Riker is a black hooded dumbo.
Riker was one of 8 rats I took in from a girl who was moving and could not take them with her. They were all very well cared for, they just needed somewhere to go.
For this group, I kept Geordi, Dakota, Dirty Harry and El Nino.
The other three went to Sidney's Safe House rat rescue in Ipswich, run by a friend of mine.
Riker, Geordi, Dakota and El Nino originally lived together as a group of four. Dirty Harry was seperate, but I was told that he had met Riker and the others several times, and was ok with them. I decided to put Harry in with this four, as it seemed silly for him to be housed alone for a while if he was ok with this group of rats.
Harry did, indeed, seem to know them. He settled in without appearing to cause any drama. Then, a few days later, I noticed Riker wasn't his usual self. He seemed lethargic, stressed, not that excited about food or free range or anything much. I could see any signs of any health problems, it was almost as if he were depressed.
I had a thought that perhaps he was unhappy with Harry being in the group, as his mood as declined since that, I realised. I observed them more closely and noticed that, while there were never any physical fights and no-one ever got hurt, Harry was psychologically bullying Riker. Some rats do this.
Physical bullying we can see: the scuffles, the wounds etc.
But with psychological bullying, the bully will control the other rat by, for example, keeping them away from food, or forcing them to remain in one area of the cage. You may not see them having a full blown fight, they may even sleep beside one another (Riker and Harry did so) but the victim is still being controlled. I noticed this was certainly what was happening with Riker and Harry.
At first I'd not noticed anything amiss, because all the rats slept in a pile together, and I would tell myself 'if they didn't like each other, they wouldn't do that'.
But, in all likelyhood, it was not Riker's choice to sleep alongside Harry; Harry merely insisted upon it! Psychological bullying in rats can be hard to spot, as it is not nearly as obvious as full blown fights and bloodshed. But it can be just as distressing for the rat thats being bullied. Some rats have gone on to lost a lot of weight simply because the bully rat is herding them away from the food each night, but as they are then sleeping side by side come morning, the owner often doesn't realise what is happening.
So I decided to remove Harry, just as an experiment to see if it picked up Riker's spirits a bit. Within hours of Harry being removed, Riker was eating better, being more active, and was actually using the whole cage rather than being confined to the top shelf (stupidly, I'd always just thought that was his favourite place, though it is now apparent he wasn't 'allowed' to go anywhere else!)
Riker and his friends remained together for a while until I gradually noticed Riker showing some signs of aggression to his cage mates. All the boys were around the 6 month mark, which is the age male rats can begin to get hormone surges which make them a bit cantakerous with other rats. But over time, it escalated, and I didn't feel it was fair to keep Riker with that group any more as he was begining to be a real bully.
Geordi, Dakota and El Nino went into one of my existing groups together, and did well.
Once they'd settled, I intended to slowly re-introduce Riker back to them, my thoughts being that now there were in with a bigger group with more and different rats, Riker would not concentrate his bullying to those three and would have other rats to occupy him, and possibly would even be put in his place by someone else.
This, unfortunately, turned out to be a big mistake. Riker appeared to be relatively ok in the new group during initial meetings, I had little concern about putting him in the cage as he was being fairly well behaved. I kept a close eye on them all, and there were a few scuffles, but, I thought, nothing major. The rats already in the group didn't seem overly bothered about Riker, and Riker seemed more curious about the new environment than anything else.
After half an hour or so, I witnessed Riker have a scuffle with my hairless lad, Hector but it was nothing out of the ordinary for this kind of thing, and seemed brief and minor. I saw Hector run into his igloo to hide, but Riker then left him alone and settled down to sleep. Even so, I decided to remove Riker for a while, as I was going to work and wouldn't be there to supervise for a while.
That night, I got home and went to feed the rats. I opted to leave Riker alone over night and re-start intros in the morning. As I was feeding Hectors group, I noticed blood in the litter. Suspecting someone had had a toe nipped in the earlier scuffle, I lifted the igloo to check everyone, and found Hector looking very unwell.
I pulled him out and that was when I noticed that some of his organs were protruding through his abdomen. There was a tiny hole in the skin, though it didn't look like a wound as it was clean at the edges, but a portion of Hectors insides had bulged through this hole.
Having never seen this kind of thing before in one of my rats, I was in a panic, not knowing what to do. Jon told me it was not a dire emergency providing the organs were not strangulated, and were kept clean til morning. He also said there was a possibility they could be pushed back in. We lubricated the area and tried to push them back in, but to no avial. The organs were still red, however, and seemed to have good blood flow, and Hector demonstrated that he could still go to the toilet
I decided then to give Hector some pain relief, and rush him to the vet first thing in the morning. See his page for full details, but in short, it was not a good outcome for Hector.
Riker was castrated soon after this, and after a few weeks wait, I tried to introduce him to my girls, figuring that boys were just too much for him. But I have to admit, I was quite warey of him by this point, after seeing the damage he could potentially do.
He did not take to the girls well, so he was once more removed and lived alone while I decided what to do.
Soon after this, an old girl, Leila, came in and didn't tolerate other female rats, having always lived alone.
I thought Riker might take better to a lone girl than a group of rats, and, luckily, he did. He got on famously with Leila, and she him.
Unfortunately, Leila started showing signs of a pituitary tumour a short while after being here, and began to slow down. She managed with it fairly well for a while, though, and in this period I had to make another decision.
I knew Leila wouldn't be with us many more weeks, which would leave Riker alone once again. In this period, his brother, Geordi, had been castrated for showing aggression in his group (something in the genes for those lads, possibly!) and was currently awaiting an intro as soon as I figured out who to trial him with. So I got the idea to try Geordi in with Riker and Leila. I hoped he'd remember his brother, and take ok to the old lady he lived with.
It was a success. Riker and Geordi had a few silly hand-bag scuffles at first, but then both seemed to settle down well, and became a happy group of three.
Leila died a few weeks later. Riker and Geordi were then slowly introduced to the girls group, and went in without issue. They both continue to live here together, and seem far more settled. Hopefully, they won't ever need to move groups again!
Why Riker? Continuing my Star Trek TNG theme.