How to Introduce a New Pet Rat to Another Rat

Three Methods:Getting the rats used to each otherIntroducing the ratsPutting the rats in the same cage

Pet rats are very social and need to live with other rats. However, if your rats have not been raised together from a young age, they will fight and be territorial. Your rats need to feel comfortable with each other and not feel threatened or unsafe. It is important to properly introduce your rats to keep them safe and happy, and with proper research and care, and a little time, they will become best friends and cage buddies.

Method 1
Getting the rats used to each other

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    When you bring your new rat home, don't have it in the same room as your other rat until you're sure it won't pass on any diseases. Wash your hands between handling your rats. Some people choose to quarantine new rats from the others for several weeks.
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    When you're ready, place the new rat's cage in the same room as your other rat's cage, but about three feet away. This should get them curious about each other and used to seeing and smelling each other. It's normal for your rats to be a little agitated at first, but if they are constantly very upset and aggressive (hissing, puffing up fur, etc.), move the cage farther apart for a while before moving them closer again. DON'T ever place the cages within 6 inches of each other. The rats can reach through the bars and intentionally or accidentally harm each other.
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    For the next week, care for the rats separately. Don't have them out of their cages at the same time.They will smell each other on your hands and get used to each other. After they are comfortable with seeing each other through the bars, start switching things in their cages. Put a paper towel in each cage and the next day, switch the towels. Or switch their hammocks, chew sticks, or water bottles. Do this every day for a while. At least a week is ideal.

Method 2
Introducing the rats

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    Don't rush things. Don't introduce the rats if they are showing aggressive behavior. When you think they're ready, the first thing to do is find neutral territory to use. A place where neither of the rats have really been or played. They claim territory as their own and will not easily be willing to share with a new rat outside of their "pack." Places such as on your lap, in the bathtub (dry, of course,) or on a table may work. But neither rat should be familiar with the place you choose.
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    Prepare the place in which your rats with meet. Lay out lots of their favorite foods and treats. They will love fresh fruits and veggies, and unsalted nuts and seeds. Don't even think about feeding them chocolate. This can kill almost any animal. Make sure there are plenty of treats for both of them so they won't feel threatened. This should be fun for them and they should be starting to see each other as friends. They may not want to eat it at first. This is normal, they usually don't eat if they are in an uncomfortable situation. If they start to eat together, this is a sign that they are starting to trust each other! Before putting the rats together, make sure sure you have towels on hand to separate them with if they start to fight. You never want to stick your bare hand between two fighting animals.
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    Prepare the rats. The first time they meet, use a q-tip to dab a little bit of vanilla on the tops of each rat's nose. Just a little. This will make the smell of the other rat less powerful. Or if you know for a fact that your rats like baths, and you have done it before, just bathe each one before putting them together (especially if they are males). If they haven't grown up taking baths, though, it will probably traumatize them and make them not look forward to their meetings.
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    It's time to meet! Bring both rats to the neutral area you've prepared. Let them first meet and touch noses on your lap or in your arms, but make sure you can easily separate them if you need to. If one of the rats is significantly smaller, then try rubbing it on the larger one's back before putting them down. Then put them down and let them explore/eat/groom/play for about five minutes. That should be all for the first time. Tumbling and wrestling a bit is okay. They may be playing or trying to figure out who's in charge. But if either one squeaks, or if you see blood, separate them and wait until tomorrow.
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    You should have short meetings every day for a while, about a week. You don't need to use vanilla unless you think they need it. But you should have treats around and a towel handy, each time. And stick to neutral territory. Keep the visits short and supervised. You can make them gradually longer, but watch out for how they're doing. If one is scared and trembling, take it in your lap or maybe shorten the time. Do this for a while and continue swapping things in their cages, too. You can move the cages closer to each other, but not close enough so that they could reach each other through the bars.
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    If they seem to be doing well after a week, you can start letting them play together in the place where your first rat usually plays, but if that doesn't go well, go back to neutral territory for a bit. You can let them play together longer and stop worrying about them fighting when they run out of reach. They should ideally be getting about an hour together a day. Of course, don't rush them if they're not ready. It should take one or two weeks to get to this point. But once they're like BFF's outside the cage, you're ready to put them together.

Method 3
Putting the rats in the same cage

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    Pick the cage you are going to use. If one of the rats was using it before, you need to make it like a completely new cage to him. Clean it out completely. Use disinfecting soap (a scent is helpful) and scorching hot water. Set it up with all new bedding and food. Everything should be either washed or new. If you had a wooden hiding hut, buy a new one. The cage should even look different. Put the litter box, shelves, and hammocks in different places. The cage should be totally new and clean, so that the rat you had in it before won't have his claim on it.
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    When the cage is ready, put it on the ground where your rats have been playing together. Open the door of the cage and put them in at the same time, but leave the door open so that they can leave if they want to. One of them will probably have been showing the other rat that it's "in charge" by flipping the other on it's back and then letting it up. They are figuring out which one of them is the dominant rat. They might squeak little "ah" squeaks. But you don't need to separate them unless they are really fighting. They should be getting along well already at this point.
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    Have the cage on the ground during playtime for a while, but neither rat should be staying in it alone at any other time. It's a shared cage now. They are one pack now. In a few days you should start putting the rats together in their cage during the day, but at night have them in two separate cages. (or whenever you would best be able to monitor them and notice if there was a problem, have them together during that time.) This gets them used to living together, but they still have a break sometimes.
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    If they're getting along well, you're ready to move them in together all the time. Congratulations! Your rats are now best friends and living in the same cage! They should no longer feel threatened by the other rat. Make sure to give them both attention!

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Categories: Title | Mice and Rats