Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Topics on behaviour, taming, companionship, introductions, and training
hjanders
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Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Post by hjanders » Sat Nov 26, 2016 5:05 pm

Help and advice needed please!

Yesterday we got three new beautiful babies age 6 weeks. We also have 3 older girls aged 10 & 11 months.

On arrival home with the babies yesterday, we put them in the bottom half of our Royal Savic suite cage. Until this morning our 3 older girls were in our spare cage away from the babies. I wanted the babies to settle in.

This morning I put the big girls in the top half of the Royal Savic (with the ladder closed and some cardboard over the hole with a basket over that). The babies are still very happy and obviously interested in the noises and smells from above. They are climbing to the top of the cage to see what is going on. But the big girls (normally very placid and happy rats) are going crazy upstairs. They are very unsettled, digging along all the edges of the base of the cage, trying to pull out the cardboard from the hole etc. I am not sure what to do.

Should I put the big girls back in the other cage, should I leave things as they are or should I try a short introduction so the mystery smells and sounds are more explainable to the girls?

Help!!
Popcorn, Me-Me, Nelle, Luna, Maggie and Tutsie
Never to be forgotten: Trixie, Paws, Tica, Doris and Bella ❤️

hjanders
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Location: Gothenburg, Sweden

Re: Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Post by hjanders » Sat Nov 26, 2016 5:36 pm

Ah, I just read about the Carrier method and that seems like a very sensible idea. I don't have a small cage though. I have a relatively big 'small animal' carrier but I am not sure I could attach any water bottles to it? I am also not sure I should be starting the process at 17:30!

Helen
Popcorn, Me-Me, Nelle, Luna, Maggie and Tutsie
Never to be forgotten: Trixie, Paws, Tica, Doris and Bella ❤️

Anne
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Re: Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Post by Anne » Sat Nov 26, 2016 5:45 pm

Hey
I was just about to post about the carrier method. It really is the best way to undertake introductions.
i too have a SRS cage for my 4 boys and I still intro'd using a cat carrier before moving to a bare furet plus and only then adding bits of cage furniture every couple of days. Before I put them in to the SRS I made sure it was totally cleaned of existing rat smells etc. I already had the furet to use so that helped but I really would use the carrier and its fine even if it takes a few days to get everyone bonded. Try and work out how to attach a water bottle or two and scatter feed and keep it bare apart from substrate. At least using a carrier you can have them in ear shot when you go to bed! Don't rush and accept that you can always take a step back.
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hjanders
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Re: Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Post by hjanders » Sat Nov 26, 2016 6:41 pm

Thanks Anne. We are going to give it a go (but I am not too sure my husband wants to sleep with squeaking rats in the bedroom :lol: ). I definitely can't get a water bottle onto the carrier. I'm hoping cucumber will be ok for a short while. We may have to go and get a small cage if the process takes too long.....
Popcorn, Me-Me, Nelle, Luna, Maggie and Tutsie
Never to be forgotten: Trixie, Paws, Tica, Doris and Bella ❤️

hjanders
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Re: Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Post by hjanders » Sat Nov 26, 2016 6:43 pm

Ps I see you are in South Yorkshire Anne. Where do you live. We are from Sheffield (but now in Sweden!)
Popcorn, Me-Me, Nelle, Luna, Maggie and Tutsie
Never to be forgotten: Trixie, Paws, Tica, Doris and Bella ❤️

Anne
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Re: Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Post by Anne » Sat Nov 26, 2016 7:43 pm

What kind of carrier is it? If there are air hole/slat type openings - which I am of course assuming there are - could you put a bottle inside and somehow secure it with garden wire or similar? If you do a search on this forum I'm sure you will find such threads.

I've slept many a night with newly intro'd rats either by the bed or just outside the bedroom door lol!

Doncaster - but I'm from South Wales :)
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[cub]
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Re: Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Post by [cub] » Sat Nov 26, 2016 8:03 pm

Just as an addendum, it's best to wait until the babies are 8 weeks old before starting introductions, to make sure they're big/strong enough to hold their own against the adults. In the meantime, they'd probably appreciate a bit of feeding up with high-protein food (eggs, fish, chicken, tofu, good quality moist cat/dog food, etc.) as they've still got a fair bit of growing to do at 6 weeks old.

I'd definitely recommend getting a smaller cage. The Savic Royal Suite is a fantastic permanent cage, but there are situations where you'd want a smaller one. For introductions, half an SRS is a huge step up from a small carrier, so unless the introductions go very smoothly, having a cage mid-way between the two in size will help. And later on, if someone needs to have an operation, having a smaller cage for them to heal in (with a calm friend for company) is basically a necessity. I'd suggest something like the following examples, with an emphasis on keeping the cage short: too tall a cage can set off fights during introductions (rats tend to flee upwards and that starts chases), and I find height can encourage excessive athleticism in post-op rats who don't know what's good for them. :roll: :lol:
http://www.littlepetwarehouse.co.uk/pro ... black.html
http://www.zooplus.co.uk/shop/small_pet ... ges/284288

Enjoy your new ratlets! :baby:

ETA: Just noticed you have a spare cage: I'd move one of the groups back out to that while you wait for the babies to grow enough for introductions, particularly if it's already agitating the adults. Being able to smell and hear strange rats but not being able to actually interact with them can (apparently) just frustrate rats, so they get all wound up by the time they first meet, which can make introductions harder.
Poo-shoveller to: Lia and Lita.
Fondly remembering: Zephyr Delanynder the big floofy eejit (NLA28), Falere the contrary (NLA36), Mirala the best and finest (NLA36), Zephyr Opold the serene, and Rila the rodentist.
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Anne
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Re: Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Post by Anne » Sat Nov 26, 2016 8:27 pm

Totally agree with Cub. I'd missed the age bit so yes - they need to grow a bit and also it gives you more opportunity to bond with them :) Babies are so exciting!
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hjanders
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Re: Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Post by hjanders » Sun Nov 27, 2016 2:08 pm

Thank you Anne and Cub for your helpful advice.

Having not seen your later advice until now, we put the babies and bigger girls in the large carrier together overnight. There was brief squeaking and scuffling but that had mostly stopped before we went to bed.

This morning they seemed pretty happy together. My daughter and I created a 'low cage' by cunningly splitting our spare cage (a Savic Freddy 2) using 2 shelves, a large piece of cardboard, a hole punch and some string. We have transferred all 6 girls into there. Again it started with some scuffles and squeaks but again that has all settled down very quickly.

As I write they are curled up in a corner all together and fast asleep. :D

I suppose my question now is should we continue given what you have suggested about them needing to be older to go through this process? It seems to be going well right now. I can be sure the babies get plenty to eat if we feed them extra separately (or does that defeat the process?). We weighed them this morning and they have gained weight since leaving the breeder (and that included a 16 hour journey) so we're pretty happy about that.
Popcorn, Me-Me, Nelle, Luna, Maggie and Tutsie
Never to be forgotten: Trixie, Paws, Tica, Doris and Bella ❤️

Anne
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Re: Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Post by Anne » Sun Nov 27, 2016 4:28 pm

It all sounds good. I don't think I would go too fast moving on though. Keep them in that cage and keep it bare until there are consistent rat piles with everyone wanting to be near and laying on and around the others. Even if it is a few days through each stage it is worth it in the end rather than going to quickly. And only then would I add an open hammock for example. One item at a time. As for the extra food - I believe that they could all have the extra foods whilst in intro stages rather than take them out to feed separately but I'm sure others can advise on this. It's what I would do though :)
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[cub]
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Re: Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Post by [cub] » Sun Nov 27, 2016 6:55 pm

I'm not an expert on introductions, but I'd be inclined to leave them together at this point. Just take things extremely slowly and monitor it closely. A Freddy 2 with a false ceiling sounds like it's the perfect size for this stage, and you can remove the false ceiling when they're ready for a little more room. :D After that they can move on to half an SRS, and then a full SRS.

I would just let everyone have the high-protein extras initially, but make sure they're in a nice big bowl that everyone can easily get their heads around at the same time. Smaller bowls can cause scuffles. I think it's normal to separate adults from babies while babies have their extras during introductions: I usually keep everyone together and undisturbed for the first 24-48 hours, but after that, being split up for half an hour a day is not such a big deal. However, I've never done introductions with rats so young, so I don't know if splitting them up would be as sensible an option in your situation... Given that your adults are only 10-11 months, a bit of extra protein at that age isn't going to hurt, so I'd suggest letting everyone in on the party food for the first week, and then reevaluate after that. If everyone seems well-bonded, then maybe take the adults out of the cage while the babies have their extras.

Like Anne said, when you start adding cage furnishings do it one thing at a time. Don't give them anything enclosed, either, just open hammocks, rope toys, perches, things like that. Resist the urge to rush things; it seems mean but the slower you go, the less the likelihood of difficulty, and the less time the introductions will take in the long run. Good luck! :luck:
Poo-shoveller to: Lia and Lita.
Fondly remembering: Zephyr Delanynder the big floofy eejit (NLA28), Falere the contrary (NLA36), Mirala the best and finest (NLA36), Zephyr Opold the serene, and Rila the rodentist.
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hjanders
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Re: Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Post by hjanders » Sun Nov 27, 2016 8:57 pm

Thank you again Anne and Cub.

The girls have stayed together all day in the altered Freddy 2 with just the occasional squeaks and scuffles. It is only one of the older girls initiating the trouble, the other two seem pretty chilled out.

The babies and older girls have mostly slept apart but they have been together at times in various huddles. We took the big girls out briefly so the babies got the first chance at the fresh food. This seemed to work ok and they ate plenty. The older girls were then keen to get back in for some food too! We have plenty of dried food scattered around the cage as well.

So far, so good but I will take your advice and go very slowly.

What we are finding difficult is we feel we aren't spending much time handling and getting to know the new babies, and the older girls aren't getting their usual play time with us either. This somehow feels wrong but I guess that just has to wait?

Thanks again,
Helen
Popcorn, Me-Me, Nelle, Luna, Maggie and Tutsie
Never to be forgotten: Trixie, Paws, Tica, Doris and Bella ❤️

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Re: Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Post by [cub] » Sun Nov 27, 2016 9:41 pm

Everything you've mentioned sounds pretty normal to me for this stage of the process. When you reach the point where everyone's been routinely sleeping together for a full day, and not segregating themselves into old/new piles, try adding a flat hammock. (Or two days, if you want to be super-cautious.)

I think it's normal (even preferable?) to have limited interaction with the rats during the initial stages of introductions, since they're still getting to know each other and taking them out for cuddles can distract them from that. Once they're more settled with each other, you can start handling them at greater length and giving them some playtime as well.
Poo-shoveller to: Lia and Lita.
Fondly remembering: Zephyr Delanynder the big floofy eejit (NLA28), Falere the contrary (NLA36), Mirala the best and finest (NLA36), Zephyr Opold the serene, and Rila the rodentist.
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hjanders
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Re: Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Post by hjanders » Mon Nov 28, 2016 9:18 am

Hello again. The rats are still generally sleeping separately but we are getting very little squeaking or fighting.

The obvious thing this morning is that 2 of the older girls (the less dominant two) look downright sad. If a rat can look forlorn, these two certainly do. We, and particularly my daughter, usually get them out regularly to play or just for a quick cuddle. My daughter (age 12) has read this thread so she knows and understands the aim of what we are doing. But it is still hard. We don't feel like we are bonding with the new babies and we feel rather like we have abandoned the older girls :(

Thoughts welcome to cheer the biggies (and humans) up?!
Popcorn, Me-Me, Nelle, Luna, Maggie and Tutsie
Never to be forgotten: Trixie, Paws, Tica, Doris and Bella ❤️

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[cub]
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Re: Help needed with introductions please ASAP!

Post by [cub] » Mon Nov 28, 2016 2:13 pm

I'm not an expert on rat psychology, but it is not hugely surprising to me that a rat might get grumpy upon being put in a small cage, devoid of the usual home comforts, and – even worse – accompanied by annoying little new roommates. :lol: Though one thing I would want to be sure of is that the sad older girls are just being sullen, and not actually ill – check that they're still able to move around normally, breathing normally (the odd sneeze is okay, and if they're normally a bit snuffly/whiffly then I wouldn't expect that to be any different), and eating and drinking well. No need to be paranoid, just keep an eye out.

What you could do, to encourage them to bond a bit faster, is take them all on a little trip in the carrier. Maybe even have them all out for some brief cuddles while you're transferring them from the cage to the carrier (ideally have a mixture of old/new rats per person at the same time so they don't get to totally escape from each other). Then take the carrier on a walk or drive; if you have friends/relatives you could visit for a cup of tea, take them along and just have the carrier sat in a corner while you have tea and a chat. Having to share a really small space means they can't get away from each other, and being in unfamiliar surroundings will make them more likely to band together for mutual support.

When you say the rats are sleeping separately, do they form groups near each other, or take themselves off to opposite ends of the cage? If the latter, I'd be tempted to reduce the size of the cage further (e.g. if you have a suitably sized cardboard box that can fill up one end of the cage).
Poo-shoveller to: Lia and Lita.
Fondly remembering: Zephyr Delanynder the big floofy eejit (NLA28), Falere the contrary (NLA36), Mirala the best and finest (NLA36), Zephyr Opold the serene, and Rila the rodentist.
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