Pet Rats/Blind rat
Hello, we adopted a blind rat from Petco and they told us she cannot have a cagemate because the other rat would see her as inferior and try to kill her.
However, the more I learn about rats the more I feel that Cookie should have another rat with her.
What are your thoughts?
I absolutely agree that no rat should live without a companion. Rats are very social creatures and enjoy company of their own kind, no matter how much time you spend with her.
That said, I understand your concerns about your blind girl possibly being bullied. But I also know that the majority of employees of these large pet stores don't know what the heck they're talking about, especially when it comes to animals other than cats and dogs. I highly doubt that another rat would try to kill her because they would see her as inferior.
I know of many cases where a blind rat, whether born blind or became blind, lived in harmony with other rats.
All Rats have extremely poor eyesight. The ones with red or pink eyes are even poorer. In terms of human vision, rats would be considered legally blind. As such, rats rely on their other senses to give them information. Their keen sense of smell, hearing, and especially touch. Their very long whiskers give them depth perception which tell them if spaces are large enough to crawl into. Their smell allows them to tell one rat buddy from another. Their vision is very blurry but allows them to see shadows and movement mostly.
You didn't tell me Cookie's approximate age. If she is a baby or youngster, you should consider getting another youngster for her close to her age. If she is an adult, then another adult will be best. If the latter, then try hard to find another adult who is very mellow and easy going, not skittish or hyper. A mellow rat will more easily accept another as a companion. If choosing from a group of rats at a pet store, observe all of the rats behaviors for an extended period of time. Look for a dominance hierarchy in the group. Generally, one rat is the alpha, or dominant one, or boss, while the others are submissive. Look for the one that appears the most submissive.
After you have selected a new rat, you must use extreme caution during introductions to make sure no one gets hurt. It may go smoothly or it may be challenging...it will depend on their personalities and how easily they decide amongst themselves who will take the dominant role.
Here is how to introduce the two rats. You will need a seperate cage for the new rat...a small one-level cage will be fine as it will be temporary. Perhaps the pet store can sell you a used one or you can find one on craigslist. Place her in her cage and place her cage a couple of inches away from Cookies cage and let the two rats co-exist this way for a couple of days. They will be able to smell each other and get used to each other. In a few days, find a neutral small enclosed space (a bathtub or small safe room is good) and bring both girls in there with you. At this point, monitor very closely their behavior towards each other. They might fight...monitor and don't interfere unless it is violent. If you notice either rat getting poofy, or making huffing noises, or side kicking the other, then separate them right away. Wait a minute or so, and try again. If they continue to have issues with each other, end the session and try again in a few hours. This should be repeated a few times a day for several days until you feel that things are going fairly well.
At this point, you can have each rat explore then other's cage for a little while and smell each other's scents in there. Then transfer everyone back to their own cages. Do this step once or twice a day, while continuing the neutral space "playtimes". You may not need to repeat so many times if you feel things are going rather smoothly.
Once you feel comfortable, the next is the BIG step: clean Cookie's cage thoroughly and change all litter and bedding, trying to get all of her scent out of it. Then, move both girls into that cage and cross your fingers that they'll accept living together smoothly. Regardless of how well things went during all the other phases, be prepared that there may be some scuffling now. Rats are very territorial and it's possible that Cookie may have an issue with a visitor in her home, even if it had been thoroughly cleaned.
I hope I haven't overwhelmed you with information but I felt it is all important to know. I do hope it is helpful. I would love it if you could keep me posted on how this all works out. And if you have any questions or concerns along the way, please do reach out to me again.