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African Pouched RatKali aged 6 weeks
Kali's vital statistics
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Species: African Pouched Rat (Cricetomys gambianus)



31 December

We spent three hours at accident and emergency last night because of Babu!

I was giving him his evening dose of antibiotic and painkillers as usual and I also wanted to put come cream on a couple of sore patched that have developed on his tummy. My partner was holding him so I could apply the cream. Babu didn’t seem to mind at first but he must have been more sore than I thought because suddenly he whipped his head round and bit my partner.

The bite was quite long and quite deep, worse than any bite I’ve had from a Pouched Rat, so we decided to get it looked at. The doctor thought he might have to stitch it but decided to use ‘butterfly stitches’ instead.

29 December

Babu’s endured several check-ups over Christmas and a course of antibiotics and painkillers. He isn’t due back at the vets for another fortnight and he’s nearly finished the antibiotics. He’ll be on the painkillers for another few weeks.

Babu is at least as mobile as he was before he chewed his foot off and sometimes i think he is more mobile. His remaining back leg is a lot stronger than it was and he’s started to use the stump of this right leg too.

His mobility is hampered most by his habit of ‘sitting’ on his right haunch. This means both his back legs go out to the left rather than being under him. He’s been like this since his original accident and even though his legs have got stronger he still doesn’t hold himself straight.

My vet is encouraging me to make Babu a little life vest so he can resume his hydrotherapy – it sounds like a project for the weekend.

20 December


Babu is now back at home recovering from his amputation. He seems OK in himself and is interested in his food and in life in general. He is still a bit groggy and not as bright and active as he was after he chewed his foot off.

When I picked Babu up I finally got to see his usual vet. He hadn’t been on in the morning so the operation had been done by a different vet. The usual vet was just catching up with the notes when I came in to collect Babu. After realising what had happened he said that this was the most tragic veterinary case that he’s come across.

Ever since Babu’s original spinal injury the vet had been quite optimistic that Babu would make good progress. He’d been much more optimistic that I was. We discussed the possibility of the repairing nerves causing extreme sensations and the vet thought that is was quite possible.

While he was examining Babu he noticed how much stronger Babu’s remaining back leg was than the last time he’d seem him. It’s ironic that the very act of getting better has resulted in permanent disability.

20 December


Babu is at the vets having a part amputation of his right back leg to properly close the wound he left when he chewed his foot off. I hope to be able to pick him up later today.

After returning from the vets last night and discussing the options with my family I decided that it was worth giving Babu a chance. I’ve decided to go ahead with the operation and not have him put down. The foot he removed was from his back right leg which he hasn’t been able to use much since he hurt his back. He wont be much worse off than he was before. I had been prepared to nurse him as a paralysed rat so the loss of the lower part of his leg doesn’t actually make much difference to him or me.

The main thing that troubled me was why he’d eaten his foot. There would be no point in the operation if he was going to continue to injure himself. I spent the evening search the internet for information. It had to be something to do with his spinal injury – I’m sure he wouldn’t have done it otherwise. I found a number of references to self injury in people, monkeys and also rats with nerve damage.

It seems that one of two things can happen. Either if there is no feeling in the affected limb then the animal simply fails to recognise it as part of them or, when nerve function begins to return it can result in such extreme and unusual sensations that the animal scratches or bites the affected part to relieve the sensation. Babu definitely had feeling in his legs and he was slowly getting more movement so I think that he must have been getting such discomfort in his foot that he bit it. The encouraging information I learned is that the unusual sensations don’t usually last very long.

Here’s the best summary of the self-injury information that I found.

19 December

I can’t believe what’s just happened! I’ve had to rush Babu to the out-of-hours vet this evening because he’s chewed his foot off and eaten it.

I was late home from work and went to give him his evening clean up. As I picked him up I noticed that his right back foot was missing. I put him down again immediately. I was in such a state of shock that I couldn’t do anything for a few minutes. I had to look again to make sure I wasn’t going mad. His leg ended at the heel with an open wound where the rest of his foot should be. Amazingly Babu didn’t seem bothered by the injury – he just wanted his supper.

Once I could think straight again I rang the vet and arranged to bring him in to the surgery to be looked at. I saw the same vet who’d been on duty the night Babu had hurt his back. This was a relief as I didn’t have to go through his entire history again. The vet was very good with Babu, and did a good job at calming me down too. In discussion with the vet I realised that there were only two options. I could have him put to sleep or the damaged leg would have to be operated on to close the wound. I knew I wasn’t thinking clearly, and as the operation couldn’t happen ‘til the following day I took the easy option and decided that I’d make up my mind in the morning.

The Vet bandaged Babu up and I took him home to try and make sense of what had happened.

18 December

Babu is much brighter now and coping very well again. The painkillers seem to have helped.

His renewed vigour was very evident the other day. While I was giving him his morning clean-up I contain him in a large, low cardboard fruit box. I left him in it to get something from the kitchen and when I got back he’d climbed out of the box, across the table and tipped Ambaa’s full, and dirty, potty over the living room carpet.

The carpet’s probably ruined but at least Babu’s feeling better.

7 December

It has turned very cold over the past few days and poor Babu doesn’t seem to be coping very well. I am still giving him a hot water bottle three times a day but even with this he doesn’t feel very warm.

He isn’t eating as much and isn’t as bright and active as he has been so I took him to the vets again tonight.

My vet concluded that he was probably in some pain from his back injury which is why he was reluctant to move about. Babu is now back on pain killers to see if he perks up.

4 December

We’ve all been on holiday. We rented a cottage to which, after some careful negotiation, we were able to take the animals. We all enjoyed the change of surroundings.

As Ambaa and Babu can’t be together, because she plays too roughly and he can’t look after himself, I had to amend their holiday house so that they had separate areas. They could see and smell each other and they were able to sleep next to each other which they both seemed to like.

They were very well behaved all week except for the very first day when I opened Ambaa’s travel box to transfer her to the holiday house. As soon as I opened the lid she jumped out and ran round the room. Luckily all the doors were closed but she was not easy to catch. She was disorientated and ran or jumped away whenever I tried to catch or corner her. Eventually she went back into her travel box where I left her for a few minutes to calm down. I then gradually opened the lid again, with the travel box inside the holiday home, and she scrambled out and hid away in her new house.

At the end of the week there was no trouble at all getting her back into her travel box.

Both rats quickly settled down into their usual routine once we were home again.

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