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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, I think I need some suggestions/advice.

We got a new rescue rattie (Cocoa) three weeks ago tomorrow. After two weeks separated, we began the introductions with our other seven ratties, one at a time. The very first introduction with one of our least aggressive ratbabies (Judith) didn't go so well and they started fighting. So we called it quits that day. The next day we managed to introduce three others to Cocoa one at a time without incident (that particular day I started rubbing tuna juice on all of them - I also discovered that Cocoa was in heat and wondered if that accounted for anything that happened between her and the others). And the day after that, we did the same thing with the last three. No major incidents.

After that, I started switching them out into each other's cages without doing any major cleaning so they could get more used to each other's smells. And then today we started all over again with the first rat (Judith) and the same thing happened - they started to fight. But I was right on top of them to stop it more quickly that time. We moved on to another rat (Pixie) and no fighting, but she kept humping and chasing Cocoa (who's in heat again), and Cocoa would also chase back. Tomorrow we'll do some more introductions.

All of our other rat introductions have gone easily compared to this - most likely because:

1) the other introductions involved younger, non-adult rats, and
2) none of the other ratties had been alone during their life - they had regular cagemates/siblings.

This rescue is an adult, about one years old, and while she did have siblings, they were all adopted before she was because she was the most scared/shy out of them all. And before she ended up in the shelter, she'd been at a store. So she hasn't had the easiest time of it.

I realize that this introduction may take longer than the others. I also realize that there's a possibility she'll never get along with the first rat we tried to introduce her to (Judith).

So, my questions are:

1) Am I making a mistake by stepping early when a squabble starts up? Should I let them screech and scream and tussle with each other and see if they can figure it out? The thought of doing that scares me though, since I know how quickly a serious injury can happen.

2) If, after repeated attempts at introduction, would it be best for me to just split all the ratties up and put Cocoa together with about three others who seem to get along OK with her? I don't want her to remain alone the rest of her life and splitting them up would decrease the amount of rats crowded into each section of the cage (which is a double Critter Nation).

There's probably a question or two I'm forgetting to ask, but I wanted to go ahead and post this while it's heavy on my mind.
 

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When I had trouble with one of my established rats refusing to accept 2 new family members, I put the aggressive girl in a cage by herself for a week, introduced the two rats to everyone else, let them all live together for a week, then reintroduced the troublesome girl. She was so glad to see everyone, she gave no further trouble. I can't guarantee that this will work for you, but it might be worth a try before splitting your mischief into two groups.
 

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I did something similar with my girl who was giving me trouble except I sectioned off the bottom of my cage for the trouble maker to live in by herself for a few days. You have a double criter nation, so that might work for you temporarily. After a couple days mine stopped trying to break back into the top section and I restarted sessions in a bathtub with a bit of water (bout a half inch) and lots of floating toys and chopped up broccoli. If she started to fight I'd pin her on her back being careful her head didn't go under water and put her back in her section of the cage for a ten minute time out. By the second day of that, she shaped up. I went in this morning and six rats were squished into the same Tupperware nestbox. Last month there's have been blood. It doesn't work for everyone, but giving the pooper a little time out in the proverbial corner worked for me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The problem is that I can't tell who's being aggressive. I don't know if it's the new rescue or Judith. I suppose putting Judith in another cage might be an approach worth considering - I hadn't thought of that. So far she has been the only one who actually got into a scuffle with Cocoa but like I said I can't tell who started it. I've been reading about the carrier method and using spray bottles, so maybe that is worth a try as well. I'm always on pins and needles when we introduce any new rats and this one has been particularly rough - sometimes I'm not sure if I'm overreacting to their behavior.
 

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I think it's likely to be Judith who is the aggressor. I think if the new girls were starting things, they would be attacking other rats as well. If the other girls all get along together, without Judith, that will be another indication that she is the aggressor. In about 5 intros I only had 1 that was a problem. Usually I introduced new rats and they were immediately accepted as part of the group, so I was totally blindsided when there was a problem. Hope you get it all worked out so they can all live together.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks, Raindear. I'm going to do whatever I can. The thought of having to separate them into two groups is heartbreaking. Question though: if I did put Judith in time out for however long (let's say, a week or something), would the other ratties who know her still accept her? Or would there be introduction issues I need to work through all over again?
 

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When I did it I had no new introduction issues, but I can't predict whether it will go that way for you. I do think your original girls will recognize Judith, but what happens between her and the new girls will still be a question. She may just recognize that the family has changed and accept it, or she may try to oust them yet again. All you can do is try it out and see if it works for you as it did for me. You may get the normal introductions and hierarchy scuffles, but it shouldn't be like it is now. At least I hope that is how it will work out. Keep us updated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
OK, so today I tried the carrier method with Judith and Cocoa. I cleaned out a small dog carrier and put them both in it with some water and a bit of food. Then I went outside with them and walked around a bit before setting the carrier down to watch over them with a spray bottle on hand. We couldn't stay outside long because it's nearly 90 here today but we were out there between 5-10 minutes. I brought them back inside and put the carrier down on the steps for another couple minutes or so. During that time there was no fighting because they were so worried about what was happening. Cocoa did groom Judith for a moment or two. They showed no interest in the food, of course, because of how distracted they were. There was some poop and pee in the carrier by the time it was over but no fighting, which was a good sign. I am not sure if I should do the carrier method with all of them individually and then as a group or just use it for Judith and Cocoa. Anyway, a good start so far but that doesn't always mean anything in the end. I'll just keep trying and we'll see.
 

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Sometimes when a problem comes up our intuition kicks in and we just know the answer. Looking good so far. Hope it continues to be good.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Here are two short videos I took today. This was their third time together in a small cage; the first two times I used a small dog carrier but today I used something different. They spent close to an hour together like this. Everything went well until around the 50-55 minute mark where there was a sudden squabble and some fur that got pulled. I have no idea what triggered it. My son was watching them when it happened; I'd stepped out of the room to work on cleaning the rat cage. I was going to house Judith and Cocoa together since they'd been doing so well today. But after the spat, I doubted it would work out. And sure enough, after putting them in the bigger Critter Nation cage (top level), there was some very aggressive body language between them (which I did not allow to escalate into a fight). So they're definitely not ready yet. :(

First video:


Second video:
 
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