Introducing younger rats to older rat

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by Ashlyn, Jun 20, 2019.

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  1. Jun 20, 2019 #1

    Ashlyn

    Ashlyn

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    I'm a first time rat owner. I'm struggling to introduce an older rat, Davos, to two younger rats, Stannis and Roose.
    A couple of weeks ago, a friend tells me she needs her rat re-homed because her dogs would terrorize him whenever they could in the three weeks she had him. When I started with Davos, he would shy away into his hut and now he'll step onto my hand licking baby food off my finger. A vet tech thought he looked to be around 4/5 mths ago and thought he had a decent temperament. I made plans with a breeder so he wouldn't be lonely and ended up with two more babies! She explained to me that it's better to get younger male rats so fighting for dominance isn't really an issue so I got 7 wk and 5 wk extremely socialized babies. They're so loving and they wrestle and tussle all the time. By this point I had my eldest for six days before getting the babies. I waited six days to introduce them all together in a bath tub and things don't go as well as I hope. Davos is a bit scary to the boys it seems, or maybe just in my eyes.
    Day 1: They ask for groomings and it's like they irritate him to the point that he'll pin them down and force groom(?) and they shriek in protest and when it gets bad I put the glove between them. Davos will hiss at them and run to the other corner of the tub interested in anything else. I wait for them to groom themselves before putting them up. Those encounters happened maybe four times.
    Day 2: I pray for a better visit and that definitely doesn't happen. I put kale, blueberries, and blackberries in the mix but Davos doesn't pay any attention and just aggressive humps Stannis (which I've read is normal?), but he still hisses afterwards. I put the youngest in and, maybe Roose is absolutely insecure being so small, but he shrieks loudly when Davos put his mouth around the back of his neck. He lets go and hisses, runs to a corner. Like a cycle. I let things calm down, all the boys eat some of the treats and I put them back in their cages. I was hoping he was force grooming him, but it looks like he pulled a small tuff of fur off Roose. I have their cages side by side since last night and Davos still hisses at them, still hissing as I type this out. Their cages are currently five inches apart.
    [Rat tax for making it this far:]
    Last thing, I guess it's because he's stressed, but when I reached in Davos' cage last night to fix a hammock I let him sniff me like I always do and he broke skin as he bit me. I haven't had that happen before. This morning, I start over thinking he'll like me again with some baby food, he was just irritable! And he licks most of it off and bites me again hard enough to exclaim OW! JEEZ! Yesterday seemed like the one day he's been really happy and the least grumpy since I've had him so I wasn't expecting such a hard bite.
    The little boys are aware Davos is the dominant rat but I don't think he knows or cares anything about them? I don't think I should try to have them meet again tonight because I'm terrified of what Davos can do to the baby. Am I overreacting? How do I proceed from here?

    I feel like all these picture their personalities perfectly!
    Davos (don't let this picture deceive you, he's a 5lb chonk)
    Davos.jpg
    Stannis (mid yawn)
    Stannis.jpg
    Roose
    Roose.jpg
     
  2. Jun 20, 2019 #2

    SQ

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    Babies need to be at least 8 weeks old, 10 weeks is safer, before starting physical introductions with a rat over 12 weeks old.
    Rats are very territorial about their cages.
    I would not do anymore intros right now
    I would suggest moving the cages a bit further apart, and giving Davos more time to get used to their smell. Hopefully you made an error re his weight
    Also find a good rat vet if you do not have one yet

    For useful info on intros please see https://www.ratshackforum.com/threads/introducing-new-rats.34842/#post-491257 and www.joinrats.com

    btw the Reference Thread contains a lot of good info https://www.ratshackforum.com/threads/reference-thread-read-only.35894/
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2019
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  3. Jun 20, 2019 #3

    Ashlyn

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    Thank you so much for your reply! I'll definitely hold off for now, as that was my concern.
    I figured he would be very territorial with his age.
    I wish that was an error, my friend would talked about how Davos always left a tiny layer of food at the bottom of the bowl and just how silly it was. I read online that it's from overfeeding so you can imagine I was a little red in the face by the reaction of the vets when they weighed him.. I'm trying scatter feeding with the boys to shed some of that weight off.
    I've been watching so many videos about introductions but I hadn't seen anyone mention my issues. I'll definitely look into those links. Thanks again!
     
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  4. Jun 21, 2019 #4

    ViciousCurse

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    To help Davos get used to the two new babies' smell, you can give Davos and the babies some fleece to cuddle with and then after a week (or midweek), switch the two pieces of fleece, so that Davos can smell the babies and the babies can smell Davos, but not be close enough to cause injuries or cause fear.

    Feces and urine are yet another tool for communication in the animal world, so I have, after I'm sure my rats are healthy, switched poos in between cages as well, especially fresher pieces. Sounds disgusting, but feces carry the scent of the animal and can be a great way for the rats to learn about each other without actually interacting.

    Wait until the babies are older, have a bit more confidence, and until Davos doesn't mind their cage being close to his. SQ's linked thread is an amazing read.

    As for Davos' weight, I'd think about getting him an appropriately sized wheel, and letting him run around outside of his cage more. My biggest boy, Owen, is a little less than 1.5lbs and he is just a large male rat in his prime. He's also very muscular. Picking him up is like picking up a brick because he is so dense. When I noticed one of my rats, Grumpy, was getting overweight, I handled him more, had him out in the play area longer, and just had him follow me around the house. I tried to lower the amount he was being fed, but he lived in a cage with at least three or four other male rats and I didn't want to risk food aggression developing if there was less for everyone to eat. Since Davos is currently alone, he should be okay to get lowered amounts of food.

    Also, depending on what you are feeding him, he may be overweight because of his diet. If he's eating junky, fatty food, please eliminate it from his diet, or at least lower the amount given to him. Ideally, rat blocks should have a lower fat content (Oxbow is highly recommended for this reason and the fact that its protein content is low as well), and veggies don't have as many calories as fruits. Dog food and cat food are both products with high amounts of protein and/or fat, both of which should not be given to rats in high amounts.
     
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  5. Jun 21, 2019 #5

    SQ

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    re Davos' weight …….
    the recommended diet for rats is a good quality rat block (low protein) and a variety of daily vegs, and accessional healthy treats such as cooked whole grains, berries, a piece of fruit, a few cooked chick peas, a few organic pumpkin seeds, a few organic kumut puffs
    When rats are trying to lose weight, the rat blocks they get are limited instead of being free fed, a few are given several times a day, and more vegs are given so the rat is not hungry.
    The amount of exercise such as out of cage play time with you in an enriched safe play area should be increased as well
    there is good info re food and diet in the Reference Thread
     
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  6. Jun 23, 2019 #6

    jorats

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    In the video, Davos is not puffy so I don't think it's aggression yet. He's just being a bully. I would continue to do intros but I would do them on a table top so that you are at their level. Prevent any forced grooming from Davos, put your gloved hand in between him and baby like a wall when he's about to go to one of them. If he turns away, give him a treat, do this for a few days. Do their intros about an hour long and nothing else on the table except runny food like mashed bananas, to force them to lick it and be together when eating it.
    As for the 5 lbs. Did you weigh him? He doesn't look 5 lbs. A 2 lb is an unhealthy obese rat, and Davos looks to be a good healthy size. If he really is 5 lbs, you need to get him to lose weight, that is incredibly unhealthy. Don't give your rats any sugar, keep fat very low and protein low as well.
     
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  7. Jun 23, 2019 #7

    Ashlyn

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    This is all great advice~ I've starting swapping cage items this week, but I didn't think of poop swapping! I'll do that. I bought a wheel a week ago too, it's almost too big for his cage so I leave it out when I let him explore outside of his cage at night along side a box maze I made. Probably too proud of too :) He was definitely being overfed and immediately switched to Oxbow after I got him in my care. I also sewed some tunnels and hammocks that connect up top and I leave small amounts of dried fruits* and kale inside them so he has incentive to explore. To me he seems more energetic!
    *Just realized mango isn't good for males, making that switch asap
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
  8. Jun 23, 2019 #8

    Ashlyn

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    I've put all the boys on Oxbox when I got them, but I need to incorporate those whole grains, etc. I read some play area ideas, I think even a thread you made, and I made a little house/maze and put small treats inside! I'm definitely still learning and up for any ideas/advice. You all are so welcoming and kind!
     
  9. Jun 23, 2019 #9

    Ashlyn

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    Occasionally his fur raises when he smells them. I like this idea! I'll give it a go.
    The vet weighed him. He definitely didn't feel like he weighed that much either. I took him to the vet again yesterday, 5.50. I have a scale now so I can keep an eye on them myself
     
  10. Jul 9, 2019 #10

    Ashlyn

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    Not sure if responding this way you guys will see it, but Davos let me weigh him and he's finally down to 1.25 lbs!
     
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  11. Jul 9, 2019 #11

    jorats

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    That's wonderful! You are doing a great job!
     
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  12. Jul 9, 2019 #12

    SQ

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    just so you are aware, dried fruit is full of sugar (sugar feeds cancer). You might try feeding pieces of fresh or frozen/thawed fruit. Rats also need daily vegs

    Wow! I am glad that Davos has lost some weight but hopefully the initial weight was incorrect because losing 4.25 Ibs in such a short time is concerning.

    Glad that things are going well
    Your ratties must be very happy with the nice play area you are creating :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
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  13. Jul 11, 2019 #13

    Rocket99

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    I haven't seen anyone mention that there WILL be some amount of tussling as they establish their places in the group. Fighting is what it will look like, but there will not be any blood, just a lot of vocals. They're crybabies and if they are silent then it could be more serious.
     
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  14. Jul 12, 2019 #14

    Lise Patterson

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    I wonder if your vet meant to say that Davos is 550 grams - that is roughly 1.25 pounds. I love the name, by the way - did you name him after the city?
     
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  15. Jul 15, 2019 #15

    Tatum

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    Hi!
    First off, you were smart to have sessions of introduction time for them on neutral ground (a bathtub), and it sounds like you are doing a good job so far.
    Okay, so a good rule when introducing rats is, "No blood no foul." This just means that when they are fighting or "force grooming," there is really no need to separate them unless one of them bleeds. The fighting and force grooming is just a way to establish dominance.
    Also, aggression in rats, especially males, is greatly reduced when they are neutered/spayed, so you could try neutering Davos.
    I have also heard of male rats that do not do well with other males, even if they are neutered. If this is the case with Davos you could try introducing him to a female rat (after being neutered).
    I have heard of rats who are too aggressive with rats to be kept with other rats, however, this is extremely rare, and I doubt that this is the case.
    Check out these videos for more advice


     
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  16. Aug 8, 2019 #16

    Ashlyn

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    Oh okay, I’ll definitely keep that in mind so thank you for that! I try to balance them with the veggies.
    I think you and Lise are right about that because he doesn’t look much different other than maybe his coat, but they seemed very concerned about his weight..
     
  17. Aug 8, 2019 #17

    Ashlyn

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    I didn’t consider that and I wonder if that’s what the scale read. I did tell the vet he is my first rat so maybe they were just giving me the run down on the basics... I think I read too much into it.

    And thank you! He’s named after the onion knight from game of thrones actually!
     
  18. Aug 8, 2019 #18

    Ashlyn

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    Thank you, I need that reminder because I worry about the youngest Roose being traumtized by Davos when he starts up.
     
  19. Aug 8, 2019 #19

    Ashlyn

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    I really enjoy the Rat Guru’s content! I’ve rewatched her introduction video a couple of times haha. I have tiny signs of hope but I still haven’t made enough progress to be happy with imo. I’m apprehensive about neutering but I’m considering it.
     
  20. Aug 8, 2019 #20

    Ashlyn

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    I really appreciated all the responses you guys!

    Here’s the updated situation:
    About three weeks ago, I offered baby food on my finger for Davos to trust me since he did so well one of the first nights I got him and he gave it one lick and chomped hard. No fun. A week later, I offered a treat with my palm open and he went straight to my thumb and drew blood. Unsure if my thumb smelled tastier.
    Now when Davos is sleepy in his cage, he’ll let me comb the fur on his head with my finger but petting his body is questionable. He twirls around curiously. When out of the cage he’s very cautious and a bit jumpy about so I don’t push it. Occasionally he’ll follow me in the play area and take a nip at my socks.
    I added a digging box (coco fiber) last month and the boys love it. Especially Roose.
    *Oh! And there has been a couple of times where Davos has hopped on my lap*

    Davos is unphased with his rambunctious little cage neighbors. If anything, I find him in hammocks closest to them. I still have not successfully introduced all the boys. I’ve only done neutral terrority and putting their poop and other items in his cage.
    Things are okay at first until the boys cry out. One day, Davos attempted to force groom Roose and he shrieked which upset him. Stannis heard and stepped in so Davos huffed at him, chased him to sideling him. He still hisses and huffs if the boys don’t let him force groom them and then he kind of pushes them away. He has been more comfortable sniffing their genitals(it looks like?) and trying to groom them but I haven’t been comfortable doing consecutive introductions. I should be more confident I think.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019

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