Monthly Archives: March 2007

Just Exactly Who Are You?!

… or, Introducing New Rats.

We’ve made rat introductions before, and fortunately we generally meet with good success. This time we expected it to be a bit different … and for the most part, it really wasn’t all that bad.

A few tips for introducing current rats to new adopted rats:

  • Find a neutral area to have the rats meet for the first few times. Give them some room to posture and practice their “rat-fu”. It can be quite comical when they stand on their hind legs as tall as possible and start slapping each other about with their front paws. Just watch for excessive fur flying and/or possible serious biting or scratching.
  • Have your Rat First Aid Kit handy, just in case.
  • Make sure the new communal home is well cleaned. Make sure you have thoroughly scrubbed and washed every part of the habitat as best you can. If you are not sure if it clean enough, do it again. When the new rats enter the habitat they will be less intimidated if there is a minimal (preferably none) of signs of the current rats.
  • When you put the habitat back together, rearrange the items that you are reusing. If there is a “comfort” item from the quarantine home that the new rats liked you might consider adding it to the new home.
  • Try to add a few completely new items into the habitat.
  • Give all the rats a quick bath … at the same time. This can be tricky as they will be torn between jumping out of the bath water and keeping an eye on the strangers in the tub with them. Rats are not dirty, but the bath will help reduce the natural scents they have. Also, add a little vanilla to the bath water to help distract them.
  • Another vanilla use: very carefully dab some on each rat’s snout (between the eyes and the nose), on their back, and near their genital area, or stomach. This really is not overkill on the vanilla. Most rats like the smell and will be more interested in why everyone smells so nice and not quite as concerned with who these interlopers are.
  • After the bath, put the rats in the neutral play area you used earlier and let them reacquaint themselves. Make sure they are fairly dry before putting them into their shared home.

Time and patience are you best friends during the introduction. Keep a spray bottle of room temperature water nearby the cage to help separate the overly zealous or territorial rats. If they start to fight too much, give them a good spritzing and they will stop to clean themselves off. A rat’s self grooming obsession is a great characteristic to make use of.

Sometimes you will need to separate the rats and start the introduction process again at a later date. Sometimes it can take several attempts. Sometimes it just won’t work. Just remember to give as much equal attention to each of the rats as possible. Let them know they are all loved and cared for … and in the rare case when there are one or two rats that will not settle in with the others then you will have to accept that an additional habitat will need to be kept for these special rats.

There are no guaranteed methods of making a successful introduction of rats. It is important to keep in mind when adopting more rats that you may need one more rat home than what you currently have … be prepared.

Four More from the THS

We started this weekend with quite an adventure which eventually took us to the Toronto Humane Society (THS). Mrs. Rattitude and myself had been considering adopting more little ones and finally decided we would go “take a look” at who was at the THS. For those that do not know us, “take a look” is the same as we’re going to adopt and it’s just a matter of who. I set up the quarantine cage before we left home.

You can find what animals are available for adoption here. Just follow the links to “Other Animals” for Rats, Mice, Rabbits, Gerbils, Hamsters, etc.

There used to be a listings for Jeremy, Colin, Jasper, and Georgie … they are home with us now, but there are still more rats available. These boys are in good health and appear to be passing through our quarantine period well. We’re seeing the usual new home stress symptoms but they are quickly passing.

Of the four, only Jeremy recognized his name and he is also the easiest to identify, a brown and white broken hooded. The other three are virtually identical agouti berkshires and we have since offered up new names to them: Nibblett, Frank and Gordon. These boys have been relatively well socialized considering they were with the THS for about six months. They are curious and quick with only a minor nibbling issue from who else, Nibblett. Time and patience will take care of that issue, he just needs more love and attention … we have plenty of that.

The THS is a great organization but as with lots of “pounds” they are more knowledgable about cats and dogs than small or exotic types of pets. They tend to spend their resources there, too. There was evidence to point to more care is needed in the Small Animal department. The cages, expecially the rat habitats, were in desperate need of cleaning. They had pine shavings in them! Old, and as best we could tell, vitually scentless but it was still pine and rats have more sensitive noses than humans.

They have a “rat” insert they give with the copy of a magazine you get when you adopt. The volunteers know this insert very well, unfortunately the insert only warns against the use of cedar, nothing about pine. Well, I made sure they knew about pine … I made sure everyone I came into contact with there knew about pine and how bad it was!

If anyone is currently considering adopting rats, please also consider your local pet shelter, humane society, your local SPCA or related agency as a place to adopt from.

Also, if you choose to adopt from a shelter, please consider making a donation equal to the price you would pay at a pet store or from a breeder to help those animals that are still waiting for their permanent forever home.

PS: I only specifically named the Toronto Humane Society for two reasons. One, they should have known better about the pine (hopefully our suggestions are being listened to); and two, they do the best they can to care for the rats that they take in, please help them by adopting there.

We helped by “cleaning out” one of their cages, who will step up and be next?

Pine, Cedar … No! Emphatically NO!

Just something that has been bothering me for a while, and quite honestly I don’t know how much I will be able to do about it … but I’m going to at least try.

I’m not going to go into all the details or studies about how “bad” aromatic wood is for rats. By aromatic wood, I’m writing about pine and cedar. It’s not so great for other small animals either, but for rats it’s especially bad!

The oils that create the scent will eventually cause scarring in the lungs of rats and dramatically reduce their life expectancy and their quality of life.

There are plenty of other commercially available nesting materials that are much more safe for rats. You can even use clean rags, or clean pieces of fleece, or even old clean clothes if you wish … and if you are of the environmentally friendly persuasion, you can re-use these materials by simply throwing them in the laundry and using a “scent-free” detergent (no fabric softener, preferably … again due to scent).

So, if you happen to come across a pet store that is using pine shavings or cedar shavings for their rats, let them know that it’s not healthy for the little guys and girls. Perhaps make suggestions to use some of whatever non-aromatic wood nesting materials they already stock.

Depending on your zeal you may need to buy the correct litter for the store’s rats yourself to drive the point home to the owner/manager of the store! If they still don’t get the idea, you could offer to rescue them all, since they they are not adopting out these rats in my not-so-humble opinion, they are selling chattel!

I don’t name names in my rants … but this issue might change that …

Provided for reference purposes:

Both cedar and pine shavings contain phenols, the oils in the wood that give them their fresh and woodsy smell. Phenols are poisonous, caustic, acidic compounds present in soft woods, and are routinely diluted for use in disinfectants (such as Pine-Sol and Lysol) and cover the smell of animal urine. Because phenols are caustic, they constantly irritate the nasal passages, throat and lungs which gives an easy opening to bacteria. Phenols affect the kidneys and liver, the organs responsible for filtering blood and urine and eliminating toxins from them. Long-term exposure to phenols can cause liver damage and make the animal very sensitive to anesthetics. Exposure to phenols can also depress the immune system, thus causing lowered resistance to diseases such as respiratory infection. Pine and cedar shavings are toxic to small animals and should not ever be used.

from the FAQ