I’ve just realised that it’s been a year since I last did one of these “Past Rats” posts, which is terrible! We have reached May 2007 in terms of acquisition dates, and that brings us to Sigma and Tau. We had just lost Cally and Jenna, and had Halo and Evey in one cage and Lyra in the other. We thought that some other girls a little closer to Lyra’s age would be good for her, and I found Sigma and Tau on a rehoming forum. They were being fostered in St Ives, Cambs., which wasn’t too bad for us as we were in Bedford at the time. Knowing they would have to go in the small cage during the intro phase, we cleaned the big cage and put the little girls with Lyra, then stood back and held our breath, but they settled ok.
We didn’t know a lot about Sigma and Tau’s background, or why the previous owner couldn’t keep them. They were unused to being handled, which was a shame, and meant that when the nice foster lady got them out to transfer to our carrying cage, Sigma took the chance to escape and get behind the bathroom sink. It took us about 20 minutes to get her out.
They settled in with us very well, and we soon felt able to intro them to the others. Tau was always the most relaxed intro – totally took everything in her stride, never picked a fight with anyone – and mostly Sigma was good too but there were a couple of tricky patches (I’ll come back to those). They became friendlier, but never really very affectionate, and loved being out and about for a good wander.
Sigma was a pink-eyed white, and Tau was a chocolate brown Berkshire (white belly, hands and feet). They were about 12 months old when they came to us, and were intro’d to several other girls over the next year. They got on well with Lyra, and with Halo and Evey, and were never troublemakers, though Sigma was on the receiving end a couple of times.
About five months after they came to us, a friend who was fostering a couple of girls offered them to us. Tallulah and Zelda, as we named them, were huge personalities and Tallulah clashed with Sigma on first intro; Zelda was alpha as soon as she joined the group (Lyra had just died) without a single fight, but the position of second-in-command was briefly contested between Tallulah and Sigma. Sigma won, and within two weeks Tallulah had died from a pituitary tumour. I have often wondered if Zel didn’t choose her sister as right-hand rat because of some sense that she was ill.
Sigma was picked on by our next little waif, Roxie, for no particular reason other than that Roxie picked on everyone. This was one of the rare occasions when actual injuries resulted, and the two of them never really gelled.
Tau was with us for just over a year. She developed some respiratory trouble which the usual arsenal of antibiotics failed to shift (some rats are just sneezy, no matter what you do) but it never seemed to bother her that much. Eventually, though, it got too much for her and she slipped away. Sigma lasted another six months, dying just a few weeks after Zelda, and four days before Christmas 2008.