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Polka (RIP)

Origin: Rescue (private rehome)
Born: June 2013 (estimate)
Died: 24 March 2014: Aged 10 months
Cause of death: Aggression/hydrocephalus issues (PTS)
Colour/variety: Hooded himalayan
Health: Congenital hydrocephalus
Weight: 322g
Temperament: Very on-edge and not handleable at present as she's very scared. Bit several people prior to coming here.
Nicknames: Polkadot

24/03/2014: Polka is frankly the most difficult rat I've ever had, by far. She never became handleable and was often aggressive, huffing loudly at me through the bars. She would bite my arm/hands seemingly randomly a few nights every week, when I was feeding or replacing the water bowl. These bites didn't appear aggressive; it was mostly as if she wasn't quite aware what she was doing and just reacted to whatever came into her field of vision. As these issues were most likely attributable to her hydrocephalus, I didn't force anything with her, and spaying (or rather, the general anaesthetic) would have been risky. Polka didn't particularly get along very well with other rats either, with the exception of my damaged boy Tony, who she forged a beautiful relationship with. Recently, her aggression stepped up considerably over a period of several weeks, and she attacked their remaining cagemate Tusk to the point where I couldn't keep them together, as well as consciously biting me and drawing blood with increasing frequency. This coincided with Tony not recovering from a stubborn resp infection, and I decided to put Polka to sleep together with him rather than force her to go through another intro, especially without having Tony who was her main source of security. My vet had also said that she would most likely start experiencing seizures eventually, and I'm glad that they were able to go together, and before she started deteriorating. As much as my arms are undeniably pleased to get a chance to heal properly, I will also miss her, and above all I'm glad that she got a few extra months of reasonably happy life with ratty friends.


Polka was advertised on a free-ad site as "free to good home to experienced owner". When I contacted the person to find out more, it turned out that she was working in a well-known pet shop chain. Polka (who wasn't called Polka!) had bitten a couple of customers who called for her to be put to sleep, and the manager allowed the employee to take her home and arrange private rehoming. I collected a very scared but curious girl and brought her to a ratless friend of mine who had kindly agreed to act as quarantine home for two weeks. After her two weeks was up, I brought Polka home to be introduced to my smallest group of 4. Partway through the intro I realised that Polka's head looked very odd, and to cut a long story short, she was diagnosed with a mild form of hydrocephalus. This is a congenital malformation and most rats wouldn't survive kittenhood. Polka is prone to additional swelling if she for example gets a knock or something else causing an obstruction - it is quite obvious in some of the photos below, and much less in others. It could also explain her behaviour, as puppies with hydrocephalus tend to be very flinchy and not enjoy being touched, although in Polka's case it could equally be down to a poor start in life and harsh, disrespectful handling in the pet shop.

We don't know what the long-term prognosis is for Polka, but she is not currently needing to be on medication and we'll see how she goes - certainly for now she's very happy in her group (she clearly enjoys having friends, and loves wheel running!) and she doesn't appear to suffer from seizures yet, so she will have a lovely life here for as long as she can.

(click thumbnails for larger versions)

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