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New rat owner needing advice

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Haroned74

New Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
2
Location
Ca
Let me begin with saying that I am a new rat owner. My first rat is named Yeti, so you know. So, let’s start at the beginning. I have always wanted to take care of an animal, so I decided on a rat, did a ton of research, and got him. Yeti is a dream come true. He is a rescue, and was treated poorly before he was rescued. He was kept in a cage the size of a shoe box, was alone, had lice, and was starving. This brings me to what is worrying me. The rescuer said he hates other rats and I don’t know if it is because of hormones or something else. He seems to be acting normal and loves attention, but, as this is my first rat, I don’t know what normal is. So I want some advice. Is there a way to introduce aggressive rats safely, without getting them fixed or something along those lines. I have just read that they should never be kept alone, and I am really worried. Thank you so much for reading this, and for anyone who gives me advice.
 

shaunavalon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
57
Location
Cape Town, South Africa
Introducing rats to each other can be stressful sometimes, and other times it is quite effortless. I have been through both - where rats ended up at the vet with bites taking weeks to integrate, to tossing rats into an established cage and they hit it off right away and became life long companions.

From what you have written, it is likely that the aggression and dislike for other rats may have stemmed from being in such a small space and being treated poorly. Rats that do not have enough cage space, food and are in poor health tend to be far more territorial and aggressive. The best way to introduce new rats to each other is by doing so in an open space at first, like on your bed or couch during playtime - a neutral space that is not in their cage (their own territory). You'll have to see how introducing Yeti to another rat goes, gradually.

It seems that if Yeti was living in bad conditions that a part of his dislike for other rats stems from his past - if he is in a happy place with lots of space, good food and clean water with comfy clean nests and cage with things to keep him happy he may very well change and improve in temperament.

Rats do tend to be social animals, and while it is hard to integrate rats together at times, it is really for the best as they really need rat-to-rat contact and friends to thrive.

I have often done the following:
  • Put the new rats and old rats in separate cages that are next to each other - close, but not close enough to allow contact through the bars. This way, they can become aware of each other and learn each other's scent.
  • After about 2-3 days, I'll take them out and let them meet each other in a neutral area away from their cages. If things go well and their are no fights (rats will sniff, hump and sometimes wrestle each other, if there is loud squeaking it is a bad sign as it means they are hurting each other - separate them right away).
  • Let them have lots of playtime in a neutral area so they get used to each other, after about 5 days of regular together time, it is time to integrate them.
  • Finally, if things are going well and they seem to be happy with each other, put them together in one of the cages after giving it a thorough wash and clean to remove as much territorial scents as possible. Provide at least two nesting/sleeping areas so that they can sleep together and apart if they want. If things go well, then you'll have integrated your rats happily.
Sometimes, older males who have been alone for a long time struggle to integrate with other rats, especially male rats, due to their own habits and nature. To some rats, being integrated with other rats can be unsuitable, but you won't know unless you try it. You didn't mention if you have an idea of how old he is, so I am not sure how old he is.
 

Fidget

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 24, 2007
Messages
3,308
Location
Victoria BC
shaunavalon's advice sounds great. Do you have rescues there that take in rats? You might be able to foster a boy (who would come with his own cage) and try to intro Yeti to him to see how he will be with another ratty. If it's not going to work out then the other guy is just temporary, if they can get on then you can adopt! Have you read up about neutering?
 

Big Schpog

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 8, 2020
Messages
368
Location
British Columbia
I also agree with shauna. You never know until you get that baby home and go through the integration process and it is worth it to get him a companion as they are a family oriented species.

You can put the baby in the next door cage and let them get used to each other's smell and then have the youngster neutered, and then after the Testosterone dies down, you can try face to face intros in a neutral area.

Just make sure when you put their cages near each other that there isn't a way for tails to get bitten or ears or noses.

Let us know more about your boy, age, diet, personality? Do you spend a lot of free time playing with him? How is he with you? What is he like during free roam?
 

shaunavalon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
57
Location
Cape Town, South Africa
I do not think that a neuter is essential to the process, but it does help sometimes. If you have a lot of trouble it is a really good last resort. Younger males would be less dominant than old Yeti though, so it might not be needed at all.

Here where I live, neutering a rat costs 50x the price of the rat, so I have never done it as it is simply too costly.

How long have you had Yeti? How long was he at the shelter/rescue? I would give him at least a month or two in new happy conditions before trying to integrate him. Let him settle down so he knows he is in a good place first.
 

Haroned74

New Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
2
Location
Ca
A little more info about Yeti, he is 11 month old. He has never had any other rats/cage mates. I have had him for five weeks. The person who rescued him had him for a week before I got him, I change his water every thee days, and he is on a store bought food mix made for rats. If there are any tips and tricks about this introducing rats, i would really love that, and a fun little thing about him is he loves bananas. He will NOT let me pet him unless he has groomed at least three fingers, he loves to be healed and is very affectionate. If there is any other info you need to know about him, be sure to let me know and thanks for the feed back! I am planning on getting him a pal ASAP. I have him out when ever I can, and like free roaming him and Letting him play in the bathtub.
 

shaunavalon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
57
Location
Cape Town, South Africa
I also have a rat that will not let me pet him until he has licked my fingers, its very cute. With him being alone for his whole life he may not know how to behave around other rats. It might be hard at first, but in the end it will be worth it - for him and for you. He will have a friend he can groom and play with and be a rat with.

I think with you having had him 5 weeks that he is settling in nicely, and so I think it will be okay to start looking for a friend or two for him. I recommend getting 2 rats, simply because if Yeti finds that he just cannot live along with other rats you are not stranding the new rat to be alone as well and at least he would have a friend if the worst outcome is that you cannot get them to live together.

Also, refer to this thread about integration - I gave some other tips there as well - Can a rat truly be happier alone?
 

Big Schpog

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 8, 2020
Messages
368
Location
British Columbia
A little more info about Yeti, he is 11 month old. He has never had any other rats/cage mates. I have had him for five weeks. The person who rescued him had him for a week before I got him, I change his water every thee days, and he is on a store bought food mix made for rats. If there are any tips and tricks about this introducing rats, i would really love that, and a fun little thing about him is he loves bananas. He will NOT let me pet him unless he has groomed at least three fingers, he loves to be healed and is very affectionate. If there is any other info you need to know about him, be sure to let me know and thanks for the feed back! I am planning on getting him a pal ASAP. I have him out when ever I can, and like free roaming him and Letting him play in the bathtub.
Well, it seems everyone with rats has a different way of integrating. However, usually putting them near each other in separate cages to begin with seems to be a good start. This is so they can see each other and more importantly, smell each other, without having to worry about a bite or a fight. My girl spent 6 weeks smelling the new babies I got for her. They were in a cage and she was free roam. It was a good way for me to keep the babies safe but allow her to be curious about them and smell them.

I could also observe how she was. She huffed and puffed at them, and didn't want them. LOL. She was like a little rat dragon, huffing and puffing. I waited 6 weeks for my oldest girl to calm down and realize the babies were staying. It was only after this initial 6 weeks that I attempted to put them together.

When the babies got big enough and I felt that my older girl had calmed down some, I took them to a neutral territory that NONE of them had ever been. I had my older girl in one carrier and the babies in another. I put the carriers down in the neutral space and opened them. You have to monitor them of course. There was no fighting, just a lot of avoidance and lots of mapping the unfamiliar territory.

I did this three times. I took them three times to the neutral territory and each session was 20-30 minutes. On the third time I felt confident enough to leave them together. They had all climbed into one carrier and I took them back to the main territory and simply let them all out. There were a couple scraps but no blood and for the next few days there were a couple scraps but I found them all sleeping together and they were integrated.

Reading rat body language and behaviour in rats is a skill you learn by doing. Nobody can really tell you when your rat is ready to accept new mates.
 

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