Opening your heart and home to a new rat is very satisfying and rewarding.If you always have at least two rats, you’ll be thankful there’s still one left to care for when one dies. You’ll console one another.
The two exceptions—when it’s not a good idea to introduce a new rat—are when your remaining rat is either very old and/or very sick. In these cases, the introductory process is too stressful to be of benefit.
If your remaining rat is lonely, you may notice changes in appetite or activity level. Sleeping more and/or playing less can also be indications of lonesomeness. On the other hand, your lone rat could seem perfectly happy. Even so, once you introduce a new friend, you’re likely to see your remaining rat become even happier.
I recently introduced my 2-year-old spayed female to a new friend, an 8-week-old unneutered male. I’d thought my female rat, Twyla, was doing fine on her own after her friend had died. However, knowing it’s best for her to have at least one rat friend, I went ahead and adopted Henderson. Once they began living together, Twyla literally acted as if she was reborn. She now plays much more and even has a new bounce in her step.
In my opinion, the sooner you adopt a friend for your single rat the better. Your new rat will need to be quarantined for three weeks and then the introductory process can take as long as two weeks. It’ll be a month or more before your remaining rat will be living with his or her new friend. Even though it may seem lengthy, the quarantine period is a wonderful opportunity for one-on-one time, helping to deepen your bond with each rat.
When adopting a friend of the opposite sex, you’ll want to make sure at least one is spayed or neutered. If needed, you can always have a rat neutered or spayed during the quarantine period. This gives them the added benefit of recovering from surgery while they’re in their own separate housing.
As for age, adopting an adult as a new friend can work out fine as long as their personality is compatible with your current rat. My last two rats were adopted from our local animal shelter. Both times I was able to visit with several rats before adopting. While sitting quietly with each of them I could get a good sense of their personalities. On one occasion, I was surprised an adult female seemed like a better fit for my remaining rat than the babies with whom I’d visited. The adult female was so calm and gave off such a sincere quality that I could just FEEL she was the right match.
With young rats, keep in mind that their personalities aren’t yet fully developed. Even so, you’ll get a good idea after visiting with a younger rat whether or not s/he may be a good match for your current rat.
During your new rat’s quarantine period, be sure to give your current rat lots of love and attention. This is a special, healing time for you both. Even during introductions, make sure your surviving rat knows s/he is #1. Your new rat won’t be able to tell the difference if you show extra love to your current rat. Your original rat will be even more accepting of a new friend when you demonstrate the reassurance of your continuing love.
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