Getting Along With Other Pets & Peers

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Filed in Small Animals, Rats

Can rats make other furry friends? The answer is yes -- so long as they don't share the same living quarters.

Cats that have been trained and raised with rats will generally ignore their friends and will assume that they were meant to get along with each other. In all fairness, however, it should be noted that cats and rats are natural enemies. Don't leave them alone together, as your friendly felines may become a little too playful and hurt or kill your rat.

Other animals like dogs and domestic, hand-fed birds are also likely not to pay your rat any mind. However, rats are vulnerable animals and they need to be constantly monitored with other pets and handled with care. In general, the best companion for a rat is another rat.

Introducing Female Rats

Young female rats (three months of age or younger) do not need any special introduction. Just put the rats together in a clean cage. You may hear some squeaking as they work out who is boss, but this is a natural behavior.

Adult female rats can be introduced this way too, but fighting is more likely to occur, and death can result if you don't closely monitor their first encounters. To make the introduction easier, try cleaning out the cage, remembering to scrub the cage and fixtures to remove the smell of the established rat or rats. Since rats recognize their own territory by smell, they will be less defensive over territory that doesn't smell like their own. You may even choose to dab each rat (old and new) with vanilla extract, to confuse their scents. Put all the rats in the clean cage with a really tasty favorite treat. There may be some squeaking and occasional tail biting while control and territory is established.

Keeping Males Together

If males are introduced at a young age (under 5 weeks old), or if they are from the same litter, they will tend to get along as a group. One of the most common factors that make male rats more likely to fight is the relative size of their cage. The smaller the cage, the more likely that fights will occur. The larger your group, the larger your cage needs to be.

Be sure to install a number of nesting spaces using tissue boxes and tubes so that each rat can have his own territory. With a small amount of effort, and a larger cage, the average pet owner should be able to keep male and female rats together with few problems.

Dealing With A Feisty Group

Sometimes even established groups of rats will fall out. Be sure to watch them carefully. If fighting turns serious - resulting in bleeding wounds or a rat seems depressed and is spending a lot of time sitting still - the most aggressive rat should be taken out of the cage. You can keep the aggressive rat alone and try to give him an interesting life. Introduce the rat to others that he cannot bully so easily. Or, put him with an old, infertile female for company.

Irving Street Veterinary Hospital (San Francisco, CA | (415) 664-0191) materials were used as an information source for this article.

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