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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello Paw Talk! I joined specifically in order to get answers for my new pet rats - as a first-time rat owner, I've done a lot of research, but unfortunately, good, consistent information regarding rat behavior and interaction is a bit lacking. I'm having a mild issue with the newest addition to the cage - here's what's up:

In my house, we have three rats - Carl Sagan (the rat in my avatar), Bill Nye, and Richard Dawkins. Carl and Bill were purchased at the same time by myself and my roommate, and Richard was added shortly after as a permanent companion for Carl, since he and Bill both have separate cages. All three rats are from the same litter from a pet store in my city, which breeds its own healthy and happy population of rats.

Early on, Carl established himself as the dominant rat. We only had one issue with actual fighting between him and Bill, who is more laid-back and friendly, but since then they've become great pals. When Richard was added, what I originally took for mild shock at being moved became near-crippling timidness. Carl was boisterous and pushy towards him, and Bill would sometimes sit on him and not let him go - brothers, amirite?

After a week or so of that, I noticed Richard sitting alone in a corner of the cage. He appeared to be breathing heavily, occasionally gasping and making an audible squeaking noise when he did so. I've read a good deal about respiratory diseases and how serious they can be in rats, so I quarantined him for 24 hours with plenty of good food and water. He seemed better after the wait, so I put him back in the cage with Carl.

Somehow, the quarantine didn't sit well with him. I've had to remove Carl from the cage twice now because Richard, once afraid to do anything more than roll over and submit to his superiors, has suddenly begun attacking him with little to no provocation - actual biting, pushing Carl off of platforms, etc.

I'm not entirely sure what to do. Richard's been difficult to train from the start, and his sudden violent behavior has me completely befuddled. I'm still new to this, and rats are so smart in comparison to any pets I've had before - does anyone have any advice?

-UPDATE- As this was a recent/current thing, it was still ongoing as I posted. Richard has now openly attacked Carl with absolutely no provocation. When Bill moved in to defend Carl, Richard bit him on the face, and continued following him and biting his tail, haunches, etc. Richard is now in quarantine again, and I don't know what to do...
 

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OK sounds like you need to do a LOT more researching.

1) quarantine is only when you have separate air supply in a different home and you are keeping a new rat away from your residents for 2-3 weeks to see if an illness crops up. Most illnesses are URI's, but some can be fatal viruses (airborne) which is why people quarantine/QT.

2) removing a sick rat from a cage for 24 hours is not a treatment. If a rat gets a respiratory issue you need to go to a vet, there's no home treatment. If its only mild symptoms you can watch for a day or so to see if its just an "off" day and the rat's immune system kicks in, or whatever is bothering it goes away.

3) Richard sounds like he is fear aggressive now. Did you follow proper intro techniques? (vital for adult boys as they can be more territorial, and hormonally aggressive.

Biting at the face is a defensive move, the biting of the rump is to speed them away from your terrified boy.

Removing a rat from an already unstable cage environment and then tossing him back in could lead to disaster.

You will need to find a competent rat vet just in case Richard is still sick. He may not be feeling well and just wants everyone to leave him alone. Lift his side to your ear and listen to his breathing (we call this rat phone) and if you hear any cracklign, gurgling, wheezing, fluidy sounds, you have a sick rat and need that vet.

How old are all the boys?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
T_T I will humbly accept this judgment.

I did, however, ease Richard into life with the other two - they're all still fairly young, only about 6 months old, and all from the same litter. He'd been living easily with them for a couple of weeks - it was only after I separated him for that one day that he became aggressive. I understand that quarantine is not a cure, but I wanted to see if his symptoms persisted. They didn't, and after handling him and double-checking him all over (breathing as you mentioned, tail for any signs of diarrhea, porphyrin, etc.) I returned him to his brothers.

The only concern I still have is his aggression towards them. He seems to be doing fine in his cage by himself, his breathing problem, whatever it might have been, hasn't turned up again, and he seems to be doing okay. Any (closely watched) encounter with the other two, though, and he starts attacking them.
 

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Meggy,
Welcome to the forum! Lilspaz is one of the best advisors you could ask for in this department of introductions. Vanilla Rat may also see your post and make some good suggestions. I have no experience with this type of situation as I had two rat brothers from the same litter who never had any aggression problems with each other at all, but I still wanted to say hello and let you know this is a friendly and very informative forum, especially for new rat mommies. Hope to see you here regularly! :)
 

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You should also check this forum for threads started by Storyseeker, who has had quite the interesting experience with introductions among her clan of boys. There should be several threads on here about intros--I've never had to do them either, luckily, so I'm afraid I can't give you too much more advice other than to take it very slowly, and make sure to intro them in a neutral space. Do it little by little until they can finally be together for extended periods of time.
 

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Doh! Sorry Breyer, I got Vanilla and Storyseeker mixed up and did not remember correctly that it was Storyseeker who went through those big introduction sessions with her boys! Yes, Storyseeker was the one. :rolleyes:
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks guys.

Things are a bit calmer now that Richard's been separated. Carl's less stressed out (Richard wasn't letting him sleep before) and has cleaned up a bit, and Bill, who didn't seem to get as much wanton abuse as Carl and often defended him is nevertheless more perky. They're boxing and wrestling and allogrooming as they were before, and without any excess violence. *phew!*

Richard's doing okay by himself so long as I have him within earshot of the other two. I'm going to try working on some trust exercises with him to see if I can maybe have a little bit more influence regarding his interactions with the other two. One thing that has worked with Carl and Bill is restricting them to their pellet food unless they willingly came to me, in which case they'll get either a fruit/vegetable (baby carrot, apple chunk, etc.) or a treat such as a yogurt drop. Is there a better way I can/should do this?
 

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I think spending lots of time with them and patience will help, and the treat thing is a good idea!
Also, perhaps you could consider neutering a couple of them to see if that would help cease the fighting and you could again keep all 3 together.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I might need to, if it persists. I'll try the patience approach first, though, for both monetary and trauma reasons.
 

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keep us updated! it could be that they just need another round of proper introductions and they'll be ok since they already lived together once.
 
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