Do not assume that all body parts are permanently attached.
Now I know this isn't directly a story about rats, but this and "Do not assume gerbils are defenseless animals." had to be included because these incidents are more than impressive.
Human-Nat wanted gerbils. Human-Andy decided that if Nat was getting gerbils, he was going to get rats. Andy got Pitter and Patter and Nat got Bad, Skunk, and Horny. Bad was the trouble-maker, Skunk looked like a skunk, and Horny was the only boy of the three (but fret not: Horny didn't live with the ladies!) Pitter and Patter were two young female rats.
Nat and Andy took their little friends home. Nat spent close to $100 on a cage and accessories for the gerbils. Andy spent $10 on an aquarium and lid for the rats. We set up our new rodent homes. It took Andy less than 5 minutes to do this; it took Nat more than 10 minutes. After these were set up, it was playtime! Gerbils were flying all over the place. Pitter and Patter had passed out on Andy's shoulders. Nat spent more time fetching escapee gerbils. Andy got whizzed on and licked. Nat attempted to trade 3 gerbils for 2 rats. Andy laughed at Nat.
Anyway, back to the story. After a bit, we decided that it would be swell to have these 5 creatures get along. They were all pretty small and the rats were still very young, as we presumed the gerbils to be, so we figured "Why not?"
On top of the lid of the rat's cage we put Bad, Skunk, Horny, Pitter, and Patter. Bad and Skunk took off. Horny looked like he was having a crisis. Nat decided that maybe it wasn't such a good idea and picked either Pitter or Patter up (they were both albino and we had no idea who was who at that time). Andy said "Don't be silly, they just need to smell each other." and put the other member of the Pitter-Patter combo closer to Horny. Horny took off. Unfortunately, the tip of Horny's tail got caught in one of the cracks in the lid and as we were trying to remove his tail from that crack, he just took off, leaving 3/4ths of his tail behind. By this time it was around 4:00 a.m. so we knew that we would have to wait until morning to get Horny the medical attention he needed.
We put Bad and Skunk in their gerbil mansion, Pitter and Patter in their aquarium, put Horny in his gerbil condo, and put Horny's tail in the freezer, just in case. We then scurried around the house in search of gauze and tape. Once the goods were acquired, we fetched Horny from his home, and wrapped up his tail until the bandaged tail was bigger than his body (whoops!). Being big and annoying, Horny kept chewing the bandage off and his tail kept bleeding more and more. We re-wrapped the tail, using less gauze. It looked like he was now chewing on the tail itself. At around 9:00 am when we finally gave up on wrapping his tail in gauze and simply swapped paper towels in and out, we headed toward the vet's.
After waiting a bit for the "Small animal doctor" we were finally admitted into one of the scariest animal dungeons (with the exception of the pound) that we have ever laid our eyes on. What's worse is, it really smelled. Anyway, we handed poor Horny to the vet and offered the vet his tail as well. The vet chuckled, asked if we'd care to see the surgery, we said "Sure" and it was done and over with. The vet pushed Horny's tail skin toward his body and snipped the tail off with scissors. He then pulled the skin back over the remainder of the tail and glued it up. We thanked the doctor profusely for the miracle surgery, paid our $27 and we were on our way. Horny spent the next two weeks focusing his attention on his newly-modified tail.
Just in case you were wondering, this can happen to rats too though I've found they're a bit more intelligent about it. Namely, if a bigger, angrier rat is trying to take out a chunk of their throat, they will take off with or without their tail. Of course they only seem to lose about 1-2 inches of it at most. We also lost some pieces of tails through fights. Slinky, for example, being the twit that he is, was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. On one such occasion he got his tail nipped. It was originally healing up quite well but I guess he cleaned the nubbies off one time too many because it got very infected. Dr. Bob (the cool vet that we can't live without) ultimately snipped 4 inches of it off.
tip: When navigating through the RatTails,
clicking on the image that looks like the image above
will take you back to this table of contents!
Disclaimer: There are many non-sarcastic accounts and tips on the web regarding rat care. This is not
one of them. These are merely accounts of our experiences with rats, our perceptions of these experiences, where we've failed
and where we've succeeded. These accounts are here for two purposes: