Patrick was an odd-eyed hairless.
Patrick's story is quite tragic, and things could easily have ended very badly for him.
I recieved a call one morning from a lady whose friend had 'found' a rat the evening before. Her friend had seen a young lad walking along, carrying something covered with a towel, looking a bit uneasy. She'd watched him, and he had quickly dumped the object down on the path, and quickly walked off.
When she went to investigate, she'd found an absolutely filthy glass tank with a rat inside. There was no lid on the tank, just a towel covering it, and the smell was apparently atrocious, and Patrick was living in filth.
Knowing her friend had a couple of rats of her own, and lots of animals, she took the rat to her. Her friend then called me.
Originally, the lady who called me had toyed with keeping Patrick herself, but as she only had girl rats and didn't really want to start another group of boys, we decided he'd be better off here where he could have some company.
The thing about this that annoys me more than anything was that Patrick was dumped about 2 miles from my house. It would have taken one single call to me, and I would have picked him up and taken him in. My contact details are not hard to find, every vet or animal related service in the area has my number, and instructions to give it out for rat related calls. A 10 second search on Google would have brought up my details also. There was just no excuse at all to dump this boy.
Even if people do feel they have absolutely no option but to dump a rat, I never understand why they so often choose to dump them somewhere isolated, or where they are less likely to be found. At least if they dump them outside a vet or pet shop, someone will be sure to find them and they'll have a fighting chance of surviving. Where Patrick was dumped was a pretty quiet area, and it was just by luck that the lady happened to see him do it, and she happened to be an animal lover.
It is horrible to think what might have happened to this boy if she hadn't found him right away, or if someone less rat-friendly had discovered him. With him being hairless, too, he would have had much less protection against the elements, and appeared much stranger to anyone finding him. If people have not seen a hairless rat before, they sometimes don't even know what they are, or they think they have a skin disease. Patrick was unbelievably lucky to be found by someone who not only liked animals, but understood what he was!
The first thing Patrick did when he arrived here was cling onto my hand and go to sleep. He was so cuddly, and so clearly shell shocked by all he'd been through.
But that was another thing I just didn't understand about the whole situation: Patrick was a lovely rat.
While Im in no way excusing ever dumping an animal, you can almost see the reasoning in some people's heads if the animal were aggressive, or had a medical issue they didn't want to have to deal with. But Patrick couldn't have been a nicer rat! His temperament was wonderful, you couldn't have asked for much more in a pet. He also appeared to be in good condition, another puzzle. Usually, when someone has such little regard for their pet that they see it as ok to just dump it somewhere, they usually haven't taken the greatest care of it up to that point. After all, why feed, water and handle a rat to a decent level if you're then just going to ditch it? Patrick was not thin, he'd obviously been well fed, and he was extremely docile and seemed very used to being handled. It was all very strange that such a perfect rat could be so poorly treated.
The other thing about Patrick was that he wasn't a variety of rat you see every day. Not only was he hairless, which aren't super common, (more than they used to be, but still not a variety you see everyday) but he was an odd-eyed hairless.
And I've yet to see an odd-eye at all in all the years I've been rescuing. Sad as it is, people often seem to appreciate animals more when they think they have something rare or unique or special, but still this boy was thrown out like a piece of rubbish.
I do have a theory on how he came to be in such a situation, though, and it seems the most plausible one I've been able to come up with.
I suspect he was purchased as a child's pet. Children are often drawn in by unusual animals, and I can see a rat with Patrick's looks being quite appealing to a kid. It would also explain why he was pretty used to being handled, and pretty well fed: lots of children are happy to handle and feed their pets, they just don't want to do the 'hard work', like the cleaning out! Perhaps the parents got bored of the rat smell and decided to just get rid of him. He was found in a tank full of his own waste, so clearly hadn't been cleaned in a long time.
But he'd obviously been fed and handled (rats just aren't as chilled out as Patrick if they have not been handled lots).
The first thing I set about doing was getting Patrick a friend. I decided to go slow, trying him with a single rat, and a nice, mellow, friendly one at that, to see what his reaction would be.
It was rather the typical reaction I see from lone rats: he was uneasy, nervous, on edge, and didn't seem to know how to make friends.
Over time, however, he began to relax and investigate the other rat more, and he was soon much happier in ratty company.
At the time Patrick came in, I'd just taken in two other boys, and wanted to have Patrick live in with them. While intros went fine, and they lived happily in the same cage for a while, the other boys soon began to pick on Patrick.
Im very cautious of hairless rats in intros, as they are not generally as robust as furred rats, and injuries on them can be more serious. Patrick had gotten a nip on the muzzle, which was only minor, but he bled for a long time.
The wound took hours to clot properly, and I had to put flour on it to help it along. This was when I began to wonder if Patrick had a clotting disorder. This has been known in some lines of rat and still exists in some varieties. When he arrived, he had a small toe injury that he knocked one day and this, too, bled a lot and for a long time (toes always do bleed a lot, but this was unusual). As I did not know what variety Patrick would be if he had fur, and thusly couldn't rule out the possibility that he had a clotting issue, I didn't want to take chances with him being nipped again.
In the end, I made a decision on Patrick that I think he approved of! I decided to keep Patrick, and my 3 babies Crumb, Brioche and Crouton together as a group to live permanently in my bedroom.
I knew I wanted Crumb to be a bedroom rat, and I felt happier having Patrick indoors in a smaller group due to being unsure about whether he had a bleeding issue. I thought a quiet, peaceful small group indoors was better for Patrick as I don't think he was the kind of rat to adjust well to larger buck groups. He was very mellow, very gentle and I think a smaller group in the warmth of the house suited him better!
Patrick and his friends lived happily in my bedroom. Patrick loved his hammock, and would spend all day in there if allowed! I suspect he had very poor eye-sight, though I don't think he was completely blind. He remained a gentle, loving, licky rat for the whole of his life, and was a genuinely lovely boy. I have no idea why anyone would have wanted to dump him. But their loss was very much my gain; I couldn't have asked for a nicer rat.
One day later in the year, I noticed Patrick was dropping a little weight. It was nothing major, and with hairless you do tend to notice weight loss a little easier than with furred rats. But he was still eating normally and behaving normally, so I assumed it was either just old age (I had no way of knowing how old Patrick actually was, he could have been anything from a year to three years when he died!) or possibly even the beginnings of kidney failure. Kidney failure is common in any older male rats anyway, but some strains of hairless are apparently even more prone to it. I decided to just watch him and see how he did.
He continued to drop weight, but very slowly. And he was still eating just as well as he ever did. While he seemed to have slowed down a little in his behaviour and activity levels, he was still a happy, content rat so I saw no reason to suspect anything other than just age.
Patrick then began to show some issues with his co-ordination and mobility. Nothing dramatic, but little things you tend to notice when you know an animal that well. He seemed less keen on trotting about, and more keen on just laying down to sleep on free range. If he did try to walk, he would do so somewhat tentatively and seemed to slightly circle. But still, he didn't seem bothered by this, and I began to offer him some soft foods in case he was having any issues with hard food.
It soon became apparent to me that Patrick had more going on than just slowing down from old age. He either had a pituitary tumour, or he'd had a stroke. His symptoms didn't match a pituitary tumour that closely, and were not like the symptoms of a PT that I'd seen in past rats. If anything, it seemed the stroke option was more likely.
My experience with strokes in rats has shown me that, often, they will have a stroke then make a full recovery, regardless of whether they are treated or not. I've had several rats that have had strokes, even some I was convinced were close to death when they were found. But most of them have made recoveries within a day or two.
So I still held out hope that Patrick would perk up, and he would recover and go on to live a bit longer. I began to supplement his feed with regular syringe feeding to try and put some weight back on him. He took the syringed food happy and eagerly, as it was easier to get to grips with than the dry mix. For a few days, Patrick remained the same. He didn't improve, but he was not getting any worse either, and I remember thinking that if I could just make sure he kept some weight on, and that I kept him well provided with soft foods and easy water, he might still get better.
Sadly, he then declined fairly quickly. I was now syringe feeding him with soft meals and water because I had to to keep him alive; he was no longer able to reach his water bottle or compete for the dry mix.
While he actually seemed remarkably un-phased by it all, and eagerly wolfed down his syringed meals, I think I knew that he was probably not going to improve, and I knew what I was going to have to do.
I postponed having him put to sleep until the day when he was no longer interested in having his dinner. At that point, I knew it was time to say goodbye, and that if he were going to make any improvement, it would have happened by now. He was also continuing to lose weight, and couldn't wash himself properly. In the end, there was no doubt it was the right decision for him. I didn't want him to suffer, or to end up just lying there unable to eat or drink. So we had a last cuddle, her had a last tiny couple of licks of the syringe, and we headed to the vet to say goodbye.
Why Patrick? The name was for two reasons. Firstly, after Patrick Stewart (a past hairless of mine was called Picard, so it was a bit of a tribute to him). But also after the dim, pink starfish from Spongebob Squarepants!