Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Today I was briefly outsmarted by a rat, or should I more aptly say outmaneuvered. I was working with them today and one of the rats seemed a bit more agitated and afraid, doing its best to bury itself underneath its other container-mates. I’ve handled a lot of rats, so I figured it just needed some attention so that it was more used to human contact. I picked him up and put him on my arm, gently holding his tail in case he started going someplace he didn’t belong (I’ve seen rats go up a person’s cuff into the arm of their lab coat, and once had one leap from its enclosure onto my shoulder). He seemed not to want to be there, doing his best bungee jumper impression by trying to leap off my arm and be saved from plummeting to the floor by his tail.

Understanding this I decide to put him back, not wanting to get him really riled up. I gently place him back in the cage and start to put the lid on, when he jumps up the side, grabs on the edge and pulls himself up and out of the cage (like a little Rat Army Ranger). He proceeds to hop off the table which the housing unit was sitting on and to the floor. Now keep in mind that I’m all alone in the lab and normally catching a loose rodent is a simple task with two people (one guides the rodent to the other, but be aware mice are FAST and can jump like a mini-kangaroo). By yourself it’s a bit more difficult, since you don’t want to agitate the animal too much, nor corner it so that it feels the need to bite you.

So I’m crawling around on the floor on all fours, rear waving around in the air like one of those “Bend over Ladies” that people have in their yard (ack, tasteless). Every time I get around one end of a box or table the rat either went under the table or around the other end of the box. I crawled around on the floor for a good 3 minutes, being outsmarted by the rat. Finally it got a bit comfortable and didn’t move quite far enough to be out of reach. I picked up his tail and lifted up his back legs so he wouldn’t turn to bite if he was scared. No problem there. Once I was sure he wasn’t too scared I picked him up and put him back with his mates, who he immediately crawled underneath and peeked out at me. I suspect he would have said something like “Had you right where I wanted you, sucker. You looked ridiculous!”

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