The first few days in a new environment can be scary, especially when you’re the size of a rat! The new sights, sounds, and smells of their new home can often be stressful, and so please remember that it may take a new rat up to 4 weeks to become fully acclimated to their home. If you notice your new rat hiding a lot, resisting being picked up, or being “skittish” after first arriving, please note that this is normal. Laughin’ Place Rattery will never release an animal deemed to be skittish, but new homes can be overwhelming, causing some rats to allow their instincts to take over for a brief period.
If you notice your LFNP rat is still acting off after a month in their new home, please reach out and let us know.
Remember that keeping your rats in high-traffic areas of the home like the living room can be especially overwhelming at first, especially if you have other pets or children. Some adopters prefer to keep their new rats in a quiet room of the house for the first few days/weeks. This allows the rats a cozy place to become slowly acclimated to their new environment.
Food is the way to a rat’s heart! Be sure to give lots of healthy treats their first few days in your home!
When bringing a new rat into a home with rats already present, the new rat(s) should be kept in quarantine for a minimum of 2 weeks. You do this to ensure that neither group of rats has an illness or parasite that would then be passed to the other.
Proper quarantine means that the new rat(s) are kept in a separate air space. This is often hard for a lot of people, because so many modern homes have central heat/air. Please take note if your home has a central heating/cooling system, because if it does, you will need to keep your new rats in quarantine somewhere other than your home. Some homes have garages that are not attached to the rest of the home’s central air, but if your home does not have this option, keeping your rats at a rodent-less friend or family member’s home during quarantine is the best option.
Separate air space quarantine is so important because so many illnesses that rats pass to each other are airborne. Many of these illnesses can be passed from rat to rat from your clothing as well, so keep in mind that you must shower/change clothes or wait a minimum of 3 hours between visiting the air space of each set of rats. This is often very difficult for a lot of pet owners, so many forgo quarantine entirely, or simply don’t do it right.
While in quarantine, you should of course be monitoring your rats for any signs of illness or parasites. Common parasites include tapeworms, mites and sometimes lice, which are usually easily treatable. All LFNP rats will be treated with Moxidectin prior to adoption, so this should not be an issue when adopting from us, but watching for signs in your current rats is important as well.
Keep in mind that URI-like symptoms are completely normal and common in rats settling into new environments. Sneezing and limited dry wheezing noises are to be expected of a rat settling in, but “wet” noises and excess porphyrin are likely signs of a more significant issue. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us or your vet if you detect an issue out of normal.
Forgoing quarantine or not following proper protocol can be detrimental to your entire colony. Please proceed with caution if you do not follow proper quarantine procedures.
After quarantine, introducing your groups of rats to each other can be stressful. Rats should be introduced for the first time in neutral territory such as your couch or bed – not a cage. Please note that the “carrier method” of introducing is absolutely not recommended, as it is incredibly stress inducing and dangerous for all rats involved. Some people prefer to do neutral-space introduction in the (empty) bathtub as well, which is also a fine option.
During introductions, you should be watching all rats for signs of stress, fear, or aggression. Stressed and fearful rats will act skittish – they will run quickly and frantically when approached or touched, and may squeak in protest. They may also become very submissive to other, more dominant, rats. Some of this behavior in moderation is normal for some rats, but be mindful of the stress levels your rats have while introducing.
Aggressive rats will become “puffy,” and they will often slam their rears into other rats, “box” them, and sometimes bite. Unaltered male rats over the age of 6 months are more likely to show aggressive tendencies, especially when they have been housed alone for a period of time before the introduction. Like stated before, some of this behavior in moderation can be considered normal, but if you ever feel that any of your rats are in danger, end the introduction immediately.
A general rule of introductions (and rat fights or squabbles in general) is “no blood, no foul.” If a rat is fighting to draw blood on another, he will likely be successful in doing so. Sometimes, as long as no blood is being shed, it can be best to allow the rats to “duke it out” in order to establish the pecking order of the group.
Please note that the most common form of aggression in rats is hormonal aggression (often referred to as HA; or MA – maternal aggression – specific to females). Hormonal aggression can sometimes be corrected with a neuter, but not always. If you feel that one of your rats is showing signs of HA, you may talk to your vet about altering your rat to see if it helps. A rat neuter can cost anywhere from $80 to $400, and a spay $100 to $500, depending on your vet and the area you live in. This decision of course is between you and your vet, but keep in mind that it does not always correct the issue.
Rats that display severe HA and cannot be housed with or introduced to other rats should usually be euthanized, as it is in their best interest, as living alone should never be an option (see below). Again, this should be discussed with your vet, but please feel free to reach out to us if you have any further questions or seek guidance on this issue, as we know it can be hard.
Rats are colony animals by nature, which means that in the wild they live with other rats – sometimes numbers in the hundreds for a single colony. Rats are undoubtedly happier and healthier in a colony setting (source). We will never adopt a single rat out to be an only rat; in fact, we almost always adopt only in pairs to ensure that the rats will never be alone. With the exception of undergoing quarantine, or recovering from a medical procedure or birth of a litter, rats should always be housed with other rats. Rats do tend to do best in groups of 3 or more, and personally here at LFNP we have found that groups of 6-8 is ideal, but this is not always possible or realistic for everyone, and we understand that!
Rats housed alone have shown signs of depression, are more prone to illness, usually unable to bond with their humans, and can sometimes “self-destruct” by over grooming themselves to the point of hair loss and/or creating open wounds, and sometimes refusal to eat or drink.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have only one rat, you should of course seek cage mates as soon as possible. In attempt to avoid this situation, many people will keep groups of 3 or more rats at all times - this however can lead to a never-ending cycle of rat ownership, which some people are not prepared for.
Recent studies have shown that elderly rats can manage okay alone after the death of their cagemate with daily human interaction. With elderly animals, often the stress of rehoming is worse than being alone. The only reason we would ever recommend this is when you as an owner are not prepared to take the responsibility of more rats, and are simply allowing your final one to live out their lives with you. We do not recommend allowing your rat to remain solo unless you suspect he/she only has a few months left to live.
The choice is ultimately yours to make, but please keep the interests of your rat(s) at the forefront of any decisions you make regarding this issue.
INTERACTING WITH OTHER PETS
Keep in mind that rats are a unique animal in the sense that they are both prey and predator, depending on the situation. In the wild, rats will be hunted by wildlife such as foxes and birds of prey, as well as domestic felines and canines. They have also been known to kill smaller animals such as mice. Because of their unique place on the natural food chain, rats should not be allowed to interact with animals of other species – no matter how well you think you know your pets.
Rats are generally quite stoic when faced with danger or pain – which can often be misconstrued as indifference – when in fact the rat is likely terrified for its life. Placing your rat(s) in unnecessary danger is never a good idea anyway, but rats that do not feel comfortable will have a harder time settling in, and therefore you will have a harder time bonding with them.
Please remember that even under “close supervision,” inter-species interaction is not recommended. It takes only a split second for one or the other animal to become suddenly startled or for instinct to take over for disaster to strike.
The “cute photo” or “play date” is never worth the risk to your animals’ life.
This being said, domestic pets like dogs and cats can often successfully coexist within the same household, and even the same room, without issue. As long as your rats’ cage is secure, they have adequate hiding places, and your dog(s) and/or cat(s) aren’t outright cruel and tormenting the rats through the cage, you should find that they can coexist just fine.
If you find coexisting in the same room to be an issue, consider moving your rats to a bedroom or office space that is off-limits to the other pets in the household.
Remember – the more stressed your rats are, the less likely they are to trust and bond with you!