How to Introduce New Pet Rats?

Are you adding a new rat to your family?  Is this your first time adding a new rat and are not sure how to do it? 

 If so, this is the article for you.  Read on and get the answers to all your questions.

Introducing Your New Rat

There are many reasons for getting a new pet rat.  It could be so you can breed them, provide companionship to other rats, and more.  Whatever the reason, there are basic steps you need to take so that things go smoothly. 

Basic Procedures of Introduction

1. Quarantine

Although you may have bought your rat from a reputable dealer or store, you should still quarantine them to prevent any illnesses to your rats.  This is done effectively in a separate location and lasts two to three weeks.  If the new pet rat shows any sign of illness, make sure that you take it too the veterinarian.  Once the rat has no more symptoms of the illness, you need to start quarantine all over again.  Never put a new rat straight in with your rats.

2. Alleviating Their Scent

To help make the introduction easier, mask, or reduce the natural scent.  You can use some type of aromatic substance, like vanilla extract, on each rat to mask their scent to each other.  If you are trying to introduce rats in a group or they are territorial, bathe them in baby shampoo.  Add your rat(s) one at a time after you bathe and dry them.  Always make sure that you are close enough to supervise and intervene if a fight should break out.

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two white rats in hands

3. Use Neutral Ground

Make sure that when you introduce a new pet rat that it is done on neutral ground.  This way, no rat will be put in a position to defend their territory.  Do not use an area where your rats roam freely or play.  You can introduce them in the bathtub, the bed, countertop, or kitchen table. 

With a shy rat or a baby, you may want to do it on your lap.  The first introduction should be a short one.  How long will depend on their sex, age, and personalities.  If the introduction goes well, then you can leave them together for a few hours on neutral ground. 

Always make sure that there is a towel to nap in, food, and water.  Each time they are introduced, increase the time they spend together until they feel comfortable being together permanently.  You can even sit their cages beside each other at first to give them a chance to get used to each other.

4. Return to the Cage

Be sure that the cage you are going to use is large enough to accommodate the new pet rat.  You do not want to overcrowd them.  If the cage is too small, they may start to behave aggressively toward each other or you.  Before you return them to their cages, make sure that you clean it to remove any scents. 

Make sure that all cage accessories are clean, including new towels, bedding, food, freshwater, which are scent-free.  If after you introduce your new pet rat to the cage with other rats, they suddenly do not seem to get along, go back to the neutral ground for awhile.

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Specific Scenarios When Introducing New Pet Rats

1. Fear

Sometimes you will have a rat that is just terrified of other rats.  It may only come out to eat and drink before it darts back to safety or just cower in his house.    They may be afraid of the other rats attacking them so they will attack first.  This rat is one that will have to be taken through the introduction process very slowly.

cute rat couple

2. Aggression

After introducing a new pet rat, there will be certain squabbling as all the rats determine pecking order, especially from the rat that is alpha male.  As long as there is no fighting, injury, or serious aggression, it will usually resolve itself in a few days.  If there are any minor squabbles, you can use a spray bottle to break it up.  Any rat that is becoming aggressive remove it immediately.  So you do not get bitten, use thick gloves, or throw a towel over the aggressor to get them out of the cage and into one just for that rat.

3. Introducing a Breeding Pair

If the new pet rat is to be part of a breeding pair, you do not need to alleviate or mask their scent.  Put a house or box into the cage with an opening that is just large enough for the female to go through but not the male so she has someplace to go to get away. 

The best time for the introduction is when the female is in heat.  After they have bred, you should put them back into different cages. Before you put the male into another cage, you should wash him to remove the female’s scent that is on him.  You can leave the pair together but he needs to be removed before she gives birth so she will not become pregnant right away after having the babies.

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4. Introducing Adult Males

When you introduce males to each other, this can be a challenging introduction.  When introducing two males, you have to do it right and follow the correct introduction procedures.  These are the rats that appear to be more territorial.  If introduced right, they should be able to get along and even live in the same cage.

Conclusion

Always make sure that when you are introducing a new pet rat to your other rats that is done using a safe introduction method and that you must take your time doing it. If it is not done right, it can lead to emotional stress or injury.  All rats have their way of dealing with new pet rats so remember each rat is an individual and do the introducing safely for both of the rats.  Introducing your pet rat to your other rats slowly, they will be able to become best friends and live together in the same cage. 

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