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Discussion Starter #1
A month or so ago my girlfriend bought a kitten against my wishes and things with our rats have been a mess since then. Jesse isn't afraid of the kitten as long as there are bars between them, and has even head-butted her when she dared stick her nose too close to the cage, but if he smells her when he's outside of the cage he'll stay behind a desk or dresser for half an hour and then head back to the cage. Nibbles is much worse; if he ever sees the cat, no matter how far away she is or that he's safe in the cage, he will run to the back of the cage and stand there shivering for 20-30 minutes, not accepting treats. On some days he's willing to explore outside, but many others he seems afraid to leave the cage at all. To make matters worse, Jesse keeps bullying him.

We never let the cat in the room when they're out of the cage, and even when they're in the cage there is usually a 6-foot Japanese-style divider separating the closet their cage is stationed in from the cat, but it's impossible to get rid of the smell and the kitten is too small and fast to keep her from darting into their room now and then and scaring Nibbles to death just by existing.

They aren't getting out of the cage nearly enough and when they do they're too scared to free range and aren't getting enough exercise. I have no idea what to do. I was hoping they'd be used to the smell after a month but their reaction hasn't changed at all. Kitty is in the "maul everything small that moves" phase so I don't think there's any chance of introducing them to her properly. Please help, if you have any tips. Thanks.
 

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I definitly wouldnt introduce them, theres little to be gained by cross species interaction. Instead i would probbaly try quite a mean option, with the belief it will help them long term. First off put some fleece or a towel or similar in your cats bed, perhaps more than one if you can. Let it get the cat smell on it and then put it in there cage, somewhere they love to be, say there bed or hammock. If they then avoid that are you may need to put more in and around the cage. You need to make it so that the whole area smells of cats. This will mean that they are very unsettled for a while, but it will also mean that they cant avoid the worst of the cat smell by hdiding in the cage, so they will get used to it quicker. Rats and cats can share a house without any issues, its getting over that initial period where the rats react instinctively to the preditor smell. On the same theory i would make sure they can see the kitten all the time too, so dont screen them off, again it helps them get used to and adapt to it

Its also important in this time that you treat the boys normally, dont treat them as though they are scared and need protection or reassurance. They will interprit this as there being a reason to be afraid. Treat them as you did pre cat and see if this helps too

It could be worth giving them a drop of bachs rescue remedy in the odd wet meal to relax them a little
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the advice, Isamurat, I'll give it a shot. The kitten sleeps wherever she likes and never in her bed, but I'll try to get her smell on some blankets.

As far as not screening them off, the cat can fit her paws through the cage bars and when she has access to the cage she watches it or climbs on it every chance she can get. I am concerned about her reaching through the bars and maiming one of the boys. What are your thoughts?
 

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Reward the cat with high value treats for ignoring the cage or exhibiting calm behavior around the cag. You can use chicken, meat scraps or anything the kitten really likes for this - but it is important that it is consistent. Your kitten will learn fast that being calm near the cage and rats will give him praise and treats. I would do small increments of training. Firstly with the divider present separating the kitten from the cage and once the cat is able to handle that successfully, remove the divider and reward cat for being calm and ignoring the cage. If the cat bats at the cage, remove cat from room. Keep doing this until the cat comes in and disregards the cage completely. I don't normally resort to removing animals from the room or spraying with water but there is a high chance that if your cat keeps putting body parts into the cage, either the rats or the kitten is going to get injured. So in short - remove cat for bad behaviors, reward good ones and stay consistent. The rats will be a lot less stressed if the cat isn't beating on the cage.
 

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Great ideas PawsandClaws! I have had cats and rats for the past 24 years. I never leave them alone together. When I'm not in the room where my rats' cage is, I don't let the cats in.

I've seen my rats get very spooked by the smell of my cats, but they usually get over it after several days. Mostly my rats chase my cats. They lunge at them and pull out the cats' fur.

Right now I have a rat inside my sweat jacket munching on a lab block as well as a cat in my lap purring loudly. PawsandClaws has excellent suggestions---I totally agree about the small increments of training and the positive reinforcement. I also agree with Ismurat's ideas of treating your rat boys normally---even when they're scared---so they'll get the idea from you that there's nothing to be afraid of.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thanks for the advice. I guess I don't really understand rewarding her for being calm? Is that meaningful to her? I would think if anything she would think the treats were for being near the cage (I also can't imagine her being calm at this phase). That's worked for you in the past?

Moving (or squirting) her has no effect on her behavior.

She hasn't been able to touch their cage for weeks but they're still stressed :/
 

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They will be scared for as long as they think the cat is an intruder. If it will help put your mind at ease, i would definitely wrap the cage so that the cat cant paw it. It won't look pretty but at least neither of the two will get hurt.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for the suggestions! Hmm, chickenwire might work, although their gigantic frankencage would be very, very hard to cover well.

For simpler logistics, would it work just to periodically carry the cat into the room, show them while holding her, and then remove her without letting her move around?
 

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Getting them use to the smell will definitely work.

I used the same idea, but took it a little too far...

My girl was terrified of cats and would seize up whenever one came near. I took clumps of cat fur and held next to her nose as I pet her, and as she got used to it I tickled her nose with the fur then immediately gave her a treat. Before long she started to go after the cats thinking the same good things would happen to her. I didn't realize that would happen, rats should be rightly wary of cats to a certain degree!
 

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That's a good story to relate, Devyn!

I think you just need to keep the kitten out, as you already do, when your rats have free range time as well as when your rats are in their cage but you're not around to supervise. I also think it takes time before your rats will get used to the smell and idea of having a cat around. I've had it happen countless times over the past 24 years where my rats initially freak out when they smell or sense a cat nearby and then they gradually get used to it as time goes on. Sometimes they even get used to it for months and then, suddenly, freak out again as if they never got used to it.

I've found that my rats are now very bold as long as they see the cats head on rather than having the cats sneak up behind them. My cats are actually afraid of my rats because my rats will lunge at my cats and try to bite them. One thing that's helped with new rats is to have my rats on my shoulder or inside my shirt while I'm sitting on the couch with our cats nearby. That way they know they're safe (since they're on you) and can still smell and sense the cat.

Has it gotten any easier since this thread began?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Has it gotten any easier since this thread began?
Not even a little :/ I pulled Jesse out of the cage tonight but he was spooked and hid behind the cage even though the cat is in the other side of the house. Nibbles seemed fine until he reached the door of the cage, then he froze and stopped taking treats, finally running back in his tunnel to hide... like he does all day...

I've tried the blanket think a few times now but no progress yet. The kitty tends to sleep on gigantic blankets I couldn't realistically fit into the cage, so I've been putting them on top of the cage. One of the times I did this, Jesse was sniffing it and started having a horrible sneezing fit until I removed it. I wonder if he's allergic to cats...

For now I guess I'll try supervised kitty visits when they're both in the cage and she's in my arms.
 

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My cats and rat get along quite well. People might worry about this, and I said I would never do it, but I will even walk away from my rattie when he's on the couch with 2 of my cats. I'm not sure if I got lucky and I have a very tough rat and very timid cats, but their relationship just works. In certain situations, Squoey(rattie) is nverous of the cats. For example, free range time on the floor is always done in my bedroom with the cats locked out. But he is OK on my bed if cats are on the floor sleeping or something.

I would say that actually having your rats on you while the cats are nearby is a good way to get them used to each other. Don't expect the rats to be cool just chilling on the floor next to the cat. But if they feel safe on your body, with somewhere to hide if neccesary, they might get more brave. I used to pet my cats, then let the ratties smell their scent on my hands. Also, letting ratties smell the backside of sleeping cats that are unaware of the rats presence is a good way for them to investigate the cats safely.

I think the biggest factor in my rats getting along with my cats is allowing them to bite the cats once or twice. Cats want the rat tail, it's like magnetic for them lol. But once they learn there's teeth on the other end and the rat learns that the cat will run if bitten once, both species maintain a safe distance. If you can get your ratties comfortable around the cats and then let them smell each others noses eventually, the rat will probably bite the cats nose once it's bolder. Then the cat will be scared or the rat! I'm always way more worried about my cats than my rat haha. He's bitten them when they're just sleeping and ignoring him :( poor kitties lol.

I disagree that you shouldn't introduce them to each other. Like another poster said, rats will be more brave if they can see the perceived threat as opposed to just smelling cats. Squoey will often be nervous, thinking there's a cat nearby, but once he finds it, he's totally cool. He'll go about his business and then keep checking back on the cat to make sure it's behaving itself. I foster kittens for a local shelter and we've had many kittens at th so called 'maul everything in site' phase lol. Rats are bit enough to make kittens and even cats think twice before attacking. Then, once they get that first bite, they REALLY think twice! I say introduce them in a situation when you're holding the rat and the cat is physically lower then the rat. I think you'll be surprised that the cat doesn't jump at th rat right away. Just use good judgement and caution. Good luck!
 

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Wow, margeauxeatsushi, I loved reading what you wrote! You sound like you're really great with managing cat/rat relationships. I agree that the rats do have the upper hand and that once a cat gets bitten, it's not likely to ever bother the rats. My cats now won't even come on the couch if they see my rats are on the couch!

From my observation, the important thing is to never allow a cat to approach a rat from behind. This would definitely scare the rat. However, if a rat is facing the cat, then cats are generally fearful of it or, at the very least, on guard.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Sorry for bumping this, but Nibbles continues to be a total wreck around the cat and I'm really at a loss for what to do. I thought I was making progress, bringing the cat in for them to get a look at her every day, and Nibbles eventually started taking treats from me while I was holding her. But for some reason he's been regressing lately and now immediately freezes and fear-poops upon seeing or hearing the cat, and will continue to fear poop if I interact with him in any way for the next 30 minutes or so.

I tried the blanket trick but Jesse is allergic to cat fur and goes into horrific sneezing fits when exposed to blankets she's slept in (I wasn't sure totally sure he was allergic until he bit her paw and then sneezed violently for a full minute).

I am really starting to get sick with worry and stress over this. I can't imagine the emotional **** Nibbles must be living in every day. Jesse continues to bully him every time he is frozen in fear, making everything worse.

The cat is completely obsessed with them and will sit outside their room for hours, watching them through cracks in the divider. She tries to climb the divider incessantly if anyone is in the room with the rats.

I don't want Nibbles to spend the rest of his life in terror, but nothing is working. Jesse is fine and will happily bite the cat through the bars if she gets too close, but I think if she ever got that close to Nibbles he'd have a heart attack :( What can I possibly do to save my poor boy?
 

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If your rat Nibbles is really allergic to your cat, that does make it more difficult. I wonder if she was sneezing out of fear, though?

I would definitely try having Nibbles inside your shirt while your cat is walking around and eventually while your cat sits on your lap. This way, Nibbles will know he's safe since he's tucked inside your shirt. You can even place your hand over him while he's inside your shirt and talk softly to him letting him know everything's okay.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Jesse is allergic, not Nibbles.

Nibbles does not feel safe in my shirt, or my hands. He used to, but he hasn't since the cat arrived. If I ever pick him up he will fight endlessly to wriggle out of my grip. It's very disheartening, he used to love climbing on me and would dive down my shirt of his own accord at every opportunity. Now he's just afraid.
 

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Are you still interested in trying out new ideas.....or are you coming to the conclusion this won't work?

If you're still interested in new ideas. can you keep the cat completely out of the room and then be able to interact normally with your rats? If you can get them out of their cage and into your shirt, you could then walk out of their room into the area where the cat is. If your rats are safely tucked into your shirt while you're walking around outside of their room and away from their cage, I don't think your rats would want to get off you since you would be considered their "safety zone".

I think if you don't believe it's going to work, then don't try to force anything. You need to do what you feel is best.

My experience in my home is that I find the rats still do go through phases where they're very skittish and spooked even if my cats aren't in the room. This fear usually goes away after a couple of days and it can recur about once a month.
 
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