If you are following me on Instagram, you might have already seen in my stories that we are in the process of introducing the new rat boys that we adopted to our original mischief.
This series of blog posts is going to follow our rat introduction journey. I will be writing, and sharing with you, a reflective diary of the introductions day by day to show you a behind the scenes example of what it is like to go through rat introductions.
First off, I am going to include a little disclaimer: just because the methods documented here worked for us, they might not work for you. I want to write these posts as an example of how rat introductions can go, but all rats are different, and your own introductions might go very differently. Here, I just want to give you an example of what can happen, and hopefully you can pick up a few tips for when you start to introduce your own rats!!
We are using the carrier method (see this fantastic post from Isamu Rats for more information on this method).
In short, the carrier method starts with all the rats being introduced to each other in a small space, the carrier, and as they get used to each other, slowly upgrading spaces until they are ready to go back into the main cage. Using this method means there is less likely to be fighting as the small space means less space to become territorial over. It also encourages quick bonding as they have to interact with each other, and hierarchies are established. If a fight does happen there is also a lessened chance of an injury as the rats cannot run away (generally this is where most fight injuries occur).
We have a group of great rats. Their fighting is minimal, and even during their hierarchy battles during “rat puberty” there were no injuries, and minimal aggression. The original four, and the four that we quickly added bonded very well when we used the carrier method before, so we are confident it is the right choice to introduce these three new boys. Our current mischief of 8 boys range in age from 5-7 months old. The new boys are only 4 months old, meaning that they are still pretty much babies! and this will hopefully reduce tension, as the older boys are more likely to accept young rats.
We started off with a small rat carrier, then quickly moved on to a cat carrier, and that is what I am going to cover today.
Over the next few days we will be putting them into a small rat cage, which we will then slowly add toys and accessories to, and will free roam for a few sessions, then we will split our main cage in half, and finally they will have the full run of the main cage, with all their toys!!
We started our process in the evening, after Stuart got home from work. We fed each group of rats in their respective cages before starting the introductions. This ensured they would not be hungry (or hangry!!) before going into the carriers.
We then thoroughly cleaned out the two carriers, and set up the small carrier with a layer of substrate, and attached a water bottle to the side.
We introduced Haku, our alpha, and Fafnir, the most confident boy from the new group, first. We gave them a few minutes to meet each other, and all seemed fine, so we started to add the beta boys: Puff, Drogon, Falkor, and Alduin. Still no problems, so we added the rest of the boys: Spyro, Diaval, Mushu, Horntail, and Smaug. All together was a little cramped, so we knew that this stage was going to be the shortest. Before popping each rat into the carrier, I rubbed a little vanilla essence on each of their backs. Doing this means that they all smell the same as each other, and it quickly unifies the group… it also promotes grooming between groups as they try to lick the vanilla off each other!
While in the small carrier we decided to take them for a very short drive in the van. This shared “scary” experience would promote quicker bonding, as they cuddle up together in the carrier. We strapped them into the middle seat of the van, and I held the carrier to ensure they did not jostle about to much. We picked a gentle route, with no speed bumps, to minimise stress, and only had them in the car for just under 10 minutes.
Once home, we left them in the small carrier while we had dinner. They ended up being in this smallest carrier for about 1hour 30minutes total.
Next we moved them into the larger cat carrier. We prepared this carrier with a layer of substrate, a scattering of seed mix, and two water bottles. When we moved them into the cat carrier, and they were immediately distracted by the food. This stage would be a test to see if any fights were going to break out as they had a bit more room to move about, but we were lucky and there was nothing more than a few squeaks – mostly likely due to the lack of space rather than fighting. We left them in this cage overnight, with supervision – I took the first shift, and then swapped with Stuart at 3am. There were a few squeaks throughout the night, but nothing to worry about, and they were starting to intermix between the two groups, and were all cuddling up together while sleeping.
Everything is going perfectly so far, and this morning we plan to introduce them into the small rat cage… wish us luck!! and subscribe to keep up to date with this adventure!
More coming soon…