Stealing food from cage mates mouth

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by Rat-a-tata, Jun 9, 2019.

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  1. Jun 9, 2019 #1

    Rat-a-tata

    Rat-a-tata

    Rat-a-tata

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    Hi all,

    I’ve been looking online, and on the forums on here for some information but with no success, so I was wondering if anyone has any experience with this.

    I have 3 girls - Poppy, 3, and Milly, and Moo, both 6 months. Milly and Moo were introduced to Poppy when they were 8 weeks old, following Poppy’s cage match - Twitch, sadly having to be put to sleep. The introduction went well, and soon they were all happily sharing the same cage. Milly seemed more confident than Moo, and it took me longer to hand tame her, she was also reasonably smaller than Milly - even though they were from the same litter. Within a couple of weeks, Milly was running out of the cage to explore, and liked to sit on my shoulder with Poppy, but Moo would just pop her head timidly out the cage. She wasn’t nervous whilst she was in the cage with her mates though, and they were all getting along fine, it was just anything outside the cage that she seemed nervous of. But eventually, she got used to my hand being in the cage, and now comes out to explore - it does still take her a while to pluck up the courage, and any sudden noise or movement will send her scurrying back into the cage, unlike the other two. She’s also caught up in size with Milly, and she’s definitely less nervous of me and her surroundings, but she is still quite skittish.

    On the whole they all get along well, with no signs of aggression so far, but recently, Moo has started taking food out of Poppy’s mouth and hands when she’s eating - sometimes quite forcefully. For example, if I give them all a treat, Moo will either eat hers first, then go for Poppy’s. Or, put hers in the corner of the cage, and head directly for Poppy’s. I first noticed this behaviour a couple of months ago, but Poppy wouldn’t give up the food, and Moo would quickly give up, at this point it was only happening occasionally so I didn’t think anything of it. But now it’s happening a lot more, and with Poppy being an older lady now, Moo always manages to overpower her. I’ve never seen her attempt this with Milly, and likewise - Milly doesn’t show that behaviour towards Poppy.

    I’m not sure what to make of this, but it is worrying me, it’s horrible to see - the poor thing, she’s a gentle old girl - she loves to cuddle up with you because she wants you to pet her, but sadly she is showing signs of getting weaker.

    Thank you so much for any advice anyone has.

    :)
     
  2. Jun 10, 2019 #2

    jorats

    jorats

    jorats

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    This is actually quite common. You could give Poppy head start by taking Moo out during treat time. Or placing Moo in a different part of the cage while handing out treats. Also, it could be that Poppy is not really all that interested in eating much anymore. My older rats really didn't eat much when they got to that advanced age. If you are worried that Poppy might lose too much weight, take her out daily for extra healthy treats like avocados, sunflower seeds...
     
  3. Jun 10, 2019 #3

    Mother of Mischief

    Mother of Mischief

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    I have noticed some of my rats doing this. I have observed this behavior coming mostly from rats that are closer to the bottom of the hierarchy. I thought it could be a way for them to assert dominance among the lowest in the hierarchy or volley for position without having to fight (because they are usually smaller in size). My observations didn't always confirm this theory because the behavior sometimes targeted the alpha or beta rats.
    My second theory was that the rats who were stealing food did not believe they had other means to acquire the food easier. My most persistent klepto is Damiana. Damiana is very shy and it took him almost a year to warm up to me. He didn't always trust me/my hand enough to take food from my hand. However, since warning up to me a bit more, he has stolen from his buddies less.
    These were just my theories. Maybe one feels like it fits? I think what @jorats suggested is a good idea.
     
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  4. Jun 11, 2019 #4

    Rat-a-tata

    Rat-a-tata

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    Thank you for your advice :)

    I do feel that she’s losing interest in food, she’s lost some weight too, I think it’s just her age. She loves coming out for a fuss; way more than she ever has lately so I’m going to get her some healthy treats like you mentioned tomorrow. Thank you for putting my mind at rest, I was worrying about the old girl!
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
  5. Jun 11, 2019 #5

    Rat-a-tata

    Rat-a-tata

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    Thank you for your advice :)

    It actually seems like Moo fits into both of your theories! I would say Moo is at the bottom of the hierarchy and it’s only recently that she’s started to warm to me, even though she is very skittish still - bless her! I watch her scurrying around sometimes and she’s the epitome of ‘headless chicken’ :D
    I love how all my rats have had such different personalities but I’ve never had one quite like her! Damiana and her seem quite similar!
     
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