In the previous post we left off with the rats having moved into the small rat cage. Toothless was distancing himself from the group, and Shenron was running away from conflict.
It is now Day 4 and the rats have been in the small rat cage with no hammocks, hides, or very many toys for 2 days so far. They are progressing well, and while Toothless is still continuing to distance himself a little, Shenron is integrating himself into the group, and has allowed himself to be pinned by some of the older boys. We decided the next step would be to add two hammocks to see if they were likely to be territorial with each other – we went for their favourite double hammock, and a flat corner hammock.
That first picture shows all 9 rats in one hammock!! So, I think it is safe to say that adding hammocks was a good idea! They slept like this for most of the day, with all 9 of them crowding into the big hammock!! It must have been quite hot in there, so they had a little bit of separation throughout the day, but the two groups were still intermixing, so we were happy that things were going so well.
I was home during the day, so was able to catch a few significant moments of positive behaviour from them during this stage…
In the first image you can see Mushu pinning Toothless, and Toothless submitting to him. I have seen a few of these dominance scuffles all throughout this process – mostly between Haku (the alpha) and Toothless (the more dominant of the babies). While you might worry about your rats “fighting” these scuffles are a good sign, as it shows that they are establishing where they are in the hierarchy of the group. Even if they are puffy, and posturing you want to let them get these fights out and only break them up if you are worried about injury.
The second image is Mushu nibble grooming Shenron. Grooming is an important form of bonding for rats, and seeing this starting to happen between the two groups is a great sign.
They have been in the small rat cage for 3 days now, with a bit of enrichment, but not as much as they are used to. Luckily they are starting to bond really well, and we decided to move on to the next step and let them out for a free-roaming session.
We limited this first free-roam session to only 30minutes and we made sure we had plenty of snacks for them. There were a few more dominance squabbles than we had seen in the previous steps, but it was all fairly tame so we were not too worried. Mostly, Haku and Alduin were pinning Toothless and making him submit. He fought against them a little at first, but eventually started to submit and let himself be pinned.
As this session went so well, we decided to move them in to the big main cage. We separated the main cage into two sections, so it was still a smaller space for them to interact in. We added a few enrichment toys, and climbing ropes for them, but decided not to put in any hammocks or hides for the first night to ensure that they would sleep together. Also, if they were to fight in this bigger space, we did not want anyone to get trapped in a hammock or hide and potentially risk injury.
On Day 6, this is where we will leave off. They are happily munching on their dinner and exploring their new surroundings in the big cage. Fingers crossed they will all be cuddled up together in the morning, and the bonding will continue.
Fluffy Jellyfish out.