Hello, having an emergency
My gf and I got two rats that are from the same litter. They were around 3 months old, and are now almost 7 months old.
They are our first pet rats, and we've been reading a lot about fancy rats before getting them. We've always been following everything to the letter, got them the critter nation cage, lots of toys, a healthy diet consisting mainly of their rat food, but also occasionally some fruits, veggies, yogurt, cheese, ham, turkey etc...
We've always given them at least one hour outside of their cage every day. Mostly more than an hour, but the rule is for one hour out at least. Lots of play time with us, even got them to learn how to come on command (almost).
The rats, Marley and Odin, have always been so good to each other. Very playful, lots of play fights, but nothing too serious, just playing. They'd do almost everything together. They've never been separated, they sleep together in their hammocks. They've really been the perfect rats.
On the 21st of December, we had to leave them in an animal hotel since we had to leave town for 2 weeks to see our families for the holidays. We gave the hotel people all the instructions they needed to follow. Marley and Odin had a very big room for them during their stay at the hotel. The room was definitely bigger than the cage we have, and our cage is pretty big. This helped us be more “relaxed” at the idea of leaving them for 2 weeks since we were very worried about leaving them.
We got back from the holidays, and got the rats back on the 4th of January.
Ever since we got back, Marley has been pretty aggressive towards Odin. Puffed up fur, sidling, etc. All the signs of aggression were there, but we didn't see them until one night when Marley hurt Odin pretty bad. That night we heard a loud screech while they were out on their play time. Odin was bleeding very badly, his back-foot nail having been ripped off completely. We went to the emergency and they were able to stop the bleeding. After that incident, we've been researching a lot on rat aggression. Once we knew all about the signs of aggression, we decided to put them together again, in a controlled environment. Every single time, as soon as they're together, Marley starts bullying Odin. He puffs up, walks sideways, shoves Odin. So we separate them before anything bad happens again. However, it is clear Odin is NEVER the one to initiate anything, and if anything, always runs away from Marley, while Marley keeps chasing him.
The weird thing is, when it's time for them to sleep, usually around 8-10am, they are back to being so nice together. They groom each other, clean each other, and sleep together all the time. It is only when it is day time for them that we just cannot keep them together. So while we try to keep them together during their sleep time in order for them not to be alone, ever since Marley injured Odin, we have kept them in separate places. And even if it is their sleep time, we never let them together anymore unless we are here to look after them.
Any advice as to what should be done? We've been thinking of neutering Marley. However, having had other animals, I've always been opposed to neutering just because it's more convenient to us humans. In that case however, I feel it is necessary since it seems to be hormonal aggression more than anything, since they are at their sexual maturity.
Sorry for the long post.
Well a big change like you being gone and them being in another place, even more so with lots of different animals scent likely could be playing a major role.
I would actually suggest trying to give their cage a very very deep clean. Clean like you have never cleaned before lol. Get in ever little nook, take apart the cage if you have to. Everything you put in the cage should be brand new, or deeply cleaned. All hammocks, beds, food dishes, toys, water bottles.
The idea is you want no scent in the cage at all.
I'd also suggest using two food dishes, on opposite sides/levels of the cage as well as water bottles.
Do not add any beds that do not have multiple exits. You do not want anyone to feel trapped.
And while I usually do not suggest giving them a bath...in this case I actually would. It is possible that the place didn't clean quite as well as they should or handled the rats after handling other animals and there is just a trace of smell from others.
Go slow, it will be stressful for them. Dry them very well and put them back in the CLEAN cage. Don't put them back in the dirty cage or it won't help lol
Do all of that and see how things go. It may help, it may not. But I do think it is worth a shot.
As males though they are right at the age of hormonal aggression. Not all males get it, many that do don't have it bad, but yeah some males are very bad. Puffed up fur is a very bad sign. I usually do not try if I see that. In horomonal issues the only thing you can do is neuter
Thanks for your fast reply! I will try cleaning the cage and washing the rats like you said. I really hope it's just another animal's scent that Marley is not liking and not actually Odin's natural scent hehe. I'll let you know how it goes. I've already been in contact with their vet, and we've done blood tests to see if he was a "good candidate" for neutering, which he is. She's an exotic animals vet and has already neutered many rats before. Hopefully Marley doesn't need neutering, but if nothing changes after cleaning them and the cage, then I guess I won't have a choice.
I tried everything you proposed. Unfortunately the second (not even) we put Marley next to Odin, he started being aggressive.
Guess the only solution is to neuter him
Well, I hope it'll work out for the little fella. But you'll have to be careful reintroducing them after anyway.
Any advice on how to do it properly? I've read how to do it on the internet, but just to be 100% sure. I know I should wait a week or two after neutering him as it takes some time for his hormones to readjust. I also know I should do it a bit before their sleeping time, as they'll be calmer then. Should also be in a controlled environment. Am I missing something?