If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that we have just added two new rat babies to the Fluffy Jellyfish family! Head back a couple of posts to meet Toothless and Shenron. In this next series of posts I will be documenting their introduction process to the rest of the mischief in these diary-style entries.
QUICK DISCLAIMER: These intro diaries are an example of how we did our rat introductions. I am using this blog to document my process, and I hope you find it informative and helpful. However, while this method may work for my rats, it might not work for yours. All rats are different, and you will need to tailor your own methods to fit with your rats. Just be mindful that all rats have different needs, and tolerate new experiences differently, so what works or doesn’t work for me, might work or not work for you!
We are using The Carrier Method to introduce our rats. Isamu Rats has a fantastic post all about this process, which I highly recommend that you read before setting out on your own introductions. In short, the carrier method is a process of using different sized spaces, from small to the large main cage, to introduce your rats in a confined neutral space. This method speeds up bonding, prevents the rats from fighting and/or injuring each other, and helps the rats to work out their hierarchies quickly. This method has it’s strengths and weaknesses that I will go more into as we journey through the process, but we have used it before to great effect and are confident that it will work again for us this time!
Our first step was to place the two cages next to each other – close enough that they can see and smell each other, but not too close that they could reach through the bars to touch each other. This step is to get the rats accustomed to each others smell, and to introduce the idea of the other rats to each group. We did this first thing in the morning, just after both groups had finished their breakfast, and left them like this for 2 hours.
Initially the original boys were not overly interested/barely seemed to noticed anything was different! The babies stayed up top in their hammocks and were constantly sniffing the air near the big cage. Eventually some of the older boys seemed to noticed they were there, and they curiously sniffed at each other. Haku – our alpha rat – and Alduin – second in command – were both especially interested, and spent a while sniffing out the young boys.
Next step was to place everyone in our smallest carrier. This carrier does not leave much room for the rats to move around or settle properly, so we decided we only wanted to leave in here for 30minutes to 1hour maximum. This cramped space would allow their scents to mix, and acclimatise them to each other quickly, while not giving them enough space to fight or hurt each other. We let the two top rats, Haku and Alduin, meet the babies first. There was a lot of curious sniffing of each other, with no fluffing up or posturing. We did this on a cool day, in the morning before our heating was turned on to ensure they did not overheat in this box, and I made sure they always had water to access at every stage. We then added the rest of the mischief, and I sat with them for 45 minutes to monitor their behaviour. There were a few small squeaks during this time, but it was most likely due to them jostling around in the box, and I was not worried.
Next step was to move them from the tiny carrier to a larger cat carrier. This carrier is big enough to allow them all to lie down, and move around a little, but still small enough that they have to cuddle up together and interact with each other. I lined this carrier with a comfy towel, and scattered some of their regular food mix as well as a bunch of treat foods. They all seemed really calm with each other, and there was no behavioural signs of stress or potential fighting… all was going wonderfully smoothly so far!
It was mid-afternoon when we put them in to this carrier, and we decided to leave them in here overnight with supervision. It is a little cramped and boring for them in the box, so instead of feeding them their full amount of food all in one go, we decided to feed them smaller portions throughout the day, as well as giving them some extra treat foods. This gave them something to do, and stopped them from getting too bored!! Myself and Stuart took shifts throughout the night to watch over them, but they were perfect and we only heard a few minor squeaks.
Tomorrow they will be moving in to a small hamster cage, so we will get to see how they react to having more space…
Fluffy Jellyfish out.