And then later, I found him snuggled up with Jo:
So I guess I can say that introductions have gone well and Pirate and the new girls have all formed a well-bonded group. In fact, Pirate has kind of come into a second youth, more energetic and enthusiastic than he had been since he and Loki had to be separated. It appears he is trying to fit in with this active group of excitable young ladies.
But introductions can be stressful, and we had our share of scuffles and ruffled fur and frightened eeps along the way. Fortunately, none of the rats are biters and there was never any blood spilled. I was a little worried because Pirate is so much bigger than the girls and I wasn't sure how receptive he would be to other rats after his problems with Loki, but things turned out well. I was also a little worried the other way around because the girls are so assertive and Pirate is so naturally timid - but he stood his ground - defending his territory and his manhood without getting aggressive or violent.
And since introductions are fresh in my mind, here is a reminder of the steps involved when introducing new rats to the resident rats. You shouldn't just throw everyone together or you could see territorial struggles that quickly escalate and get out of hand. Take your time with each step; they can take several days before getting them right. If things go wrong, go back a step and slow down a little.
- Quarantine new rats before introducing them to your existing rats to keep your rats safe from viruses. Since some viruses take 3 weeks for symptoms to show up, quarantine should be 3 weeks minimum. Viruses are also airborne and do not require direct contact, so for quarantine to be effective, it should be done in a completely separate airspace.
- Begin introductions by putting the new rats' cage close to the resident rats' cage. Make sure they are far enough apart that no one can get bit through the bars, but close enough that the rats can satisfy their curiosity about each other.
- Switch out some hammocks from one cage into the other cage and vice versa so the rats can get used to each others' scents.
- Temporarily switch cages - put the new rats in the resident cage while the resident rats are in the new rats' cage (do not put them in either cage together).
- When you think they are ready, begin introductions in a neutral territory - someplace where neither group usually plays. Keep a towel and a water spray bottle handy to break-up any fights. Some people recommend putting a drop of vanilla extract at the base of the tails to mask scents (I have never tried this). Some wrestling, pinning, power grooming, and squeaking will be normal. No blood, no foul. Don't interfere unless someone is at risk of being hurt.
- When they are getting along well in neutral territory, clean the permanent cage thoroughly and rearrange all the items in the cage to make it as new and neutral as possible. Introduce both groups of rats in the clean cage. Watch carefully for fights.