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Discussion Starter #1
Hi y'all. I am making my first post here as per site rules but I want to start a discussion in the appropriate subsection of "rat behavior."

I am a first-time rat owner, but not unfamiliar with rats. My best friend and one of his close friends, whom I have often visited with, have both kept rats for as long as I've know them, more than ten years and I first learned what wonderful pets they can be by playing with their ratties. After a lot of thinking I finally got my own rats last December. I got them at Petsmart, admittedly because I was a bit impatient after deciding to go ahead and plunge in to having pet rats, and because I didn't really know what to do with a breeder. I don't know if that was my mistake.

I ended up with three adorable and nice (to me) boys. Alaric (Al), who is a creamy color with a tan hood and has always been the most adventurous. Vladislav (Vlad), whose exact color I can't identify (a silvered kind of grey) and who was initially very small and timid but now likes to groom me a lot. And Attila (Till) who is a big, dopey Himalayan. Till and Vlad are dumbos.

Long story short, the lived together perfectly until about two months ago, when they honestly started trying to kill each other. They are now living totally separated and I am heartbroken that I cannot find a way for them to live happily together. I'm reading what I can find about aggression in male rats but it's looking very bleak. My two friends are at a loss as well, but then, they have mostly kept females. I will update soon with more details.
 

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I know it is not the easiest way to handle the situation, but have you considered neutering? I only have girls, but I have read that neutering boys is very effective in curbing aggression.

There are lots of people here who have boys who might be able to help you better.
 

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To really understand the issue, can you describe a few things? What aggression are you seeing? What is their cage life like? How old are they? What sort of time out or time with you do they get?
 

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Thanks for taking the time to reply, guys. I hesitate to go too far into detail because, as I said, I probably need to post in the other section but as a new member I can't yet.

When I got them in December, the pet store estimated that they were around six months, with Vlad being slightly younger because he was from a different litter and smaller. This might be true given their size compared to other rats, both very young and fully grown, I have handled. I do know that they were not fully grown when I got them, since they have grown. Until the fighting started, I would take them out of the cage to hold them and let them run around on my bed and climb on me for at least an hour each day. That has suffered since they started fighting and had to be closely supervised and now cannot be together at all without someone getting hurt. Their cage has always been fairly spare because they usually ignore what I put in there that isn't edible or a hidey hole. When I first got them, I housed them in a double unit critter nation. Then for about a month when I was with my parents they were in a cage about half that size and then back to the critter nation.

Basically sometime in February I noticed Till becoming territorial and shoving the other two up against the side of the cage with his body. I figured this was fairly normal since they are bucks. But that progressed to small cuts, which healed very quickly, so again I thought perhaps they were experienced a hierarchy shift. They would usually wake me up at night once or twice fighting but would quickly stop. Then one day in early March, I woke up and found Vlad with a one inch laceration over his hip. I researched and finding that rats generally heal quickly, decided to wash the wound with betadine and dress it with neosporin and keep him in a pet carrier free of litter until he healed. He did and I put him back with the others. Then Till attacked Al, who sustained about a one-inch laceration to the belly, which healed within 24 hours. I had been keeping Till separate at night since that's when attacks had been happening, but this attack happened in the daytime. So I separated Till indefinitely except for play time. Then Vlad started getting more aggressive with Al in the way that Till did in the beginning. Then Till attacked Vlad again and put another huge gash on his hip and also sustained a smaller gash on is own belly. So they have been living totally separated. Vlad only today after two weeks healed enough from the last attack to be with Al again (I've been keeping him in a small cage I can clean daily) but he immediately started attacking Al and wouldn't stop so I got scared and separated them again.

Sorry, I wrote more than I intended to here. I have no idea what to do. I can't leave them alone even for a second for fear that someone will be seriously injured again.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I don't really understand why this is happening now when it wasn't before. Especially to this degree. And given that even when they fought they would still sleep curled up together. And Till especially looks very unhappy being separated from Al, who stays in the top part of the Critter Nation above him. If he doesn't want to be alone, why does he insist on hurting the others?
 

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Also, I have considered neutering but I have been worried about the risk to my boys. Plus given my work week I fear not being able to monitor their recovery. And I had originally assumed that Till alone would need to be neutered but now I don't know.
 

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Hi! It's nice to meet you! I'm sorry to hear that you are going through this with your rats. :( In my little experience I've had with rats (I work at a pet supplies store that happens to sell small animals, fish and reptiles and very recently purchased my two dumbo rats), and the research I've done, *some* male rats tend to be aggressive towards other males. It's sadly just the way things go sometimes. Also, I've read (in my research) that you shouldn't keep two different species of small animals together.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
They're all Rattus norvegicus, the same species. Only dumbos are phenotypically different than top-eared rats.
 

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Yes, I know. I'm just stating what I've read. It could be a possibility that one male is trying to show dominance over the other two. At work, we've had to separate a certain male from the collective group because of aggression issues when they haven't previously displayed any aggression. This is true for any small animal. I've also been told by my manager that rats are more prone to cage aggression.
 

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They could just be coming into their full "supply" of hormones or maybe once they got to the point where all of them were fully grown, they became more obsessed with dominance, but I'm not certain, just theorizing.

If you found a vet that has done neuters on rats before, I honestly think that would be your best bet. i know you're worried, but i have two neutered boys and they were perfectly fine and didn't need any watching over, just lots of sleep while they healed up, which took maybe 2-3 days. My vet gave me pain meds that made them sleepy and kept them from messing with the sutures.

I understand if you still don't want to risk a neuter, but it just sounds like there's more risk in them being kept intact :( I hope you find a solution soon!
 

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Can you post some photos? If they were 6mos in December, they'd be done with puberty by now.

If you decide to neuter, the recovery period is only about three days and you really only need to watch them for pulling incisions out.

I would try, before neutering, being very hands on. Have them meet in neutral ground and every hint of aggression, intervene and reprimand. If it works, then use the carrier method (see the sticky under rat behavior) on that pair. Then, rinse and repeat with a third male - perhaps Al since he seems the victim as opposed to the aggressor.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks, I'll look into the carrier method and check for vets in the area who might be rat specialists. At least it's not too terrible that they're separated right now. I worry about their long term quality of life not being around each other. But they seem fairly content with my attention at least. I'll add some photos although I doubt they're very helpful. The first is Al around New Year's when he was still about the same size as the other two. Then there's a picture of Vlad around New Year's. Then the third is Till and Vlad together and you might be able to see how Vlad has grown, although he's still smaller than Till. al1.jpg vlad1.jpg ratties2.jpg
 

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Okay. I think I can make sense of this, but you'll need to really observe more to see. It looks like Al (the first picture, I believe that was Al?) was 6 mo ish in Jan, making him 9 mo ish. He'd be out of puberty. However, Vlad looks substantially younger. The more recent picture he looks about 6 or 7 mos (the one with I believe Til?). So, what I think is happening is you have a hierarchy of rats; you've got big man Til up top with his buddy Al on the bottom. Vlad probably floated around, with Til essentially running the show. But not Vlad is flourishing in puberty. He's got the muscle now to try and be top rat. I THINK he is upsetting the balance. He's trying to take over as top rat, and that has Til on edge. So he starts these fights that get aggressive (rump wounds in rats are like going for the jugular, it means business usually and generally takes two to tango). But even when you take Til or Vlad out, who ever left is left in a tizzy and ends up playing bully to poor Al.

I would try to correct the attitude that "I can take charge". Essentially in my mischief, I "throw my weight" behind the alpha so to speak. I reaffirm that it is bad to challenge him. Others prefer to take a role of "No, I am in charge". Either works, you just need one to step down. Do this by enforcing rules on behavior, and then by monitoring interactions. If that fails, I would neuter the younger Vlad.
 
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