Pet Rats/Introducing several baby girl rats to older female
QUESTION: I had my rats for nearly two years, the other week while my rat Lily was having an operation on a lump my other rat Daisy had a stroke and had to be put down, Lily has recovered from
Her op although she did pull put her inner and outer stitches within the first 24hrs of being home I'm assuming this was the stress of her sister not being there. She's always been shy and always hides in her box or a cushion only coming out every now and then rarely liking being stoked or picked up, I am worried she is lonely because now she doesn't have her rat companion and I cannot give her the attention she needs because of her shy behaviour, because she's an older lady is she better off on her own or can I introduce a friend? I'm a first time owner even though I read up on them before I got them I am a little unprepared for this? Any advise would be appreciated.
ANSWER: Dear Gemma,
Yes, rats pretty much always need friends. You should get two or three baby girls. It is best to have three of one generation because, later after Lily is gone, when one of them goes, the other two will have each other and you have time to replace her.
When you get new rats, unless you get them from the same private breeder that you got Lily from, you will need to quarantine for two weeks. Pet store rats can bring home any number of illnesses that you don't want frail Lily to be exposed to. This is another reason to have three, because even if you replace a second rat immediately, the remaining lonely rat still has to wait through the two week quarantine period. During this time she needs as much love as she will let you give her. You might find, however, that Lily gets sweeter after this, as she discovers she needs your love.
The quarantine can be difficult. The rats should be in separate parts of the house (in different buildings if possible! But don't worry). You must wash your hands, arms, and face, blow your nose, and change your clothes, after you have been with the new girls before you spend time with with Lily. The safest quarantine has you waiting three hours between the two (you are not worried that Lily will get them sick because you know she does not have any horrible diseases, so you always hold Lily first).
Female rats do well in introductions, and adult rats take to babies pretty well too. The fact that she is lonely will help too. So I don't foresee any big problems with intros.
I will just link you to a terrific site which focuses in part on introductions.
There is text, photos, and videos to help with any kind of rat introduction at all. And here is another take on it by another rat expert:
Both links deal with everything up to worst case scenarios. You will not have a worst case scenario, so don't get worried by what you read. You should be able to get through each step pretty quickly. Still, you want to get it right.
Have fun with your new rats!
Squeaks n giggles,
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you so much for taking the time to write back i feel a lot better having the advice of someone who has rats :) just a couple more questions... Are female rats less aggressive than males with accepting baby rats as all the stuff seems to be with male rats? Also if all goes to plan how will I know when they are ready to live in the same cage? & will Lily need to meet the 3 newbies separately so she feels less threatened or is it best to have them meeting at he same time? Sorry to be a pain but I'm worried ill do something wrong and they may get hurt.. Thanks again
If I can I will add a picture along with letting you know how it goes, if it hopefully goes how I hope.
Hi again Gemma,
Yes, does are easier to introduce than bucks -especially easier than unneutered bucks! (Rats, like deer, are called bucks and does).
Try the three babies at once. The babies are pretty unlikely to be aggressive, and it will be easier on the babies to only have 1/3 of Lily's attention, whatever that attention may be. But watch carefully, and if it seems like this is a problem, do one on ones. Of course you will not leave Lily alone with one or two as you put one or two back in the cage. Figure that part out beforehand. And if they are in the tub (towel in it), remember that whoever you leave in it for a moment might jump out.
You will know it is a good time to try living together when you have had them all out together for over an hour (I would do two) with absolutely no fuss, and some cuddling. Then put them in a very clean cage together, in the daytime, when you are around. Me, I then sleep in the rat room the first two nights!
Speaking of neutering... unspayed females have a very high incidence (about 50%) of mammary tumors, whereas unspayed does in the following study had only a 4% chance. It is pretty important to spay.
Have fun with the new little ones! And I am sure Lily will be more happy.
Squeaks n giggles,