no. I was told the only thing they would do would be to refund my money, take the rat back into their care and treat it themselves. Bear in mind they'd been 'treating' the rat themselves for the past 3 months, and he still had mites......
I mentioned that I'd written to the manager about this rat, and the staff member implied she knew this already, and the manager had told them there was no way I could have the rat unless I bought him. Obviously the manager had found the time to speak to staff, but not to me.
At this point, I was completely torn. There he was, climbing all over the shop worker, and I had to make a choice about whether to stick to my morals and walk out of there without him, or follow my heart and take him home, knowing full well the moral issue about buying pet shop rats.
When I asked what would become of him if he did not sell soon, she told me 'he will. Especially coming up to christmas'.
That was the last straw. I bought him, and have promised myself to never ever buy anything from that shop again. They will not get a penny more of my money.
Upon getting Jigsaw home, I realised the 'bite' on his nose was not a bite at all, but a sign of sarcoptic mange mites, as were his ragged ears. Sarcoptic mites are the rarer of the two mites rats can get, and the growths on the nose are even rarer, usually only occurring if the condition has not been treated. I got him vet treatment the next day, totalling £40. On the advice of friends, I wrote to the pets at home head office, telling them exactly what had happened, how cold the staff had been, and how poorly the rats were looked after. I told them how the staff had knowingly sold me a sick rat, and had refused to allow me to get it proper vet treatment unless I was prepared to hand over £10 for it.
I promptly received a reply telling me that the manager of the store would like to meet with me to discuss the issue, and hopefully make changes to the way they keep the rats.
See here for the outcome of the meeting.
As for Jigsaw, he was truely one of the happiest, loveliest and most out going rats I've ever owned, which is amazing considering how he lived before coming to me. I was expecting a shy, poorly socialised rat who didn't like human contact, but he was the exact opposite. Jigsaw truely didn't have a mean bone in his body, and he loved people and other rats. He was always first up at the bars to see me, and he accepted any and all other rats without question. He was very licky, and would often just run up to other rats, lick them, then run off again! He adored baby rats and acted like a nanny to them all. He was also very caring, and if one rat, even a rat who wasn't from his group, was unwell or upset, he would sit with them and comfort them. He really was a pleasure to have.
Unfortunately, like a great deal of rats from pets@home, Jigsaw ended up with cancer.
He developed a tumour on his neck, and was euthanised once it became too big for him to live normally. The cage is a slightly darker place without Jigsaw in it. He was a peace-maker, and he diffused all scuffles and arguments. He looked after everyone and was always so appreciative of everything and everyone around him.
Why Jigsaw? Im a huge fan of the SAW movies, and Jigsaw in particular.