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Looking for advice on specific introduction situation

Posted: Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:18 pm
by Zedrobber
Hello all. I find myself in a situation I haven't had before in 10 years of owning rats, so I wondered if you could help me. :D
I currently own two young male rats- about 5-6 months old- Anatole and Dolokhov. Anatole is fine with Dolokhov and they get along great, but is very unpredictable with people and has bitten both me and my wife more than once, drawing blood every time. However he never shows signs of aggression before biting, he just chomps down. :roll:

I have just rescued two adult (1 year) boys from someone today and am hoping to be able to integrate them into my existing pair if possible. They seem like gentle enough lads, one is very skittish with being handled at the moment but he's never met me before and he's in a new place, so I'm hoping he'll calm down. But Anatole seems quite fixated on them from his cage- digging at the bars, sniffing, fur a little up- and I'm a little concerned that introductions may go badly.

My question is, how can I do my utmost to alleviate any potential issues when introducing these lads? This is the first time I've introduced 1yr+ adult rescues to existing rats- I usually put them in the empty bath and let them meet each other for a first stage, but with Anatole being hard to handle I worry about getting the others out in time if he attacks. Any tips or tricks of the trade? (Other than a long pole and a leather suit?) :roll:

I have no indication that Anatole is specifically rat aggressive at all, as I say he and Dolokhov are fine, but I would hate to have any serious injuries happen.
Anatole IS booked in for a neuter later this month; ideally I was hoping to get everyone introduced before then because the cage these boys arrived in is not hugely suitable long term, but do you think it would be better to do it after his hormones have had a chance to settle?

Thanks everyone.

Re: Looking for advice on specific introduction situation

Posted: Tue Oct 10, 2017 11:22 pm
by Wilcox_87
I have not had to do any intros myself but I have done A LOT of reading on it when I was looking at taking on another couple of rescue boys, so I guess I will do until someone more experienced in introductions comes along and corrects me :lol:

The first thing I would do is read all about the carrier method and look through previous threads the forum to read about other people's good/bad experiences and timelines so that you know what to expect. Is Anatole being neutered solely for behavioural reasons or is it medical too? If the former could you maybe push the operation back a couple of months to see how intros go first? The dynamics of the group will completely change with doubling the number anyway and with Anatole being younger than the new guys he may realise that he is not that tough after all :lol:

If you do decide to get Anatole neutered before introducing the two groups I would definitely keep them in separate rooms until you are ready for them to meet properly. Keeping them near each other I think will only aggravate things and having them pull faces at each other from across the room may set the mood for the rest of the intro process.

With regard to Anatole's biting, I was taught a trick by someone on the forum a few years ago when I had a girl who used to draw blood. Ball your hand into a fist and just nice and casually present the back of your fist to the rat. If he doesn't bite, brilliant, give him some scritches, if he does, shout "eep" quite audibly and keep your hand there. If he does nip you this way he will get the back of your knuckles which does not hurt anywhere near as much. The idea is he figures out that it hurts you (in rat language) but you don't pull away, so there is no point in him continuing. I did this a few times with my girl who had been biting me for over a week and she pretty much stopped in 24hrs, so it may be worth a try for you.

As I said, I have no actual experience in intros, I just wanted to share some of the information that I got when I read around the subject myself. Please don't act on my advice until you have had a good read yourself or someone more experienced than me comes along!

Let us know how you get on :luck:

Re: Looking for advice on specific introduction situation

Posted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 12:17 am
by Zedrobber
Thank you for your reply! It's good to be able to hash things out coherently.

I have read (and done :lol: ) the carrier method several times and usually do it as a second or third stage to the intros- I do find it very helpful! Usually I'm intro'ing younger rats or very old and gentle rats, it's this weird young/bitey rat to older unfamiliar rats that I'm having trouble visualising. I don't want to stick them in a carrier until I'm sure Anatole isn't going to cause a bloodbath that I can't get them out of.

Anatole is being neutered purely because of his aggression towards humans-- and though your advice is very sound, I've tried balling my fist and eeping till the cows come home and he is not deterred one little bit :roll: he's very unpredictable and one day he'll be fine and the next he'll be literally chasing you around the room biting you till you bleed. I can't really push it back any longer-we've already pushed it back a month- as it's at the point now where we can't exercise him most of the time, because he is too much of a biter, my wife is scared, and I am running out of unbitten parts of my hands :lol: :lol: Dolokhov is suffering with this through no fault of his own and I'm having to wear knee high boots, gloves, and three layers of clothing just to exercise them :lol:

My usual experience with intro's is very easy, to be honest! I've rarely had issues, but then most of my rats over the last 10 years have been very easygoing fellows and Anatole is not. :rollred: Understatement of the century. I haven't really got another room they can stay in- this is the warmest in winter, the safest in case of escapes, and the best in terms of me because I'm incredibly allergic to rats and have to use an inhaler and antihistamines just to handle them. Yeah, I never said I was clever :lol:

I think you're right in that waiting until his neuter might be the best option. Thank you for taking the time to reply- it's been bery useful writing everything out logically :hearts: :hearts:

Re: Looking for advice on specific introduction situation

Posted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 8:49 am
by [cub]
Yeah, wait until a couple weeks after his neuter at least; if he's aggressive with you then you can use that as your metric as to how his hormone levels are doing. :P :lol: Keep the cages as separate as you can until then as it sounds like the presence of the newbies is winding Anatole up.

Not sure how best to set up their first meeting, but I've always gone straight into a carrier. A larger neutral space like a bath lets you evaluate their behaviour more before putting them in a confined space, but it also leaves more room for fighting/chasing. In a small space it's a lot harder to fight, bit like how you can't really throw a good punch on a packed train. Of course if one rat is trying to kill another then a larger space means the victim can potentially get away and you can potentially separate them more quickly, but if one rat is genuinely dead set on murder then you might not be able to react quickly enough anyway.

Re: Looking for advice on specific introduction situation

Posted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:07 am
by cyber ratty
I agree, neuter first, and perhaps wait 3 - 4 weeks before starting the introduction. At least none of the rats are on their own, so you can wait as long as necessary. It can take up to 6 weeks for hormones to subside.

In the meantime, I'd keep them in different rooms and free range in separate places to prevent any grudges building up.

Re: Looking for advice on specific introduction situation

Posted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:21 am
by Wilcox_87
It does definitely sound like neutering Anatole is the right decision, for your own safety if nothing else :lol:

If a bath is too much space, and a carrier is quite difficult to quickly remove someone if a fight turns nasty, could you maybe use something like a high sided cardboard box for the initial meet? You could maybe build up the sides with a bit of extra cardboard to reduce the risk of someone jumping out but I am guessing at this point they would be supervised anyway until you are comfortable leaving them all in the carrier together so if anyone does jump out you could just pop them back in. But this way, the rats feel like they are in a small confined space together and you can quickly jump in and scoop someone out if things quickly turn South.

I know what you mean about writing things out logically, sometimes you end up answering your own question by just trying to explain it to other people :lol: Please do keep us informed of your progress though! Threads like these are really useful to people (like me) who have not done intros before or someone who, like yourself, is well versed in intros and then all of a sudden gets one that is a little bit trickier :luck:

Re: Looking for advice on specific introduction situation

Posted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:20 pm
by Zedrobber
Thank you everyone for the replies, they're all very helpful!

So Anatole is booked in for his neuter on Tuesday; I think I will follow your advice and leave it a few weeks until introducing them after that. He's calmed down a lot since their arrival and is no longer fixated on their cage, so I've left it in the same room (I'm already having enough trouble breathing with two cages in one room :lol: :roll: ) He's back to his normal bitey self with me so I think he's as fine as he can be.

I think I will still go for the bath method; I'm more confident with that and I know I can get to them quickly and easily in there. I may well use a cardboard box for the second stage though, that's a great idea!

Thanks to everyone for the help, I'll keep you updated :luck: :luck: :luck:

Re: Looking for advice on specific introduction situation

Posted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 9:54 pm
by Zedrobber
Quick update: Anatole was neutered on Tuesday with no complications and he's had his post-op check up today, everything is fine :)
He hasn't bitten me (yet) since the op, but he's still angry :lol:
He has been sidling and bog-brushing at the new boy's cage when free ranging but obviously we've not introduced them yet (and we move the new boys out of the room now when Anatole's out to stop the arguments :roll: ) but they don't care about the cages being in the same room when everyone's in, completely ignore each other which is fantastic.
Have moved the new boys into a bigger cage so they can be happier while waiting for Anatole to calm down, they have settled rather well and Pierre is a lot easier to handle now. He seems to be in charge and it's him that Anatole isn't amused by :roll:
So so far, so good, really. Anatole came through well and now we're just allowing him to calm before we start intros :luck: Thank you for all the advice :D :D :D :D

Re: Looking for advice on specific introduction situation

Posted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 10:07 pm
by cyber ratty
I would still recommend separating the cages for a few days before starting introductions so that there aren't any residual grudges. Also, the point of a carrier as the first stage is that there isn't the possibility of anyone running off like there will be in a bath - and it's when rats are running away that most injuries happen.

Re: Looking for advice on specific introduction situation

Posted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 7:57 pm
by Zedrobber
This is the THIRD TIME I've had to re type this reply! Stupid internet. :x

I was just worried because I won't be able to step in quickly or safely if Anatole goes for one of them in a carrier; I would hate for one of them to be hurt or killed because Anatole is so unpredictable. But if you think it's the best way, I'll give it a go, certainly. There's still over 2 weeks before intros so hopefully he'll have calmed down by then. I do understand that the small space is better in a lot of ways and can prevent fighting, I just don't trust Anatole not to pick one :lol:

I re-read my last post and realised I didn't even mention, my bad :oops: I do intend to move the cage out of the room entirely about a week or 10 days before I start introductions- do you think this will be enough time to clear the air, so to speak? I just can't do it for longer term because I literally stop being able to breathe if they are in a room I sleep in or spend the majority of my time in, and my inhaler is less effective if I can't remove myself from the room after handling them. I also live in a house with 5 rooms, one of which is a bathroom so small that I can barely stick out my arms and spin :lol: :lol:

Thanks again for the advice, it's very much appreciated to hash it all out. :luck:

Re: Looking for advice on specific introduction situation

Posted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 8:14 pm
by cyber ratty
Yes that should be plenty of time to clear the air.

If you're really worried, you could sit on a chair and pop them onto your lap just to gauge their reactions before putting them in the carrier. Being on you will show them all that you are in favour of the intro, and should reassure anyone who might be feeling nervous. :luck:

Re: Looking for advice on specific introduction situation

Posted: Thu Dec 28, 2017 4:11 pm
by cyber ratty
AdelineDew wrote:Dont get two new babies if you know you wont have the space not to mention time, attention and money for food and vet bills for an additional rat the baby will be fine on his own hell bond to Thor and Loki in no time.
If there isn't space to introduce 2 babies, then it's best not to introduce at all until there is space. Babies need some same age companionship to develop alongside, both physically and mentally.