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Pet Rats - Introducing your new pet rats to each other!

Putting Pet Rats Together

It usually takes three or four days for complete strangers to be happy with each other. There are a lot of methods to help them get along. I've had pet rats that I thought would kill each other, and now they are snuggle buddies, in hammocks together grooming.

Getting Male Rats Together

If they are both boys, there are different tricks than if they are both girls. Fighting usually means, "This is my house, you can't have it".

Introduce Their Scent

First thing you want to do is let them get used to each other. A good way to do this is to have paper towels in both cages. Let them get a bit scented with urine or whatnot. Then swap the paper towels into the other rat's cage. Leave the scent there for a few days until you clean cages. They'll get used to having the smell around them.

Use Neutral Territory

Two pet rats together in a cage

Secondly, once they've gotten a bit of the "Oh that's what you smell like" thing, find a neutral territory for them and let them sniff each other out. A great place is a bathroom, or someplace very unfamiliar to both of them. Put down a lot of toys, and treats, so they can be distracted. Sit with them, and reassure each one that he is special. If you give one treats, give the other one a treat.

If you do this for a couple of days, you'll probably notice they're spending less time standing on their hind legs hissing at each other, and more time goofing around the toys.

Rat Fights

New rats WILL often spat. If it looks like blood is being drawn, use a water gun or water bottle and squirt them once or twice, saying firmly, "No FIGHTS". Rats WILL box, and will spat. It's okay. It's how they determine alpha in their tribe. You have to bite your tongue and try not to get too upset.

A posture fight is one where both will be on hind legs, and stay up until one lies on his back. If one is larger than the other, there may be nips by the rear legs, or up by the shoulders. I keep liquid bandage around in case of boxing that gets out of hand. A little peroxide on cuts, and liquid bandage on the bigger ones usually is all you need. Don't cheer on these fights... it's not a sport.

Do NOT stop them by using your hands! Testosterone is higher during these incidents, which also means other chemicals are elevated.

Introducing Cages

If they've gotten used to scent, gotten used to having each other in the play space, then you can start introducing cage to cage. If cages are on the floor, you can leave both doors open, and let each one explore the other area. Sometimes this is all it takes, and both rats will settle into one cage. Other times, you may need to test it out, by putting one rat in with the other for a few hours at a time.

It's easier to match same color rats, and same age rats. What appears as racism is genetic training. Rats will be with similar tribes (Hoodeds breeding with hooded, agouti breeding with agouti..etc) Similar ages mean similar abilities.

Getting Female Rats Together

Girls get motherly, and often if you get the alpha in your pack to accept the new one, the rest do easily. Boy rats sometimes stay aggressive, but there is a solution! You can neuter a male rat, and he will be as sweet as you can imagine.

That's really a last resort, but I highly recommend it if you're keeping males. Sometimes if females nearby are in heat, they'll all act nutty. Neutered rats don't seem to go as crazy.

It is easiest to introduce rats to their companions when they are young (preferably under 10 weeks old). However, even adult rats can be introduced to companions.

Introducing Adult Pet Rats

When introducing adult rats, first clean out the cage thoroughly to remove territorial scents from the resident rat. Dab both rats with perfume or vanilla essence (to disguise their smells) and introduce them on neutral territory, not in a cage which one recognises as its own.

There will usually be some fighting for the first few days after they are introduced. This is not usually serious, but to avoid it you may prefer to introduce them gradually, letting them first just sniff each other and then work up to putting them in the same cage over about a week.

It is harder to introduce adult male rats to other adult males, and such introductions need to be done over several weeks. It is usually fairly easy to introduce an adult male to a young baby male of 6-10 weeks, although the introduction must be carefully supervised. last updated 1 Oct, 2017


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