Worf was an agouti.
Worf was, according to his former owner, half wild. She originally got him as a rescue herself, but was finding his aggression toward other rats a bit difficult, and didn't have the right rats to house him with. And he wasn't all that friendly with people either. As I specialise in rats with behavioural problems, he was exactly my cup of tea!
When Worf arrived, it did become apparent that he was going to be a challenge. While he was handleable with enough patience and quick reflexes, he clearly didn't enjoy it, and I never trusted him not to take a chunk out of me. He never did, but his body language at all times suggested he was about to do so.
His behaviour was markedly different to any domestic rat I've owned. Like a wild rat, he was very neophobic, as in, he didn't like change. He didn't like me to clean his cage, or even change his hammock for a different one. He was suspicious of new foods, again, something seen more obviously in wild rats. On his first free range here, he leapt off the bed and had to be re-captured twice before I gave up on the idea; he was clearly very nervous and went into a blind panic.
I wanted to get him in with a companion as soon as possible as, in my experience, nervous rats who don't like to be handled improve when housed with more confident rats who do.
But I knew it wasn't going to be easy to get him in with others. His previous owner told of how he had mauled his own brother, and when dealing with a rat like this, you have to be careful not to put any other rats at risk.
I decided that other males might be too much for him to meet at first, and he'd demonstrated in his old home that he had a problem with them, so I decided to let him meet Delta. Delta was, for wont of a better term, a hermaphrodite, meaning she did not have normal girly parts and, while she was behaviourally and for all intents and purposes female, she was unable to get pregnant. This always made her an ideal rat for introducing to awkward bucks, as they would often accept her readily because she was female, yet without the issue of anyone getting pregnant!
Indeed at first, Worf seemed more interested in her than aggressive. He would follow her around, with her ignoring him, and I think for a while I thought I'd cracked it and found him a rat friend without having to put him through the ordeal of castration. The two seemed to be ok with one another for about 20 minutes of free range.
However, it was not to be as his curious behaviour then turned into aggression, and he began fluffing and sidling at her. When he flew at her and nipped her, I knew it was not going to work. She was too old to put up with that, and it wasn't fair to expect her to.
So my plan B was to resort to trying him with bucks after all. It is often easier to put bucks like Worf with girls, because of the fact that bucks won't usually see does as as much of a threat as other bucks, and tend to fit in with them more easily. But sometimes, you get bucks who simply see does as easier to bully, and they will use the opportunity to be downright nasty, because no-one will tell them off for it.
In this case, they sometimes actually do better in with quite dominant bucks, as they then know they are not the strongest and most powerful, and they'll often 'fall into line' when faced with a stronger or more dominant buck.
This is the reasoning I tried with Worf, and I let him run with some of my more dominant bucks. While his behaviour was not the same as with Delta, it was still undesireable. Instead of launching into the attack this time, he became ultra defensive, would scream whenever any other rat approached, and would bite out of sheer fear of them. He was not happy, the other rats didn't like him because of his unsociable behaviour, and I still didn't trust what he might do if he felt trapped or threatened.
With a couple more attempts with various rats of varying temperaments, I decided Worf was going to have to be castrated in order to ever have any hope of getting friends. I think I knew in the back of my head that this would likely be the outcome, but I always like to at least try alternatives first before resorting to surgery.
Worf was castrated, and came through his op fine. He was housed alone for a good few weeks following his op. Male rats should be kept away from females for 2 weeks following a castrate, as it is still possible for them to impregnate girls, even after the op, for this time period. But it can take many, many weeks for their hormones to settle down enough to see a change in their temperament.
Worf may have no longer been able to make babies, but his attitude was still bad for a long time after the op. For a good while, it didn't seem to have made any difference. He was perhaps a little less reactive to me holding him, but I was still worried he would have issues with other rats for life, despite the operation. It took Worf an incredibly long time to even begin to settle down after the castrate, longer than any rat I've had done to date.
When the time came for me to begin trying gentle intros with other rats, I decided to once more try him with girls. I was hoping he had mellowed enough by now to be more gentle around them.
I was wrong.
At first, nothing but sniffing, exploring, interest. Then a little fur fluffing, but he was able to sniff at and ignore the girls without kicking off, so I continued to watch him. He was, from what I could see, a little uncomfortable, but not launching instantly into any aggression, which was hopeful.
But sadly, he then lunged at my tiny hairless girl, Godiva, completely unprovoked, and bit her in several places. The speed of his attack and the damage he managed to do in such a short time was shocking. It seemed the whole thing was over in less than 2 seconds, but in that time, he had managed to bite Godiva deep in her neck, hind leg, front leg and foot.
He was instantly removed and put back in his cage, and my attention was completely focused on Godiva. She was bleeding a lot from her neck, and the blood was very dark, and I was certain she was going to die, that perhaps Worf had bitten her on a main vein or artery. I pressed tissue paper hard to her neck to stop the bleeding, and she collapsed in my hand. I thought she was actually dying, as she lay there limp, eyes closed, non-responsive, hardly breathing.
However, a minute later she began to wobble back to life in my arms. I fed her honey water from a syringe, and she drank a great deal. I managed to get her cleaned up and while she did have a puncture wound to her throat, it had stopped bleeding and wasn't as dire as I had first thought. I believe she simply went into shock when she collapsed. I put her in a hospital cage for a few hours in the warm, and she was well enough to go back in with the other girls that night.
But it still left me in a fix about what to do with Worf. I couldn't risk him doing this to any more of my rats; the next one might not be so lucky. On talking to his previous owner, she said his attack on his brother had been the same: very quick, unprovoked, and a lot of damage done in a very short time.
I decided I'd have to give Worf a good few more weeks before I tried any kind of interactions with other rats again. This was heartbreaking, as I hate to see a rat living alone, but there really was no alternative. I did feel desperately sorry for him, having to come into the shed every day and see him at the bars, clearly bored, but no amount of my attention would fill the void of a rat companion. So after a few more weeks, I decided I would try him with bucks again, as I just didn't trust him with the girls. At least the bucks could defend themselves if he attacked, a lot of my girls were tiny and would stand no chance.
So I picked my group of boys with the most headstrong, dominant rats in it, the same group of lads he'd intially run with before his castrate. The 'bad boys' group I called it, as it contained a lot of rats who didn't seem to fit in anywhere else. After a couple of meetings with this group, and Worf showing behaviour that, while a tad defensive, was certainly not aggressive, I bit the bullet and put him in the cage.
He remained in this group for the rest of his life, and caused absolutely no trouble. He became a middle to low ranking buck in that group, and he seemed to be happy with that rank. Its really quite surprising that he took so well to the group and was never involved in so much as a scuffle ever again. If there was any bickering, Worf would always the one retreating from the scene, not wanting to be involved!
He was one of my more challenging rats. But as he aged, he became a very lovely, cuddly, docile boy; you would not have believed he was the same rat who, on day one, would leap madly into the air if you so much as tried to pick him up. He ended up being a rat you could do anything with, and he'd flop there and let you. Far from being a mean rat, he became one of my most trustworthy boys.
Worf lived to a good age, and passed away from respiratory problems in later life.
Why Worf? Continuing my Star Trek TNG theme.