Rat Introductions making me nervous!

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Samana
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Rat Introductions making me nervous!

Post by Samana » Mon Jun 05, 2017 4:38 pm

So I have 4 lovely male rats, Tom, Jerry, Sid and Al. Tom and Jerry are roughly 18 weeks old and Sid and Al are 12 week hairless ratties.

I started introductions yesterday and after many hours they were all snuggled up together in the carrier. However I pushed my luck slightly and thought I would see how they got on in the cage cage together for a supervised visit.

Then Tom and Sid had a fight which resulted in Tom hissing at him and Sid jumping out the cage. So I put them all back to bed.

I tried again earlier today and put them back in my neutral area and all was going well until Sid and Tom had another tiff (I think Sid was refusing to groom Tom, but Sid seemed scared and froze). Tom then again went for Sid and I probably didn't react well and squirted them both with water, broke up the fight but Tom ran and hid and Sid pooped.

How do I know when to break up the fight and when to let it carry on? I've read loads of horror stories about rats killing each other during introductions that it makes me really nervous.

Also is there not a rat training company I can pay to do introductions for me as I think I may be a bit over protective. (Sid is very noisy and squeaks at almost everything then hides on my shoulder - so I'm not sure when he's being dramatic).

No one has bled yet although Sid has a few scratches.

Thanks for reading my really long post!

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Caza66
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Re: Rat Introductions making me nervous!

Post by Caza66 » Mon Jun 05, 2017 9:59 pm

Hi and welcome to the forum. The best intro method is by using a carrier, which I think you have done. I would only go up a step is when I can see them all sleeping, in contact with each other. If there is play boxing, this is ok. If there is side kicking and bog brushing, keep a close eye on it because this can easily escalate. A few small scratches is ok. I recently separated an intro when drax had multiple cuts.

Go back to carrier stage for another 24 hours. My most recent intro (following a necessary neuter because of cuts on drax) took 24 hours in the carrier and then 2 weeks in a small cage. But each intro is different.

Whereabouts do you live, maybe somebody could pop along to help you.
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bazu
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Re: Rat Introductions making me nervous!

Post by bazu » Mon Jun 05, 2017 10:01 pm

Unfortunately with intros, you really do have to be tough - they can sound like they're raising absolute hell, but the rule is generally "no blood, no foul." However much noise they make, it's often not as bad as it sounds, and you have to let them resolve the hierarchy issues for the intro to get anywhere.

For what it's worth, I've never heard of a rat being killed during an intro, and I've been through some very difficult ones myself! (So I fully understand the anxiety and worry!)

I don't know of any rat training companies, but if you can give us a general whereabouts there might be a forum member who can offer to help out?
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Samana
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Re: Rat Introductions making me nervous!

Post by Samana » Tue Jun 06, 2017 11:59 am

Thanks for all your help, I think the difficulty is I'm not really sure what is aggressive, I have heard Tom hiss at Sid once but I haven't seen his fur puff up or anything. I'm in Canvey, Essex. I think I will try and film them tonight to see if anyone can see any aggressiveness or if it is just establishing dominance.

If the fighting continues between the two would it be a good idea to put both of them in the carrier and go round the block with them to see if they bond, or would that likely result in more fights?

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Caza66
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Re: Rat Introductions making me nervous!

Post by Caza66 » Tue Jun 06, 2017 1:30 pm

It doesn't sound aggressive. I've found that foofing up so they look all bristley (like a bog brush) and side kicking is a step before an aggressive, serious fight.

It won't do any harm to put them all in a carrier and take for a walk/ drive. Don't separate them out at this point.

Unfortunately, I'm oop north, so can't pop in for a visit.

Good luck.
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cyber ratty
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Re: Rat Introductions making me nervous!

Post by cyber ratty » Tue Jun 06, 2017 3:55 pm

Once you've started an introduction using the carrier method, do not separate the rats at all unless a serious fight puts someone at real risk, and at the first stage, the carrier needs to be small enough to mean a fight can't physically break out.

Don't be tempted to rush through any of the stages - give at least 3 days and nights in the small/hamster cage, and don't worry about them being confined and bored... that's the whole idea. ;)

Don't give them free range time until they are settled in their main cage with furnishings.

They are all young still, although the older pair may be reaching teenage hormonal phase, but it should go well if you follow the rules. :luck:

Samana
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Re: Rat Introductions making me nervous!

Post by Samana » Tue Jun 06, 2017 6:16 pm

Should I leave them in the carrier all night. Should I out food and water in there as well? If I put them in there now would that be ok till morning?

Which rats should I put in the carrier first the big ones or the little ones? Last time I put them all on the table and tricked them into the carrier as none of them really like going in there

hjanders
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Re: Rat Introductions making me nervous!

Post by hjanders » Tue Jun 06, 2017 6:53 pm

Yes, it's absolutely fine to have all the rats in the carrier all night and longer (we have done it for a good 24 hours). Put them in as soon as you can. Scatter some food in there with them and put some cucumber in as a source of water.

Getting them into the carrier can be a challenge. You need to be as confident and quick as you can manage. And try to get them all in together or in quick succession. It doesn't matter in what order. Do you have anyone to help you?! Perhaps putting a tasty treat in the carrier to tempt them in would help (ours love coconut, sweet corn, banana...)

Good luck and give the whole process plenty of time. No need to rush.

Helen x

Ps I would be happy to help you but it's a long way from Sweden!
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Samana
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Re: Rat Introductions making me nervous!

Post by Samana » Tue Jun 06, 2017 7:39 pm

https://youtu.be/X2O-O6B_Ezc this is one of their introductions. The two main ones that fight are ignoring each other but does it look like there is any aggressive behaviour?

I am going to re attempt the carrier method tonight and see how they get on. Ignore the ending I wasn't sure if it was going to break out into a fight so I had my water bottle ready!

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bazu
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Re: Rat Introductions making me nervous!

Post by bazu » Tue Jun 06, 2017 8:56 pm

Samana wrote:https://youtu.be/X2O-O6B_Ezc this is one of their introductions. The two main ones that fight are ignoring each other but does it look like there is any aggressive behaviour?

I am going to re attempt the carrier method tonight and see how they get on. Ignore the ending I wasn't sure if it was going to break out into a fight so I had my water bottle ready!
That's absolutely fine to my eyes! They're being cautious, but there's definitely no aggression that I can see :)
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bazu
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Re: Rat Introductions making me nervous!

Post by bazu » Tue Jun 06, 2017 11:14 pm

I've tried to find some good examples of ratty aggression videos on youtube, to give you some idea, but I've not come up with anything I'd describe as useful so far - take a lot of what you see on there with a pinch of salt!

That said, a couple of videos that might help you some...

Boxing - good example of a defensive behaviour, rather than aggressive. It often looks and feels like they're about to break into a scrap, but this is primarily a defensive position - if their whiskers are touching, their rump can't be bitten (the rump is generally the target of aggression).
'Normal' scrapping - focussing solely on the behaviours, there's a little bit of sidling here, and a lot of noise and dramatic screeching when they scrap, but this is nothing out of the ordinary for an intro. This is just how rats resolve their differences!

It might also be helpful to have a read of this article, or at the very least, the section about Social Agonistic Behaviour. As fair warning, the section about Aggression Towards Intruders is talking about 'stranger' rats just being dumped straight into an established group, rather than a controlled introduction - it reads like a bit of a horror story if you assume that that's in any way representative of how an intro would usually go! :shock:
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Samana
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Re: Rat Introductions making me nervous!

Post by Samana » Thu Jun 08, 2017 7:39 pm

Thanks everybody I have been letting them fight it out and following the no blood no no foul rule but what is blood as I have two hairless! The below pictures are after tonight's tussle it didn't look bad just a quick one mainly the result of one of my hairless ones being really nervous and defensive any time one of the rats come near him. I did remove them as it looks like blood but not sure if I should have left them in?

Image

Image

Sorry to keep asking so many questions I just want to do this properly and with the least amount of injury

Note: edited to use the IMG option so that pictures show in the post

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bazu
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Re: Rat Introductions making me nervous!

Post by bazu » Thu Jun 08, 2017 8:30 pm

I'd say they're not really anything to worry about - it looks more like an accidental scratch from a stray claw than anything more malicious :) As you said, it doesn't help that they're hairless - a 'regular' rat probably wouldn't have had anything to show from that!

For reference, this injury was a borderline do/don't separate case - it could have been a bite, but it also could have been a slash from a particularly sharp claw (resulting in more damage than would be representative of the amount of aggression involved). I'm inclined to say it's mostly bites or extreme bullying that you'd want to watch out for (someone feel free to step in if you disagree!), and it's useful to recognise those types of wounds - here and here for example.
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Samana
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Re: Rat Introductions making me nervous!

Post by Samana » Thu Jun 08, 2017 9:54 pm

Thanks so much for that, it's really made me feel a lot better about their scrapes. I am putting them in together and they are definitely getting better except for my nervous one who spends the whole time pushing them away. One of them was trying to groom him when his scratch happened. I keep trying to tell them to be gentle with him and I think they realise he's a bit nervous as they were licking him but when he pushed them off he got scratched.

I keep thinking they must hate me and be like by do you keep making me play with them mummy!

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Re: Rat Introductions making me nervous!

Post by cyber ratty » Fri Jun 09, 2017 7:00 am

Hairless will be more prone to the odd scratch, but also you'll see what scratches they get whereas they might just be hidden on haired rats.

To reduce the impact of accidental scratches, you could clip everyone's nails - just take the very end off with a pair of nail clippers.

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