URGENT first rescue WE REALLY NEED HELP!

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

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  1. Jun 20, 2019 #1

    MeineRatten

    MeineRatten

    MeineRatten

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    Hi guys!

    We have just gotten our first rescue, three wonderful girls to add to our already existing pair. We have already consulted all the available info on introductions and came up with a plan (a bit later in this post), but today's event put everything into question and frankly, threw me a bit under the bus.

    The thing is, we took the rats from the shelter where they were for a full year, so all three of them (Agnetta (Netti), Frieda and Ingrid) are adults and have established themselves as rats. The problem is, however, that Ingrid was born at the shelter and therefore, did not have any human contact. Yesterday when I brought them home we have transferred into the top half of our Savic (similar to critter/ferret nation), and we left them be for the day. The two older sisters are very good with handling and today even don't squick when picked up, take food off the hand and also enjoy some cuddles. Ingrid, on the other hand... Well, when I came in the morning to check on them (they live in our dining room) Ingrid was out and the moment I came to say hi the panic ensued. But it wasn't terrible, and she sniffed my hand before jumping her way to the sputnik at the top of the cage. I took to working at the dining table today to keep an eye on the situation (a thin plastic platform between the halves is not instilling a lot of confidence), so I got a chance to interact with the new girls a bit more as well as letting out oldies have a bit of cuddle and play. Ingrid took a sunflower seed out of my hand, and I was happy that we seemed to be on the right track.

    However, a couple of hours later the sputnik collapsed under the weight of three rats, I think they had a wee squabble which brought it down as a result. I gave them a few minutes to calm down (and to get zip ties to tie it back up), but the moment I opened the cage Ingrid freaked out, and by this I mean ran, jumped, squealed and so on. I didn't even have time to react to how she was out of the cage! It would be worth mentioning that our lounge is adjacent to the dining room without a door, so you can imagine how stressed I was! There was no way that she'll make it into the cage on her own, and definitely, she couldn't be left out alone. So in a combined effort of my husband and me, we caught her (he got bitten in the process). I caught her into a fleece blanket and released into a small quarantine cage where she presently is right next to me as I type this. I am currently weary of releasing her into the big cage with others as I don't want the incident to repeat, and I don't want it to be imprinted on her that home is not a safe place and I think being closer to us would help her understand that we are not all that bad (although she probably hates us now and might never recover). This is a difficult situation and be she a larger animal or not social as they are I wouldn't be very concerned as the situation would be easy to dissolve. However, we need to proceed to intros soon, as, again, the other rats are very curious about each other and our girls at the bottom are quite strong and athletic so I'd rather they meed in a controlled environment.

    Our plannes for intros are a healthy combo of neutral territory and carrier method. They are all going to be put in the bathtub first to see how the interactions and figure out compatibilities and so on, and then we'll jump to the carrier method. However, we can't do it, because... Ingrid! I want to sort this mess out as soon as we can, but at this point, I am entirely at a loss. I would love for all of them to have a good, happy and healthy life, especially after a year in a dull shelter cage, and I am going to do all I can to provide it.

    P.S.
    Our rat Lila used to be very skittish, but not this much, and we got through it by constantly being there for her and having a lot of contact time, which seems impossible with Ingrid right now.... :(

    TLDR.
    Very skittish new adult rat that is not used to humans escaped the cage, head to be caught. How do we proceed to intros with other rats? She came as part of a trio.
     
  2. Jun 20, 2019 #2

    MeineRatten

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    I can hear her shifting in the cage; she's alive! I was scared for a few minutes she might have a heart attack from stress; I almost did...
     
  3. Jun 21, 2019 #3

    SQ

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  4. Jun 21, 2019 #4

    MeineRatten

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    As I have said above (please read before replying) I have already researched the fairly general information that is in both links. The intro is not a problem. We need to figure out a way to make her feel more comfortable with the idea of humans being there because her panics have the potential of putting her in danger of injury. She is perfectly fine with other rats, but she doesn't know what to do with a human. Her wellbeing is the main concern here, as she can't stay in the quarantine cage forever because depression is more likely to make her fear even worse, but she can't be let back onto the big cage, and we can't start intros until she stops being a danger to herself whenever we are around. This is, alas, not a general skittish rat problem; the situation is far more delicate as the damage can be caused to her psyche quickly and be potentially irreversible. This is a behavioural issue that requires finding a specific approach without trying out everything under the sun.
     
  5. Jun 21, 2019 #5

    Rocket99

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    Welcome to the world of fostering rescues. First off, I would not be too concerned with her mindset, she's made it this far, shells make it further without injury or insult. My personal thoughts are...why even bother to do intros anytime soon, if at all, ever. You have 2 groups of brats living happily as they are. Why make it an issue? If it ain't broke.... Ya catch my drift? I have worked with rescues for years, especially the "unadoptable" kinds. For whatever reason, my housing is the last stop for most of the fosters I get, and so I am quite used to doing intros and figuring out housing arrangements. And most are of varying stages of socialization. What you will learn is that....as long as they are healthy, happy, and safe, you're ahead of the game. Don't force the issue on them. If, pn the other hand, they seem like they would benefit from intros, then by all means. But if it is likely going to end in injury, or basically end badly, then I wouldn't even risk it. And finally, I wouldn't worry about Ingrid's attitude towards you. If she seems likely to adjust to having new cagemates without a serious incident, then go for it, do the initial intro. Watch her closely so you can remove her quickly on the event of a fight. If you don't have much experience handling a serious rat fight, then intros need to wait until you know how to handle that situation. Ok, hope I helped. I'm not trying to discourage you, but this is your very first rescue intake, and intros are not critical at this point. They all have cagemates. I recommend just taking an observatory position for awhile. Rescues and fosters are often not socialized, and therefore unfriendly. But it's the ones that are aggressive towards new, outsider rats that you will need experience with. Expect lots of rat bites. And that's where you should begin. Learn how to handle unfriendly, unsocialized rats. Big difference between timid, frightened tats, and aggressive, territorial rats. Neber try to pick up a new rat, even if it seems friendly. But you need to learn how to do it safely, because usiusua, once you have them out of their cage, they become manageable, and this is how to start socializing the. Bitbmany never socialize, especially ones like Ingrid. She will gradually, over her lifetime, settle down enough to kind of trust to not bite, but her trusting you is what you need to accomplish first. Her faith in you is the only way to socialize her. Some day, likely within months of her passing, she will be a totally different girl, trusting and needing you to survive her declining health. That is when you will get that feeling of accomplishment, and receive her love. And that's when you realize it was all so worth all the bites and fights. She will one day reciprocate your good will. And there's no better feeling from an animal so small, so misunderstood, so wonderful. Glad you have decided to help some rescues. They deserve it. Thank you.
     
  6. Jun 21, 2019 #6

    Rocket99

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    Oh, BTW, is this your first experience with intros, with existing residents vs. newcomer strangers? It can be a very tricky, and risky, endeavor. Rats are territorial, often to the point of killing strangers or newcomers. Also, you can be violently attacked and seriously bitten by (usually) the resident rats if they pick up the scent of a strange rat on your hand. I have seen enough rat reactions to know when it is likely about to happen. The chattering of teeth, raised hair, sidestepping crabwalk. Never put your hands near a resident after handling a strange rat without vigorously washing them first.
     
  7. Jun 21, 2019 #7

    SQ

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    Why do you believe that Ingrid can not be put in with her 2 friends?
    If the cage is the issue, then you will need to get another large cage asap

    Since Ingrid gets along with the 2 girls she lives with, she can continue to live with them in a large cage.
    Intros with your two other girls can wait a few months, after Ingrid feels more comfortable in her new home and with people. Since rats have poor eyesight and rely heavily on smell, make sure your hands do not smell like rats in the other group or like food, etc when near the ratties.

    The incident you wrote about sounds understandable to me - a terrifying incident (collapse of the space pod) occurred in a new, unfamiliar environment, and Ingrid reacted by trying to get away and find a safe place. Under the circumstance it would not be unusual for a frightened rat to nip or bite and draw blood in order to try to escape from the terrifying humans (I am assuming from what you wrote that Ingrid did not bite down, refuse to let go, and continue to bite harder and deeper as can happen with aggressive rats). I am sure that the attempts to catch her heightened her stress and feeling of terror.

    Personally, I would put Ingrid and her 2 friends into a large cage, with lots of hammocks, and hiding places (boxes etc) carefully set up so a similar incident does not reoccur. Let Ingrid have a few months to become used to her new environment and the scary humans in her life.
    It is very encouraging that although frightened, Ingrid was willing to take a sunflower seed from you.

    www.joinrats has a lot of good information on socializing rats and working with rats that are frightened, as well as rats that are aggressive. I hope that you will check it out.

    The method you have described re introducing the two groups of girls involves putting unfamiliar rats into a small space - this can cause a great amount of fear and Ingrid will likely react badly. Introductions that are gradual, allow rats to feel safe and are more natural and respectful would imo be a better approach. Rats normally have space to retreat from other rats when they feel unsafe instead of being forced to be near unfamiliar rats - which can cause heightened fear and they may think they need to fight in order to protect themselves. www.joinrats.com also has good information on intros and introing fearful rats.

    Basically I would suggest:
    1. put Ingrid into a large safe cage with her two friends and give her time to become used to her new environment Edit: as Jorats said, being with her friends will help her to feel safe, calm her, and help her to learn to trust you - lone rats can become depressed, fearful, and less social with people - I am sure she is missing her friends and very frightened without them.
    2. read joinrats.com and slowly work with Ingrid so that she becomes less fearful about humans
    3. use a slow gradual intro process that respects the rats and pays attention to their body language (joinrats.com)

    I am sure that eventually you will have a large happy group of rats.

    BTW, spaying girls is important for health reasons if you have access to a good vet with the knowledge and experience to safely spay rats - most vets do not. I do not know what the rate of unsprayed girls is for mammary tumours is in Europe, but in North America it is more then 85%. https://www.ratshackforum.com/threads/why-spay-or-neuter-rats.35402/
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2019
  8. Jun 23, 2019 #8

    jorats

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    It's truly wonderful of you to have rescued these sweeties. Please put Ingrid back with her sisters. She really needs them at this point. It sounds like her sisters are doing well and she needs their energy to calm her and to reassure her that all is well. She will learn from their interactions with you. I would keep away from her for a while. Let her do her own thing, if she comes to you, be ready with a treat. But don't force yourself on her. She's just incredibly scared. This is new to her, she has known nothing but the shelter. In a few weeks, when you see she's doing a better, I would start the intro process with your own girls.
     
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  9. Jun 23, 2019 #9

    MeineRatten

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    she is with her mates (aunt and mom) for about 2 days and there is not much to tell really, she isn't exactly eager to be around humans in general so there is not much we expect. Seen her walking around (much calmer!) in the cage while we had breakfast about a meter away, so maybe there is some progress. We have found out from the vet that she is a mix between a wild and colour rat so it might affect her socially with us. But as long as she's not panicking so we can clean the cage/do intros. We don't expect anything past that from her as she is already a year old. So we'll see, so far she is just unhappy to have us around.
     
  10. Jun 23, 2019 #10

    MeineRatten

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    We have a fairly low rate of tumours here and the vet generally recommends removing tumours rather than spaying, because the risks are too high and some of our girls are still in underweight for anaesthesia. And from experience, it is much better to spay as a side thought than a whole surgery.

    As I said above, she is not eager on interactions, i.e. she doesn't watch us, poke her nose out, sniff the air or anything, she is more likely to tense and regroup into a ball. I don't honestly know if she would ever be a "domestic" rat, all is asked of her is not to run off/bite. We chose a carrier method on a recommendation as it involves minimal human contact for Ingrid (everyone else would be ok with a lot of contacts), because that would actually cause less stress longterm.

    Already been to JoinRats and since she is (again) not eager on interactions and doesn't observe her mates majority of those methods won't have any effect, and I am NOT doing forced socialisation.

    We're getting a piece of linoleum for between cages because one of our girls and Agnetta (mate of Ingrids) have taken now to playing tag-o-war with the fleece and it's better for our minds if they stop sawing the side of the pan lol
    Here's to hoping it all workes out.
     
  11. Jun 24, 2019 #11

    jorats

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    Can you post a picture of her? A wild rat is agouti but so are domesticated rats. I'm surprised a vet would say such a thing.
     
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  12. Jun 24, 2019 #12

    MeineRatten

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    There she is, all that I have of her. She's not been out much, so that's kind of a challenge to have any photos.

    Ahs is anatomically a typical wildling. As she was not explicitly bred and was born to a mother that fell pregnant while being on the loose in an abandoned farm, there are no surprises. Her colouring is 100% typical for a wild rat, her features also correspond. She is smaller (approx a size of our 6 month old girls), lighter, her tail is a bit longer, and in proportion to her skull, the eyes and ears are more prominent. On top of that, she might be going through something to do with her sexual development, but we did not look past visual and palpation. The general consensus is that she took more from her wild father then her domestic mother, which can affect the behaviour. But she will have all the chances to prove us wrong if she decides to play nice :)
    IMG_6380.JPG IMG_6377.JPG 58271627588__FDC0EE35-9B7F-4827-8C34-06F30E013D13.JPG
     
  13. Jun 24, 2019 #13

    jorats

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    Ok, I didn't know you knew her history. It sounded like the vet was going by colour alone. That colour is also found in domesticated rats. I've plenty of agoutis. Now that I know she's half wild, she will be a huge challenge. She may never become as trusting as the others. I wouldn't force myself on her and I would just let her live out her life enjoying her friends. Some people have had great success taming half wilds while others not so much. We've had 3 here and all three never really took to us humans. But they were wonderful in their own right.
     
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  14. Jun 24, 2019 #14

    MeineRatten

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    Well, we're taking it one step at a time. As long as she eventually lets us unite everyone it is all good. She is definitely gaining in bravery quite a bit faster then I've anticipated from her. Today there are even signs of curiosity (she managed to get behind the loo somehow and was poking her head out staring at me) and she is 100% getting calmer i.e. walked around the cage today while I was not too far, slept next to her aunt while she had treats. I am giving her an occasional cuddle in the sputnik if she is asleep, just a wee bit behind the ears. It is very hard to identify what exactly she is scared of because sometimes its noises sometimes she just goes "I've had enough" and dashes off, but those have become very controlled dashes, more like fast retreats. She'll still panic and bite if I try to pick her up (didn't try, but that's quite obvious), but she tolerated me moving a hide with her in it a shelf down. It is super hot here right now, so we made them tiny pools that have water and sometimes peas/corn, they have to be put on a shelf that doesn't have fleece. I figure out a method to give her some baby food with a chopstick, granted she needs the food to touch her face for her start eating and she does eat very little of it, but all this in my books is progress! So we'll see how things go. I am going to be making a few wooden hides as well as hammocks with her in mind this week, so they'll have a layout where she can get away if need be and a wee house as a cage-to-carrier alternative to a hand. She might still freak at times, but I am sure that by the end of July we'll have everyone together :) She seems to have a very-very nice character, just fear is not letting it though. We'll get there...
     
  15. Jun 24, 2019 #15

    jorats

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    That's really great! We had three males like that. Their fear is really what sets them apart. But our three males integrated well enough with mixed colonies. Our colonies were always in large enough numbers with spayed females, intact males and some neutered males. We had our three half wilds neutered as well to help them cope better. Your little girl sure is a beauty.
     
  16. Jun 24, 2019 #16

    MeineRatten

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    Yeah, we initially thought of sterilising her, but the consequences can be unpredictable and there is a chance for her to actually become aggressive under stress and pain, plus she is technically under the weight needed for the sedative to be safe.
    Looking at your experience, is there some treat she might enjoy more than others? I guess baby food might get boring to her sooner or later... and variety can help her get a bit more positive about being around humans.
    Also, are there any behavioural red flags to look for that would state that she is completely untamable? Any specific for wildlings things to look out for in terms of whether we are on the right track or not? It is easy in this situation to get too hopeful and see only what you want to see or visa versa. I'm constantly in the limbo between being proud of her and despairing that nothing works.
     
  17. Jun 24, 2019 #17

    jorats

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    Bananas were always a hit. Peas too. You could try avocados to bring up her weight a bit if that's a concern. The three we had and the rest of the litter, all did great as being part of a colony. I had one wild male in my care for a couple of weeks and they really don't compare. He was definitely a lost cause, never to be tamed but he was too accustomed to humans to be let back in the wild. I know he wasn't happy living his life in a cage. But it was for his own good. He needed vet care as he was full of botflies. But I think you will get there with your girl. It's like two steps forward, one step back. But in the end, in a year from now, it will be all worth it.
     
  18. Jun 24, 2019 #18

    MeineRatten

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    I sincerely hope you're right. Can't do avocado, her aunt is a fattie so if I leave it in the cage the madam will get even bigger. Bananas though are the ultimate weapon (generally along with mealworms). But I don't think her weight is generally a concern, she seems to act healthy, poops look great, climbing is on point. I do hope she lives a long and happy life, but all we can do for that is limit stress and feed good food :)
    I'll try to keep you updated on how she does, we gotta have her out on Saturday for a cage clean, so hopefully no more chases.
     
  19. Jun 26, 2019 #19

    Rocket99

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    Definitely has wildie in her. Can see it in her eyes.
     
  20. Jun 27, 2019 #20

    MeineRatten

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    we can see it in her actions....
     

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