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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Need for Companionship

Burt napping in a hammock with the three girls. He looks content!

Rats are extremely social animals and they love company: both human company and rattie company. I have heard for some animals that if they have a friend of their own type, they are less likely to bond to people. I am not sure how true that is as I don't have experience with those animals. However, I do know people who have hand fed baby finches and in the process, the finch has bonded with them. This is very rare in finches, but it does happen. However, if you return the hand-fed finch to a flock of its own kind, it will often quickly forget that bond with its human and return to its more wild nature. Rats are not like this. If someone tells you otherwise, they are mistaken.

Rats are very intelligent animals and are fully capable of forming relationships with their own kind and with their humans without sacrificing anything from either bond. In fact, other rats can help teach a new rat that you are a safe person and fun to be around and can help timid rats bond more quickly with humans.

Rats are much more fun and interesting when they have other rats to play with. They will quickly get bored when by themselves, and therefore, become more boring as pets. But there is nothing more interesting than watching rats interact: cuddling together for naps, chasing each other for play, wrestling/boxing, stealing food from each other when there is a full bowl for the taking right there, grooming each other, and comforting each other when ill.

Here is a very nice video that someone put together illustrating why rats should always be kept in groups of 2 or more:


I am so happy that Burt's introduction to the girls went so well. He seems so happy now with both rat friends and his new human family to play with. While he seemed just fine during quarantine, the company of rats has made him seem truly content.

Sometimes introductions can be more difficult - especially when introducing adult intact males to each other. In those cases, introductions will take much more time as the two rats get used to each other. In some cases, neuters may be necessary to keep the hormones in check. But in the end, it is definitely worth it. To avoid these problems, when getting your first rats, you should try to find two babies from the same litter or two rats that have already been living together and are bonded. That way, you do not have to go through the introduction process. When adding to our mischief, I like to add rats in pairs. That way, if there are problems with introductions, the new pair still has each other for company when going through the transition. When we took in Burt, I felt certain that our current three girls would quickly adapt to him the way they did with Pirate, so I was not concerned about adding a single male to our group of three spayed females. That combination is usually one of the easier introductions.

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