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get another rat right now, or not?

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Discussion Starter #1
Hi! I actually made an account specifically because I have no idea what to do about this situation. So forgive me in advance if I don’t know how to navigate this site very well yet 😌💓

But here’s the situation I need advice on!

I found a rat a couple of months ago. He’s definitely domestic, but he had been thrown out on the side of the road. So, my family and I decided to keep him. (Our vet okayed this, and okayed is handling him) We absolutely love him and he is thriving 🥰 So we’re very happy with that. (his name is Fran, he’s adorable)

However, I have been torn on whether or not we should get another rat to live with him. I know rats are supposed to live in pairs/groups. BUT I school from home, and am always home keeping in eye on Fran, and he seems to be doing well independently. He also gets a good amount of attention since I am home all day. Furthermore, he’s really quite dominant/independent. He will now let us touch him and such, but doesn’t LOVE being petted, and definitely enforces his personal space (with squeaks, shoves, kicks, etc.). Don’t get me wrong: he’s friendly and playful! He just definitely likes his own space and to be in charge.

I still feel like he might be okay with/ benefit from another rat’s company, but my father (who is kind of his secondary caretaker/ while I’m his primary) has pointed out that he doesn’t show any signs of loneliness (again, we’re both experienced with small animals) and seems very happy. He also pointed out that, being as dominant as he is, he really may not like having another rat, and that it may be better to leave well enough alone.

⭐So, I’m hoping to get an outside perspective here: Should we try to adopt another rat to pair with him?⭐

Secondly, I have owned rats, and other small critters previously, but have always adopted in pairs, so I’m honestly not sure how introductions would work! If you think we should try to get a friend for him, do you have advice on this??

I really don’t want to get another rat only for them to not get along and have to be housed and played with separately, since this would just cut into the time I have to spend with Fran. :( But I’m not sure if it would be reasonable to ask a rescue or breeder to help with introductions and/or let us bring home a rat on a foster-basis, especially because COVID is still an issue where I live (in the U.S.), so meeting in person is a little more complicated.

As you can see, the whole situation is a bit complicated! 😅

Anyway, if you read all of this: thank you very much! 💓 And thank you in advance for any advice you may have. I/we really absolutely love Fran, and just want to do what’s best for him (as well as for any other rat we may bring into the family) so any help in deciding what that may be is greatly appreciated!!!
 

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Don't worry. The situation isn't all that complicated. It just something we all deal with as rat owners. Because rats are social creatures and they have such short life-spans, we all have to go through the process of introducing new rats to existing rats every 1 to 2 years.

When I got back into keeping rats several years ago, I didn't do any research and I bought one rat and kept him alone for most of his life. I thought he was happy because he was very affectionate but knowing what I know about rats now and looking back, I can see that he was starving for companionship. I got him a friend late in his life and I still feel absolutely terrible for not doing it sooner. It's seriously still a regret for me.

Keeping rats in small groups (or at least pairs) is honestly very important. It's so important that even lab rats aren't housed alone. Even researchers understand how negatively it affects their well-being.

Being that your rat has been alone for a while, you'll want to be careful about introductions. You never want to just drop a new rat into an existing rat's cage. That can potentially lead to disastrous results. Take some time to research quarantine and introduction processes before bringing any new rats home. The Isamu Rat website and youtube channel have a ton of info. Shadow the Rat and Emiology might also have a few worthwhile videos.

I would suggest getting a pair of young rats to introduce to Fran. I always prefer purchasing rats in pairs. The quarantine and intro process may be stressful and can potentially take a little while so it's good for them to have support from each other. They will also gain confidence from each other so it makes bonding and interacting easier.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hey! I explained your reply to my family, and my father actually wanted to ask you a question 🤗 He said that you noticed retrospectively that your rat was actually showing behaviors that showed he was starving for attention, but you’d thought he was totally happy at the time. Can you tell me how you knew, retrospectively, that was the case? Like, what behaviors you look back on that make you realize that? My father wanted to know specific indicators/behaviors that you’d noticed so he could look for them himself. 💓 Anyway, thanks for your help! And any additional insight is appreciated!
 

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what behaviors you look back on that make you realize that?
Every time I was near the cage, he was begging to come out. I couldn't always bring him out even though he constantly wanted attention. With a small group of rats, they might come to the cage door to ask for a treat or to see what's going on but a lot of the time they just keep sleeping when I'm near the cage. Out of all of my rats since, my solo boy also dealt with the most health issues relating to his immune system. He ended up dying of respiratory issues. Lots of factors could have been involved but isolation has been shown to weaken the immune system in rats.

Some people can be a bit hyperbolic when describing the effects of keeping a rat alone, saying that your rat will become crazy and barber off all their hair and then die of loneliness. Some behavioral issues like barbering might occur but, while it's very bad for a rat's emotional and physical well-being, I don't think the effects look all that outwardly dramatic to us. Like I said above, my solo boy was very smart and sweet so I assumed that meant that he was happy. After nearly two years alone, seeing him cuddle with his new cagemate made me feel terrible for keeping him in solitary for almost his entire life. He calmed down and became less desperate for attention.

There have been tons of studies concerning the effects of social isolation if you want to research it further!

-edit- It sounds like your dad doesn't want to get Fran any friends until he knows keeping him alone is a problem. It was a problem a couple months ago. All of the scientific research shows that rats shouldn't be housed alone unless absolutely necessary.

As important as it is to get Fran a friend or two and as much as he needs them for his emotional/physical well-being, you will still need to take care introducing them. There's always an adjustment period when new rats enter a group. They're not always accepted quickly and easily. In Fran's case, he's been alone for a while and it could take him a minute to remember how to rat. ...or he'll just be super excited to have friends again. There's no way of knowing before hand so you'll want to take time to do some research so you're prepared before you bring new rats home.
 

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I personally believe that you should get him another cage mate. It's very important for their emotional well-being as well as their physical. Rats can get depressed from being housed alone and may stop eating. I had an older girl who stopped eating after her cage mate passed away and she soon passed away too.
They form very strong connections because they're social creatures.
Rats are also more active at night and would want a companion for those hours.
 

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I would second the idea of getting a cage mate for Fran.

I was in a similar situation with Turvy - after her litter mate passed - she was a solitary rat for a few months. We bonded really well during that time, but for all I could do - I'm not a rat. So I adopted Gigi, who was a little younger and smaller (not much - just a month younger) from a rodent rescue near me.

They became wonderful friends and Turvy now watches out for Gigi. They squabble and bicker from time to time (usually over a favorite sleeping place) but there's been no real drama. And if I have one out of the cage - the other looks for them to come back.

Just this weekend, I picked up Susie (from the same rescue). She's older than I thought and quite a bit bigger (much, much bigger than Turvy) and seems a tad bit aggressive - so I'll be taking her introduction a bit slower. When I can get her to not try to bite me .... I'll introduce her to the others.
 

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Oh .. for the second part of your question ....there's tons of advice here and on the web on how to handle introductions. I've opted for keeping the new rat in a separate cage (but close to the other cage) - they will smell each other and get use to the scents (etc). It also gives the new rat time to get use to you, as well.

Introductions should be in a neutral place. I used the bathtub with Turvy & Gigi. I put a beach towel down on the tub so they weren't sliding around. and placed them both in the tub together. I kept a second towel on hand, in case things didn't go well and they starting fighting. If you need to separate rats - using a towel to throw over them, distracts them from the fight, slows them down, and allows you to pick one up without becoming a target.

Fortunately, the girls did very well together from the first introduction. So it wasn't long until I added Gigi to the cage. First, I took Turvy out of the cage and strip cleaned it as well as I could. Washed or replaced any linens; blanket; hammocks, etc. Once cleaned, re-set up the cage, adding a new hideout & toy and put things back in different places, so the cage would seem "new" to Turvy as well. The goal is to make the cage as neutral as you can, so they start off together on "equal" footing.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
"CorbinDallasMyMan, that makes sense! I’ll be talking with my dad about it more, but I really appreciate your detailed response, and it pretty much settles it for me. That said, we’ll probably be bringing home a new friend soon thanks to you, and all of the other responses on here :)) I’ll be sure to post an update later on
 

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"lfraser06 Thank you!! This is really helpful 🥰💓 I’m definitely trepeditious about it, especially with Fran being a pretty dominant rat, but I’m hoping to bring home a spayed female (as opposed to another male, which I think he’d hate having to “compete” with) and take our time introducing them.
 
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