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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So this last week I introduced my newest boy Sam to my other two. Everything went perfect during the intros in the bath room, they did great in the playpen, and had no issues for the first few nights. They sleep together during the day and mostly ignore each other, but then last night Merry, the alpha, just snapped and started attacking Sam. We were able to stop it quickly and no one was injured. For the rest of the night we split the DCN levels and let Sam be alone (he was really scared after the fight) and make sure that there were no further issues. Today we reopened the cage back up because they would be able to be supervised and they had no issues all day long. Then about an hour ago, all three were just laying around together (for about 30 minutes) and Merry just snapped. He jumped on Sam and starting attacking him and displayed aggression towards me as well when I tried to split them up. I eventually got Merry back up to the upper floor and split them. Sam was terrified and trembling in the corner. There was blood this time but I don't know who it came from, there were no visible injuries.
What can I do? I would love to have all the boys together, Pippin and Sam get along great and snuggle most of the day, and Sam doesn't try to fight back when Merry goes after him.
Please help
 

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I don't much like working with rats in a cage, so the first thing I do is to get the rats onto the floor where everyone has room... Then I would try and play with both Merry and Sam together to show Merry that you have accepted Sam into the pack. In light of Merry's higher status you should give him treats first and pay a bit more attention to him, but make it clear that Sam belongs to your family.

Also, I would discourage any aggression on Merry's part very decisively and assertively, perhaps shout and bop (with love in your heart).

Rats sometimes get confused as to who is in charge and who decides who belongs in the household. Sometimes you have to clear up this confusion by stepping in and being the parent or perhaps the alpha. Rats tend to follow the lead of their pack leader, once Merry gets that Sam belongs, he should be able to get over him being part of the family.

Best luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hi, sorry for not responding very quickly. Firstly thank you for the advice, I've been trying what you suggested, and still nothing is helping Merry calm down and accept Sam into the pack. Probably partially because Merry never even became completely trusting of me, he has always been super skittish and a bit crazy. Pippin and Sam still have no issues, I've been able to let Pippin into Sam's part of the cage for some socialization time for Sam and they just groom each other and snuggle.
But every time I try to get them out on to the floor, the moment Merry realizes Sam is there he puffs up, arches his back, hops towards Sam and pounces on him resulting in lots of squeals from Sam when he gets backed into a corner. It then takes Merry at least 15 minutes to calm down, during which he will go the the corners of the cage and try to dig down because he can smell Sam on the other floor (he doesn't do this any other time, just when he all wound up) and even acts strange towards Pippin. I've also noticed that after the first negative interactions, Merry started producing a lot of buck grease.
Do you have any other suggestions? Is it something I might have to consider a neuter to fix? Or is it maybe too ingrained in Merry's head now to be aggressive to rats other than Pip. I just don't want Sam to be all alone (i try to give him extra attention to make up for it) and I'm not sure I can get a fourth rat right now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
As for how I did introductions: after Sam finished his quarantine I moved he cage into the room where I have the DCN that Merry and Pippin were in and had the cages near each other for a while. Because that was going well I brought Sam and Pippin into the bathroom and let them meet in the bathtub, everything was fine and they mostly just sniffed and didn't seem to care about each other so I brought Merry in (he was the one I was most worried about from the start just because of his personality). Again, just sniffing and more curiosity in exploring (both Sam and Merry managed to hop out of the tub and refused to stay in it so I just let all three of them wander around the bathroom). I did this two times day for three days and there was zero conflict. Then I went and suer deep cleaned the DCN and put all the boys in the playpen together while I did that. I put in all new fleece, rearranged all the things in the cage and put in new chews, hides, and hammocks that the boys hadn't seen before. We kept an eye on them all day and there was no issues, Sam mostly stayed on the bottom level, he is a little older and came from the pet store so he is over weight and not very comfortable with climbing, and Merry and Pippin mostly stayed up top where they usually hang out. That first night I split them up over night. On day two they were fine together all day and all night when I left the level of the cage open. Day three they were still fine, but then it was that night where Merry started to attack Sam. Its not even like Sam was messing with Merry or in his space, Sam mostly just stuck to himself on the ground floor where Merry rarely goes.
 

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I’m really not a fan of putting cages next to each other and repeated introductions for bucks, especially when you have a dominant one in your group. Mainly because this kind of issue is common. If you think of it from Merrys point of view you can see why he’s upset.

He’s happily living in his little group, he is the boss and his cage mate knows this and gives him the respect he deserves. They are a nicely functioning little family. He has his home which he owns and runs, he defends it as every good alpha should, and also defends his brother Pippin. All is right in the world. Then one day he smells a stranger, in his home! He doesn’t know who this stranger is, wether he’s a threat to his group or his cage. He can smell the stranger around but cant work out where he is and cant do anything about it. He gets a little bit more tense and a little bit more worried.

Soon the stranger smell moves really close, he is right next to the cage, Merry can’t sniff him properly, he cant go and find out if the stranger is a threat. Instead he has to sitt and sniff not knowing if this stranger is a threat and not being able to work out if this stranger will try and take over from him. He gets a lot more worried and a lot more tense.

Then he’s taken out one day and put in an unfamiliar place with the stranger and his brother. His brother already smells of the stranger. He’s upset and stressed but feeling insecure in the strange place so isn’t sure what to do. He tolerates the stranger but feels more stressed and tense. They move into his cage, his territory he’s meant to defend, he’s very stressed and tense but not sure what to do, it doesn’t smell of him.

Everything builds up until something sets him off, Sam may not have been quite submissive enough, sent the wrong signals or he might have heard an odd noise. Suddenly all that tension and stress that has been caged up boils over and he over reacts. He’s immediately separated, nothing is resolved, he still doesn’t feel happy that Sam understands he’s boss or that his home is really his anymore. He is probably not aware that he’s missing Sam’s signals, just so wound up that he’s not thinking straight. The next day they are reintroed and something triggers him again, he reacts even worse and causes an injury. He’s so wound up that in that moment he reacts completely out of character and is bad to you too.

In this case giving them a large free range area to sort things out wont help, it is too big for Merry to feel in control and start to get his balance back. Intervening by bopping him may well wind him up further, esepcailly if theres not a strong trust bond there already.

Instead I would try starting again with a different approach. First off move Sam and his cage into a different room for a week or two. Wait until you can see that Merry has visably relaxed. Try and keep to a routine that’s familiar and make sure you see to him and Pippin first before going to Sam (so your not carrying his smell around). In the mean time spoil Sam rotten and help him relax again and heal up after his ordeal.

Then get yourself a tiny cage, the type that’s a low wire top on a plastic tray and far too small to keep hamsters or mice in even if there sold for that. These are great for small space intros as you can leave the op unclipped for quick intervention if needed but also easily spray water in or make a loud noise if needed. Fill it with loose substrate and attach 2 water bottles, scatter any food around the bottom so theres no fixed food bowl to defend

Then introduce them into a bath, this time try starting with Merry, since he’s boss, let them roam around and when then seem settled add pippin, if all is going well add the cage with the doors open, or just the tray for the cage. Again if all goes well put them in this and put the top on with doors closed, but don’t fasten down. See how they interact in this. If all is going well leave them in it for an hour or so in the neutral room then move them into wherever your going to be. Keep in earshot, though at this point you can probably clip things down.

During this if Merry starts to fluff up badly (think hedgehog rather than littly poofy), sidles (head down turned sideways on, sometimes wagging there tails) or starts really gnashing his teeth (not worried bruxing) then make a loud noise, clap or bang the cage. This will snap him out of his “aggressive mode”. If he sniffs Sam (or even pippin) hard around the genitles, pins, force grooms them etc leave him to it. Your wanting him to be able to satisfy his need for control without it getting out of hand. Ideally Sam will be very pliable and let him do this without too much fuss. If you find that Sam freezes for long spells of time then it can be worth taking them for a walk or drive in the mini cage (this helps snap them out of it and rely on each other for confidence), if you’ve got a really small carrier this can also be good to get them passed the initial fear.

I would then leave them in this tiny cage for at least 24 hours, at minimum you want to leave them through a few meals and until they are genuinely relaxed around each other (not just sleeping together, though this is important too). I wouldn’t get them out for the first 24 hours, though after this limited space free range can work as long as its limited to say a chair or sofa with you in charge. Once you’ve got them relaxed around each other then try adding a hammock, see how they do with this. Again leave until they are settled.

Ideally you’d then have an intermediate step, for me I go from a cage that is smaller than an A3 piece of paper floor space, to one that’s about A2 (a bit longer) but again low levelled. Agin you repeat the empty cage (adding in the floor covering from your small cage to make it shared territory) slowly upgrading them by adding first a hammock, then maybe a rope or branch and so on (no enclosed spaces). Then I’d do half an empty DCN (you may have to skip straight to this if you don’t have an intermediate cage), slowly adding things in as they get on better. Once they have been settled in a fully set up DCN (with no enclosed spaces) for a week then move to the full DCN, giving it a good 2-4 weeks before adding any enclosed beds or anything with only one entrance.

In this time don’t be afraid to do a backwards step if thigns kick off again. Only separate them if things escalate out of control and you cant get Merry to snap out of the aggression, or a serious injury occurs. If This doesn’t work then there s the option of castrating Merry, though I’d give this approach a good go before doing that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Wow thank you that was so much information and how you explained it makes sense about why Merry might be acting this way towards Sam. He was definitely puffing up like a hedgehog and sidling around Sam.
I'll move Sam back out to the living room today. Merry has been messing with Pippin more than usual the last few days too, mostly when Pippin tries to eat. Should I reopen up the whole DCN to Merry and Pippin? Or just leave them in the upper half, they didn't go down there much before I split the cage up.
Is this the type of small cage you are talking about? http://www.petsmart.com/small-pet/c...-catid-600011?var_id=36-23832&_t=pfm=category
I have this cage http://www.petsmart.com/small-pet/c...starter-kit-zid36-5201419/cat-36-catid-600011 that cage as well. Its the one the Sam will be going back into in the other room. Would that work for an intermediate cage?
After starting the new small space intros when (if) things a settled in the small cage and I add a hammock, do I leave that for about a day as well? Same for the intermediate cage, if things go well about a day at each step until I get to the half DCN? Also I know its a while out, but would that be better to split them into the top half where and Merry and Pippin spend most of the time, or the bottom half?
Also how do I know when the pinning or force grooming gets to be too much? Every time after my first bathroom intros it has resulted in screaming from Sam, I'm not sure if he being hurt or just really scared. Merry is really jumpy most of the time, but when he gets aggressive loud sounds don't seem to stop him; I haven't tried a squirt bottle though. What will be the sign that Merry is just not going to accept Sam?
I really appreciate all the help, thank you.
 
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