Tybalt, a neutered male with tuxedo markings and the silkiest shiny coat I’ve ever seen this side of the Neiman Marcus fur department, is also, sadly, a psychopath. Seriously. He has torn a path of destruction through my male colony, and I’m very much hoping that he will be more sanguine as the girls’ “tastefully neutered male friend.” I’m prepared to fall back on the pudding trick to make it work. Yep, it’s just what it sounds like: everybody gets a pudding bath, and then everyone licks everyone else until no one smells any different than anyone else. There’s peace to be had in gender confusion and the blurring of tribal boundaries, at least where rats are concerned.
Tybalt was a rescue and had been alone for many, many months, probably since he was a baby. This sort of thoughtless mistreatment is lethal to a rat’s sense of the world–and his sense of himself. His lack of socialization and his fiery temperament made neutering Tybalt absolutely necessary if he is ever to have anything resembling a normal life. Even so, I doubt that is possible. He couldn’t be sweeter to people, and I’ve become completely attached to his delight at seeing me come through the door; but I don’t think he even knows he’s a rat–or even really what a rat IS. He certainly doesn’t have the faintest idea how to behave like one.
“Fiery temperament?” you ask? Hell yeah. Read on.
Tybalt was called some silly foo-foo name or other before I took him in. But you know what? He also had a horrible case of fleas and ear mites when I adopted him, which pretty much voids any naming rights his old owners may have held, as far as I am concerned. They liked Tybalt, but they didn’t have idea one about how to care for a rat. And obviously, they didn’t bother to learn.
Anyway, here’s a story they told me: they had placed Tybalt’s cage on a stand next to a kitchen shelf the previous winter and woke one day to find a CSI incident all over their kitchen floor. It seems a hapless wee mousie had been scurrying over the cabinet in search of a crumb, when his eye came to rest on Tybalt’s food bowl, just a short jump from the counter-top and a quick wriggle through the bars. Oh, bad bad idea, little mouse. Tybalt opened up not a can, but a whole CASE of whoop-ass on that little interloper and tossed what was left of his carcass over the side as a warning to other would-be home invaders. God’s Bodkins, even their dogs were afraid of Tybalt! If you haven’t read Romeo and Juliet lately, do take this opportunity to revisit it and confirm the appropriateness of Tybalt’s new name.
When he first jointed the boys in their cage, Henslowe, Will Shakespeare, and Arthur must have thought I’d lost my mind and thrust a rabid weasel into their midst. Since his surgery, however, Tybalt seems to have gone from psychopathic plague rat to a rodent version of the strong, silent type. With a nod to Rick Castle, Tybalt really is ruggedly handsome. Tybalt is the Gary Cooper of rats, lean and earnest and prone to glowering, with only fitful bursts of violence when “a rat’s gotta do what a rat’s gotta do.” His personality is just too willful and stoic for the boys to handle. He’s never seemed very interested in pecking orders, and now he’s not engaged enough in playing the game to avoid being picked on. Also, he has a long memory–I don’t think Young Arthur will ever again be safe in his sleep as long as Tybalt is in residence. On the other hand, I’m betting the ladies love him. Or they will. In a week. Or maybe two. I hope.