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Pet Rats/My male dumbo


QUESTION: I recently bought a male dumbo rat about 2 months ago. I've done tons of research on them. He has a large 4 story home, lots of toys and I let him out several hours a day to roam and interact with me. He seemed very happy but I keep seeing that rats should never be alone. (He was in with several other at the pet store). I just bought him another male dumbo as a friend for him yesterday. I put them in a neutral area it went ok . But my rat doesn't not like him being in his cage. He puffs, hisses and bit him once. Now my rat seems depressed and upset. He doesn't even want to come out of his cage to play with me since yesterday and he always looks forward to it. What do I do at this point?

ANSWER: You didn't say how old your male rat is right now or how old the other boy you just got for him is.  This is important.

Generally, very young male rats (4 months or younger) should get along, although playfighting and some fighting for dominance does occur with young ones also.

After a male rat who has been kept alone is about 4 months or older, their male hormones come into play and at this point, it would be difficult to get another male rat who is also 4 months or older as a companion.  Because the first rat is maturing and hormones are raging, if you get another who is also emitting male hormone scent, it is almost assured that they will fight.  This is generally not the case with females.

When you have a 4+ month old male rat, the ideal companion is a very young male rat that is 2-3 months old.  Chances that they will grow to get along will be much greater.  

So again, I don't know their ages, but I will try to advise you without that information based on what I do know.  Obviously, your first boy considers his cage to be his territory and the new boy as an "intruder".  Notice they got along ok in a neutral zone.  What you should do at this point is to get another (smaller) cage for the new boy as a temporary home (perhaps you can buy a used cage somewhere for cheap).  Continue to do the daily "neutral zone" playtimes but in between these, place each rat in their own cages and place the cages next to each other but several inches apart (so they don't hurt each other through the bars).  Let them live side by side like this, sniffing each other through the bars and getting used to each other being there.  After several days of this, maybe a week, place each rat into the other rat's cage and let them sniff out this space...each will smell the other rat's scent in that cage.  Do this daily for several days, but also continuing the neutral space playtimes.  When you start to feel like they seem to like each other ok, place both rats together in the original rat's large cage.  They will almost certainly fight for dominance at this point.  Monitor carefully and resist the urge to interfere if you see one pinning down the other or swatting at each other or kick-fighting.  Only separate them if you see extreme violence or blood being drawn.  If you don't feel it's too violent, you must continue to let them work things out.  One rat MUST win the fight for dominance and become the alpha rat and the other will naturally assume the submissive role.  Be aware that this may take a few hours or possibly a few days of fighting.

This is how it usually works.  However, there is a chance that both rats have a very dominant personality and they can't come to terms.  If this turns out to be the case, you will have to separate them.  You will have 2 choices:  have them live next to each other in seperate cages forever (but that defeats the purpose of getting the 2nd boy).  Or you can have both boys neutered.  There is almost 100% success with neutering as their male hormones will subside and they should get along.  I know owners of male rats that have done this with success.

Hopefully, I've given you enough information to move forward.  As for your original boy not wanting to come out of his cage to play with you, be patient.  It's only been a day or so.  Do the above routine to get your boys to get along and in the end, both boys will enjoy free play time with you.

Please don't hesitate to ask if I can help you with any other questions and lots of luck!

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QUESTION: Both of my rats are getting along now. They are best buds. The petsmart I gor them from don't know how old they are. Estimate that my older boy is 5-7 months and new is 5-6 months. My older rat is scratching and sneezing a lot. I work at a vet. I took them into work we looked for mites under microscope- didn't see any thing but are treating them with ivermectin. I use Eco bedding ( crinkled recycled paper). I am going to try care fresh. He has no scabs. But I clean the cage weekly. I thought it might be to much protein in diet. I feed wild harvest 8 in 1 blocks ( ingredients : 16 percent protein, 6 percent fat, corn, wheat middlings, wheat,corn distillers dried grains with solubles, fish meal,dehulled soybean meal,limestone,cane molasses , salt,vit d,do alpha tocopheryl acetate( vit e),niacin,vit b 12,calcium
,menadione sodium bisulfide complex( vit k), thiamine mono nitrate, vit a acetate,biotin,riboflavin, pyridoxine hydrochloride,folic acid, methionine , choline chloride,ferrous sulfate, manganese oxide, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, cobalt carbonate). I was also feeding wheat puffs, Cheerios, rolled oats( Quaker oats), corn flakes and bran flakes. Plus veggies , fruits, sometimes a bite or two of a meat. I cut all of those things out of his diet now just the food pellets . I here that harland tekland is a good lab block diiet but when you look at the ingredients they are very similar to what I am feeding although the food I buy comes from walmart( so i am confused about the diet I am feeding. Have done only pellets for a few days but no improvement in scratching and sneezing. I plan on changing the bedding but I am trying to narrow it down ( is it food or bedding or something else).  Any suggestions?

I am SO glad to hear your boys are getting along great now :)

It really sounds like you are doing everything right.  You're using good bedding and feeding a high protein excellent diet. Yes, Harlan Teklad are known to be the highest quality lab blocks but there are others of also good quality with similar makeup.  

All rats scratch...every rat I've ever had were scratchers and none of them ever had any parasites.  Would you consider the scratching excessive?  My rats scratch themselves every day many times a day while they are grooming themselves, while sleeping, while playing they even stop to scratch and then go on doing what they're doing.  If there are no scabs, then it might just be normal scratching.

As for the sneezing, anything in the air that is new might cause some sneezing.  My rats sneeze when I open a window and let them smell the fresh air.  They sneeze when I clean their area with vinegar and they are nearby.  They sneeze when they're on my shoulder and smell my hairspray or perfume.  But it's usually just a sneeze or three here and there.  Is there any kind of scent in the area of their cage like perfumes, air fresheners, smoke?

If everything I mentioned above seems ok, what about the possibility of a myco related respiratory infection?  All rats are born with mycoplasmosis.  Some rats are prone to getting outbreaks/infections during their lives and others never do.  You should take him to a vet that is experienced in treating rats (maybe your vet is).  If it is respiratory, that would explain the sneezing.  This would need to be treated promptly with antibiotics, like Baytril, so it does not turn into pneumonia.  It is VERY important that the antibiotic be given for a full 21 to 30 days, even if improvement shows after a week or 2.  Don't let your vet tell you a 10 day prescription is enough...many vets are just not knowledgeable enough about this.  10 days is not enough and your rat will probably relapse right after.  Here is a link to a website that talks all about myco -->

I hope this information is helpful in helping your boy.  Please let me know what you find out and feel free to reach out to me again if you have any other questions.

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Irene Murphy


I can answer a variety of questions regarding adoption and care of pet rats throughout their lifetimes, including questions about their health and well being, temperment, diet, bedding, cages, toys, etc. I will try to answer your questions to the best of my ability in a timely manner and I have an abundant amount of resources to help me to help you with your pet rats. I love rattie pictures, so include pics with your question if you can. You may ask me medical questions, but please be advised that I am not a vet. I may use my resources to answer some medical questions, however, I will need to refer you to your local vet with medical questions that I feel I am not qualified to address.


I have been a huge rat enthusiast for many years. Since becoming a rat owner, I have educated myself in all areas of pet rats from every resource I could find including the internet, books, conversations with local exotic vets, as well as several local rat breeders.

I have a college degree but not in the area of animals. I have obtained my extensive experience and knowlege of pet rats all on my own because in my eyes, pet rats are the most interesting and fascinating creatures you can ever imagine to have as pets. I also am saddened by how mislabeled and misunderstood these amazing and extremely smart animals are by the majority, and my mission in life has become to educate and change as many people's perceptions of rats as I possibly can.

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