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Neutering: Where I went wrong with Wolfman

Wolfman was an OK guy. He wasn't the most kind, gentle rat ever, but he wasn't evil. He did, however, have a thing against Slinky and unbeknownst to me at the time, Slinky was instigating the behavior by sending off signals.

How was I supposed to know? I was fairly new to rats and nobody told me that tail-flapping was some kind of instinct thing. I thought, if anything, it was fear-driven (it is) but I didn't realize it was a "shoo!" type of endeavor (any type of shooing attempts, if they continue to be provoked, will ultimately result in a good chomp if they respond as they should to the drive...though sometimes, and in Slinky's case, the drive's just there but they don't really know why nor do they know of any follow-up procedures). Anyway...

Wolfman wanted my bed. Slinky thought my bed was his bed (and I never argued - he was Slinky!). And of course I didn't bother to think too deeply about it because I was biased: If you had a rat that would scramble up your arm for protection against the evil Wolfman, you'd be biased too! Poor widdle Schlinky Winky....

But it was actually the two of them. Wolfman, in addition to wanting to claim ownership of my bed also had full ownership of my room. He was the alpha. Slinky, on the other hand, owned the entire apartment and while he usually steered clear of Wolfman's territory, he would follow me everywhere and since I did the bulk of my studying sitting on my bed, he had to enter Wolfman's territory to get there.

That always resulted in war. The normally calm (though antisocial as far as humans were concerned - he didn't bite us, he just didn't care to be with us) Wolfman would become enraged, Slinky would respond to his rage by sidling against me, scooting across the bed and along my lap, and he'd start flapping his tail when Wolfman decided to end it once and for all. Slinky refused to submit, he'd run to me (and on me) for protection, and I'd always be the one who ended up getting bit.

And I was tired of getting bit and since the rule of thumb was "if you don't like the way a rat is acting, snip him" and all (albeit feeble) attempts to get him to stop were getting nowhere, we had him neutered.

But....in retrospect, it really should have been Slinky that was neutered. He wasn't an alpha, he really had no business being an alpha. His problem, of course, was that he didn't even think he was a rat (and I wonder if he did much thinking at all, actually), so he certainly wasn't going to respond appropriately (for a rat) and let Wolfman pin him down, power-groom him, and follow the rules of the colony. And nobody, except Slinky, instigated Wolfman. So, in retrospect, the fair target for the neuter would have been Slinky. But I wouldn't have neutered my little Schlinks for anything - I'd have neutered the entire crew before doing anything invasive to my little fuzzy human.

So I made the only decision I could (or would) have made and even "in retrospect" I would have made the same choice all over again. However, I would have done one thing differently. When Wolfman came back from the vet's, we took away his freedom by locking him up in a cage so we could make sure he healed up without any problems. That meant he was alone. We did not take him out of the surroundings he was familiar with nor did we keep the one thing that annoyed him the most away from him.

Once healed, we gave him his room back but at that point he was more angry than he'd ever been. For an entire week, his entire colony was trampling over his cage which I'm sure was a mockery in his perception. Slinky was clambering over his cage which likely made him very mad every time. And, in addition to bombarding him with the stimuli that put him in a twiddle in the first place (without recourse) we had him apart for more than 3-4 days which made reintroducing him back to his original colony a very stressful situation for him as, at that point, 1 week later, they were complete strangers.

So neutering didn't work for him. He just adapted his feelings of annoyance and his response to those feelings of annoyance to the stimuli that never went away and the process of neutering itself consequently did nothing for him. But as you can see, that was my fault, my lack of understanding about their way of communicating, that allowed the behavior to continue.

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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:

    1) To entertain.
    2) To help avoid repetition of mistakes

  Remember! Your rat is not a science project, he is your friend!

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