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Appropriate company for rats

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Ensure your rats have appropriate company 

 

Two rats keeping each other company © Fotolia

Rats need:

  • Company. Never house individually, they’re social animals and can get depressed if alone. 
    - Rats need other rat company at night when they’re most active and when humans are asleep. They use their sense of smell to recognise others, finding out about where they’ve been/what they’ve been doing. 
    - Rats can develop abnormal behaviours if left without company and nothing to do for long periods.
    - Even with lots of human contact, rats need to live with other rats. Rats kept with other rats are just as friendly with people. Housing rats in groups (pdf 260kb).
     
  • A dominance structure. When unfamiliar adults are housed together there will be a period of high aggression, however if they establish a dominance relationship, aggression levels should drop. 
    - Introducing new adults may cause fighting whilst they decide who’s dominant. This usually doesn’t last long. 
    - Rats may suffer if they cannot escape from others they don’t like. 
    - Fighting between cage-mates is rare, but can be recognised when one rat hides from the other, if one rat injures another, or if the attacking rat has raised fur. Housing rats in groups (pdf 260kb).
     
  • Protecting from sounds/sights/smells of animals they may be afraid of e.g. cats/dogs/ferrets/birds of prey. Rats are a prey species, these animals can stress them.
     
  • Regular calm/gentle contact with you to slowly allow a bond to develop. Reward with treats to help them enjoy your company. Rats can build close relationships with owners and be successfully trained. Rats like playing, especially when young - they take turns who wins and loses. They can learn to play with humans as well as other rats.
     
  • Handling carefully and considerately, in a confident but gentle manner. Never pick rats up using their tails - this is stressful and can injure them. Rats can find exposure to humans stressful until a positive relationship has been formed. Rats will be stressed by sudden exposure to unfamiliar people/inappropriate handling Handling your rats (pdf 180kb).
     
  • Handling in the morning or evening - avoids disturbing them in the daytime when sleeping.