Once again, this “tumor” turned out to actually be an abscess. We suspected she got it from being bitten by the new, young rat I picked up at the Bird Expo. We named her Fiona after a character on one of our favorite TV shows, Burn Notice. Little Fiona was chosen from a group of about 20 young rats held in a 10 gallon aquarium. She hadn’t learned any manners yet and was rather food aggressive. I had kept her separated from my two rats for only a few days when I probably should have quarantined her longer. Regardless, her sharp little teeth must have punctured Carrie’s skin when they were fed together and the wound festered on the inside and got infected.
The plan was to put her on antibiotics again and allow the abscess to drain. It was a busy Saturday morning at the vet, so I had to wait about an hour for the doctor to numb the area and then open the abscess with a small incision. I was sent home with instructions to use a warm compress on the wound two to three times a day. I knew this was not something I had time for, but I didn’t want to euthanize this rat when she still had so much spirit left. I took her home and put her in a separate cage where she wouldn’t have to climb and could eat unchallenged. She still came out to visit with the other rats, but had to be supervised.
When we treated her abscess, we took her to the kitchen in a little, soft, dog house designed for a stuffed animal. Carrie seemed to really like it in there and would just curl up stay put. What she didn’t like was the warm compresses. This rat weighs less than a pound so I was surprised at how she could push my hand away with her little four-fingered paw. After the compress, her cheek would be wet and she’d want to clean it, but that kind of irritated the area and opened the doctor’s incision up more. It was a long two weeks, but I stuck with the daily compresses and meds and eventually the area healed, but developed a hard, round, pebble size lump. The vet said that was where the abscess had walled itself off and the only way to treat that was surgically. This was not an option for Carolina because she was just too old. She was still eating and alert, but she was losing control of her back legs and wasn’t able to climb up or down very well.
We kept her separated from the other two and gave her as much attention as possible. Sometimes, we would put her in the little dog house and let her sit with us while we watched TV. I don’t normally allow the rats to hang out upstairs with us because they just want to explore, but Carrie just stayed in her little house. She tried her best to groom herself, but she would lose balance and have a hard time. She had also lost a lot of hair at this point and just looked kind of raggedy. As she slept in her cage, we could hear squeaky breathing noises. We finally took her in for euthanasia in early June. She was just short of three years which is the length of a rat’s lifespan. She was a good and gentle rat. As with all of our pets, we took her home and buried her in the yard.