I want to share with you, the story of one of my rescue rats, Andre the giant. I rescued him from a woman back in December 2018, who kept him alone for 2 years and in a very empty cage with nothing but sawdust and one of those plastic microwavable containers with mac & cheese in it.
He was weighing around 900g and just for context a healthy male is around 350/400 give or take. He was aggressive and never been handled by anyone and had never had a cage mate, now rats are super social and love cuddles so to be kept this way was actually such a cruel thing to do.
I took one look at him and told her he was coming home with me. That was that, I lifted him out with zero issues and got him to my vet who checked him over, he was extremely overweight with large fatty deposits and suffering from a respiratory issue due to the sawdust. So fast forward to getting him home and set up and then the work began.
This video is of the first times he got to experience a proper cuddle and scratches behind the ears. It had been a few days of me talking to him and feeding him good food and just generally making him feel loved and calm, and something about him told me he was ready to try being pet. As you can see he was a bit wary but ended up loving it, and so we started from there.
So again, we fast forward a little bit, after maybe a month of this confidence building and diet and exercise with a large 16 inch rat wheel, he was looking slimmer and becoming extremely friendly and beat his respiratory infection within a week. Everything was on the up and up for Andre, so I decided to try and lift him to give him a proper cuddle.
Now, I will not sugar coat this... he panicked and bit me very hard and it went through a muscle in my index finger. A lot of blood, big bandage needed but overall no lasting damage. However, I never yelled at him like he had been yelled at previously in the other home, no no. I somehow never said a word, spoke calmly to him and pet him on the head and cleaned myself up. Came right back to him and sat at the cage door talking to him and reassuring him it was ok.
The picture below was the next day, I never gave up on him and he never stopped trying. We finally got to the cuddle stage and he was so happy he boggled the whole time (google it... it's hard to explain!) This was a huge trusting step for him, so I let him tell me when he was done, and he stayed cuddled in for at least an hour before he wanted back in his cage. It soon became a daily thing and it was never work after that, he just loved a good snuggle.
I'm telling his story because sadly he passed away from old age and health issues. I received a massive out pour of love for him and even the vet staff stopped what they were doing to give him cuddles and say their goodbyes because everyone had come to love him and his story. I was told from day one "he's aggressive and can't be held, can't have friends, no point in taking him" and at every single turn he proved everyone wrong. I knew he could do it and so did he, once he realised what love was he couldn't get enough, the video below shows his reaction and it's nothing more than a serene happy face.
He was a wonder rat, the most gentle giant of them all. He never did want rat friends and boy did we try to get him some but he was sadly alone too long to be able to accept them. So he was over socialised with myself and he never really knew what he was missing because he never experienced the company of another rat. I always try and bond lone rats and he was the one exception that couldn't be done no matter what.
From an aggressive, untouchable, overweight and dangerous rat... to what he truly was, a gentle giant wanting nothing but love and cuddles (and all the treats he could steal!) who lost half his weight and managed to live longer than anyone thought he would.
So that is the story of Andre the giant, the sweetest rescue rat of them all. I don't often talk about my rescues but the reaction to his story was so strong I felt it needed to be heard on a better platform. He is proof that a good home is all that is needed for a misunderstood animal to be what they truly are, which is loving at heart and you will never find a better bond than from an animal in need.