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A bit of background info...I have (or rather, had) two rescue rats named Whisky and Brandy, sisters approximately 2 years old. Whisky sadly died last week, leaving Brandy alone.

Brandy was the timid one of the two, and would never do anything without her sister leading the way. If the top of the cage was open Whisky would climb straight out and explore, Brandy wouldn't unless her sister went first. Whisky would run straight up your arm and be fine being picked up. Brandy needed to be encouraged and squeaked when picked up, although she was fine once she was there.

Since Whisky passed Brandy has really withdrawn into herself. She never really liked coming out of the cage anyway, but now the only time I can pick her up is if I coax her with treats first. Their play area was the sofa/windowsill, and the two would have great fun scampering up and down us/burrowing under blankets. Now, when she comes out, she'll run to the windowsill and stay there, out of sight. I thought I'd need to give her lots of love and affection to combat being alone, but she just doesn't seem interested.

She's still eating and drinking fine (if a little thinner, I guess she doesn't need to gobble down all her food before Whisky gets at it now), but I'm really worried about her emotional wellbeing. She's timid, and without her sister to lead her she's becoming an unhappy hermit.

I thought about adopting an older female as a companion, but researching it, it looks like introducing new rats is a nightmare. Aside from the massive expensive of buying extra cages/accessories and the extended playdate sessions, there's also the chance they just won't get on. I don't want to take the new rat back because they can't live with each other. I also don't want to cause Brandy any more stress and make her even more unhappy.

Any suggestions on what I can do?
 

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I personally would consider getting a new rat. If you have a bit of a bigger cage, introducing new rats isn't as a pain in the butt as It's cracked up to be. Rats need companions, and I'm sure she's upset with the death. Try giving her a friend. I hope all works out for you.
 

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You have a pretty tough situation on your hands. On one hand timid rats need a companion more than regular rats, but on the other hand getting rats together can take a long time. I'm sorry to say, but since Brandy is 2 years old, she is likely to be passing soon. I would just give her as much attention as possible and try to do some trust exercises to make her more comfortable with you. When the time comes that Brandy passes, you can get another pair of rats, instead of going through the long process of making two rats get along. I'm sorry for your loss.
 

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I would probably go ahead and adopt two new girls now and introduce them to her. Then you would have rats to keep you company when she passes. I never had too much trouble introducing rats, but your experience may vary.
 

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You need another rat asap no rat should ever be alone, dont worry about introducing any rats they are very sociable creatures and itll make your little one much much happier x
 

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if anyone tells you to not bother getting another rat dont pay any attention, no matter how old a rat is it still needs a friend, my oldest rat is over two years old and he loved meeting my latest rat Jaz when he was 2 and jaz was under a year old at the time
 

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At the very least, if Brandy takes issue with the younger rats, I'm sure they are more maneuverable than her. I suppose that providing hiding spots that are too big for Brandy would help the young ones hide away. I found that paper towel tubes were big enough for young rats, but now my rats are too big for that. A few of those sprinkled around might be helpful. If you have an igloo or some other hidey spot, maybe you could tape the tube to the entrance so only the young ones can get in there.

I don't know if Brandy is considered a senior rat, but I imagine seniors would rather just stay where they are. Please note that I speak as someone whose oldest rat is 9 months. I am just throwing out that possibility and hoping that someone else will correct me if it comes to that.
 

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As long as theres a few different sized spots for all of them to hide in im sure it will be fine, when i got my first rat toby (he was kept alone in a pretty much empty cage for over a year by the previous owner) i waited 3 days till he got a bit more used to me, then i went and got 2 brother rats who were about 5 months of age (ish) i let them run around together for a while then i put the 2 younger rats into the big cage first so they could explore, then after about 20 mins i put Toby in the cage, they had a bit of a wrestle and a few little squeaks but they got on fine, now their inseperable

just make sure to keep an eye on them :) also i wouldnt say she was a senior till atleast a year and a half but thats just my opinion x
 

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Im getting a 2nd rat tonight for my guy.. He just seems lonely in there and I cant attend to him enough. I will slowly acclimate them over the next few days
 

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Every year our most senior rat usually moves on across the rainbow bridge and we adopt a new girl... some intros are harder than others, but so far they have all worked out in the end so far it's always been a good thing for the remaining rat.

That's sort of the nature of only having two rats. Sometimes the easiest intros are between two older girls, but that is likely to have you losing both rats sooner.

It is typical of a lone rat to become introverted and depressed and if you are a stay at home rat parent, you can make up for the missing rat by spending lots and lots of time with your survivor, but it's quite a challenge to be there for a single rat around the clock... It's not something I would recommend.

As to an only rat becoming introverted, this is normal, but it doesn't mean it actually wants to be alone.

Right now, we have Cloud, she's older and slow and pudgy while our new girl is super fast and agile... Poor old Cloud can't possibly catch up to Misty. But Misty actually waits for Cloud to catch up and pounce on her when they play... It's sort of funny to see the old girl weebling along in hot (slow motion) pursuit. And Misty will even pretend to be caught and flipped to keep Cloud interested in the chase.

Max, Cloud's senior rat, who was replaced with Misty never played or chased... she was a very serious rat. She would snuggle with Cloud, but didn't tolerate chasing or games. So yes, it's a challenge for Cloud to keep up with Misty, even when Misty makes it easier for her, but it's nice to see her finally get to play and chase around with another playful rat... They are best friends, they snuggle together and as best as Cloud still can they play... Maybe it's not entirely fair for Misty to have such an old lady friend, but it's a compromise we have to make to always have two rats of different ages.

I will note that rats that lose their companion seem to age faster, even with human companionship. It doesn't tend to reverse when you get a new rat, but time starts to move at a normal rate again for the survivor.

Best luck.
 

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Rats that have lived with rats need other rats it's really that simple. If I were you I would get two babies and intro them together. Given her age they can play together and not bother her but also provide company. If it really doesn't work out you can choose to keep the two new ones in a different cage or rehome them as pair. Rat daddy is right about them aging faster when the lose a friend but I would not advise you to buy just one more for so many reasons. For exsample when Brandy passes you will be back doing intros again and it's proven stable groups of between 2-6 rats are less stressed and have lower levels of social aggression. Goodluck
 

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If I may add to what Amph wrote... In my own experience, mature female rats should not be introduced to rat pups or rats otherwise under 10 weeks old... For some reason, older female rats almost attack the pups of other rats they don't know. I've had intro's work out with rats slightly younger, but 10 weeks is a good guideline to be safe. Our last intro went exceptionally well even though Misty was a little younger, but Cloud is actually Misty's great aunt and that seemed to make things go easier. At about 8 weeks old Misty jumped off my desk while I was on the phone and Found Cloud's secret nest in the metal cabinet.. there were a few squeaks but when I got off the important call and opened the cabinet door both rats were side by side glaring at me for interrupting their snuggle session. I've had horrible intros with female rats, but some go as easy as that. Closely related younger rats from the same breeder might help, but this is really the first time we did it, so I don't have a body of evidence to back that up... The intros might have been easy because Cloud is just the worlds most chill rat and too lazy to put up much of a fight.

Amph, please forgive me for back seat driving, but I think that's what you meant by babies.
 

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Research has shown that rats who are deprived of their companion have very noticeable increases in cortisol, the stress hormone. They absolutely grieve deeply.

Get her some buddies. She may not have long, she deserves some joy after losing her sis.

I, too, have had very easy rat intros.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for the replies everyone.

I've been spending more time with her and she seems to be getting used to the affection, but she's still just very skitty by nature. She trusts me and is happy to take food from the hand/sit on my shoulder, but she has no confidence. She startles at every sudden noise and just doesn't like being out of her cage if she can help it. I'm not sure how to build up her confidence and get her to see me as part of the colony, as opposed to the person who brings tasty food.

Although it seems like the best, I'm worried about getting a new rat for her. Firstly, I can't really afford to spend £100+ on a cage/accessories just for introductions. From everything I've read I can't just put a new rat straight in, and if they don't get along I'm going to be shafted. Brandy will be even more stressed (and possibly injured if they fight), the new rat will have no home and I'd be forced to take it back from wherever I adopted it from.

Sadly I don't know anyone who keeps rats, so I've put adverts up in my local pet shops to see if I can arrange a playdate for her. If she seems okay with meeting a stranger I'll feel much more confident in getting a second rat. If she freaks out or is aggressive, I'm not sure what to do...
 

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You are on the right track,,, I loss "Mouse" recently, still had Helix,,,,(males),,,jumped back in and found 2 little boys needing a home, ( 2 weeks later) I was fortunate, that they came with a cage.,doing the intros now,,the bath tub,,,(put some water in it,,,kinda distracts them) treats,,,there was some pushing, al went well...I made a cardboard corral,,, put it down on a clean floor,,, put the 2 new guys in, then Helix,,,,a bowl of water , some treat,,but, no boxes or place they could hide and escape,,all going well,,,been doing for the past week,,,no issues,,,,,the big cage is next,,,ratties are addictive,,,, every thread here says, no blood,, let them sort it out,,,I usually , when I sense or see some sort of aggression,,I don't shove my hand between them,,,unless it gets bad,,,,I call their names and assure them ,,,with a ear rub,or belly tickle,,,,I am nwe to rats,,,but from what I have read,,and watched,,,they are pretty adaptable,,,wishing you the best
 

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I'm not sure most folks will do rat play dates... as rats often fight when they meet. On neutral ground it's actually hit or miss... sometimes it goes well even when the rats won't get along in a cage.
Although I tend to think the risks aren't that high, especially if you meet on neutral ground... like neither of your homes, or perhaps with a neutered boy and a girl for example, but as the rats won't eventually be living together... there's little reward for the risk.

That's just my first thought... someone might have actual experience with rat play dates, which I too would love to hear.

Best luck.
 

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We actually always adopt our rats at about 3 weeks old... and then we have to keep them away from our older girls until they are ready not to be torn to pieces.

But with our rats free ranging most of the time, we've had some pretty close calls... I've never seen anything drive a perfectly friendly and well adjusted girl rat insane to the point of ratraside faster then a playful pup she's never met before...

As all of our rats came from snake food bins and now a breeder that doesn't give them much care, we do adopt our pups very young so they don't get traumatized before we adopt them. But yes, it must be nice to live in a civilized country where young rats get to spend some time with their moms in good homes before being adopted out. We hand raised Max from 2 weeks old and bottle fed her... and she became one of the quirkiest rats we've ever had when she got older. She was brilliant, but had real personality issues. More time with a real rat mom might have done her a world of good.
 
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