Those of you who have your own ratties will know that they establish a firm hierarchy or pecking order within the group. The dominant ratties will emphasize their position by 'flipping' their subordinates and power grooming them.
Gonzo's problem was that he had obviously been flipped whilst in the litter tray - he had a smelly mess on one ear and his back (some of his cagemates are on antibiotics, and hence were making a somewhat softer contribution to the litter tray than usual). I assumed that he would get around to cleaning it off, but after a day and a half I realised that he must like smelling like that.
Now, some people claim to have rats who enjoy their baths. Some rats will even voluntarily enter a shower. Gonzo is not one of these rats. Although he has been bathed before, he has never enjoyed the experience, so I tend to shampoo him before putting him into the water to rinse. We have some small animal shampoo which is diluted with warm water before use.
After making sure that my sleeves were rolled right down to protect me from his claws, and buttoning my blouse right up to the neck, I popped him onto a towel at the edge of the draining board, and began to shampoo him. Then it began, the most piteous Eeeeep! Eeeeep! sound - "Mum, stop it, it's horrible!"
I must have relaxed my hold slightly, because suddenly he made a dive between the buttons of my blouse, and I had a wet, soapy rat inside my clothes. He ran around to the back and climbed up my back, to sit in that spot at the back of my neck which is most difficult to reach. Of course, he was also inside my blouse, buttoned to the neck, so I had to try to undo the (now stretched tight) buttons to get him out.
I eventually managed to pull him off my neck, and pop him into the rinsing water to clean him off. He continued to cry, and to try to pull himself up my arms. As soon as he was rinsed I tried to dry him, whereupon he oozed out of the towel, leaving me once again with a soggy rat on the back of my neck.
After drying him as well as I could whilst he was clinging to my neck, I backed up to the cage to let him jump down. He ran off to groom off all the horrible water, and I assumed that that was the end of it.
Now, on most evenings, the ratties sit on their cage balcony waiting to come and sit on my lap at the computer. Well, Gonzo didn't come out onto the balcony on this occasion. He sat just inside the door, and every time I spoke to him or put my hand out to him, he turned his back on me. When I went away, he turned round to glare at me. I eventually persuaded him to take a yogurt drop from me, but he continued to refuse to come out of the cage for the rest of the evening. Would he ever speak to me again?
Well, I'm glad to say that by the next morning I was forgiven, and Gonzo was as willing to come out for a cuddle as ever. He's training me well, though. It will be a long time before I attempt to bathe him again.
Annette, May 2002