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Hi all, I was hoping you could help me with some problems I'm having introducing my two new rats to my older two. Here's the situation:

I have had my two older rats (C and S, males) for a little over a year. They were from a pet store, probably an accidental litter from someone's home; definitely not feeder stock but very poorly socialized. It took us months to tame them to even come out of their cage but they are total love bugs now. We recently decided to add two more to our family. We had been housing our boys in the Rat Mansion cage, but decided that with two more we would want more space so we got a 2-story critter nation cage. We brought two new boys home from a breeder (N and P, they were about 6 weeks old and very well socialized) and housed them in a large tank temporarily. We began letting them sniff and see each other after the new rats finished quarantine, and began introducing them in neutral territory the next day. They seemed to be doing OK at first, and after about a week of this, we put them in their new cage together to see how they would do (none of them had ever been in the critter nation yet, so it was neutral territory at the time). After they were in the new cage together, they started to have small confrontations. Knowing this was all part of getting to know each other and establishing their hierarchy, we let them be, but kept a close eye. Soon these small confrontations escalated in to fights (real ones, with one of the older boys puffing his fur, walking sideways, and would end in them rolling around together until we separated them with a spray bottle and towel). Not knowing what to do, we separated the older and younger boys into the separate halves of the cage, and have continued to let them visit in neutral territory, but the fights continued, and one of our new boys (N) began to get aggressive out of fear of the older boys.

At this point, we separated them and had no play dates for a week hoping they would get used to each other by proximity and forget the fear. This worked well, and we started to have neutral area visits again, but this time with only one of the older boys at a time, trying to figure out which one was the aggressor (the older boys are almost identical, so it was always hard to tell who was the fighter). We have narrowed it down now and know that it is our older boy S who is the main issue, as C is able to be with the new babies quite peacefully. The new boy who was showing fear aggression has totally stopped that behavior now, but is now simply terrified of S, and I don't want to cause him trauma by making him be around S. Now I'm not sure what to do, because we could keep them separate forever with the critter nation, but part of the reason we got more rats was so that when they get older and we lose one of our original boys the other won't be lonely. I'm starting to lose hope that we'll be able to have one big group at this point.

I have considered that S might benefit from neutering, but he's over a year old and I'd like to not make him go through that, plus I'm not sure about finding a vet who can do it for a price I can afford in my area (Portland, OR), so I'm reserving that as a last resort. I am wondering if there are any methods you all might know to help us get S to be less aggressive toward the new babies. I'm sure there are things we could have done differently during introductions, but moving forward are there any good options?

Thanks in advance everyone!!
Nicole
 
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